Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Liz McMillan, Jim Hansen, Peter Silva, AppNeta Blog, Pat Romanski

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

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloud Is More Secure

The cost benefits of virtual IaaS continue to drive enterprises to cloud deployments

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides compelling cost and strategic benefits. These include scalability with reduced capital expenditure, more efficient use of IT resources, and the ability for an organization to focus on their enterprise's core competency. Despite fears to the contrary, many well-established security technologies and procedures can be applied cloud computing and provide enterprise-class security. In many cases the cloud vendor may even provide better security in a virtualized environment than the individual enterprise can achieve in a purely physical architecture.[1]

The most effective security is a comprehensive, layered defense based on a framework. A cloud platform can leverage specialized tools to protect the integrity of virtual machines and Internet communications. Virtualization creates logical abstraction layers that allow for multi-tier security policies in order to provide true defense in depth. Enterprises with limited IT resources may not be able to afford the same security measures as a cloud provider and remain competitive. Deploying cloud-based IaaS represents an opportunity for the enterprise to build in security from the ground up.

Increasing Demands on IT Require Security Frameworks
IT must become more responsive to business drivers originating beyond IT, such as a greater role in meeting compliance requirements. Compliance legislation for different business types, even departments within the enterprise, will dictate some security requirements: FISMA/NIST guidelines for US Federal agencies, Sarbanes-Oxley reporting for publicly held companies, PCI DSS or HIPAA for those dealing with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) - the list goes on.

The better way to approach security is working within a comprehensive framework. Though virtualization does present some unique threat surfaces, defensive layers using new tools must be organized within these frameworks.

Platform Hardening
Hypervisors provide a consolidated, logical view of multiple virtual machines (VMs). VMs running on the same physical machines must be guaranteed to remain isolated from one another, through omission, mis-configuration, or intentional breach.

The Center for Internet Security and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), as well as hypervisor vendors, publish "hardening" guidelines. Hardening examples include how to correctly protect memory segmentation using container rings, and familiar steps like best-practice configurations, deploying the latest patches, and proper cleaning up of de-provisioned virtual machines and resources.

A virtual network switch can provide further layers of platform defense to the same level as a physical switch. An "intelligent" switch can "lock down" Machine Access Codes (MAC), and perform dynamic inspections of the Address Resolution Protocols (ARP). Used with other authentication protocols, they mitigate man-in-the-middle attacks and ARP cache poisoning.

Hardening helps guarantee virtual machine isolation and challenges penetration from without. Properly hardened hypervisor layers prevent IaaS end users from inadvertently mapping IP addresses across virtual machines, IP spoofing, or intentionally leveraging Network Address Table (NAT) mapping to hijack communications. Hardening makes it difficult to install "eavesdropping programs" to monitor virtual machine memory space.

The hypervisor can also rapidly propagate new configurations, patches, or layered security policies across the infrastructure. Employed correctly, this level of abstraction can strengthen IaaS security.

Identity Management and Administrative Access Control
Identity management takes on increased urgency in the virtual environment; administrative access control is crucial. Best practices include multi-factor authentication and role-based access management. Role-based access instantiates existing written policies, and provides an additional layer of user discrimination - and detection - in system access.

Segregation of duties for the server, network, and security administration is required. Strict employee screening and qualification is key. It's critical to manage access of privileged third parties; best practices have all third-party activity monitored by your staff.

Ideally you should deploy Privileged Identity Management (PIM) software. A PIM application can enforce administrative access rules throughout a virtual environment - greatly mitigating the risk of undocumented or malicious access.

PIM software can also support Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices, such as audit trails required for compliance regulations SOX, FISMA, PCI-DSS and HIPAA. The more advanced packages can perform continuous discovery across new hardware and software applications, and can rapidly and comprehensively propagate changed passwords after third-party access or staff turnover.[2]

Network Segmentation and Traffic Protection
It is critical to segregate and protect the data flowing through virtual or private virtual LANs (VLANs or PVLANs). The hardening process secures machine access code (MAC) assignments and Network Address Translation (NAT) mapping. Further inter-VLAN protection comes from firewalls between VLANs (over and above port-forwarding within a VLAN).

Application firewalls should be placed monitoring web application traffic. Application firewall functions such as cookie consistency, buffer overflow protection, and HTML checks permit only defined application behavior (at least in regards to web traffic). Besides critical application protection, they provide fundamental IaaS defense against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Security can be configured into a virtual IaaS by using application firewalls to "lock down" data entry by web users. An example would be monitoring credit card number entries on a shopping cart payment page. The application firewall can be "trained" to recognize a set number of numeric characters only - any other data is prevented from reaching the web server. Locking down data entry prevents "cross-sight scripts" from penetrating the IaaS.

Proactive System Management
The biggest risks to enterprise security come not from virtualized architecture but are operational, usually involve mis-configuration (or configuration not aligned with the security framework), and poor change management resulting in out of date patches.

Systematically mitigating such vulnerabilities is another benefit of working within a time-tested security framework. Where vulnerability due to error or omission can proliferate rapidly across VMs, strong change management is crucial. Leverage guidelines provided by a service management framework such as ITIL.

The compulsory entry of change data should be part of the user interface wherever possible. Logging change data - not just patches, but to firewalls, provisioning of machines, IP addresses, NAT mapping, administrative access, etc., is imperative for the tracking of incidents, errors and process improvement. More and more compliance requirements require the ability to audit system changes.

The strongest defense is proactive system management. A strong security posture has never been a static endeavor. You must continue to invest in ongoing system and security training. A proactive security posture includes a documented, standards-based (like ITIL) incident escalation and notification procedure. Regular automated vulnerability scans and third-party penetration testing, file-integrity software, and anti-virus software - all provide preemptive layers of security - and not just in virtual environments.

Summary
The cost benefits of virtual IaaS continue to drive enterprises to cloud deployments. Mid-size and large enterprises can enjoy the business advantages of elasticity and leverage the security investment and expertise of the vendor.

The most effective security is still a layered defense based on a framework. Security technology and procedures are augmenting security frameworks to accommodate virtual architectures. There is the opportunity for the enterprise to build in security from the ground up. Properly configured and managed, security in the cloud from an experienced vendor will be better than what could be achieved in-house.

References

  1. See "Security Compliance in a Virtual World: Best Practices to Build a Solid Foundation", RSA Security Brief, 2009.
  2. See "Privileged Identity Management in the Cloud", Steve Staso, pgs 19-20, April, 2010.

Further Resources

More Stories By Denis Martin

Denis Martin is EVP & Chief Technology Officer, NaviSite Inc. His role reflects his continued contributions to NaviSite's strategic direction, including acquisition activity, and product, service, and channel development. He brings 20 years of business experience and has served in several positions in the company, most recently as Sr. Vice President of Corporate Development. He has extensive experience in network-based computing and outsourced delivery of business solutions and managed services. Before joining NaviSite, Martin managed the national hosting and application services organization for AppliedTheory, Inc. He has also acted as a consultant to several state and federal agencies in developing network and application programs at local, state and national levels.

Comments (0)

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it m...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his Day 2 Keynote at @ThingsExpo, Henrik Kenani Dahlgren, Portfolio Marketing Manager at Ericsson, discussed how to plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the...
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
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 ...
"I think that everyone recognizes that for IoT to really realize its full potential and value that it is about creating ecosystems and marketplaces and that no single vendor is able to support what is required," explained Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, 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. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry’s single source for the cloud. Fusion’s advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy 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. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outlyer, a monitoring service for DevOps and operations teams, 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. Outlyer is a monitoring service for DevOps and Operations teams running Cloud, SaaS, Microservices and IoT deployments. Designed for today's dynamic environments that need beyond cloud-scale monitoring, we make monitoring effortless so you...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Have you ever noticed how some IT people seem to lead successful, rewarding, and satisfying lives and careers, while others struggle? IT author and speaker Don Crawley uncovered the five principles that successful IT people use to build satisfying lives and careers and he shares them in this fast-paced, thought-provoking webinar. You'll learn the importance of striking a balance with technical skills and people skills, challenge your pre-existing ideas about IT customer service, and gain new in...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets. By creating abundant, high-quality editorial content across more than 140 highly targeted technology-specific websites, TechTarget attracts and nurtures communities of technology buyers researching their companies' information technology needs. By understanding these buyers' content consumption behaviors, TechTarget creates the purchase inte...