|By Gilad Parann-Nissany||
|March 17, 2012 08:00 AM EDT||
We’ve always had a close relationship with cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Red Hat OpenShift. Lately we have been hearing from an ever wider spectrum of the cloud provider industry, and their cloud data security requirements show a pattern.
Providers need to differentiate themselves in a competitive market, and they need to ensure high security standards. Cloud data security is a must have, but it’s also something that requires expertise.
Cloud providers are in the midst of a transition
Cloud providers are facing a market in transition, from the hosting model to the cloud model. Many of them have already invested in virtualization, during the previous wave of innovation. Popular choices have been VMware, XEN, and KVM.
Now they are rolling out the next generation of cloud infrastructure and platform solutions. Both private and public cloud offerings are in scope, and we are seeing both homogenous technology stacks and mixed stacks. For example, while some cloud providers we talk to are VMware shops, others are mixing a management tool from one vendor with a virtualization solution from another.
The motive is the huge success of cloud solutions with customers. Customers like the pay-as-you-go economics of cloud; they like the flexibility and elasticity even better. Being able to get 1 or 100 servers in minutes, 10GB or 10TB whenever you like, and to give them back whenever you like; these values are driving the entire market.
No compromise on cloud data security
Whatever their strategy, all the providers are quoting their customers, who cannot compromise on cloud data security. The motives may vary; for some it is regulatory compliance, while for others it may be the brand value or sensitivity of data.
As a result, some customers will bring only less sensitive data to the cloud, which limits the benefits of cloud to less sensitive projects. This is typical of transition, but everybody is looking for answers that will be appropriate for more sensitive data.
No one wants to compromise between the flexibility of cloud and the sensitivity of their data. Tradeoffs are not possible. If customers perceive their data to be sensitive, they demand a solution which offers both the full flexibility of cloud and the level of security required by the data.
Data at rest does require a revolution in Cloud Encryption
Data at rest is one of the trickiest issues, as perceived by customers. They are moving their data out of the four walls of the data center, as it were, and into an environment where they themselves will manage their disks using a browser.
Customers express the following concern: if I manage my disk through a browser, than a hacker might too (heaven forbid). As well-known security analyst Rich Mogul once blogged, “Anyone with access to your management plane (with sufficient rights) can snapshot a volume and move it around; It only takes 2-3 command lines to snapshot a drive off to object storage, make it public, and then load it up in a hostile environment”.
The universal answer is cloud encryption, and cloud encryption does work. Well known encryption algorithms like AES-256 or Blowfish can protect data. But like all buzz words, it pays to look closer.
The fly in the ointment is, where do you keep the cloud encryption keys? There are no good answers, though several have tried.
Some opinions suggest that vendors will keep the keys for you; which requires you trust them. Hmmm. Are there other approaches?
Some opinions suggest “trust no one”; an appealing message for the security conscious customer. They further suggest you take your encryption keys back with you to your data center. This is not perfect for the customer, as they have to pay and maintain a physical key management infrastructure in-house. Remember, they went to the cloud to get away from that.
It’s also not a perfect option for cloud providers because it’s contrary to their business model. Imagine a provider telling a customer “don’t trust me”.
Finally, some customer scenarios simply break if you require installation in a physical data center. Imagine a disaster recovery scenario that still requires “just a little bit” of the data center to continue functioning. Imagine an ISV who has staked their future on a pure cloud approach.
These are business cases which require new thinking.
Cloud data security requirements
Thinking all these problems through, the only real solution is cloud encryption with cloud key management that:
- Allows customers to literally trust no one, yet without needing a physical data center
- Provides military grade security
- Works 100% in the cloud, and can be provisioned in well-built cloud data centers
- Provides all the cloud values: “one click” solutions that are up in minutes, flexible and elastic
Quite a tall order… Cloud providers are discovering you cannot tack on such capabilities, you must design for them.
Porticor’s split-key encryption, built for homomorphic key encryption, was designed from the ground up to tackle these requirements. This solution packages a great deal of complexity into a cloud encryption and cloud key management solution that comes up in minutes, and allows the customer to trust no one.
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
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