Click here to close now.

Welcome!

GovIT Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Kelly Murphy, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Security

Cloud Expo: Article

Viewpoint: Seven Technical Security Benefits of Cloud Computing

In my view, there are some strong technical security arguments in favor of Cloud Computing

Craig Balding's Cloud Security Blog

In my view, there are some strong technical security arguments in favour of Cloud Computing - assuming we can find ways to manage the risks. With this new paradigm come challenges and opportunities. The challenges are getting plenty of attention - I'm regularly afforded the opportunity to comment on them. However, let's not lose sight of the potential upside.

In this post, I walk through seven technical security benefits. Some are immediate, others may arise over time and have conditions attached (some unstated for the sake of brevity). However, I’m including the longer-range benefits now to raise awareness. Some of the outcomes listed are available today without the Cloud, but they are either complex and slow to implement (and thus less likely to happen) or prohibitive for capital cost reasons. I don’t claim this is a definitive list - it reflects where my thinking is today.

Some benefits depend on the Cloud service used and therefore do not apply across the board. For example; I see no solid forensic benefits with SaaS. Also, for space reasons, I’m purposely not including the ‘flip side’ to these benefits, however if you read this blog regularly you should recognise some.

On a sidenote, I believe the Cloud offers Small and Medium Businesses major potential security benefits. Frequently SMBs struggle with limited or non-existent in-house INFOSEC resources and budgets. The caveat is that the Cloud market is still very new - security offerings are somewhat foggy - making selection tricky. Clearly, not all Cloud providers will offer the same security.

Seven Technical Security Benefits of the Cloud

1. Centralised Data

  • Reduced Data Leakage: this is the benefit I hear most from Cloud providers - and in my view they are right. How many laptops do we need to lose before we get this? How many backup tapes? The data “landmines” of today could be greatly reduced by the Cloud as thin client technology becomes prevalent. Small, temporary caches on handheld devices or Netbook computers pose less risk than transporting data buckets in the form of laptops. Ask the CISO of any large company if all laptops have company ‘mandated’ controls consistently applied; e.g. full disk encryption. You’ll see the answer by looking at the whites of their eyes. Despite best efforts around asset management and endpoint security we continue to see embarrassing and disturbing misses. And what about SMBs? How many use encryption for sensitive data, or even have a data classification policy in place?
  • Monitoring benefits: central storage is easier to control and monitor. The flipside is the nightmare scenario of comprehensive data theft. However, I would rather spend my time as a security professional figuring out smart ways to protect and monitor access to data stored in one place (with the benefit of situational advantage) than trying to figure out all the places where the company data resides across a myriad of thick clients! You can get the benefits of Thin Clients today but Cloud Storage provides a way to centralise the data faster and potentially cheaper. The logistical challenge today is getting Terabytes of data to the Cloud in the first place.

2. Incident Response / Forensics

  • Forensic readiness: with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers, I can build a dedicated forensic server in the same Cloud as my company and place it offline, ready for use when needed. I would only need pay for storage until an incident happens and I need to bring it online. I don’t need to call someone to bring it online or install some kind of remote boot software - I just click a button in the Cloud Providers web interface. If I have multiple incident responders, I can give them a copy of the VM so we can distribute the forensic workload based on the job at hand or as new sources of evidence arise and need analysis. To fully realise this benefit, commercial forensic software vendors would need to move away from archaic, physical dongle based licensing schemes to a network licensing model.
  • Decrease evidence acquisition time: if a server in the Cloud gets compromised (i.e. broken into), I can now clone that server at the click of a mouse and make the cloned disks instantly available to my Cloud Forensics server. I didn’t need to “find” storage or have it “ready, waiting and unused” - its just there.
  • Eliminate or reduce service downtime: Note that in the above scenario I didn’t have to go tell the COO that the system needs to be taken offline for hours whilst I dig around in the RAID Array hoping that my physical acqusition toolkit is compatible (and that the version of RAID firmware isn’t supported by my forensic software). Abstracting the hardware removes a barrier to even doing forensics in some situations.
  • Decrease evidence transfer time: In the same Cloud, bit fot bit copies are super fast - made faster by that replicated, distributed filesystem my Cloud provider engineered for me. From a network traffic perspective, it may even be free to make the copy in the same Cloud. Without the Cloud, I would have to a lot of time consuming and expensive provisioning of physical devices. I only pay for the storage as long as I need the evidence.
  • Eliminate forensic image verification time: Some Cloud Storage implementations expose a cryptographic checksum or hash. For example, Amazon S3 generates an MD5 hash automagically when you store an object. In theory you no longer need to generate time-consuming MD5 checksums using external tools - its already there.
  • Decrease time to access protected documents: Immense CPU power opens some doors. Did the suspect password protect a document that is relevant to the investigation? You can now test a wider range of candidate passwords in less time to speed investigations.

More Stories By Craig Balding

Craig Balding is a Security Practitioner at a Fortune 500 where he leads a crack team of security SMEs. He has a decade of hands-on IT Security experience. His primary skill areas include UNIX security, ORACLE RDBMS security, Penetration Testing, Digital Forensics (offline, live and network), and Global Investigations. He co-authored Maximum Security and even has a CISSP.

Comments (1) View Comments

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.


Most Recent Comments
MiamiWebDesigner 08/27/08 04:55:39 AM EDT

Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. Yet another is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like "revolutionary" and "innovative" on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel ... and often poor copies at that.

A good example is all the buzz about "Cloud Computing" in general and "SaaS" (software as a service) in particular:

http://tinyurl.com/6let8x

Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they're actually referring to by "the cloud" is a large-scale and often remotely located and managed computing platform. We have had those since the dawn of electronic IT. IBM calls them "mainframes":

http://tinyurl.com/5kdhcb

The only innovation offered by today's cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that's not original. Anyone remember Datapoint's ARCnet, or DEC's VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway...?

And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society's oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the "service bureau". And I don't mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled "Service 2.0" by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:

http://tinyurl.com/5fpb8e

Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable portion of the IEEE's "Annals of the History of Computing":

http://tinyurl.com/5lvjdl

So ... for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a 40-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

1. "Mainframe" is now "Cloud" (with concomitant ethereal substance).

2. "Terminal" is now "Web Browser" (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

3. "Service Bureau" is now "SaaS" (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida
http://www.PervasivePersuasion.com

@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...
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT.
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.
Every day we read jaw-dropping stats on the explosion of data. We allocate significant resources to harness and better understand it. We build businesses around it. But we’ve only just begun. For big payoffs in Big Data, CIOs are turning to cognitive computing. Cognitive computing’s ability to securely extract insights, understand natural language, and get smarter each time it’s used is the next, logical step for Big Data.
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!
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, 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. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
Container frameworks, such as Docker, provide a variety of benefits, including density of deployment across infrastructure, convenience for application developers to push updates with low operational hand-holding, and a fairly well-defined deployment workflow that can be orchestrated. Container frameworks also enable a DevOps approach to application development by cleanly separating concerns between operations and development teams. But running multi-container, multi-server apps with containers is very hard. You have to learn five new and different technologies and best practices (libswarm, sy...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DragonGlass, an enterprise search platform, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. After eleven years of designing and building custom applications, OpenCrowd has launched DragonGlass, a cloud-based platform that enables the development of search-based applications. These are a new breed of applications that utilize a search index as their backbone for data retrieval. They can easily adapt to new data sets and provide access to both structured and unstruc...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "First Containers & Microservices Conference" will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. The “Second Containers & Microservices Conference” will take place November 3-5, 2015, at Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists will peel away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fil...