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Intel TPM: The Root Of Trust…Is Made In China

February 22nd, 2013 8 comments

This is deliciously ironic.

Intel‘s implementation of the TCG-driven TPM — the Trusted Platform Module — often described as a hardware root of trust, is essentially a cryptographic processor that allows for the storage (and retrieval) and attestation of keys.  There are all sorts of uses for this technology, including things I’ve written of and spoken about many times prior.  Here’s a couple of good links:

But here’s something that ought to make you chuckle, especially in light of current news and a renewed focus on supply chain management relative to security and trust.

The Intel TPM implementation that is used by many PC manufacturers, the same one that plays a large role in Intel’s TXT and Mt. Wilson Attestation platform, is apparently…wait for it…manufactured in…wait for it…China.

<thud>

I wonder how NIST feels about that?  ASSurance.

Intel_TPMROFLCoptr.  Hey, at least it’s lead-free. o_O

Talk amongst yourselves.

/Hoff

 

 

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Wanna Be A Security Player? Deliver It In Software As A Service Layer…

January 9th, 2013 1 comment

As I continue to think about the opportunities that Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) bring into focus, the capability to deliver security as a service layer is indeed exciting.

I wrote about how SDN and OpenFlow (as a functional example) and the security use cases provided by each will be a differentiating capability back in 2011: The Killer App For OpenFlow and SDN? SecurityOpenFlow & SDN – Looking forward to SDNS: Software Defined Network Security, and Back To The Future: Network Segmentation & More Moaning About Zoning.

Recent activity in the space has done nothing but reinforce this opinion.  My day job isn’t exactly lacking in excitement, either :)

As many networking vendors begin to bring their SDN solutions to market — whether in the form of networking equipment or controllers designed to interact with them — one of the missing strategic components is security.  This isn’t a new phenomenon, unfortunately, and as such, predictably there are also now startups entering this space and/or retooling from the virtualization space and stealthily advertising themselves as “SDN Security” companies :)

Like we’ve seen many times before, security is often described (confused?) as a “simple” or “atomic” service and so SDN networking solutions are designed with the thought that security will simply be “bolted on” after the fact and deployed not unlike a network service such as “load balancing.”  The old “we’ll just fire up some VMs and TAMO (Then a Miracle Occurs) we’ve got security!” scenario.  Or worse yet, we’ll develop some proprietary protocol or insertion architecture that will magically get traffic to and from physical security controls (witness the “U-TURN” or “horseshoe” L2/L3 solutions of yesteryear.)

The challenge is that much of Security today is still very topologically sensitive and depends upon classical networking constructs to be either physically or logically plumbed between the “outside” and the asset under protection, or it’s very platform dependent and lacks the ability to truly define a policy that travels with the workload regardless of the virtualization, underlay OR overlay solutions.

Depending upon the type of control, security is often operationalized across multiple layers using wildly different constructs, APIs and context in terms of policy and disposition depending upon it’s desired effect.

Virtualization has certainly evolved our thinking about how we should think differently about security mostly due to the dynamism and mobility that virtualization has introduced, but it’s still incredibly nascent in terms of exposed security capabilities in the platforms themselves.  It’s been almost 5 years since I started raging about how we need(ed) platform providers to give us capabilities that function across stacks so we’d have a fighting chance.  To date, not only do we have perhaps ONE vendor doing some of this, but we’ve seen the emergence of others who are maniacally focused on providing as little of it as possible.

If you think about what virtualization offers us today from a security perspective, we have the following general solution options:

  1. Hypervisor-based security solutions which may apply policy as a function of the virtual-NIC card of the workloads it protects.
  2. Extensions of virtual-networking (i.e. switching) solutions that enable traffic steering and some policy enforcement that often depend upon…
  3. Virtual Appliance-based security solutions that require manual or automated provisioning, orchestration and policy application in user space that may or may not utilize APIs exposed by the virtual networking layer or hypervisor

There are tradeoffs across each of these solutions; scale, performance, manageability, statefulness, platform dependencies, etc.  There simply aren’t many platforms that natively offer security capabilities as a function of service delivery that allows arbitrary service definition with consistent and uniform ways of describing the outcome of the policies at these various layers.  I covered this back in 2008 (it’s a shame nothing has really changed) in my Four Horsemen Of the Virtual Security Apocalypse presentation.

As I’ve complained for years, we still have 20 different ways of defining how to instantiate a five-tupule ACL as a basic firewall function.

Out of the Darkness…

The promise of SDN truly realized — the ability to separate the control, forwarding, management and services planes — and deploy security as a function of available service components across overlays and underlays, means we will be able to take advantage of any of these models so long as we have a way to programmatically interface with the various strata regardless of whether we provision at the physical, virtual or overlay virtual layer.

It’s truly exciting.  We’re seeing some real effort to enable true security service delivery.

When I think about how to categorize the intersection of “SDN” and “Security,” I think about it the same way I have with virtualization and Cloud:

  • Securing SDN (Securing the SDN components)
  • SDN Security Services (How do I take security and use SDN to deliver security as a service)
  • Security via SDN (What NEW security capabilities can be derived from SDN)

There are numerous opportunities with each of these categories to really make a difference to security in the coming years.

The notion that many of our network and security capabilities are becoming programmatic means we *really* need to focus on securing SDN solutions, especially given the potential for abuse given the separation of the various channels. (See: Software Defined Networking (In)Security: All Your Control Plane Are Belong To Us…)

Delivering security as a service via SDN holds enormous promise for reasons I’ve already articulated and gives us an amazing foundation upon which to start building solutions we can’t imagine today given the lack of dynamism in our security architecture and design patterns.

Finally, the first two elements give rise to allow us to do things we can’t even imagine with today’s traditional physical and even virtual solutions.

I’ll be starting to highlight really interesting solutions I find (and am able to talk about) over the next few months.

Security enabled by SDN is going to be huge.

More soon.

/Hoff

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NIST’s Trusted Geolocation in the Cloud: PoC Implementation

December 22nd, 2012 3 comments

I was very interested and excited to learn what NIST researchers and staff had come up with when I saw the notification of the “Draft Interagency Report 7904, Trusted Geolocation in the Cloud: Proof of Concept Implementation.”

It turns out that this report is an iteration on the PoC previously created by VMware, Intel and RSA back in 2010 which utilized Intel’s TXT, VMWare’s virtualization platform and the RSA/Archer GRC platform, as this one does.

I haven’t spent much time to look at the differences, but I’m hoping as I read through it that we’ve made progress…

You can read about the original PoC here, and watch a video from 2010 about it here.  Then you can read about it again in its current iteration, here (PDF.)

I wrote about this topic back in 2009 and still don’t have a good firm answer to the question I asked in 2009 in a blog titled “Quick Question: Any Public Cloud Providers Using Intel TXT?” and the follow-on “More On High Assurance (via TPM) Cloud Environments

At CloudConnect 2011 I also filmed a session with the Intel/RSA/VMware folks titled “More On Cloud and Hardware Root Of Trust: Trusting Cloud Services with Intel® TXT

I think this is really interesting stuff and a valuable security and compliance capability, but is apparently still hampered with practical deployment challenges.

I’m also confused as to why RSA employees were not appropriately attributed under the NIST banner and this is very much a product-specific/vendor-specific set of solutions…I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a NIST-branded report like this.

At any rate, I am interested to see if we will get to the point where these solutions will have more heterogeneous uptake across platforms.

/Hoff

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Why Amazon Web Services (AWS) Is the Best Thing To Happen To Security & Why I Desperately Want It To Succeed

November 29th, 2012 15 comments

Many people who may only casually read my blog or peer at the timeline of my tweets may come away with the opinion that I suffer from confirmation bias when I speak about security and Cloud.

That is, many conclude that I am pro Private Cloud and against Public Cloud.

I find this deliciously ironic and wildly inaccurate. However, I must also take responsibility for this, as anytime one threads the needle and attempts to present a view from both sides with regard to incendiary topics without planting a polarizing stake in the ground, it gets confusing.

Let me clear some things up.

Digging deeper into what I believe, one would actually find that my blog, tweets, presentations, talks and keynotes highlight deficiencies in current security practices and solutions on the part of providers, practitioners and users in both Public AND Private Cloud, and in my own estimation, deliver an operationally-centric perspective that is reasonably critical and yet sensitive to emergent paths as well as the well-trodden path behind us.

I’m not a developer.  I dabble in little bits of code (interpreted and compiled) for humor and to try and remain relevant.  Nor am I an application security expert for the same reason.  However, I spend a lot of time around developers of all sorts, those that write code for machines whose end goal isn’t to deliver applications directly, but rather help deliver them securely.  Which may seem odd as you read on…

The name of this blog, Rational Survivability, highlights my belief that the last two decades of security architecture and practices — while useful in foundation — requires a rather aggressive tune-up of priorities.

Our trust models, architecture, and operational silos have not kept pace with the velocity of the environments they were initially designed to support and unfortunately as defenders, we’ve been outpaced by both developers and attackers.

Since we’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no such thing as perfect security, “survivability” is a better goal.  Survivability leverages “security” and is ultimately a subset of resilience but is defined as the “…capability of a system to fulfill its mission, in a timely manner, in the presence of attacks, failures, or accidents.”  You might be interested in this little ditty from back in 2007 on the topic.

Sharp readers will immediately recognize the parallels between this definition of “survivability,” how security applies within context, and how phrases like “design for failure” align.  In fact, this is one of the calling cards of a company that has become synonymous with (IaaS) Public Cloud: Amazon Web Services (AWS.)  I’ll use them as an example going forward.

So here’s a line in the sand that I think will be polarizing enough:

I really hope that AWS continues to gain traction with the Enterprise.  I hope that AWS continues to disrupt the network and security ecosystem.  I hope that AWS continues to pressure the status quo and I hope that they do it quickly.

Why?

Almost a decade ago, the  Open Group’s Jericho Forum published their Commandments.  Designed to promote a change in thinking and operational constructs with respect to security, what they presciently released upon the world describes a point at which one might imagine taking one’s most important assets and connecting them directly to the Internet and the shifts required to understand what that would mean to “security”:

  1. The scope and level of protection should be specific and appropriate to the asset at risk.
  2. Security mechanisms must be pervasive, simple, scalable, and easy to manage.
  3. Assume context at your peril.
  4. Devices and applications must communicate using open, secure protocols.
  5. All devices must be capable of maintaining their security policy on an un-trusted network.
  6. All people, processes, and technology must have declared and transparent levels of trust for any transaction to take place.
  7. Mutual trust assurance levels must be determinable.
  8. Authentication, authorization, and accountability must interoperate/exchange outside of your locus/area of control
  9. Access to data should be controlled by security attributes of the data itself
  10. Data privacy (and security of any asset of sufficiently high value) requires a segregation of duties/privileges
  11. By default, data must be appropriately secured when stored, in transit, and in use.

These seem harmless enough today, but were quite unsettling when paired with the notion of “de-perimieterization” which was often misconstrued to mean the immediate disposal of firewalls.  Many security professionals appreciated the commandments for what they expressed, but the the design patterns, availability of solutions and belief systems of traditionalists constrained traction.

Interestingly enough, now that the technology, platforms, and utility services have evolved to enable these sorts of capabilities, and in fact have stressed our approaches to date, these exact tenets are what Public Cloud forces us to come to terms with.

If one were to look at what public cloud services like AWS mean when aligned to traditional “enterprise” security architecture, operations and solutions, and map that against the Jericho Forum’s Commandments, it enables such a perfect rethink.

Instead of being focused on implementing “security” to protect applications and information based at the network layer — which is more often than not blind to both, contextually and semantically — public cloud computing forces us to shift our security models back to protecting the things that matter most: the information and the conduits that traffic in them (applications.)

As networks become more abstracted, it means that existing security models do also.  This means that we must think about security programatticaly and embedded as a functional delivery requirement of the application.

“Security” in complex, distributed and networked systems is NOT a tidy simple atomic service.  It is, unfortunately, represented as such because we choose to use a single noun to represent an aggregate of many sub-services, shotgunned across many layers, each with its own context, metadata, protocols and consumption models.

As the use cases for public cloud obscure and abstract these layers — flattens them — we’re left with the core of that which we should focus:

Build secure, reliable, resilient, and survivable systems of applications, comprised of secure services, atop platforms that are themselves engineered to do the same in way in which the information which transits them inherits these qualities.

So if Public Cloud forces one to think this way, how does one relate this to practices of today?

Frankly, enterprise (network) security design patterns are a crutch.  The screened-subnet DMZ patterns with perimeters is outmoded. As Gunnar Peterson eloquently described, our best attempts at “security” over time are always some variation of firewalls and SSL.  This is the sux0r.  Importantly, this is not stated to blame anyone or suggest that a bad job is being done, but rather that a better one can be.

It’s not like we don’t know *what* the problems are, we just don’t invest in solving them as long term projects.  Instead, we deploy compensation that defers what is now becoming more inevitable: the compromise of applications that are poorly engineered and defended by systems that have no knowledge or context of the things they are defending.

We all know this, but yet looking at most private cloud platforms and implementations, we gravitate toward replicating these traditional design patterns logically after we’ve gone to so much trouble to articulate our way around them.  Public clouds make us approach what, where and how we apply “security” differently because we don’t have these crutches.

Either we learn to walk without them or simply not move forward.

Now, let me be clear.  I’m not suggesting that we don’t need security controls, but I do mean that we need a different and better application of them at a different level, protecting things that aren’t tied to physical topology or addressing schemes…or operating systems (inclusive of things like hypervisors, also.)

I think we’re getting closer.  Beyond infrastructure as a service, platform as a service gets us even closer.

Interestingly, at the same time we see the evolution of computing with Public Cloud, networking is also undergoing a renaissance, and as this occurs, security is coming along for the ride.  Because it has to.

As I was writing this blog (ironically in the parking lot of VMware awaiting the start of a meeting to discuss abstraction, networking and security,) James Staten (Forrester) tweeted something from @Werner Vogels keynote at AWS re:invent:

I couldn’t have said it better myself :)

So while I may have been, and will continue to be, a thorn in the side of platform providers to improve the “survivability” capabilities to help us get from there to there, I reiterate the title of this scribbling: Amazon Web Services (AWS) Is the Best Thing To Happen To Security & I Desperately Want It To Succeed.

I trust that’s clear?

/Hoff

P.S. There’s so much more I could/should write, but I’m late for the meeting :)

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Bridging the Gap Between Devs & Security – A Collaborative Suggestion…

May 23rd, 2012 3 comments

After my keynote at Gluecon (Shit My Cloud Evangelist Says…Just Not To My CSO,) I was asked by an attendee what things he could do within his organization to repair the damage and/or mistrust between developers and security organizations in enterprises.

Here’s what I suggested based on past experience:

  1. Reach out and have a bunch of “brown bag lunches” wherein you host-swap each week; devs and security folks present to one another with relevant, interesting or new solutions in their respective areas
  2. Pick a project that takes a yet-to-be-solved interesting business challenge that isn’t necessarily on the high priority project list and bring the dev and security teams together as if it were an actual engagement.

Option 1 starts the flow of information.  Option 2 treats the project as if it were high priority but allows security and dev to work together to talk about platform choices, management, security, etc. and because it’s not mission critical, mistakes can be made and learned from…together.

For example, pick something like building a new app service that uses node.js and MongoDB and figure out how to build, deploy and secure it…as if you were going to deploy to public cloud from day one (and maybe you will.)

You’ll be amazed to see the trust it builds, especially in light of developers enrolling security in their problem and letting them participate from the start versus being the speed bump later.

10 minutes later it’ll be a DevOps love-fest. ;)

/Hoff

 

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Cloud Security Start-Up: Dome9 – Firewall Management SaaS With a Twist

September 12th, 2011 No comments

Dome9 has peeked its head out from under the beta covers and officially launched their product today.  I got an advanced pre-brief last week and thought I’d summarize what I learned.

As it turns out I enjoy a storied past with Zohar Alon, Dome9’s CEO.  Back in the day, I was responsible for architecture and engineering of Infonet’s (now BT) global managed security services which included a four-continent deployment of Check Point Firewall-1 on Sun Sparcs.

Deploying thousands of managed firewall “appliances” (if I can even call them that now) and managing each of them individually with a small team posed quite a challenge for us.  It seems it posed a challenge for many others also.

Zohar was at Check Point and ultimately led the effort to deliver Provider-1 which formed the basis of their distributed firewall (and virtualized firewall) management solution which piggybacked on VSX.

Fast forward 15 years and here we are again — cloud and virtualization have taken the same set of security and device management issues and amplified them.  Zohar and his team looked at the challenge we face in managing the security of large “web-scale” cloud environments and brought Dome9 to life to help solve this problem.

Dome9’s premise is simple – use a centralized SaaS-based offering to help manage your distributed cloud access-control (read: firewall) management challenge using either an agent (in the guest) or agent-less (API) approach across multiple cloud IaaS platforms.

Their first iteration of the agent-based solution focuses on Windows and Linux-based OSes and can pretty much function anywhere.  The API version currently is limited to Amazon Web Services.

Dome9 seeks to fix the “open hole” access problem created when administrators create rules to allow system access and forget to close/remove them after the tasks are complete.  This can lead to security issues as open ports invite unwanted “guests.”  In their words:

  • Keep ALL administrative ports CLOSED on your servers without losing access and control.
  • Dynamically open any port On-Demand, any time, for anyone, and from anywhere.
  • Send time and location-based secure access invitations to third parties.
  • Close ports automatically, so you don’t have to manually reconfigure your firewall.
  • Securely access your cloud servers without fear of getting locked out.

The unique spin/value-proposition with Dome9 in it’s initial release is the role/VM/user focused and TIME-LIMIT based access policies you put in place to enable either static (always-open) or dynamic (time-limited) access control to authorized users.

Administrators can setup rules in advance for access or authorized users can request time-based access dynamically to previously-configured ports by clicking a button.  It quickly opens access and closes it once the time limit has been reached.

Basically Dome9 allows you to manage and reconcile “network” based ACLs and — where used — AWS security zones (across regions) with guest-based firewall rules.  With the agent installed, it’s clear you’ll be able to do more in both the short and long-term (think vulnerability management, configuration compliance, etc.) although they are quite focused on the access control problem today.

There are some workflow enhancements I suggested during the demo to enable requests from “users” to “administrators” to request access to ports not previously defined — imagine if port 443 is open to allow a user to install a plug-in that then needs a new TCP port to communicate.  If that port is not previously known/defined, there’s no automated way to open that port without an out-of-band process which makes the process clumsy.

We also discussed the issue of importing/supporting identity federation in order to define “users” from the Enterprise perspective across multiple clouds.  They could use your input if you have any.

There are other startups with similar models today such as CloudPassage (I’ve written about them before here) who look to leverage SaaS-based centralized security services to solve IaaS-based distributed security challenges.

In the long term, I see Cloud security services being chained together to form an overlay of sorts.  In fact, CloudFlare (another security SaaS offering) announced a partnership with Dome9 for this very thing.

Dome9 has a 14-day free trial two available pricing models:

  1. “Personal Server” – a FREE single protected server with a single administrator
  2. “Business Cloud” – Per-use pricing with 5 protected servers at $20 per month

If you’re dealing with trying to get a grip on your distributed firewall management problem, especially if you’re a big user of AWS, check out Dome9.

/Hoff

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(Physical, Virtualized and Cloud) Security Automation – An API Example

June 7th, 2011 10 comments

The premise of my Commode Computing presentation was to reinforce that we desperately require automation in all aspects of “security” and should work toward leveraging APIs in stacks and products to enable not only control but also audit and compliance across physical and virtualized solutions.

There are numerous efforts underway that underscore both this need and the industry’s response to such.  Platform providers (virtualization and cloud) are leading this charge given that much of their stacks rely upon automation to function and the ecosystem of third party solutions which provide value are following suit, also.

Most of the work exists around ensuring that the latest virtualized versions of products/solutions are API-enabled while the CLI/GUI-focused configuration of older products rely in many cases still on legacy management consoles or intermediary automation and orchestration “middlemen” to automate.

Here’s a great example of how one might utilize (Perl) scripting and RESTful APIs against VMware’s vShield Edge solution to provision, orchestrate and even audit firewall policies using their API. It’s a fantastic write-up from Richard Park of SourceFire (h/t to Davi Ottenheimer for the pointer):

Working with VMware vShield REST API in perl:

Here is an overview of how to use perl code to work with VMware’s vShield API.

vShield App and Edge are two security products offered by VMware. vShield Edge has a broad range of functionality such as firewall, VPN, load balancing, NAT, and DHCP. vShield App is a NIC-level firewall for virtual machines.

We’ll focus today on how to use the API to programatically make firewall rule changes. Here are some of the things you can do with the API:

  • List the current firewall ruleset
  • Add new rules
  • Get a list of past firewall revisions
  • Revert back to a previous ruleset revision

Awesome post, Richard.  Very useful. Thanks!

/Hoff

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More On Cloud and Hardware Root Of Trust: Trusting Cloud Services with Intel® TXT

May 6th, 2011 No comments

Whilst at CloudConnect I filmed some comments with Intel, RSA, Terremark and HyTrust on Intel’s Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) and its implications in the Cloud Computing space specific to “trusted cloud” and using the underlying TPM present in many of today’s compute platforms.

The 30 minute session got cut down into more consumable sound bites, but combined with the other speakers, it does a good job setting the stage for more discussions regarding this important technology.

I’ve written previously on cloud and TXT with respect to measured launch environments and work done by RSA, Intel and VMware: More On High Assurance (via TPM) Cloud Environments. Hopefully we’ll see more adoption soon.

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Incomplete Thought: Cloud Capacity Clearinghouses & Marketplaces – A Security/Compliance/Privacy Minefield?

March 11th, 2011 2 comments
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With my focus on cloud security, I’m always fascinated when derivative business models arise that take the issues associated with “mainstream” cloud adoption and really bring issues of security, compliance and privacy into even sharper focus.

To wit, Enomaly recently launched SpotCloud – a Cloud Capacity Clearinghouse & Marketplace in which cloud providers can sell idle compute capacity and consumers may purchase said capacity based upon “…location, cost and quality.”

Got a VM-based workload?  Want to run it cheaply for a short period of time?

…Have any security/compliance/privacy requirements?

To me, “quality” means something different that simply availability…it means service levels, security, privacy, transparency and visibility.

Whilst one can select the geographic location where your VM will run, as part of offering an “opaque inventory,” the identity of the cloud provider is not disclosed.  This begs the question of how the suppliers are vetted and assessed for security, compliance and privacy.  According to the SpotCloud FAQ, the answer is only a vague “We fully vet all market participants.”

There are two very interesting question/answer pairings on the SpotCloud FAQ that relate to security and service availability:

How do I secure my SpotCloud VM?

User access to VM should be disabled for increased security. The VM package is typically configured to automatically boot, self configure itself and phone home without the need for direct OS access. VM examples available.

Are there any SLA’s, support or guarantees?

No, to keep the costs as low as possible the service is offered without any SLA, direct support or guarantees. We may offer support in the future. Although we do have a phone and are more than happy to talk to you…

:: shudder ::

For now, I would assume that this means that if your workloads are at all mission critical, sensitive, subject to compliance requirements or traffic in any sort of sensitive data, this sort of exchange option may not be for you. I don’t have data on the use cases for the workloads being run using SpotCloud, but perhaps we’ll see Enomaly make this information more available as time goes on.

I would further assume that the criteria for provider selection might be expanded to include certification, compliance and security capabilities — all the more reason for these providers to consider something like CloudAudit which would enable them to provide supporting materials related to their assertions. (*wink*)

To be clear, from a marketplace perspective, I think this is a really nifty idea — sort of the cloud-based SETI-for-cost version of the Mechanical Turk.  It takes the notion of “utility” and really makes one think of the options.  I remember thinking the same thing when Zimory launched their marketplace in 2009.

I think ultimately this further amplifies the message that we need to build survivable systems, write secure code and continue to place an emphasis on the security of information deployed using cloud services. Duh-ja vu.

This sort of use case also begs the interesting set of questions as to what these monolithic apps are intended to provide — surely they transit in some sort of information — information that comes from somewhere?  The oft-touted massively scaleable compute “front-end” overlay of public cloud often times means that the scale-out architectures leveraged to deliver service connect back to something else…

You likely see where this is going…

At any rate, I think these marketplace offerings will, for the foreseeable future, serve a specific type of consumer trafficking in specific types of information/service — it’s yet another vertical service offering that cloud can satisfy.

What do you think?

/Hoff

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CloudPassage & Why Guest-Based Footprints Matter Even More For Cloud Security

February 1st, 2011 4 comments
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Every day for the last week or so after their launch, I’ve been asked left and right about whether I’d spoken to CloudPassage and what my opinion was of their offering.  In full disclosure, I spoke with them when they were in stealth almost a year ago and offered some guidance as well as the day before their launch last week.

Disappointing as it may be to some, this post isn’t really about my opinion of CloudPassage directly; it is, however, the reaffirmation of the deployment & delivery models for the security solution that CloudPassage has employed.  I’ll let you connect the dots…

Specifically, in public IaaS clouds where homogeneity of packaging, standardization of images and uniformity of configuration enables scale, security has lagged.  This is mostly due to the fact that for a variety of reasons, security itself does not scale (well.)

In an environment where the underlying platform cannot be counted upon to provide “hooks” to integrate security capabilities in at the “network” level, all that’s left is what lies inside the VM packaging:

  1. Harden and protect the operating system [and thus the stuff atop it,]
  2. Write secure applications and
  3. Enforce strict, policy-driven information-centric security.

My last presentation, “Cloudinomicon: Idempotent Infrastructure, Building Survivable Systems and Bringing Sexy Back to Information Centricity” addressed these very points. [This one is a version I delivered at the University of Michigan Security Summit]

If we focus on the first item in that list, you’ll notice that generally to effect policy in the guest, you must have a footprint on said guest — however thin — to provide the hooks that are needed to either directly effect policy or redirect back to some engine that offloads this functionality.  There’s a bit of marketing fluff associated with using the word “agentless” in many applications of this methodology today, but at some point, the endpoint needs some sort of “agent” to play*

So that’s where we are today.  The abstraction offered by virtualized public IaaS cloud platforms is pushing us back to the guest-centric-based models of yesteryear.

This will bring challenges with scale, management, efficacy, policy convergence between physical and virtual and the overall API-driven telemetry driven by true cloud solutions.

You can read more about this in some of my other posts on the topic:

Finally, since I used them for eyeballs, please do take a look at CloudPassage — their first (free) offerings are based upon leveraging small footprint Linux agents and a cloud-based SaaS “grid” to provide vulnerability management, and firewall/zoning in public cloud environments.

/Hoff

* There are exceptions to this rule depending upon *what* you’re trying to do, such as anti-malware offload via a hypervisor API, but this is not generally available to date in public cloud.  This will, I hope, one day soon change.

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