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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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Brood Parasitism: A Cuckoo Discussion Of Smart Device Insecurity By Way Of Robbing the NEST…

July 18th, 2012 No comments
English: Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) nest...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’m doing some research, driven by recent groundswells of some awesome security activity focused on so-called “smart meters.”  Specifically, I am interested in the emerging interconnectedness, consumerization and prevalence of more generic smart devices and home automation systems and what that means from a security, privacy and safety perspective.

I jokingly referred to something like this way back in 2007…who knew it would be more reality than fiction.

You may think this is interesting.  You may think this is overhyped and boorish.  You may even think this is cuckoo…

Speaking of which, back to the title of the blog…

Brood parasitism is defined as:

A method of reproduction seen in birds that involves the laying of eggs in the nests of other birds. The eggs are left under the parantal care of the host parents. Brood parasitism may be occur between species (interspecific) or within a species (intraspecific) [About.com]

A great example is that of the female european Cuckoo which lays an egg that mimics that of a host species.  After hatching, the young Cuckcoo may actually dispose of the host egg by shoving it out of the nest with a genetically-engineered physical adaptation — a depression in its back.  One hatched, the forced-adoptive parent birds, tricked into thinking the hatchling is legitimate, cares for the imposter that may actually grow larger than they, and then struggle to keep up with its care and feeding.

What does this have to do with “smart device” security?

I’m a huge fan of my NEST thermostat. :) It’s a fantastic device which, using self-learning concepts, manages the heating and cooling of my house.  It does so by understanding how my family and I utilize the controls over time doing so in combination with knowing when we’re at home or we’re away.  It communicates with and allows control over my household temperature management over the Internet.  It also has an API <wink wink>  It uses an ARM Cortex A8 CPU and has both Wifi and Zigbee radios <wink wink>

…so it knows how I use power.  It knows how when I’m at home and when I’m not. It allows for remote, out-of-band, Internet connectivity.  I uses my Wifi network to communicate.  It will, I am sure, one day intercommunicate with OTHER devices on my network (which, btw, is *loaded* with other devices already)

So back to my cuckoo analog of brood parasitism and the bounty of “robbing the NEST…”

I am working on researching the potential for subverting the control plane for my NEST (amongst other devices) and using that to gain access to information regarding occupancy, usage, etc.  I have some ideas for how this information might be (mis)used.

Essentially, I’m calling the tool “Cuckoo” and it’s job is that of its nest-robbing namesake — to have it fed illegitimately and outgrow its surrogate trust model to do bad things™.

This will dovetail on work that has been done in the classical “smart meter” space such as what was presented at CCC in 2011 wherein the researchers were able to do things like identify what TV show someone was watching and what capabilities like that mean to privacy and safety.

If anyone would like to join in on the fun, let me know.

/Hoff

 

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Back To The Future: Network Segmentation & More Moaning About Zoning

July 16th, 2012 5 comments

A Bit Of Context…

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)A Bit Of Context…

The last 3 years have been very interesting when engaging with large enterprises and service providers as they set about designing, selecting and deploying their “next generation” network architecture. These new networks are deployed in timescales that see them collide with disruptive innovation such as fabrics, cloud, big data and DevOps.

In most cases, these network platforms must account for the nuanced impact of virtualized design patterns, refreshes of programmatic architecture and languages, and the operational model differences these things introduce.  What’s often apparent is that no matter how diligent the review, by the time these platforms are chosen, many tradeoffs are made — especially when it comes to security and compliance — and we arrive at the old adage: “You can get fast, cheap or secure…pick two.”

…And In the Beginning, There Was Spanning Tree…

The juxtaposition of flatter and flatter physical networks, nee “fabrics” (compute, network and storage,) with what seems to be a flip-flop transition between belief systems and architects who push for either layer 2 or layer 3 (or encapsulated versions thereof) segmentation at the higher layers is again aggravated by continued push for security boundary definition that yields further segmentation based on policy at the application and information layer.

So what we end up with is the benefits of flatter, any-to-any connectivity at the physical networking layer with a “software defined” and virtualized networking context floating both alongside (Nicira, BigSwitch, OpenFlow) as well as atop it (VMware, Citrix, OpenStack Quantum, etc.) with a bunch of protocols ladled on like some protocol gravy blanketing the Chicken Fried Steak that represents the modern data center.

Oh!  You Mean the Cloud…

Now, there are many folks who don’t approach it this way, and instead abstract away much of what I just described.  In Amazon Web Services’ case as a service provider, they dumb down the network sufficiently and control the abstracted infrastructure to the point that “flatness” is the only thing customers get and if you’re going to run your applications atop, you must keep it simple and programmatic in nature else risk introducing unnecessary complexity into the “software stack.”

The customers who then depend upon these simplified networking services must then absorb the gaps introduced by a lack of features by architecturally engineering around them, becoming more automated, instrumented and programmatic in nature or add yet another layer of virtualized (and generally encrypted) transport and execution above them.

This works if you’re able to engineer your way around these gaps (or make them less relevant,) but generally this is where segmentation becomes an issue due to security and compliance design patterns which depend on the “complexity” introduced by the very flexible networking constructs available in most enterprise of SP networks.

It’s like a layered cake that keeps self-frosting.

Software Defined Architecture…

You can see the extreme opportunity for Software Defined *anything* then, can’t you? With SDN, let the physical networks NOT be complex but rather more simple and flat and then unify the orchestration, traffic steering, service insertion and (even) security capabilities of the physical and virtual networks AND the virtualization/cloud orchestration layers (from the networking perspective) into a single intelligent control plane…

That’s a big old self-frosting cake.

Basically, this is what AWS has done…but all that intelligence provided by the single pane of glass is currently left up to the app owner atop them.  That’s the downside.  Those sufficiently enlightened AWS’ customers are aware generally  of this and understand the balance of benefits and limitations of this path.

In an enterprise environment, however, it’s a timing game between the controller vendors, the virtualization/cloud stack providers, the networking vendors, and security vendors …each trying to offer up this capability either as an “integrated” capability or as an overlay…all under the watchful eye of the auditor who is generally unmotivated, uneducated and unnerved by all this new technology — especially since the compliance frameworks and regulatory elements aren’t designed to account for these dramatic shifts in architecture or operation (let alone the threat curve of advanced adversaries.)

Back To The Future…Hey, Look, It’s Token Ring and DMZs!

As I sit with these customers who build these nextgen networks, the moment segmentation comes up, the elegant network and application architectures rapidly crumble into piles of asset-based rubble as what happens next borders on the criminal…

Thanks to compliance initiatives — PCI is a good example — no matter how well scoped, those flat networks become more and more logically hierarchical.  Because SDN is still nascent and we’re lacking that unified virtualized network (and security) control plane, we end up resorting back to platform-specific “less flat” network architectures in both the physical and virtual layers to achieve “enclave” like segmentation.

But with virtualization the problem gets more complex as in an attempt to be agile, cost efficient and in order to bring data to the workloads to reduce heaving lifting of the opposite approach, out-of-scope assets can often (and suddenly) be co-resident with in-scope assets…traversing logical and physical constructs that makes it much more difficult to threat model since the level of virtualized context supports differs wildly across these layers.

Architects are then left to think how they can effectively take all the awesome performance, agility, scale and simplicity offered by the underlying fabrics (compute, network and storage) and then layer on — bolt on — security and compliance capabilities.

What they discover is that it’s very, very, very platform specific…which is why we see protocols such as VXLAN and NVGRE pop up to deal with them.

Lego Blocks and Pig Farms…

These architects then replicate the design patterns with which they are familiar and start to craft DMZs that are logically segmented in the physical network and then grafted on to the virtual.  So we end up with relying on what Gunnar Petersen and I refer to as the “SSL and Firewall” lego block…we front end collections of “layer 2 connected” assets based on criticality or function, many of which stretched across these fabrics, and locate them behind layer 3 “firewalls” which provide basic zone-based isolation and often VPN connectivity between “trusted” groups of other assets.

In short, rather than build applications that securely authenticate, communicate — or worse yet, even when they do — we pigpen our corralled assets and make our estate fatter instead of flatter.  It’s really a shame.

I’ve made the case in my “Commode Computing” presentation that one of the very first things that architects need to embrace is the following:

…by not artificially constraining the way in which we organize, segment and apply policy (i.e. “put it in a DMZ”) we can think about how design “anti-patterns” may actually benefit us…you can call them what you like, but we need to employ better methodology for “zoning.”

These trust zones or enclaves are reasonable in concept so long as we can ultimately further abstract their “segmentation” and abstract the security and compliance policy requirements by expressing policy programmatically and taking the logical business and functional use-case PROCESSES into consideration when defining, expressing and instantiating said policy.

You know…understand what talks to what and why…

A great way to think about this problem is to apply the notion of application mobility — without VM containers — and how one would instantiate a security “policy” in that context.  In many cases, as we march up the stack to distributed platform application architectures, we’re not able to depend upon the “crutch” that hypervisors or VM packages have begun to give us in legacy architectures that have virtualization grafted onto them.

Since many enterprises are now just starting to better leverage their virtualized infrastructure, there *are* some good solutions (again, platform specific) that unify the physical and virtual networks from a zoning perspective, but the all-up process-driven, asset-centric (app & information) view of “policy” is still woefully lacking, especially in heterogeneous environments.

Wrapping Up…

In enterprise and SP environments where we don’t have the opportunity to start anew, it often feels like we’re so far off from this sort of capability because it requires a shift that makes software defined networking look like child’s play.  Most enterprises don’t do risk-driven, asset-centric, process-mapped modelling, [and SP’s are disconnected from this,] so segmentation falls back to what we know: DMZs with VLANs, NAT, Firewalls, SSL and new protocol band-aids invented to cover gaping arterial wounds.

In environments lucky enough to think about and match the application use cases with the highly-differentiated operational models that virtualized *everything* brings to bear, it’s here today — but be prepared and honest that the vendor(s) you chose must be strategic and the interfaces between those platforms and external entities VERY well defined…else you risk software defined entropy.

I wish I had more than the 5 minutes it took to scratch this out because there’s SO much to talk about here…

…perhaps later.

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Elemental: Leveraging Virtualization Technology For More Resilient & Survivable Systems

June 21st, 2012 Comments off

Yesterday saw the successful launch of Bromium at Gigamon’s Structure conference in San Francisco.

I was privileged to spend some stage time with Stacey Higginbotham and Simon Crosby (co-founder, CTO, mentor and good friend) on stage after Simon’s big reveal of Bromium‘s operating model and technology approach.

While product specifics weren’t disclosed, we spent some time chatting about Bromium’s approach to solving a particularly tough set of security challenges with a focus on realistic outcomes given the advanced adversaries and attack methodologies in use today.

At the heart of our discussion* was the notion that in many cases one cannot detect let alone prevent specific types of attacks and this requires a new way of containing the impact of exploiting vulnerabilities (known or otherwise) that are as much targeting the human factor as they are weaknesses in underlying operating systems and application technologies.

I think Kurt Marko did a good job summarizing Bromium in his article here, so if you’re interested in learning more check it out. I can tell you that as a technology advisor to Bromium and someone who is using the technology preview, it lives up to the hype and gives me hope that we’ll see even more novel approaches of usable security leveraging technology like this.  More will be revealed as time goes on.

That said, with productization details purposely left vague, Bromium’s leveraged implementation of Intel’s VT technology and its “microvisor” approach brought about comments yesterday from many folks that reminded them of what they called “similar approaches” (however right/wrong they may be) to use virtualization technology and/or “sandboxing” to provide more “secure” systems.  I recall the following in passing conversation yesterday:

  • Determina (VMware acquired)
  • Green Borders (Google acquired)
  • Trusteer
  • Invincea
  • DeepSafe (Intel/McAfee)
  • Intel TXT w/MLE & hypervisors
  • Self Cleansing Intrusion Tolerance (SCIT)
  • PrivateCore (Newly launched by Oded Horovitz)
  • etc…

I don’t think Simon would argue that the underlying approach of utilizing virtualization for security (even for an “endpoint” application) is new, but the approach toward making it invisible and transparent from a user experience perspective certainly is.  Operational simplicity and not making security the user’s problem is a beautiful thing.

Here is a video of Simon and my session “Secure Everything.

What’s truly of interest to me — and based on what Simon said yesterday — the application of this approach could be just at home in a “server,” cloud or mobile application as it is on a classical desktop environment.  There are certainly dependencies (such as VT) today, but the notion that we can leverage virtualization for better resilience, survivability and assurance for more “trustworthy” systems is exciting.

I for one am very excited to see how we’re progressing from “bolt on” to more integrated approaches in our security models. This will bear fruit as we become more platform and application-centric in our approach to security, allowing us to leverage fundamentally “elemental” security components to allow for more meaningfully trustworthy computing.

/Hoff

* The range of topics was rather hysterical; from the Byzantine General’s problem to K/T Boundary extinction-class events to the Mexican/U.S. border fence, it was chock full of analogs ;)

 

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Security As A Service: “The Cloud” & Why It’s a Net Security Win

March 19th, 2012 3 comments
Cloud Computing Image

Cloud Computing Image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been paying attention to the rash of security startups entering the market today, you will no doubt notice the theme wherein the majority of them are, from the get-go, organizing around deployment models which operate from “The Cloud.”

We can argue that “Security as a service” usually refers to security services provided by a third party using the SaaS (software as a service) model, but there’s a compelling set of capabilities that enables companies large and small to be both effective, efficient and cost-manageable as we embrace the “new” world of highly distributed applications, content and communications (cloud and mobility combined.)

As with virtualization, when one discusses “security” and “cloud computing,” any of the three perspectives often are conflated (from my post “Security: In the Cloud, For the Cloud & By the Cloud…“):

In the same way that I differentiated “Virtualizing Security, Securing Virtualization and Security via Virtualization” in my Four Horsemen presentation, I ask people to consider these three models when discussing security and Cloud:

  1. In the Cloud: Security (products, solutions, technology) instantiated as an operational capability deployed within Cloud Computing environments (up/down the stack.) Think virtualized firewalls, IDP, AV, DLP, DoS/DDoS, IAM, etc.
  2. For the Cloud: Security services that are specifically targeted toward securing OTHER Cloud Computing services, delivered by Cloud Computing providers (see next entry) . Think cloud-based Anti-spam, DDoS, DLP, WAF, etc.
  3. By the Cloud: Security services delivered by Cloud Computing services which are used by providers in option #2 which often rely on those features described in option #1.  Think, well…basically any service these days that brand themselves as Cloud… ;)

What I’m talking about here is really item #3; security “by the cloud,” wherein these services utilize any cloud-based platform (SaaS, PaaS or IaaS) to delivery security capabilities on behalf of the provider or ultimate consumer of services.

For the SMB/SME/Branch, one can expect a hybrid model of on-premises physical (multi-function) devices that also incorporate some sort of redirect or offload to these cloud-based services. Frankly, the same model works for the larger enterprise but in many cases regulatory issues of privacy/IP concerns arise.  This is where the capability of both “private” (or dedicated) versions of these services are requested (either on-premises or off, but dedicated.)

Service providers see a large opportunity to finally deliver value-added, scaleable and revenue-generating security services atop what they offer today.  This is the realized vision of the long-awaited “clean pipes” and “secure hosting” capabilities.  See this post from 2007 “Clean Pipes – Less Sewerage or More Potable Water?”

If you haven’t noticed your service providers dipping their toes here, you certainly have seen startups (and larger security players) do so.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Qualys
  • Trend Micro
  • Symantec
  • Cisco (Ironport/ScanSafe)
  • Juniper
  • CloudFlare
  • ZScaler
  • Incapsula
  • Dome9
  • CloudPassage
  • Porticor
  • …and many more

As many vendors “virtualize” their offers and start to realize that through basic networking, APIs, service chaining, traffic steering and security intelligence/analytics, these solutions become more scaleable, leveragable and interoperable, the services you’ll be able to consume will also increase…and they will become more application and information-centric in nature.

Again, this doesn’t mean the disappearance of on-premises or host-based security capabilities, but you should expect the cloud (and it’s derivative offshoots like Big Data) to deliver some really awesome hybrid security capabilities that make your life easier.  Rich Mogull (@rmogull) and I gave about 20 examples of this in our “Grilling Cloudicorns: Mythical CloudSec Tools You Can Use Today” at RSA last month.

Get ready because while security folks often eye “The Cloud” suspiciously, it also offers up a set of emerging solutions that will undoubtedly allow for more efficient, effective and affordable security capabilities that will allow us to focus more on the things that matter.

/Hoff

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Incomplete Thought: Why We Have The iPhone and AT&T To Thank For Cloud…

December 15th, 2010 1 comment
Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m not sure this makes any sense whatsoever, but that’s why it’s labeled “incomplete thought,” isn’t it? ;)

A few weeks ago I was delivering my Cloudinomicon talk at the Cloud Security Alliance Congress in Orlando and as I was describing the cyclical nature of computing paradigms and the Security Hamster Sine Wave of Pain, it dawned on me — out loud — that we have Apple’s iPhone and its U.S. carrier, AT&T, to thank for the success of Cloud Computing.

My friends from AT&T perked up when I said that.  Then I explained…

So let me set this up. It will require some blog article ping-pong in order to reference earlier scribbling on the topic, but here’s the very rough process:

  1. I’ve pointed out that there are two fundamental perspectives when describing Cloud and Cloud Computing: the operational provider’s view and the experiential consumer’s view.  To the provider, the IT-centric, empirical and clinical nuances are what matters. To the consumer, anything that connects to the Internet via any computing platform using any app that interacts with any sort of information is also cloud.  There’s probably a business/market view, but I’ll keep things simple for purpose of illustration.  I wrote about this here:  Cloud/Cloud Computing Definitions – Why they Do(n’t) Matter…
    -
  2. As we look at the adoption of cloud computing, the consumption model ultimately becomes more interesting than how the service is delivered (as it commoditizes.) My presentation “The Future of Cloud” focused on the fact that the mobile computing platforms (phones, iPads, netbooks, thin(ner) clients, etc) are really the next frontier.  I pointed out that we have the simultaneous mass re-centralization of applications and data in massive cloud data centers (however distributed ethereally they may be) and the massive distribution of the same applications and data across increasingly more intelligent, capable and storage-enabled mobile computing devices.  I wrote about this here: Slides from My Cloud Security Alliance Keynote: The Cloud Magic 8 Ball (Future Of Cloud)
    -
  3. The iPhone isn’t really that remarkable a piece of technology in and of itself, in fact it capitalizes on and cannibalizes many innovations and technologies that came before it.  However, as I mentioned in my post “Cloud Maturity: Just Like the iPhone, There’s An App For That…The thing I love about my iPhone is that it’s not a piece of technology I think about but rather, it’s the way I interact with it to get what I want done.  It has its quirks, but it works…for millions of people.  Add in iTunes, the community of music/video/application artists/developers and the ecosystem that surrounds it, and voila…Cloud.”

  4. At each and every compute paradigm shift, we’ve seen the value of the network waffle between “intelligent” platform and simple transport depending upon where we were with the intersection of speeds/feeds and ubiquity/availability of access (the collision of Moore’s and Metcalfe’s laws?)  In many cases, we’ve had to rely on workarounds that have hindered the adoption of really valuable and worthwhile technologies and operational models because the “network” didn’t deliver.

I think we’re bumping up against point #4 today.  So here’s where I find this interesting.  If we see the move to the consumerized view of accessing resources from mobile platforms to resources located both on-phone and in-cloud, you’ll notice that even in densely-populated high-technology urban settings, we have poor coverage, slow transit and congested, high-latency, low-speed access — wired and wireless for that matter.

This is a problem. In fact it’s such a problem that if we look backward to about 4 years ago when “cloud computing” and the iPhone became entries in the lexicon of popular culture, this issue completely changed the entire application deployment model and use case of the iPhone as a mobile platform.  Huh?

Do you remember when the iPhone first came out? It was a reasonably capable compute platform with a decent amount of storage. It’s network connectivity, however, sucked.

Pair that with the fact that the application strategy was that there was emphatically, per Steve Jobs, not going to be native applications on the iPhone for many reasons, including security.  Every application was basically just a hyperlink to a web application located elsewhere.  The phone was nothing more than a web browser that delivered applications running elsewhere (for the most part, especially when things like Flash were’nt present.) Today we’d call that “The Cloud.”

Interestingly, at this point, he value of the iPhone as an application platform was diminished since it was not highly differentiated from any other smartphone that had a web browser.

Time went by and connectivity was still so awful and unreliable that Apple reversed direction to drive value and revenue in the platform, engaged a developer community, created the App Store and provided for a hybrid model — apps both on-platform and off — in order to deal with this lack of ubiquitous connectivity.  Operating systems, protocols and applications were invented/deployed in order to deal with the synchronization of on- and off-line application and information usage because we don’t have pervasive high-speed connectivity in the form of cellular or wifi such that we otherwise wouldn’t care.

So this gets back to what I meant when I said we have AT&T to thank for Cloud.  If you can imagine that we *did* have amazingly reliable and ubiquitous connectivity from devices like our iPhones — those consumerized access points to our apps and data — perhaps the demand for and/or use patterns of cloud computing would be wildly different from where they are today. Perhaps they wouldn’t, but if you think back to each of those huge compute paradigm shifts — mainframe, mini, micro, P.C., Web 1.0, Web 2.0 — the “network” in terms of reliability, ubiquity and speed has always played a central role in adoption of technology and operational models.

Same as it ever was.

So, thanks AT&T — you may have inadvertently accelerated the back-end of cloud in order to otherwise compensate, leverage and improve the front-end of cloud (and vice versa.)  Now, can you do something about the fact that I have no signal at my house, please?

/Hoff

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Incomplete Thought: Why We Need Open Source Security Solutions More Than Ever…

July 17th, 2010 1 comment
Illustrates a rightward shift in the demand curve.
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t have time to write a big blog post and quite frankly, I don’t need to. Not on this topic.

I do, however, feel that it’s important to bring back into consciousness how very important open source security solutions are to us — at least those of us who actually expect to make an impact in our organizations and work toward making a dent in our security problem pile.

Why do open source solutions matter so much in our approach to dealing with securing the things that matter most to us?

It comes down to things we already know but are often paralyzed to do anything about:

  1. The threat curve and innovation of attacker outpaces that of the defender by orders of magnitudes (duh)
  2. Disruptive technology and innovation dramatically impacts the operational, threat and risk modeling we have to deal with (duh duh)
  3. The security industry is not in the business of solving security problems that don’t have a profit motive/margin attached to it (ugh)

We can’t do much about #1 and #2 except be early adopters, by agile/dynamic and plan for change. I’ve written about this many times and built and entire series of talks presentations (Security and Disruptive Innovation) that Rich Mogull and I have taken to updating over the last few years.

We can do something about #3 and we can do it by continuing to invest in the development, deployment, support, and perhaps even the eventual commercialization of open source security solutions.

To be clear, it’s not that commercialization is required for success, but often it just indicates it’s become mainstream and valued and money *can* be made.)

When you look at the motivation most open source project creators bring a solution to market, it’s because the solution generally is not commercially available, it solves an immediate need and it’s contributed to by a community. These are all fantastic reasons to use, support, extend and contribute back to the open source movement — even if you don’t code, you can help by improving the roadmaps of these projects by making suggestions and promoting their use.

Open source security solutions deliver and they deliver quickly because the roadmaps and feature integration occur in an agile, meritocratic and vetted manner than often times lacks polish but delivers immediate value — especially given their cost.

We’re stuck in a loop (or a Hamster Sine Wave of Pain) because the problems we really need to solve are not developed by the companies that are in the best position to develop them in a timely manner. Why? Because when these emerging solutions are evaluated, they live or die by one thing: TAM (total addressable market.)

If there’s no big $$$ attached and someone can’t make the case within an organization that this is a strategic (read: revenue generating) big bet, the big companies wait for a small innovative startup to develop technology (or an open source tool,) see if it lives long enough for the market demand to drive revenues and then buy them…or sometimes develop a competitive solution.

Classical crossing the chasm/Moore stuff.

The problem here is that this cycle is broken horribly and we see perfectly awesome solutions die on the vine. Sometimes they come back to life years later cyclically when the pain gets big enough (and there’s money to be made) or the “market” of products and companies consolidate, commoditize and ultimately becomes a feature.

I’ve got hundreds of examples I can give of this phenomenon — and I bet you do, too.

That’s not to say we don’t have open-source-derived success stories (Snort, Metasploit, ClamAV, Nessus, OSSec, etc.) but we just don’t have enough of them. Further, there are disruptions such as virtualization and cloud computing that fundamentally change the game that we can harness in conjunction with open source solutions that can accelerate the delivery and velocity of solutions because of how impacting the platform shift can be.

I’ve also got dozens of awesome ideas that could/would fundamentally solve many attendant issues we have in security — but the timing, economics, culture, politics and readiness/appetite for adoption aren’t there commercially…but they can be via open source.

I’m going to start a series which identifies and highlights solutions that are either available as kernel-nugget technology or past-life approaches that I think can and should be taken on as open source projects that could fundamentally help our cause as a community.

Maybe someone can code/create open source solutions out of them that can help us all.  We should encourage this behavior.

We need it more than ever now.

/Hoff

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Incomplete Thought: Batteries – The Private Cloud Equivalent Of Electrical Utility…

January 24th, 2010 21 comments

While I think Nick Carr’s power generation utility analogy was a fantastic discussion catalyst for the usefulness of a utility model, it is abused to extremes and constrains what might ordinarily be more open-minded debate on the present and future of computing.

This is a debate that continues to rise every few days on Twitter and the Blogosphere, fueled mostly by what can only be described from either side of the argument as a mixture of ideology, dogma, passionate opinion, misunderstood perspective and a squinty-eyed mistrust of agendas.

It’s all a bit silly, really, as both Public and Private Cloud have their place; when, for how long and for whom is really at the heart of the issue.

The notion that the only way “true” benefits can be realized from Cloud Computing are from massively-scaled public utilities and that Private Clouds (your definition will likely differ) are simply a way of IT making excuses for the past while trying to hold on to the present, simply limits the conversation and causes friction rather than reduces it.  I believe that a hybrid model will prevail, as it always has.  There are many reasons for this. I’ve talked about them a lot.

This got me thinking about why and here’s my goofy thought for consideration of the “value” and “utility” of Private Cloud:

If the power utility “grid” represents Public Cloud, then perhaps batteries are a reasonable equivalent for Private Cloud.

I’m not going to explain this analogy in full yet, but wonder if it makes any sense to you.  I’d enjoy your thoughts on what you think I’m referring to. ;)

/Hoff

2010 – It’s Time for Security Resolutions Not Predictions…

December 21st, 2009 2 comments

November and December usually signal the onslaught of security predictions for the coming year. They’re usually focused on the negative.

I’ve done these a couple of times and while I find the mental exercise interesting, it really doesn’t result in anything, well, actionable.

So, this year I’m going to state what I am *going* to do rather than what I think others *might.*  I’ve spent the last couple of years talking about the challenges, now it’s time to focus on the solutions.

It’s quite simple.  I resolve to:

  1. Continue my efforts to make the Cloud Security Alliance work products more useful and impactful, focusing on solutions to the challenges we have with Cloud Security
  2. Push the agenda for transparency in Cloud providers with the A6 API working group
  3. Deliver even more interesting and thought-provoking presentations focused on virtualization and Cloud security
  4. Take our local security scene up a notch: focus on making BeanSec more than just a social event and make it the epicenter for security knowledge sharing in the greater Boston area
  5. Spend more time at local events such as ISACA and OWASP and support regional “non-cons”; many folks don’t get to go to the big shows
  6. Blog more and push the envelope on things I know need to improve.  Also publish the podcast and vlogs on a regular basis
  7. Reach out beyond the U.S. and share more/learn more with folks from other countries/backgrounds
  8. Dig my heels in and participate more actively in the standards bodies and organizations that I lurk in (PCI vSig, DMTF, etc.)
  9. Focus on making my contacts into more of a community; I have the most awesome circle of friends and acquaintances and it’s time to put them to use
  10. Publish a couple of the books I’m working on

These are my top 10.

What are yours?

/Hoff

Variety & Darwinism In Solutions Is Innovation, In Standards It’s A War?

September 5th, 2009 6 comments

I find it quite interesting that in the last few months or so, as Cloud has emerged as a full-fledged business opportunity, we’ve seen the rise of many new companies, strategies and technologies. For the most part, hype aside, people praise this as innovation and describe it as a natural evolutionary process.

Strangely enough, with the emergence of new opportunity comes the ever-present push to standards.  Many see standards introduced too early as an innovation squasher; it inhibits free market evolution, crams down the smaller players, and lets the big fish take over — especially when the standards are backed by said big fish.  The open versus proprietary debate is downright religious.

Cloud Computing is no different.

We’ve seen many “standards” float to the surface recently — some backed by vendors, others by groups of concerned citizenry.  Many Cloud providers have published their API’s in an attempt to standardize interfacing to their offerings.  Some are open, some are proprietary.  Some are even open-sourced.  Some are simply de facto based upon the deployment of a set of technology, solutions and an ecosystem built around supporting it.  Professional standards organizations are also now getting involved.

In J. Nicholas Hoover’s blog post titled “Groups Seek Cloud Computing Standards,” Gartner’s David Cearly said :

“Community participation, deliberate action, and planning must be a vital part of any successful standards process…Otherwise, he said, cloud standards efforts could fail miserably.”

“Standards is one of those things that could absolutely strangle and kill everything we want to do in cloud computing if we do it wrong,” he said. “We need to make sure that as were approaching standards, we’re approaching standards more as they were approached in the broader internet, just in time.”

I suppose that depends upon how you measure success…

Tom Nolle wrote an interesting piece titled: “Multiple Standards Cloud Spoil Cloud Computing” in which he lists 7 standards bodies “competing” for Cloud, wondering out loud why if they all have similar interests, do they exist separately.  After he talks about the difference between those focused on Public and Private Clouds, he bemoans the bifurcation and then plugs the one he finds best ;)

So now we have live public cloud services with incomplete standards and evolving private cloud standards with no implementations.

The best hope for a unification is the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum. Its Unified Cloud Architecture tackles standards by making public cloud computing interoperable. Their map of cloud computing shows the leading public cloud providers and a proposed Unified Cloud Interface that the body defines, with a joking reference to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as “One API to Rule them All.”

So make that 8 players…

This week we’ve seen the release of the VMware-sponsored and DMTF-submitted vCloud. We also saw RedHat introduce their Deltacloud API.  We have the Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) standards work which getting underway within the Open Grid Forum (OGF.)  There’s a veritable plethora of groups, standards and efforts at play.

Some of it is likely duplicative.

Some of it is likely vendor-fed.

The reality is that unlike others, I find it refreshing.

I think it’s great that we have multiple efforts.

It would, for sure, be nice if we could all agree and have one focused set of work, but that’s simply not reality.  It will be confusing for all concerned in the short term.

The Open vs. mostly-open debates will continue, but this NORMAL.  In the end, we end up with a survival of the marketed-fittest.  The standards that win are the standards that are most optimally muscled, marketed and adopted.

Simon Wardley wrote a piece called “The Cloud Computing War” which to me read like an indictment of the process (I admit my review may be colored by what I perceive as FUD regarding VMware’s vCloud,) but I can’t help but to shrug it off and instead decide to focus on where and whom I will decide to pitch my tent.

I’ve already done so with the Cloud Security Alliance (not a standards body) and I’m looking at using vCloud to find a home for my A6 concept.

A Cloud standards war?  War is such an ugly term.  It’s just the normal activity associated with disruptive innovation and the markets sorting themselves out.  The standards arena is simply where the dirty laundry gets exposed.  Get used to it, there’s enough mud/FUD flinging that you can expect several loads ;)

/Hoff