Cloud Security Authors: Elizabeth White, John Katrick, Pat Romanski, Rostyslav Demush, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Cloud Security, @DXWorldExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

Brass Tacks: Answering the Cloud Security Questions That Matter

Who is logging in? What is accessed? When was it changed? And more!

Enterprise security can be a labyrinthine, complex beast with many moving parts, dozen upon dozen of requirements, needs, implications, options and alternatives.

But when we get down to the nitty gritty (the brass tacks if you will), cloud security can be simplified by six simple questions:

WHO is logging in?

WHAT are they accessing/viewing?

WHERE is the device from which that person logs in?

WHEN was any asset changed/modified/moved

HOW are they authorized/credentialed?

WHAT is the impact of the event?

Now determining the answers to those questions might require a bit of coordination, but in terms of initiative and priority, it is the answers to the above questions that must drive any enterprise security initiative.

The concept of enterprise security is simple. Allow those who you want to see and access data in, and everyone else out. Of course the addendum to that is those that are on the “inside” cannot /should not distribute information outside the “Circle of Trust.” Now note I said the concept is simple. The application of those concepts is much more complex. It requires the coordination and integration of several features from several different solutions. If you are a CFO, I can see you rolling your eyes…how much is this going to cost (the answer is not as much as you think if deploying cloud-based solutions)?! If you are a CTO, I can hear that you’ve got it covered. If so, great, but there are thousands upon thousands of companies who don’t or only have a portion of the equation adequately addressed. And the biggest issue with the latter is that too many professionals mistakenly think their portion is doing the whole job.

In journalism class, I learned that the 5W’s and an H (who, what, when, where, why and how) are what every news story needs. Extrapolated, it’s what every enterprise security initiative needs as well.  If you can answer these questions, then you’re definitely on the right path to securing your assets as well as the privacy of your users. Yet, the key to answering these questions is having certain solutions and policies in place. Beyond that, you need those access management solutions and policies to “talk” to each other. It’s no longer good enough to have user provisioning if it doesn’t communicate with intrusion detection (SIEM/Log Management) or single sign on (access management). That brings us to our first question:

Who is logging in?: You can implement all industry standards, follow all regulatory frameworks and best practices, but if you're sloppy from the start with verifying identities, maintaining credentials or parsing the data,  then your security is no better than blind man’s bluff. Let’s say Ms. Jones leaves your employ. If you don’t have user provisioning, it may take days or weeks (if ever) to remove her permissions from network access protocols. Without intrusion detection, you’ll not know if she's trying to access her account after her employment relationship ends. But assume she's an honest person and that your company de-provisioned her accounts. It still doesn’t mean someone isn’t trying to breach using her credentials. How will you know? If an alert policy is set to notify someone when an attempt for access is tried against a dormant or retired account (or three failed log-in tries), you can immediately trace it to the IP source and remediate the issue.  Thing of it is, if you think whoever is attempting a breach is limited to just Ms. Jones’ former account, you’re sadly mistaken. By integrating single sign on, identity management and SIEM, you get to know exactly who is logging in (with a record for compliance) and those without the proper credentials are left on the outside looking in.

What are they accessing? Because a user provides the proper user name and password combo, shouldn’t give them keys to the entire kingdom. Think of what would happen if all the currency plates or gold reserves were held in the same building. Anyone with a key and a wheelbarrow could be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. The same needs to be considered for your IT assets, your proprietary sensitive data and personal information. What files, data and applications are necessary for a person to do their or job, place an order securely? Multi-authenticated access opens the door, but it is role-based provisioning that limits what they can see based on the needs of the person and the permission policies ascribed to them. Does shipping & receiving need human resource applications to send Product X to a customer?  In this scenario, integrating single sign on with identity management creates the necessary automation, but also creates the compliance information which is automatically compiled for reporting. That’s something I call Enterprise Access Control. The next step is ensuring the data is properly encrypted…but that‘s a blog for another day.

Where is the device? You want to know that the activity is coming from validated IP addresses. For example…Carl is your salesman and spent the night in a hotel in Wichita. He logged in and uploaded some expense reports. No problem. He had the right credentials. He accessed portions on the ERP that are based on his role permissions. Three hours later, Carl’s account is accessed again; had the right user name and password, but this time the SIEM system picks up that the IP address is coming from Romania. Well unless Carl has some superhuman power or used a Star Trek transporter, it isn’t him. With the significant rise in BYOD (tablets, iPhones, laptops, etc…), you need to make sure you know where the access is coming from. Without profiling, you know that certain areas of the globe are more likely to be engaged in hacking.

When was the asset changed? Much like “where,” when certain applications or data are accessed provides clues as to whether an event is suspicious or benign. By applying adaptive risk policies (predictive behavior protocols), you can plot when certain IP addresses log on.  Does it raise any red flags that attempts on certain accounts or applications are happening at 3 in the morning? In it of itself, probably not. But if you apply context from various data deposits, the picture becomes much clearer. If you are in Chicago, 3am is 9am in London. If you have customers or partners in London, there’s probably no cause for alarm. However, if the log on is to an application that a partner would have no need of, then the time of the attempt is very relevant. However, to correlate the appropriate context, your security functions need to be centralized and collaborating 24/7/365.

How are they credentialed? I’ve addressed roles-based user provisioning, application access restriction, but the last part of the policy is ensuring that multi-factored authentication is applied. In short, the best practice is to create security questions that cannot be easily found in any other digital forum (like birthdays, hire dates, names of family). The other half is to insist on strong passwords that include letters, numbers and symbols. Recognizing that a single password has a certain likelihood of being cracked, authenticating a user on two of these factors makes it one step harder for someone to exploit your system. Multi-factor authentication will make it substantially more difficult for an attacker to gain access but it’s certainly not going to stop a determined attacker. This is again why I insist on a layered and integrated security infrastructure.

What is the impact? Not all events require your IT SWAT team. Vulnerability scans using situational context allow you to separate the white noise and the everyday routine from suspicious events. Again it is the flow of data from various silos and applications that make it more security more effective and allow you to determine the threat level of any particular cluster of activity.

But the reality is that answering all the questions takes investment. Beyond dollars, it takes investment of time, resources, expertise and infrastructure. The overarching problem is not every company has that luxury or an excess of expenditures to apply against something that is looked upon as a cost center. If for no other reason than that, companies must look towards the cloud as a provider of security solutions. Cloud-based security can be seen as the great equalizer. Whether it is adding new capabilities or leveraging what you already have in house. It centralizes all the tools, all the expertise as a holistic security-as-a-service that broadens the reach and scope of enterprise monitoring, strengthens access authentication, and satisfies regulatory compliance. Because of the cost and resource savings It changes the dynamic for an initiative to performance rather than limited scope.

To answer all the questions posed above, the most important element a security initiative must have is visibility. Without coordinating/correlating the data acquired from independent security initiatives, you are wasting resources, potentially duplicating efforts and not necessarily seeing the whole picture.

If the application of security were simple, then everybody would recognize Superman was Clark Kent. Are you trying to tell me that a simple pair of glasses can fool everybody? So it really is all about context. You don’t expect to see Superman as Clark Kent, so you don’t. However if you centrally put all the information in context, then you would see the truth. That is why it remains ever so important to continue to ask the questions of your security initiative…who, what, where, when and how?

Kevin Nikkhoo


More Stories By Kevin Nikkhoo

With more than 32 years of experience in information technology, and an extensive and successful entrepreneurial background, Kevin Nikkhoo is the CEO of the dynamic security-as-a-service startup Cloud Access. CloudAccess is at the forefront of the latest evolution of IT asset protection--the cloud.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from McGill University, Master of Computer Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles, and an MBA from the University of Southern California with emphasis in entrepreneurial studies.

@ThingsExpo Stories
DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of bus...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO" has announced that its Call for Papers is now open. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expe...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER give you detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO also offers s...
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.