Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Jignesh Solanki, Stackify Blog

Blog Feed Post

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Cloud Security

This is not a Top 10 list – it is a list of 10 things I’ve learned along the way. Top 10 lists imply some sort of universal knowledge of the “top” things possible in a given field. Top 10 attractive women, top 10 guitar players, top 10 whatever, they all have one thing in common: They are all ten things the author thinks are the best. I don’t really like to think I know everything so this list is in no particular order. This particular list is on cloud security and, well, it is a big topic that interests me greatly and there is no way I can cover it all in a blog post. As a result I will be doing a presentation around this topic in a few places, including BSides Cleveland.

Anyway, cloud security is tough for a lot of reasons, not least of which is because you, like me, probably only understand the basics of what you interface with in the cloud – the controls the cloud provider allows you to see. This lack of depth of management introduces many security related challenges. Having said that, let’s explore:

1) Control Panels
Control panels are simultaneously the best and worst aspect of a given cloud provider’s offerings. They can enable you to do really great things or handicap you by not allowing enough fine-grained control. They can enhance the security of your slice of the cloud infrastructure and then cut it off at the knees, sometimes with both in the same feature. If a control is very granular and allows you to be very custom, you can make spectacular infrastructure decisions while at the same time easily forgetting to make some necessary security adjustments. If the controls aren’t granular enough, i.e. the provider made those decisions for you, then that can limit your abilities. In general, control panels are a double edged sword…and a balancing act…usually done while juggling razor-sharp ninja stars – not necessarily an easy job.

2) Uptime/Downtime
This is a problem, but not necessarily a problem specific to the cloud. It is a problem specific to computers. You will have downtime no matter where you host your services or what you do to prevent it. (Author’s Note: I have spent a large portion of my company’s overall budget to avoid downtime. It still happens, it’s just mitigated better) Some will argue uptime is worse in the cloud than if you hosted it yourself, but depending on who you are this may or may not be true. It just depends on how much trouble you want to go through to deal with the uptime of critical assets – or rather how much you want to spend to achieve a good uptime ratio. In the public cloud, the cost is spread around so it is naturally a bit cheaper. If you are doing it yourself then you are footing the entire cost. Simple equation really: how much downtime can you afford? Be careful here, the cloud is not always cheaper than doing it yourself, check out the Cloud is Cheap section.

Side note: While I was editing this post and getting its accompanying presentation ready Amazon Web Services had their big storm related outage and one of our apps was in the wrong zone at the wrong time, bringing it down for about 30 hours total. Luckily, it was a weekend so no one was using it. But still, there is no greater feeling of helplessness when your service is down and completely out of your control. I’m like this whenever my phone or data center provider have problems too so I’ve gotten used to it. A bottle of pepto and lots of patience is required for any sort of cloud endeavor.

3) Access Control
There is a “myth” that you have no concept of access control in the cloud. In most cases, at least with the reputable providers, you do have a decent ACL system. In Amazon you can set up roles and assign folks to groups, not half bad. The problem comes in when you actually MEAN access control. With very few exceptions you are running on shared resources in the cloud, not dedicated equipment. If you were under the impression it wasn’t shared, perhaps we need to revisit the definitions of cloud computing again (see cheatsheet). In theory, this sharing could cause some problems. All cloud providers use some sort of virtualization – what it is, what vendor, what tech is completely irrelevant – there is at least some risk of someone being able to break out of the virtualized jail and see your data or perform some other malicious activity. This is a very important risk, one to at least mitigate with encryption on both the transport and rest layers. Honestly though you should be doing this in any virtualized environment, it just makes for very good practice. Dare I say, it should be a best practice.

4) API (Good and Evil)
I have a love/hate relationship with APIs (Application Programming Interface). I love them because they can make so many things so easy to do, at least the good ones. I hate them because they can often change without notice (depends on the provider) and they give providers yet another avenue for charging “micro payments”. Micro payments sound good in theory but they do add up. Amazon, for instance, wants you to send email through their messaging API and charge you per-message. I haven’t paid for email per message since…well never. They claim it increases reliability and makes it better than sending directly from your EC2 instance. I find that claim a little suspect but it’s their jail and their rules. Another big issue is if you buy the theory that the cloud is a jail for your apps then APIs are the bars. They can really lock you into a provider. I despise vendor lock-in almost more than anything. There are cloud abstraction layers (such as Delta Cloud) but honestly I’ve never used them and really it is just adding another layer of complexity. Deploying your cloud app is not like dating, it’s more akin to marriage and divorcing it is hard, so remember to do your homework.

Of course there is also the whole security angle of APIs that you have to consider. Is the transport encrypted? Is the data reliable and untainted? Are you sure you are pulling the correct data? These considerations cannot be overlooked, even in a cloud environment where you are encouraged to “trust the system.” Buyer should always beware.

5) Firewalls Are Dead….Well Sorta
Real firewalls in the cloud are a great idea, most reputable providers at least have basic packet filtering available. But wouldn’t it be great to have a full-on firewall up there protecting your data? It is possible! Check Point, Cisco, and probably many others have full firewall instances (some with IPS) available for you to deploy. I think it’s a good idea and all, but I struggle to see how many people will actually use it. I mean, people hate firewalls as it is for some strange reason (I blame willful ignorance). But now not only do you have to pay for the firewall license, but you will have to pay for the CPU time to actually run it. Obviously we’re talking about a public cloud here, if you have your own private cloud already you just need the license. Regardless of where you have your cloud, you should probably have a firewall to give you tighter control.

6) Redundancy
One of the ways the cloud sells itself is on it’s instant super-redundancy and availability. As we’ve learned, even the large cloud providers are susceptible to downtime. As I discussed above in the uptime/downtime section, downtime just happens. The more or less instant redundancy marketing line is somewhat true, you can absolutely load balance your apps across multiple Amazon EC2 instances across multiple availability zones. But this isn’t some magic feature you just get, it costs extra. Don’t be fooled by those sort of marketing tricks.

As I wrote this section I began thinking about the abstraction layers discussed in the API section and started to wonder: is it possible to build an application that was hosted then load balanced across multiple cloud providers. I bet it would be but now brain hurts (and I suspect if I did that my wallet would be hurting too). Anyone doing that out there?

7) Encrypt Early, Encrypt Often
Before Amazon introduced the ability to encrypt in their storage offering (S3) I wrote a tool called logsup that would allow me to automatically rotate (through logrotated), encrypt (through GPG) and upload (to S3) old log files. It takes some metadata and writes it up to Amazon’s SimpleDB service so I can easily search and figure out what data was in the encrypted log files. Of course I thought I was really clever when I wrote it, but then four days later Amazon introduced their encryption feature that has better key management than GPG. Eventually I’ll rewrite logsup to take advantage of that, but until then I will keep stubbornly using it.

There are two primary lessons to take away from my logsup adventure. First, you should always encrypt sensitive data before it leaves your control. Second, you should always write a receipt for that data so you know where it came from and at least abstractly what type of data it contains. This will allow some piece of mind that your data is safe and that you will be able to find it later when you need it most.

Depending on the deployment, encryption also offers some protection against snooping tenants when you’re using cloud storage or other less private storage. It is not a replacement for strong access control or larger security precautions but it can provide a decent layer of protection against basic prying eyes.

8) Cloud Is Cheap!
There are a number of different types of cloud service (see cheatsheet) and the whole “cloud is cheap” myth only holds up for a few of them. Cloud can be very cheap when you’re discussing Software As A Service (SaaS), e.g. Google’s Apps for Business is only around $5 per user per month per year or $50 per user per year. You as an independent person or company cannot run a mail server for any amount of users for less than that cost per user. The hardware alone would set you back more, so it makes very good financial sense to run your email in the cloud. Whether it makes good common sense is a different story, but I think it is becoming more generally accepted as a best practice to outsource your email, even if only for the cost benefit.

The story gets a lot murkier when you move away from software into infrastructure or platforms as services. Depending on your needs and usage this can be way more expensive than running your own stuff or much cheaper, again it just depends on the needs. If you want to build a redundant platform or infrastructure with off the shelf hardware and Linux, prepare to pay for the privilege. It really depends though, I’ve seen analyses where it is cheaper to do it yourself, so as with all advice your mileage may vary.

9) Logs In The Cloud
There is a very persistent myth that you can’t get proper logging for your cloud applications and this is patently untrue. An EC2 instance is just an operating system tweaked a little bit to run on Amazon’s infrastructure. There is nothing magical about it, it is the same as if you were running it on a VMWare cluster and you can get your logs from there just fine right? Right? Of course you can, your application and OS will log the same as if you were hosting it locally. You could even put a log collection server in the cloud if you were so inclined or use something like Loggly or Splunk Storm and have your log analysis up there too.

When you start discussing SaaS or IaaS the story gets a little darker as you are not necessarily buying access to the logs – you are outsourcing it completely so the providers simply do provide that same level of visibility. I guess that is their call, you just need to be prepared. As we discussed in the control panels section the type of visibility you get will depend on how well the control panel is architected. A lot of providers will give you access to logs for your specific instance (if only to cut down on support calls), but others do not. It is simply a matter of asking the right questions and, again, doing your homework.

10) Service Level Agreements (SLA)
When you are choosing a cloud provider be sure you actually read their SLA. This is basically the agreement that spells out your interactions and expectations when dealing with your provider. This is the document that will basically tell you how much uptime to expect (they all say 99.999% uptime, they are almost all deceitful) and more importantly what sort of compensation you will get if they violate their SLA. Expect a lot of lawyer-speak here, so if you are putting something really critical in the cloud have your lawyer read it over. You won’t have a lot of negotiation room usually, but at least you’ll be able to plan for the possible risks with a clear head. Typically an SLA will link out to a document describing security precautions taken by the provider to protect your data. This can be crucially important to have so you can effectively add in tech to fill the gaps, though sometimes these documents tend to be a bit vague.

While this list wasn’t entirely security focused, the intent was to help guide folks looking into cloud deployments for their organizations and how to better prepare for the differences in securing those environments. Hopefully it met those goals and more. Please send any feedback on this list to [email protected].

The post Ten Things I’ve Learned About Cloud Security appeared first on Hurricane Labs.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Hurricane Labs

Christina O’Neill has been working in the information security field for 3 years. She is a board member for the Northern Ohio InfraGard Members Alliance and a committee member for the Information Security Summit, a conference held once a year for information security and physical security professionals.

@ThingsExpo Stories
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. 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 settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
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.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...