Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Rishi Bhargava, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Shelly Palmer

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
“delaPlex Software provides software outsourcing services. We have a hybrid model where we have onshore developers and project managers that we can place anywhere in the U.S. or in Europe,” explained Manish Sachdeva, CEO at delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
We all know the latest numbers: Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from last year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. We're rapidly approaching a data production of 40 zettabytes a day – more than we can every physically store, and exabytes and yottabytes are just around the corner. For many that’s a good sign, as data has been proven to equal money – IF it’s ingested, integrated, and analyzed fast enough. Without real-ti...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
Unless your company can spend a lot of money on new technology, re-engineering your environment and hiring a comprehensive cybersecurity team, you will most likely move to the cloud or seek external service partnerships. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Darren Guccione, CEO of Keeper Security, revealed what you need to know when it comes to encryption in the cloud.
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
"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.
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
Early adopters of IoT viewed it mainly as a different term for machine-to-machine connectivity or M2M. This is understandable since a prerequisite for any IoT solution is the ability to collect and aggregate device data, which is most often presented in a dashboard. The problem is that viewing data in a dashboard requires a human to interpret the results and take manual action, which doesn’t scale to the needs of IoT.
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...