Why the Cloud Cannot be treated as a One-size-fits-all when it comes to Security
June 24, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Despite the fact that cloud providers have long since differentiated themselves on very distinct offerings based on cloud platform type, I often see the cloud written about as though it is a single, uniformservice. And, the problem with that is while there are commonalities, it is downright misleading especially as so much is misunderstood around what’s required to secure cloud-based services and the risks that are involved. Today there are three classes of service, Software as a Service (SaaS) where the provider hosts software-based services and the consumer accesses via a web interface, Platform as Service (PaaS) that developers mostly use to developsoftware-based offerings, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) where consumers can “rent” infrastructure to host their own services.
When I speak with customers I recommend they consider cloud offerings in the light of classes of services they need, the types of data they will need to expose, their regulatory compliance needs and the reputation and flexibility of the service providers they are looking to leverage. Because, even within the classes of service I mentioned above there are distinct variances.
Choosing a cloud provider based on class of service
Over the last five years in particular the industry has benefitted from broad based adoption of SaaS particularly for customer relationship management, payroll and document collaboration to name a few. But, cloud providers in this space range from those with established practices and who have robust data handling and hygiene practices that are well documented to emerging players. The same goes for PaaS and IaaS. Over the last couple of years some IaaS providers have developed tailored offerings to suit particular verticals such as government, retail and healthcare. Today, the industry is still very much lacking from standard definitions and templates for SLA. And with each different class of service, there are different security requirements too, ranging from SaaS where the consumer has no ability to push security controls down to the provider’s environment to IaaS where typically the consumer is responsible for securing the virtual machines that they might “rent” from a provider. This is where leveraging the freely available resources from the Cloud Security Alliance Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR) an initiative that encourages transparency of security practices within cloud providers, is incredibly valuable.
Data Security According to Data Type
Data, too, is not created equal. Consumers of different cloud services need to consider the data that entrust in the hands of a SaaS provider from a sensitivity level as well as any exposure that may result from a potential data breach. This concern may be a little different with IaaS where a consumer potentially has the opportunity to addmore safeguards such as encryption, file monitoring and other security controls at the virtual machines level that may help mitigate some of the risks. I have seen some excellent security implementations around some vertical stack models that some IaaS providers have developed for government, retail, healthcare and now expanding to more verticals. However, there are issues such as data residency, data handling and monitoring at the network and overall host level that still need to be considered and carefully thought out.
Regulatory Compliance Needs
Some years back the security industry had been focused around the idea of audit and compliance fatigue – this the idea that many enterprises today can be dealing with in excess of fifty mandates pending whom they do business with and their geographic span and the amount of often manual audit data collection. Since then, there has been some automation of IT audit practices but it still remains a time consuming practices for most organizations. There are over 4000 mandates today, which the Unified Compliance Framework has done an amazing job of tracking and cross mapping for many years and as always more government and data privacy mandates in the works. The Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix also cross walks several standards but further categorizes controls according to platform, recognizing that different models require different controls. It is ideal for those looking to learn about how to evolve their controls to map to different models and who want to avoid the audit fatigue syndrome through the concept of audit once, report many times.
Over the next few weeks I will drill down into each of the above areas. In the meantime, if you have any questions or wish to discuss any of the above further, please contact me at [email protected]
Evelyn de Souza Bio
Evelyn is a senior data center and cloud security strategist for the Security Technology Group at Cisco responsible for championing holistic and next generation security solutions . She is a strong proponent of building automated, repeatable processes that enable organizations to sustain compliance while optimizing security posture and reducing costs. To this end, she pioneered the development of such tools in her previous role as the McAfee Compliance Mapping Matrix, which cross-maps various regulations, standards, and frameworks to e solutions and the McAfee PCI Mapping Tool. She currently co-chairs the Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) and is focused on harmonizing efforts across industry initiatives such as the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA). Evelyn is a dedicated security professional with more than 12 years in the IT security industry. She enjoys engaging with industry analysts, customers, and partners to discuss industry trends and how security solutions can be best implemented to meet the needs of next-generation datacenters. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree with honors in music from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. She can also be found on Twitter at: e_desouza