cloud computing

Who’s In Your Cloud?

Wikipedia cites:

Cloud Computing describes systems that provide computation, software, and data access services without requiring end-user knowledge of or dependence on the system’s physical location and configuration

As an example, take an online vacation reservation system that may be a hosted cloud model such as Software as a Service (SaaS), in which your business would host an application that consists of a web front-end, database, storage and billing services.

While the cloud provider provides an Application Programming Interface (API) and access to the various components through traditional interfaces such as SSH, FTP or SOAP, there is limited access to the underlying systems as they are usually multi-tenancy in which multiple customers share their applications on the same system. This creates challenges for monitoring and controlling the security controls governing your application.

Cloud providers will provide SLAs and frequent security reports but there is no visibility into who is administering the systems hosting your application or what vulnerabilities may be present that will allow attackers to successfully compromise the systems using SQL injection or Cross-site scripting attacks.

Cloud providers will usually allow you to conduct third-party web application penetration testing against your own URL but will not allow you to monitor their servers nor will they send you events from their network security devices (IDS/IPS, firewalls, etc), which would allow real-time correlation and threat mitigation. Essentially, you lose control of your sensitive data and who may be accessing the systems in adherence to your security policies.

With the rise of Botnets, Scareware, Phishing, Brand theft, social network vulnerabilities and many other forms of evolving malware, Cloud Computing companies that will be most successful will be those that offer security monitoring services with logical segregation that uses context regarding your business, such as:

  • Real-time threat feeds
  • Lists of nefarious IP addresses
  • Countries of concern
  • Export control
  • Software vulnerabilities
  • Geo-spatial disparity
  • Customer activity profiling
  • Privileged user accountability
  • Perimeter threat baselining
  • Terminated employee monitoring

With this context information correlated with real-time events gathered from all of the control points between the cloud components, customers could receive real-time alerts from the cloud and would access a GUI to drill-down and conduct post-analysis of threats and then create their own dashboards or reports regarding attackers, application issues and administration accountability.

This model would alleviate the loss of visibility by placing applications into the cloud and ensure your auditors have access to the security and compliance data they need during an assessment.

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