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Cloud Encryption – a Fundamental First Step in Cloud Security

New cloud security risks to your data

Exposing a virtualization weakness for data theft, Snapshotting your data, and the internal threat, are new cloud risks that didn’t exist when the data was stored between the four walls of your datacenter.   Data encryption is a critical first step for any organization considering the cloud. In Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) clouds, protecting data at rest is your responsibility. To meet privacy obligations to your customers and employees, and to comply with regulatory standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA and SOX, businesses must securely encrypt cloud-based data, while keeping operational overhead to a minimum.

New Cloud Security risks to your data:
Gaining access from a different virtual server within the same physical hardware:

Cloud Encryption   a Fundamental First Step in Cloud SecurityCloud computing is all about virtualization. Multiple customers will share a single physical server and will be logically separated from each other. In theory, one can share the same physical server with his competitor. Gaining access to sensitive data from a different virtual server inside the same physical server can be achieved by an attacker exploiting a virtualization operating system vulnerability, or by one of your other cloud system administrators (a “malicious insider” from a different project in your own organization) using his credentials or exploiting one of many known web application vulnerabilities to launch an attack on the virtual server in order to access and steal sensitive data. Encrypting your data will not enable the attacker to view it, even if he did gain access to your virtual OS.

Snapshotting your virtual storage:
Here’s an interesting infrastructure as a service scenario: A malicious user gains access to your cloud console by stealing your credentials (or by exploiting vulnerabilities in the cloud access control infrastructure), allowing him access to your cloud servers. Once in, a simple snapshot will move your data to a deferent location of his choice. This risk is in our opinion the most obvious reason for cloud encryption, but surprisingly enough, not all cloud customers are aware of the threat, hence exposing their cloud residing data to a significant risk.

The Insider Threat
Back in March 2011, Health Net had publically announced it had lost 1.9 Million customer records as a result of its IT vendor misplacing nine server drives following a move to a new data center. The point is that an insider threat is not necessarily a malicious user, but the impact is almost similar to a malicious action. Data encryption in this case would have saved a significant amount of money to the provider but more importantly the private records would not have been exposed.

Providing an effective encryption solution in a cloud environment is not an easy task. An effective cloud encryption solution must cover the entire data layer (including virtual disks, distributed storage, databases, etc…), while not exposing your encryption keys to anyone but yourself. Porticor infuses trust into the cloud with secure, easy to use, and scalable solutions for data encryption and key management. Porticor enables companies of all sizes to safeguard their data, comply with regulatory standards, and streamline operations.

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More Stories By Gilad Parann-Nissany

Gilad Parann-Nissany, Founder and CEO at Porticor is a pioneer of Cloud Computing. He has built SaaS Clouds for medium and small enterprises at SAP (CTO Small Business); contributing to several SAP products and reaching more than 8 million users. Recently he has created a consumer Cloud at G.ho.st - a cloud operating system that delighted hundreds of thousands of users while providing browser-based and mobile access to data, people and a variety of cloud-based applications. He is now CEO of Porticor, a leader in Virtual Privacy and Cloud Security.