Cloud Security - Some Implementation Techniques
It has been wonderful to discuss with software vendors both large
and small their transition to the cloud. And as you would expect, security is very much “top
After reading a post by Olivier Coudert, I decided to provide a high-level description of some
of the main techniques used to secure a cloud implementation. Hopefully it’s useful when
considering a cloud (Infrastructure-as-a-Service, IaaS) or platform (Platform-as-a-Service,
Most of our customers use our platform with the Amazon cloud. And so the infrastructure
portion of this discussion will be taken from their implementation, described in more detail in
their white paper. (One of the primary reasons why we built our platform on top of Amazon’s
infrastructure is because of their security.)
The areas to consider are illustrated below. The user (client) on the left, and the public or
private cloud on the right form the two end-points. The communication network in between
(what we used to call “the cloud”, before there was “The Cloud” ) is the other key
End-points to Cloud Security
The Cloud - Physical Security
This is the most fundamental of considerations. Not only is it important if your data is
valuable, but if you’re in a public cloud consider what else could be stored and valued in the
same physical location.
The Amazon Cloud boasts extensive physical security measures, protocols, and technology,
including “military grade perimeter control berms” and other “natural boundary protection”.
The Cloud - Logical Security
Many breaches of security come from bots pinging IP addresses on multiple ports,
mechanically looking for a way to get in somewhere (Port Scanning).
This type of attack is prevented at the Firewall:
(i) Close all ports except those that are to be used. And only open those when they are
(ii) Restrict access by the protocol used (http, ssh, etc.)
(iii) Restrict access to only known client IP addresses.
In addition to this, AWS detects port scanning, stops it and blocks it. Counter measures are
also in place to protect against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and Man In the Middle
Operating System (Host and Guest)
Operating System Security
The Host Operating System that resides on the actual hardware needs to have strong key
access to a limited number of Administrators. No one else should have access at this level.
And those that do have access should only have it on a limited basis and only when they are
doing actual work.
Guest OS’s (the virtual instances that are actually used by the hosted software) are isolated
from the Host by the hypervisor (which also provides isolation between running instances).
Unprivileged Access to these instances should only be allowed via token or key-based
Key control is paramount for success at this level.
Data - Backup & Encryption
All stored data should be redundantly backed up, ideally (as with AWS) in multiple physical
locations. In addition, data can be encrypted on the remote instance. In fact, encryption can
be taken down to a very low level, but performance trade-offs come into play very quickly.
Other than protection from threats residing elsewhere on the network, data interception
should be protected against. Therefore, data traveling across the network should be
encrypted. In our case, we implemented communication and data transfer protocols that use
AES-128 symmetric key encryption for all data sent between the client and the cloud server.
After all of the above (and much more) has been put in place, we still need to provide access
to users (customers) outside of the firewall. And so we need to know who the users are, and
to be able to confirm that they are indeed who they say they are.
In order to scale the business, the authentication and validation process must be automated
and built into the on-boarding and access process.
Fortunately, as we’re dealing in a business-to-business environment, the easiest and most
reliable way to automatically confirm identity is via an email validation process during user
Once validated and prior to accessing the cloud, the user’s identity should be authenticated
again using the email address (or a username linked to the email address) and a password.
On the Xuropa Platform, we go one step further and add an additional security protocol to
ensure that only the previously authenticated user can gain access to the cloud from a
detected IP address.
Life’s a Trade-off
These are just a few of the techniques employed - when it comes down to it, anything is
possible. However, people need to have access, and in order for businesses to run, access
needs to be straight forward for the user, monitored, controlled, and automated.
In architecting our platform, security is paramount, which means we have to put a great deal
of effort into automation and the user experience (UX) design.
How are you securing your cloud processes? And what are your concerns related to
find out how the Cloud is going to Operate compared to the DMZ wen it comes to
logical Information Security. By the looks of things the Clouds is going to operate
outside the DMZ. if that is True, that will make the Cloud computing to be highly
o Please explain to me how logical security will operate in the clouds.
James Colgan May 25, 2011 12:23 pm
o Thanks for your comment Putso. Unfortunately “DMZ” really doesn’t mean that much
How To Implement Cloud Computing Security
o Logical security involves such strategies as the encryption of data traversing to/from the
cloud, and between instances within the cloud. It also refers to the issuance of
credentials to authorized users and then logically locking communication between that
user’s client and the cloud resource.
o It also refers to locking down the ports on firewalls at the points of entry to the cloud.
We can also go further up the stack and look at access control interfaces, etc. There’s so
much in this domain…I’ll put together more posts on the subject in the near
Maintaining security after a cloud computing implementation
You've successfully migrated your organization's selected applications and data into the
cloud, and everyone has said what a great job you've done. But you and I both know the task
of maintaining the security of these apps and data has only just begun. In this tip, I'll review
which technologies and processes must be initiated, monitored and secured after a cloud
computing implementation or initiative is up and running.
Cloud computing turns us all into remote workers, which makes identity and access
management (IAM) one of the key challenges after a cloud computing move. It is important
to have robust lifecycle management regarding users and user access so that user accounts,
credentials and access rights are always relevant and up to date, including disabling an
account when an employee leaves. Also look to initiate an IAM strategy that can make full
use of federated identity management, which enables users to securely access data or systems
across autonomous security domains.
More specifically, consider introducing single sign-on (SSO) for enterprise applications and
leveraging this architecture to simplify cloud provider implementations. A move to the cloud
will appear far more seamless to your users if they are already used to SSO, and it'll make
managing trust across different types of cloud services less onerous. You will also have
logged baseline data to help you monitor and gauge changes due to cloud activity.
How To Implement Cloud Computing Security
How To Implement Cloud Computing Security
You may not realize it but your company may have adopted cloud computing. Your
company may have subscribed to other miscellaneous services like the ones being
offered by Salesforce.com or you may be using a hosted email. Your organization may
even be implementing an internal private cloud. With all the uncertainties and fears of
using the cloud, one must accept the fact that cloud computing will be here for a long
It is but expected that everyone will have security as their number one fear when a new
technology is introduced to the market especially when media tends to play up the
security inconsistencies of cloud computing. But when you really look deeper into the
problem, you’ll realize that these security breaches happen because the organization
allows them to happen. Cyber criminals often look at cloud computing loopholes and
attach those which have loose controls in place.
When an organization decides to move to the clouds, it must first determine its
foundational controls which form the backbone of the company’s security principles.
Plans must be laid out in order to secure the company’s assets so that when the
company subscribes to cloud computing, all the needed security controls must already
be in place.
Also, the company will have to be workload-focused instead of cloud-focused. When
moving to the clouds, the organization must take into consideration each workload so
that it will be able to enforce a security program which is focused on the workload with
a possibility to implement non-traditional security measures.
More often than not, a company decides to move to the clouds because higher
management has decided it. Because not all parties are included in the decision process,
some security measures may not have been considered. When this happens, the
organization may face usability and integration challenges. Concerned departments
must be included in the decision making so that people working with the affected
departments will know what to expect when cloud computing is finally implemented.
A plan must be enforced to mitigate the risks. It must have a documented plan so that
employees will be able to quickly resolve cloud computing issues when they arise.
Training, education, as well as documentation and management of risks must be
included in the risk mitigation plan.
A major advantage of cloud computing is that it is capable of virtualization and because
of this advantage an organization must have a management process for its storage
image implemented. This will guarantee that the required images are made available
when needed. The images must also be appropriately managed and identified so that
image sprawl will be avoided.
Before a company migrates to the clouds, it must first check the cloud computing
provider’s infrastructure and applications for any security hazards so that controls can
be set in place in order to ensure that the transfer to the clouds are secure. The
company must also take note of ethical hacking so that they can use it to check their
own cloud applications for the usual security vulnerabilities.
There are also security services available in the market which can help the company
obtain the best security without the traditional overhead expense. These services include
security event log management, identity and access management, and intrusion
prevention which transfer the strain of implementing them from the organization to the
security services provider.
A resiliency program must also be considered when adopting cloud computing because
cloud technologies are not perfect. Critical workloads must be restored quickly in case
of attack or catastrophe. Restoration must be done quickly and responsibly so that
there is less impact on the business process.
Monitoring is also important when the organization moves to the clouds. If the company
fails to oversee the implementations in cloud computing, there is a great possibility that
there will be security, satisfaction, and performance issues. A monitoring program must
be actively implemented so that security threats are properly identified.
By diligently ensuring security measures are in place, the company can be a step in
allaying fears of security breaches. Security plans must be reviewed regularly because
new threats may be just lurking around the corner and as such the company must be
prepared to deal with them.
Florence de Borja
“Choosing a Cloud Provider with Confidence”
Cloud computing is rapidly transforming the IT landscape and the conversation around
adopting cloud technology has progressed from “if” to “when”… Free Download Report
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Cloud Security Guidance IBM Recommendations for the Implementation of
Cloud computing is a flexible, cost-effective, and proven delivery platform for providing business or
consumer IT services over the Internet. Cloud resources can be rapidly deployed and easily scaled,
with all processes, applications, and services provisioned "on demand", regardless of user location or
device. As a result, cloud computing gives organizations the opportunity to increase their service
delivery efficiencies, streamline IT management, and better align IT services with dynamic business
requirements. In many ways, cloud computing offers the "best of both worlds", providing solid
support for core business functions along with the capacity to develop new and innovative services.
In addition to the usual challenges of developing secure IT systems, cloud computing presents an
added level of risk, because essential services are often outsourced to a third party. The
"externalized" aspect of outsourcing makes it harder to maintain data integrity and privacy, support
data and service availability, and demonstrate compliance.
The security measures discussed in this IBM Redpapers™ publication represent best practice
implementations for cloud security.