Welcome!

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

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Virtualization, Search, Web 2.0, Security

Cloud Expo: Blog Post

Cloud Security: Five Lessons from the Yahoo Password Breach

This one-off incident should not dampen enterprise enthusiasm for a road map to hybrid computing adoption

Last week one news item that attracted media attention was the hacking of some nearly 450,000 passwords from Yahoo Service called ‘Yahoo Voice'. The communications on the incident state that, SQL Injection is the primary technique adopted by hackers to get the information out of databases and publish them.

As per further communications, we find the affected company taking more precautions to ensure that security is their highest priority. These events will also generally shake the Cloud Adoption at the enterprise level, where always the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the minds of CIOs may increase due to these incidents.

However the following are the best practices and guidelines that should be adopted by any enterprise when adopting hybrid cloud computing and a one-off incident should not dampen their road map to hybrid computing adoption.

In other words the incident is not really due to the adoption of Cloud or a multi-tenant model rather from not following the age-old best practices. This also indicates the significance of Cloud Brokers or intermediaries who have substantial knowledge of enterprise computing paradigm to play an increasing role in ensuring enterprises adopt cloud computing in a secure manner.

Lessons Learned In Yahoo Password Hacking

1. Not Following Security Fundamentals During Development
Whatever the changes in technology are, the fundamentals of development and coding remains the same. Most times SaaS vendors have high pressure on time-to-market, which may at times make them work around on security fundamentals, which is not correct. If you are accepting input from the user, it needs to be validated always before the input is acted upon. Lack of validation of input is the root cause behind attacks like Cross-Site Scripting or SQL Injection. In a multi tenant world the risk of SQL Injection is increased many a fold, because the hacker could always enter the system as a legitimate user by creating an valid account and then start hacking the data other customers.

I have earlier elaborated about SQL Injection In SaaS in an article in 2010 itself, whose thought process is still valid when it comes to developing SaaS and multi tenant applications.

2. Not Encrypting at the Database Level
Encryption of key data is one of the most important security aspect of any database in general and a multi tenant database in particular. However most times enterprises may take the path of encrypting at the Virtual Machine or Volume level, which means the Entire Disk even if it is physically stolen will not be useful to the hacker.

While this is a very useful feature such level of encryption still not useful, when the hacker legitimately gets access to the virtual machine in which the database is hosted. So additionally database level encryption which further provides encryption at the user level, i.e only users who have got READ permissions on the database can view the data, will provide an added level of security.

In my earlier article on Protecting Data At Rest In Public Clouds, I have compared the options between middle ware vs RDBMS in protecting the data. As evident a combination of both would make the multi-tenant database highly secured.

3. Exposing Too Much Metadata
How many times you have a database table storing credit card information is named as ‘CREDIT_CARD' or the password column in a user database is named as PIN or Password. While the best practices of database design in the past indicated the use of correct column names, and meta data like comments at the database level, they may act detrimental to the sensitive data in a today's world.

It is always advisable to avoid too much meta data from sensitive columns and keep them as part of the supporting documentation. There is no rule which states that a CREDIT CARD information is stored in a table named temp_t1 and let your application map temp_t1 is indeed a table containing credit card information.

4. Not Using Best of Features in the Databases
Today most of the software vendors have the pressure to make their product run against multiple databases . This provides them a much wider marketing capability. While this is important from the business perspective, due to this restriction we have seen the products that are using powerful RDBMS systems as a mere data store and not utilizing their best security features. This will result in reduced security at the database level because none of the security features are really used.

In my earlier article on Implementing Multi Tenancy Using Oracle Virtual Private Database, I have elaborated on how the best features like VPD in Oracle provide lot of security features so that if properly applied, some data is not visible to a user unless the application sets the appropriate context. Similarly these features can mask a certain columns to be not visible when queried directly. Also the features like fine grained auditing provide lot of auditing features against database security breaches.

Also if database level security is properly applied, we could utilize roles, grants and privileges in such a manner that the database connections get only EXECUTE privileges on the stored procedures and no direct READ access to the underlying tables, these kind of design patterns protect the data further.

This points to the fact that the product vendors should concentrate on unique security features of the databases like Oracle, Sql Server and DB2 and implement them in their design apart from the application level security. The need for porting the application to multiple databases should not reduce the security needs of the application.

5. Not Masking the Data
Masking the data is about , taking the data in the current form and convert it into a different format for storage purposes. It is slightly different from the encryption that the data is in readable form but will not make any sense if you don't know the de-masking algorithm. Traditionally masking is only done when the production data is ported to a test or development machine and also when a production data is ported to a offshore development location.

However we have not seen much instances of live production instances using masking techniques to protect the security information.

What is the golden rule that states that a social security number always to be stored as a single column of 9 characters and stored contiguously, what if the same is stored in three different columns with the numbers flipped and the application reverses them and forms into a proper social security number? This is just an example, the same principle can be applied to a credit card or a password or a pin, so that only application knows how to make meaning out of a masked sensitive data and not anyone else.

Summary
As indicated in the beginning of the articles, there will be a few instances of security breaches when so much new services are delivered over the public internet in a short time. However enterprises need not worry from them as they are not issues out of the fundamental concept of Cloud or Multi Tenancy itself, but because of the way the they are implemented. Adopting the best of design patterns like DAO access pattern which abstracts the database calls from the application and doing proper validation along with the database level protection techniques explained above, will prevent these incidents in the future.

More Stories By Srinivasan Sundara Rajan

I am passionate about ownership and driving things on my own, with my breadth and depth on Enterprise Technology I could run any aspect of IT Industry and make it a success. I am a Seasoned Enterprise IT Expert, mainly in the areas of Solution,Integration and Architecture, across Structured, Unstructured data sources, especially in manufacturing domain. My recent work is on Natural Language Processing, Semantic Enrichment of Unstructured Data, Data Mining and Predictive Analytics. However I have a strong footing across all tiers of Enterprise IT spectrum. I am geared to handle the massive flow of data by Internet Of Things with appropriate platform, tools and processes.

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
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...
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 ...
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...
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...
"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.
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!
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.
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 ...
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.
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...
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...
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...
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.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...