Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Daniel Joseph Barry, Harry Trott

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
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We are focused on SAP running in the clouds, to make this super easy because we believe in the tremendous value of those powerful worlds - SAP and the cloud," explained Frank Stienhans, CTO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
"MobiDev is a Ukraine-based software development company. We do mobile development, and we're specialists in that. But we do full stack software development for entrepreneurs, for emerging companies, and for enterprise ventures," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EnterpriseTech has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. EnterpriseTech is a professional resource for news and intelligence covering the migration of high-end technologies into the enterprise and business-IT industry, with a special focus on high-tech solutions in new product development, workload management, increased effic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. 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 com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. 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 ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CHEETAH Training & Innovation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CHEETAH Training & Innovation is a cloud consulting and IT training firm specializing in improving clients cloud strategies and infrastructures for medium to large companies.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datanami has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datanami is a communication channel dedicated to providing insight, analysis and up-to-the-minute information about emerging trends and solutions in Big Data. The publication sheds light on all cutting-edge technologies including networking, storage and applications, and thei...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...