Welcome!

Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Vincent Brasseur, Gilad Parann-Nissany

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Virtualization, Security

Cloud Expo: 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
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.