Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Liz McMillan, Carl J. Levine, Plutora Blog, Elizabeth White, Chris Colosimo

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

How to Make Public and Private Clouds Secure

What controls can you put in place to restrict data loss?

With Gartner predicting $150 billion in cloud-related revenues by 2013, the march towards "the cloud" is not abating. As the market grows, "Is the cloud secure?" is a very familiar refrain frequently asked by corporate management. While those in IT will certainly tell you no environment will be completely secure, there are measures you can take when moving to the cloud to mitigate security risks to reasonable levels. Transitioning to the cloud can often be more secure than a traditional in-house solution. Cloud providers have collectively invested billions in implementing standards and procedures to safeguard data. They need to compete based on not only price, but the breadth of their security, driving innovation to the benefit of the customer.

In a public cloud environment the end user has a solution that is highly automated. Customers can put their applications in the cloud and control all of the individual attributes of their services. If you develop products and services in a testing or development environment, the high level of scalability offered by an on-demand computing solution makes it easy to clone server images and make ad-hoc changes to your infrastructure.

The public cloud of course lacks the visibility of control of a private model. Choosing the public cloud also means giving up a measure of control, in terms of where the processing takes place. With a single tenant private cloud, you have more specialized control with fewer people sharing resources. Each environment poses security challenges that can be managed by following standards and choosing the right partners.

Ensuring Security
What controls can you put in place to restrict data loss?

A sophisticated identity management system is crucial for protection from password hacking. Instituting and following a real password management system with true randomization is essential for data security. While it seems like a relic from the 1990s, it is shocking to see the number of IT staff or administrators who still use "123456" or "admin" as a password; a practice that should be ruthlessly weeded out. Consider using a secure password management service that protects user ID and password data and can flag users that repeat passwords across various systems. Using LDAP controls and administering credentials will keep access information from being scattered around. Additional controls such as running scripts to remove access when employees leave the organization are also recommended for identity management security.

After your internal processes such as identity management are better implemented and followed, you should turn your attention to the best practices of your various outsourcers. You may be at the point where you are working with several different SaaS providers. Do they follow your preferred procedures for identity management security? If possible, the centralization of these practices under your review can provide an added measure of security. Also, when choosing a solution provider, you should ask not only about their identity management practices, but also hiring and background check procedures for their administrators and about how access to data is controlled.

Over time, as cloud technology evolves, providers are standardizing policies that dictate where data physically resides. You might see user-defined policies with restrictions on crossing certain state or country boundaries as companies become increasingly globalized.

Specifically for public environments, data in the cloud is typically shared in proximity to other customers. While providers encrypt this data, it's still important to look at how the data is being segregated. Ask your solution provider to follow best encryption practices to be sure your data is both safe and usable. When your data is no longer needed, the cloud provider should take the right steps for deletion. In addition, you want a provider to offer managed services, including firewalls and the latest intrusion detection systems.

Another important consideration is the legal ramifications and jurisdiction that cover data standards. While your data containing PII (Personally Identifiable Information) might be considered "secure" in one country, it may fall under different regulations in another. European governments often have very strict rules for privacy protections compared to other countries. When choosing a cloud solution provider, you need to make sure your data can be quickly relocated in case your service agreement ends. Knowing the physical location of your data is important for such recovery efforts.

Availability and uptime are of course important for end customer satisfaction, but as a client, you need guarantees for data availability. Will internal IT staff have consistent access to company data to perform their daily job functions? Defined service-level agreements should detail availability and include penalty clauses if the agreement's terms are not upheld.

According to Gartner research, 40 or more states have formal regulations in place governing how companies can protect PII. In addition to the traditional focus on credit card, bank account, and other finance-centric information, there are also concerns around Social Security numbers and any other type of data that warrants privacy restrictions. The implications are that a customer should choose an established cloud solution provider that places system controls on the movement of PII within their cloud network. If sensitive data ends up on servers outside of the United States, it can create serious legal issues. Beyond PII, many companies run the risk of exposing their own intellectual property or other trade secrets.

Companies need their cloud providers to implement and follow strict controls that are routinely checked by independent auditors. Auditors exist to validate reporting to make sure procedures are in place to protect PII and other data. Performing thorough reviews of physical and logical access controls, auditors can proactively alert companies to security holes before there is a data breach. Auditors can review if background checks aren't performed or are not completed properly. Backup procedures of customer data are also intensely scrutinized. Who has access to backup data? Does more than one organization touch the backup data?

As companies utilize more and more SaaS solutions to handle business needs, standards such as SAS 70 become more and more prevalent across multiple industries. As a flexible accounting standard that can be altered to fit the custom needs of SaaS providers, SAS 70 is becoming a de-facto standard in the space. While it is indeed a little disingenuous for companies to dictate their own control objectives to the auditing firm, those that take the auditing seriously can proactively find and fix minor issues before they become massive problems.

Choosing the Right Vendor and Managing Outsourcers
The barriers to entry for cloud solution providers are quite low. Less-established players might not be as fastidious about where your data might travel, or who has access to analyze that data. You can't go just on the cost of the service if the tradeoff is lack of security oversight or a broader risk of the company going under.

You need to ask potential solution providers a lot of questions, digging beneath their standard marketing literature. What about business continuity? Is there a documented process for this? If one of their data centers is destroyed, what does that mean for your business? Do they only have one location? If so, you need to explore their backup and disaster recovery procedures, as well as the security risks of those procedures. Another important consideration is the company's actions after a security breach. Do you trust them to tell you security has been compromised so you can take steps to mitigate damage?

Negotiating with the provider can afford extra levels of protection. Strengthened layers of encryption and set standards of data storage can be put in the contract as a safeguard.

You also need to look beyond the cloud provider at any other SaaS type provider, whether a CRM solution or any other kind. A complete cloud solution and other business processes are often enabled by a chain of outsourcers. For customers that manage very sensitive data, they should request independent security audits of outsourcers, for instance any hosting companies used by the cloud provider.

Nightmare scenarios develop when an outsourcer in the fourth degree of separation exposes confidential information. You need to properly review the data standards for all of these outsourcers and have the right to refuse certain unreliable outsourcers from having any contact with your data. All of these SaaS companies have an obligation to enforce and monitor where customer data goes and how it is accessed.

Outsourcers should follow defined password assignment standards that decrease the likelihood of password hijacking. With multi-tenant cloud environments, the risks are greater so, to decrease these risks, the vendor needs to illustrate the controls they put in place to afford some separation between tenants.

Putting It Together
Maintaining optimal security is a two-step process: first, outline data requirements in terms of privacy and user access; and second, vet the right solution provider that can implement both technical and philosophical strategies to minimize risks. With the rate of technological innovation across all sectors, new tools to protect and manage cloud-based data are being researched and developed. As these strategies move beyond development into the implementation stage, cloud providers will have additional weapons to safeguard customer data and ensure security.

More Stories By Lucas Roh

Lucas Roh is CEO and President of Hostway. From Hostway's very beginning, he has been the driving force in the company's dedication to reliability and easy-to-use services through an ongoing commitment to emerging technology. Since starting the company in 1998, he has charted Hostway's growth to achieve an international presence, rank as one of the top-five Web hosting companies globally and remain profitable every quarter since its founding. Recognizing this success, the Chicago Business Hall of Fame named Roh Chicago's Young Business Leader of the Year in 2004.

Previously, Roh was a computer scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, conducting pioneering research in the emerging field of computer technologies integrated into mathematics. For six years, he worked in software and hardware engineering for several companies, including Tektronics and Hewlett-Packard. In the late 1980s, he founded Wavetech Corp, a software company. He has taught at Colorado State University and has authored more than 20 academic papers.

Roh received a Ph.D. in computer science from Colorado State University in 1995 and an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 1988.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
giladpn 03/13/11 04:28:00 AM EDT

Specifically for Data in the Cloud, if you are looking for a Data Security & Privacy solution here is a new one (disclaimer: we're the proud creators):

@CloudExpo Stories
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, represent...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
Adding public cloud resources to an existing application can be a daunting process. The tools that you currently use to manage the software and hardware outside the cloud aren’t always the best tools to efficiently grow into the cloud. All of the major configuration management tools have cloud orchestration plugins that can be leveraged, but there are also cloud-native tools that can dramatically improve the efficiency of managing your application lifecycle.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Technologic Systems Inc., an embedded systems solutions company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Technologic Systems is an embedded systems company with headquarters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. They have been in business for 32 years, helping more than 8,000 OEM customers and building over a hundred COTS products that have never been discontinued. Technologic Systems’ pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
The taxi industry never saw Uber coming. Startups are a threat to incumbents like never before, and a major enabler for startups is that they are instantly “cloud ready.” If innovation moves at the pace of IT, then your company is in trouble. Why? Because your data center will not keep up with frenetic pace AWS, Microsoft and Google are rolling out new capabilities In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Don Browning, VP of Cloud Architecture at Turner, will posit that disruption is inevitable for c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
Deep learning has been very successful in social sciences and specially areas where there is a lot of data. Trading is another field that can be viewed as social science with a lot of data. With the advent of Deep Learning and Big Data technologies for efficient computation, we are finally able to use the same methods in investment management as we would in face recognition or in making chat-bots. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Gaurav Chakravorty, co-founder and Head of Strategy Development ...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
What if you could build a web application that could support true web-scale traffic without having to ever provision or manage a single server? Sounds magical, and it is! In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Munns, Senior Developer Advocate for Serverless Applications at Amazon Web Services, will show how to build a serverless website that scales automatically using services like AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon S3. We will review several frameworks that can help you build serverle...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
Interoute has announced the integration of its Global Cloud Infrastructure platform with Rancher Labs’ container management platform, Rancher. This approach enables enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation and infrastructure investments. Matthew Finnie, Interoute CTO commented “Enterprises developing and building apps in the cloud and those on a path to Digital Transformation need Digital ICT Infrastructure that allows them to build, test and deploy faster than ever before. The int...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buyers...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...