Cloud Security – A Business Tradeoff?

I took notes during the Boston Cloud Computing Group Meetup 23-Sept-2009 – the raw notes are below, but a couple of more noteworthy highlights appear first with some of my views interspersed.

Executive Summary – Key Take-Aways & Highlights

Notes from Javed Ikbal’s talk (http://10domains.blogspot.com) are in regular type. My editorial comments and thoughts are in italics or bold italics – so don’t blame these on Javed.🙂

  • Key take-away – going to the Cloud is waaaay more about Business Tradeoffs than it is about Technology.
  • “There are 2 kinds of companies – those which have had a [data security]breach, and those which are going to have a [data security] breach” -Javed
  • Centralization of data makes insider threat a bigger risk -Javed
  • “On premise does not mean people are doing the right thing” –Javed – right on! I bet the majority of the fortune five-million (as 37 Signals refers to the medium and small business market) have insufficient IT – they just don’t know it. Any stats?
  • Someone from the audience stated there are more breaches in on-premise data centers than in cloud. Therefore cloud is safer. I don’t buy the logic. There could so many more publicized breaches in on-premise systems simply because there are so many more on premise data centers today. So this is easy to misinterpret. We can’t tell either way from the data. My personal prediction: today if there is a data breach for data stored in the cloud, people will not be able to believe you were reckless enough to store it in the cloud; 5 years from now, if there is a data breach for data stored on premise, people will not be able to believe you were reckless enough to store it locally instead of in the cloud which everyone will then believe is the safest place.
  • Someone from audience commented that business value of losing data will be balanced against business cost of it being exposed. This comment did not account for the PROBABILITY of there being a breach – how do you calculate this risk? I bet it is easier to calculate this risk on the cloud than on premise (though *I* don’t know how to do this)
  • Comment from Stefan: We can’t expect all cloud services to be up all the time (we were chatting about Google and Amazon downtime, which has been well documented). I completely agree – And many businesses don’t have the data to fairly/accurately compare their own uptimes with those of the cloud vendors – and, further, if the cloud vendors did have 100% up-time, that may destroy the economies we are seeing on the cloud today (who cares if it is 100% reliable if it is 0% affordable – that’s too expensive to be interesting)
  • Off-premise security != in cloud – different security issues for different data – Javed In other words, treat SSN and Credit Card data differently than which books I bought last year. But I can think of LOTS of data that is seemingly innocuous, but that SOME PEOPLE will balk at having it classified  as “non-sensitive” – might be my bookmarks, movie rentals, books purchased, travel plans/history, many more… not just those that support identity theft and/or direct monetary loss (bank account hacks). I think it would be a fine idea for data hosts to publicly declare their data classification scheme – shouldn’t we all have a right to know?
  • I think IT generally – and The Cloud specifically – could benefit from the kind of thinking that went into GoodGuide.com.

Raw Notes Follow

The rest of these notes are a bit rough – and may or may not make sense – but here they are anyway…

Intros

  • Pizza & drinks, some social (sat next to Stefan Schueller from TechDroid Sytems and enjoyed chatting with him)
  • Went around the room introducing ourselves
  • People who were hiring / looking for work spoke up
  • Around 30 people in attendance
  • Meeting host: Aprigo – 460 Totten Pond rd, suite 660 – Waltham, MA  02451 – USA
  • Feisty audience! Lots of participation. This added to the meeting impact.

Twisted Storage talk

From Meetup description: Charles Wegrzyn – CTO at TwistedStorage Inc. (Check actually built an Open source cloud storage system back in ’05)

TwistedStorage is open source software that converts multiple storage
repositories, legacy or green-field, into a single petabyte-scale cloud
for unstructured data, digital media storage, and archiving. The Twisted
Storage Enterprise Storage Cloud provides federated search, electronic
data discovery with lock-down, and policy-driven file management
including indexing, retention, security, encryption, format conversion,
information lifecycle management, and automatic business continuity.

History of Building Storage Management software

  • Open Source
  • Been downloaded 75k times
  • Re-wrote – now version 4 – in Python

Common anti-pattern observed in real world:

  • Users storing “stuff” in Exchange since that was a convenient place to store it
  • Results in a LOT of email storage (and add’l capacity is easy to keep adding on)
  • Can’t find your data (too much to logically manage)
  • Backups inadequate
  • Complexity, complexity, complexity

The Twisted Storage Way

  • Federated storage silos w/ adaptors/agents
  • Provide enterprise capabilities spanning sites (access control, audits, search/indexing – including support for metadata, simplified administration and recovery)
  • Petabyte-scale
  • ILM = Information Lifecycle Management
  • Open Source
  • Work-flow (Python scripts, XML coming)
  • Policy-driven (“delete this after 2 years”, “encrypt me”) (Python scripts)

Twisted Storage Design Goals

  • Always available content (via replication)
  • No back-up or recovery needed (due to replication)
  • Linear scalability (scales out)
  • Able to trade off durability with performance
  • Supports old hardware
  • Minimal admin overhead
  • Support external storage systems and linkage
  • Portable – will run on Linux, Windows, (iPhone?) – due to portable Python implementation
  • Pricing: Enterprise Edition: $500 / TB up to 2 PB (annual), minimum $10k for first 20 TB (see web site for full story)
  • versus competition like Centera which charge $15k/Silo + Enterprise Edition
  • http://www.twistedstorage.com, cwegrzyn@twistedstorage.com

Info Security & Cloud Computing Talk

From Meetup description:  Javed Ikbal (principal and co-founder of zSquad LLC)- will talk about:   “Marketing, Uncertainty and Doubt: Information Security and Cloud Computing”

  • What is the minimum security due diligence that a company needs to do before putting it’s data in the cloud?
  • Since 2007, Amazon has been telling us they are “.. working with a public accounting firm to … attain certifications such as SAS70 Type II”  but these have not happened in 2+ years.
  • On one side of the cloud security issue we have the marketing people, whohype up the existing security and gloss over the non-existing. On the other side we have security services vendors, who hawk their wares by hyping up the lack of security. The truth is, there is a class of data for every cloud out there, and there is also someone who will suffer a data breach because they did not secure it properly.
  • We will look at Amazon’s EC2, risk tolerance, and how to secure the data in the cloud.
  • Javed is a principal and co-founder of zSquad LLC, a Boston-based information security consulting practice.

Javed is a Security Consultant

Also co-founded http://www.layoffsupportnetwork.com

Formerly worked in Fidelity (in security area)

Cloud Definition

  • Elastic – provision up/down on demand (technical)
  • Avail from anywhere (technical)
  • Pay-as-you-go (business model)

Cloud Challenges

  • Data stored in China – gov’t could get at it
  • We never have direct access
  • May be locked in? (for practical reasons)
  • March 7, 2009 from WSJ – Google disclosed that it exposed a “small number” of Google docs – users not supposed to be authorized were able to view them. Google estimated < 0.05% of all stored Google docs were impacted – BUT! – this is a LOT of documents. http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/03/08/1214/
  • Sept 18, 2009 from NYT – a recent bug in Google Apps allowed students at several colleges to read each other’s emails – this impacted only a “small handful” of colleges (like Brown University, for 3 days)http://www.nytimes.com/external/readwriteweb/2009/09/18/18/18readwriteweb-whoops-students-going-google-get-to-read-ea-12995.html
  • Google’s official policy for paid customers states “at your sole risk” and no guarantee it will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, or free from errors
  • Amazon states it is not responsible for “deletioreach” – Javedn, destruction, loss” etc.
  • Google will not allow customers to audit Google’s cloud storage claims
  • Amazon says PCI level 2 compliance is possible with AWS, level 1 not possible
  • SAS 70 Type II reports not meaningful unless you can see which controls were evaluated
  • “on premise does not mean people are doing the right thing” –Javed
  • Perception of more breaches in on-premise systems – but there are so many more of them, it is easy to misinterpret
  • Business value of losing data will be balanced against business cost of it being exposed – but this does not account for the PROBABILITY of there being a breach – how do you calculate this risk? I bet it is easier to calculate this risk on the cloud than on premise (though *I* don’t know how to do this)
  • We can’t expect all cloud services to be up all the time – right, and many businesses don’t have the data to fairly/accurately compare their own uptimes with those of the cloud vendors – and, further, if the cloud vendors did have 100% up-time, that may destroy the economies we are seeing on the cloud today (it may be 100% reliable, but too expensive to be interesting)
  • Off-premise security != in cloud – different security issues for different data
  • “There are 2 kinds of companies – those which have had a [data security]breach, and those which are going to have a [data security] breach” -Javed
  • Centralization of data makes insider threat a bigger risk
  • Customers should perform on-site inspections of cloud provider facilities (but rare?)
  • Ask SaaS vendor to see 3rd party audit reports – SalesForce has one, Amazon does not (Google neither? What about Microsoft – not yet?)
  • Providers need to be clear about what you will NOT support – e.g., Amazon took 2 years to provide an answer… Amazon/AWS disclaimers are excellent models
  • Providers need to understand they may be subject to legal/regulatory discovery due to something a customer did
  • Unisys has ISO 27001-certified data centers (high cost, effort)

Creating Secure Software

  • Devs care about deadlines and meeting the requirements
  • If security is not in the requirements, it will not get done
  • if devs don’t know how to code securely, it will not get done right (if at all)
  • Train your devs and archs: one day will help with 90% of issues!
  • Build security into your software dev life-cycle
  • Let security experts, not necessarily developers, write the security requirements
  • Secure Code Review can be expensive –  bake in an application security audit into your schedule, to be done before going live
  • (high customer extensibility + low provider security responsibility) IaaS – PaaS – SaaS (low customer extensibility + high provider security responsibility)

2 thoughts on “Cloud Security – A Business Tradeoff?

  1. Pingback: LifeLock Scammed by FTC

  2. Pingback: Computers has evolved very much during the past years! I've compiled a blog of information about the evolution of Technology

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