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Posts Tagged ‘Cloud Security Alliance’

When A FAIL Is A WIN – How NIST Got Dissed As The Point Is Missed

January 2nd, 2012 4 comments

Randy Bias (@randybias) wrote a very interesting blog titled Cloud Computing Came To a Head In 2011, sharing his year-end perspective on the emergence of Cloud Computing and most interestingly the “…gap between ‘enterprise clouds’ and ‘web-scale clouds’”

Given that I very much agree with the dichotomy between “web-scale” and “enterprise” clouds and the very different sets of respective requirements and motivations, Randy’s post left me confused when he basically skewered the early works of NIST and their Definition of Cloud Computing:

This is why I think the NIST definition of cloud computing is such a huge FAIL. It’s focus is on the superficial aspects of ‘clouds’ without looking at the true underlying patterns of how large Internet businesses had to rethink the IT stack.  They essentially fall into the error of staying at my ‘Phase 2: VMs and VDCs’ (above).  No mention of CAP theorem, understanding the fallacies of distributed computing that lead to successful scale out architectures and strategies, the core socio-economics that are crucial to meeting certain capital and operational cost points, or really any acknowledgement of this very clear divide between clouds built using existing ‘enterprise computing’ techniques and those using emergent ‘cloud computing’ technologies and thinking.

Nope. No mention of CAP theorem or socio-economic drivers, yet strangely the context of what the document was designed to convey renders this rant moot.

Frankly, NIST’s early work did more to further the discussion of *WHAT* Cloud Computing meant than almost any person or group evangelizing Cloud Computing…especially to a world of users whose most difficult challenges is trying to understand the differences between traditional enterprise IT and Cloud Computing

As I reacted to this point on Twitter, Simon Wardley (@swardley) commented in agreement with Randy’s assertions, but strangely what I found odd again was the misplaced angst by which the criterion of “success” vs “FAIL” that both Simon and Randy were measuring the NIST document against:

Both Randy and Simon seem to be judging NIST’s efforts against their lack of extolling the virtues, or “WHY” versus the “WHAT” of Cloud, and as such, were basically doing a disservice by perpetuating aged concepts rooted in archaic enterprise practices rather than boundary stretch, trailblaze and promote the enlightened stance of “web-scale” cloud.

Well…

The thing is, as NIST stated in both the purpose and audience sections of their document, the “WHY” of Cloud was not the main intent (and frankly best left to those who make a living talking about it…)

From the NIST document preface:

1.2 Purpose and Scope

Cloud computing is an evolving paradigm. The NIST definition characterizes important aspects of cloud computing and is intended to serve as a means for broad comparisons of cloud services and deployment strategies, and to provide a baseline for discussion from what is cloud computing to how to best use cloud computing. The service and deployment models defined form a simple taxonomy that is not intended to prescribe or constrain any particular method of deployment, service delivery, or business operation.

1.3 Audience

The intended audience of this document is system planners, program managers, technologists, and others adopting cloud computing as consumers or providers of cloud services.

This was an early work (the initial draft was released in 2009, final in late 2011,) and when it was written, many people — Randy, Simon and myself included — we still finding the best route, words and methodology to verbalize the “Why.” And now it’s skewered as “mechanistic drivel.”*

At the time NIST was developing their document, I was working in parallel writing the “Architecture” chapter of the first edition of the Cloud Security Alliance’s Guidance for Cloud Computing.  I started out including my own definitional work in the document but later aligned to the NIST definitions because it was generally in line with mine and was well on the way to engendering a good deal of conversation around standard vocabulary.

This blog post summarized the work at the time (prior to the NIST inclusion).  I think you might find the author of the second comment on that post rather interesting, especially given how much of a FAIL this was all supposed to be… :)

It’s only now with the clarity of hindsight that it’s easier to take the “WHY,” and utilize the “WHAT” (from NIST and others, especially practitioners like Randy) in a manner that is complementary so we can talk less about “what and why” and rather “HOW.”

So while the NIST document wasn’t, isn’t and likely never will be “perfect,” and does not address every use case or even eloquently frame the “WHY,” it still serves as a very useful resource upon which many people can start a conversation regarding Cloud Computing.

It’s funny really…the first tenet for “web-scale” cloud that AWS — the “Kings of Cloud” Randy speaks about constantly –  is “PLAN FOR FAIL.”  So if the NIST document truly meets this seal of disapproval and is a FAIL, then I guess it’s a win ;p

Your opinion?

/Hoff

*N.B. I’m not suggesting that critiquing a document is somehow verboten or that NIST is somehow infallible or sacrosanct — far from it.  In fact, I’ve been quite critical and vocal in my feedback with regard to both this document and efforts like FedRAMP.  However, this is during the documents’ construction and with the intent to make it better within the context within which they were designed versus the rear view mirror.

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Hacking The Cloud – Popular Science!?

May 6th, 2011 No comments

OK, that’s not really a question, it’s a bit of a giddy, self-referential, fanboi-ish anouncement.

In the April 2011 “How It Works” issue of Popular Science, a magazine I’ve loved since I was a kid, Marie Pacella wrote a great story on security and cloud computing.

I was thrilled to be included in several sections and for once I’m not bashful about tooting my own horn — this is so cool to me personally!

The sections that went through editing got cut down quite bit, but originally the drafts included some heavier details on the mechanics and some more meaty sections on technical elements (and theoretical stuff,) but I think Marie and the editors did a great job.  The graphics were awesome, also.

At any rate, if you subscribe to the magazine or better yet have the iPad application (which is awesome,) you can check it out.

Don’t have an iPad or the magazine?  Read the story here

 

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On the CA/Ponemon Security of Cloud Computing Providers Study…

April 29th, 2011 4 comments
CA Technologies

Image via Wikipedia

CA recently sponsored the second in a series of Ponemon Institute cloud computing security surveys.

The first, released in May, 2010 was focused on responses from practitioners: “Security of Cloud Computing Users – A Study of Practitioners in the US & Europe

The latest titled “Security of Cloud Computing Providers Study (pdf),” released this week, examines “cloud computing providers’” perspectives on the same.  You can find the intro here.

While the study breaks down the  survey in detail in Appendix 1, I would kill to see the respondent list so I could use the responses from some of these “cloud providers” to quickly make assessments of my short list of those to not engage with.

I suppose it’s not hard to believe that security is not a primary concern, but given all the hype surrounding claims of “cloud is more secure than the enterprise,” it’s rather shocking to think that this sort of behavior is reflective of cloud providers.

Let’s see why.

This survey qualifies those surveyed as such:

We surveyed 103 cloud service providers in the US and 24 in six European countries for a total of 127 separate providers. Respondents from cloud provider organizations say SaaS (55 percent) is the most frequently offered cloud service, followed by IaaS (34 percent) and PaaS (11 percent). Sixty-five percent of cloud providers in this study deploy their IT resources in the public cloud environment, 18 percent deploy in the private cloud and 18 percent are hybrid.

…and offers these most “salient” findings:

  • The majority of cloud computing providers surveyed do not believe their organization views the security of their cloud services as a competitive advantage. Further, they do not consider cloud computing security as one of their most important responsibilities and do not believe their products or services substantially protect and secure the confidential or sensitive information of their customers.
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  • The majority of cloud providers believe it is their customer’s responsibility to secure the cloud and not their responsibility. They also say their systems and applications are not always  evaluated for security threats prior to deployment to customers.
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  • Buyer beware – on average providers of cloud computing technologies allocate 10 percent or less of their operational resources to security and most do not have confidence that  customers’ security requirements are being met.
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  • Cloud providers in our study say the primary reasons why customers purchase cloud  resources are lower cost and faster deployment of applications. In contrast, improved security  or compliance with regulations is viewed as an unlikely reason for choosing cloud services. The majority of cloud providers in our study admit they do not have dedicated security  personnel to oversee the security of cloud applications, infrastructure or platforms.
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  • Providers of private cloud resources appear to attach more importance and have a higher  level of confidence in their organization’s ability to meet security objectives than providers of  public and hybrid cloud solutions.
    _
  • While security as a “true” service from the cloud is rarely offered to customers today, about  one-third of the cloud providers in our study are considering such solutions as a new source  of revenue sometime in the next two years.

Ultimately, CA summarized the findings as such:

“The focus on reduced cost and faster deployment may be sufficient for cloud providers now, but as organizations reach the point where increasingly sensitive data and applications are all that remains to migrate to the cloud, they will quickly reach an impasse,” said Mike Denning, general manager, Security, CA Technologies. “If the risk of breach outweighs potential cost savings and agility, we may reach a point of “cloud stall” where cloud adoption slows or stops until organizations believe cloud security is as good as or better than enterprise security.”

I have so much I’d like to say with respect to these summary findings and the details within the reports, but much of it I already have.  I don’t think these findings are reflective of the larger cloud providers I interact with which is another reason I would love to see who these “cloud providers” were beyond the breakdown of their service offerings that were presented.”

In the meantime, I’d like to refer you to these posts I wrote for reflection on this very topic:

/Hoff

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Budget Icebergs, Fiscal Anchors and a Boat (Fed)RAMP to Nowhere?

April 4th, 2011 No comments
United States Capitol in daylight

Image via Wikipedia

It’s often said that in order to make money, you have to spend money; invest in order to succeed.

However, when faced with the realities of budget shortfalls and unsavory economic pressure, it seems the easiest thing to do is simply hunt around for top-line blips on the budget radar and kill them, regardless of the long term implications that ceasing investment in efficiency and transparency programs have in reducing bottom line pain.

To wit, Alex Howard reports “Congress weighs deep cuts to funding for federal open government data platforms“:

Data.gov, IT.USASpending.gov, and other five other websites that offer platforms for open government transparency are facing imminent closure. A comprehensive report filed by Jason Miller, executive editor of Federal News Radio, confirmed that the United States of Office of Management and Budget is planning to take open government websites offline over the next four months because of a 94% reduction in federal government funding in the Congressional budget…

Cutting these funds would also shut down the Fedspace federal social network and, notably, the FedRAMP cloud computing cybersecurity programs. Unsurprisingly, open government advocates in the Sunlight Foundation and the larger community have strongly opposed these cuts.

Did you catch the last paragraph?  They’re kidding, right?

After demonstrable empirical data that shows how Vivek Kundra and his team’s plans for streamlining government IT is already saving money (and will continue to do so,) this is what we get?  Slash and burn?  I attempted to search for the investment made thus far in FedRAMP using the IT Dashboard, but couldn’t execute an appropriate search.  Anyone know that answer?

Read more on the topic by Daniel Schuman “Budget Technopocalypse: Proposed Congressional Budgets Slash Funding for Data Transparency

Now, I’m not particularly fond of how the initial FedRAMP drafts turned out, but I’m optimistic that the program will evolve, will ultimately make a difference and lead to more assured, cost-efficient and low-friction adoption of Cloud Computing. We need FedRAMP to succeed and we need continued investment in it to do so.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the Cloud water.

We literally cannot afford for FedRAMP (or these other transparency programs) to be cut — these are the very programs that will lead to long term efficiency and fiscally-responsible programs across the U.S. Government.  They will ultimately make us more competitive.

Vote with your clicks.  Support the Sunlight Foundation.

/Hoff

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Video Of My CSA Presentation: “Commode Computing: Relevant Advances In Toiletry & I.T. – From Squat Pots to Cloud Bots – Waste Management Through Security Automation”

February 19th, 2011 13 comments

This is probably my most favorite presentation I have given.  It was really fun.  I got so much positive feedback on what amounts to a load of crap. ;)

This video is from the Cloud Security Alliance Summit at the 2011 RSA Security Conference in San Francisco.  I followed Mark Benioff from Salesforce and Vivek Kundra, CIO of the United States.

Here is a PDF of the slides if you are interested.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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My Warm-Up Acts at the RSA/Cloud Security Alliance Summit Are Interesting…

February 8th, 2011 2 comments
Red and Yellow, two of M&M's

Besides a panel or two and another circus-act talk with Rich Mogull, I’m thrilled to be invited to present again at the Cloud Security Alliance Summit at RSA this year.

One of my previous keynotes at a CSA event was well received: Cloudersize – A cardio, strength & conditioning program for a firmer, more toned *aaS

Normally when negotiating to perform at such a venue, I have my people send my diva list over to the conference organizers.  You know, the normal stuff: only red M&M’s, Tupac walkout music, fuzzy blue cashmere slippers and Hoffaccinos on tap in the green room.

This year, understanding we are all under pressure given the tough economic climate, I relaxed my requirements and instead took a deal for a couple of ace warm-up speakers to goose the crowd prior to my arrival.

Here’s who Jim managed to scrape up:

9:00AM – 9:40AM // Keynote: “Cloud 2: Proven, Trusted and Secure”
Speaker: Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce.com

9:40AM – 10:10AM // Keynote: Vivek Kundra, CIO, White House

10:10AM – 10:30AM // Presentation: “Commode Computing: Relevant Advances In Toiletry – From Squat Pots to Cloud Bots – Waste Management Through Security Automation”
Presenting: Christofer Hoff, Director, Cloud & Virtualization Solutions, Cisco Systems

I guess I can’t complain ;)

See you there. Bring rose petals and Evian as token gifts to my awesomeness, won’t you?

/Hoff

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I’ll Say It Again: Security Is NOT the Biggest Barrier To Cloud…

December 6th, 2010 3 comments
Cloud computing icon
Image via Wikipedia

Nope.

Security is not the biggest barrier to companies moving to applications, information and services delivered using cloud computing.

What is?

Compliance.

See Cloud: Security Doesn’t Matter (Or, In Cloud, Nobody Can Hear You Scream) and You Can’t Secure The Cloud…

That means what one gives up in terms of direct operational control, one must gain back in terms of visibility and transparency (sort of like www.cloudaudit.org)

Discuss.

/Hoff

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What’s The Problem With Cloud Security? There’s Too Much Of It…

October 17th, 2010 3 comments

Here’s the biggest challenge I see in Cloud deployment as the topic of security inevitably occurs in conversation:

There’s too much of it.

Huh?

More specifically, much like my points regarding networking in highly-virtualized multi-tenant environments — it’s everywhere – we’ve got the same problem with security.  Security is shot-gunned across the cloud landscape in a haphazard fashion…and the buck (pun intended) most definitely does not stop here.

The reality is that if you’re using IaaS, the lines of demarcation for the responsibility surrounding security may in one take seemed blurred but are in fact extremely well-delineated, and that’s the problem.  I’ve seen quite a few validated design documents outlining how to deploy “secure multi-tentant virtualized environments.”  One of them is 800 pages long.

Check out the diagram below.

I quickly mocked up an IaaS stack wherein you have the Cloud provider supplying, operating, managing and securing the underlying cloud hardware and software layers whilst the applications and information (contained within VM boundaries) are maintained by the consumer of these services.  The list of controls isn’t complete, but it gives you a rough idea of what gets focused on. Do you see some interesting overlaps?  How about gaps?

This is the issue; each one of those layers has security controls in it.  There is lots of duplication and there is lots of opportunity for things to be obscured or simply not accounted for at each layer.

Each of these layers and functional solutions is generally managed by different groups of people.  Each of them is generally managed by different methods and mechanisms.  In the case of IaaS, none of the controls at the hardware and software layers generally intercommunicate and given the abstraction provided as part of the service offering, all those security functions are made invisible to the things running in the VMs.

A practical issue is that the FW, VPN, IPS and LB functions at the hardware layer are completely separate from the FW, VPN, IPS and LB functions at the software layer which are in turn completely separate from the FW, VPN, IPS and LB functions which might be built into the VM’s (or virtual appliances) which sit stop them.

The security in the hardware is isolated from the security in the software which is isolated from the security in the workload.  You can, today, quite literally install the same capabilities up and down the stack without ever meeting in the middle.

That’s not only wasteful in terms of resources but incredibly prone to error in both construction, management and implementation (since at the core it’s all software, and software has defects.)

Keep in mind that at the provider level the majority of these security controls are focused on protecting the infrastructure, NOT the stuff atop it.  By design, these systems are blind to the workloads running atop them (which are often encrypted both at rest and in transit.)  In many cases this is why a provider may not be able to detect an “attack” beyond data such as flows/traffic.

To make things more interesting, in some cases the layer responsible for all that abstraction is now the most significant layer involved in securing the system as a whole and the fundamental security elements associated with the trust model we rely upon.

The hypervisor is an enormous liability; there’s no defense in depth when your primary security controls are provided by the (*ahem*) operating system provider.  How does one provide a compensating control when visibility/transparency [detective] are limited by design and there’s no easy way to provide preventative controls aside from the hooks the thing you’re trying to secure grants access to?

“Trust me” ain’t an appropriate answer.  We need better visibility and capabilities to robustly address this issue.  Unfortunately, there’s no standard for security ecosystem interoperability from a management, provisioning, orchestration or monitoring perspective even within a single stack layer.  There certainly isn’t across them.

In the case of Cloud providers who use commodity hardware with big, flat networks with little or no context for anything other than the flows/IP mappings running over them (thus the hardware layer is portrayed as truly commoditized,) how much better/worse do you think the overall security posture is of a consumer’s workload running atop this stack.  No, that’s not a rhetorical question.  I think the case could be argued either side of the line in the sand given the points I’ve made above.

This is the big suck.  Cloud security suffers from the exact same siloed security telemetry problems as legacy operational models…except now it does it at scale. This is why I’ve always made the case that one can’t “secure the Cloud” — at least not holistically — given this lego brick problem.   Everyone wants to make the claim that they’re technology is that which will be the first to solve this problem.  It ain’t going to happen. Not with the IaaS (or even PaaS) model, it won’t.

However, there is a big opportunity to move forward here.  How?  I’ll give you a hint.  It exists toward the left side of the diagram.

/Hoff

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Hoff’s 5 Rules Of Cloud Security…

August 21st, 2010 5 comments

Mike Dahn pinged me via Twitter with an interesting and challenging question:

I took this as a challenge in 5 minutes or less to articulate this in succinct, bulleted form.  I timed it. 4 minutes & 48 seconds. Loaded with snark and Hoffacino-fueled dogma.

Here goes:

  1. Get an Amazon Web Services [or Rackspace or Terremark vCloud Express, etc.] account, instantiate a couple of instances as though you were deploying a web-based application with sensitive information that requires resilience, security, survivability and monitoring. If you have never done this and you’re in security spouting off about the insecurities of Cloud, STFU and don’t proceed to step 2 until you do.  These offerings put much of the burden on you to understand what needs to be done to secure Cloud-based services (OS, Apps, Data) which is why I focus on it. It’s also accessible and available to everyone.
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  2. Take some time to be able to intelligently understand that as abstracted as much of Cloud is in terms of  the lack of exposed operational moving parts, you still need to grok architecture holistically in order to be able to secure it — and the things that matter most within it.  Building survivable systems, deploying securable (and as secure as you can make it) code, focusing on protecting information and ensuring you understand system design and The Three R’s (Resistance, Recognition, Recovery) is pretty darned important.  That means you have to understand how the Cloud provider actually works so when they don’t you’ll already have planned around that…
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  3. Employ a well-developed risk assessment/management framework and perform threat modeling. See OCTAVE, STRIDE/DREAD, FAIR.  Understanding whether an application or datum is OK to move to “the Cloud” isn’t nuanced. It’s a simple application of basic, straightforward and prudent risk management. If you’re not doing that now, Cloud is the least of your problems. As I’ve said in the past “if your security sucks now, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the lack of change when you move to Cloud.”
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  4. Proceed to the Cloud Security Alliance website and download the guidance. Read it. Join one or more of the working groups and participate to make Cloud Security better in any way you believe you have the capacity to do so.  If you just crow about how “more secure” the Cloud is or how “horribly insecure by definition” it is, it’s clear you’ve not done steps 1-3. Skip 1-3, go to #5 and then return to #1.
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  5. Use common sense.  There ain’t no patch for stupid.  Most of us inherently understand that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If you take steps 1-4 seriously you’re going to be able to logically have discussions and make decisions about what deployment models and providers suit your needs. Not everything will move to the Cloud (public, private or otherwise) but a lot of it can and should. Being able to layout a reasonable timeline is what moves the needle. Being an idealog on either side of the tarpit does nobody any good.  Arguing is for Twitter, doing is for people who matter.

Cloud is only rocket science if you’re NASA and using the Cloud for rocket science.  Else, for the rest of us, it’s an awesome platform upon which we leverage various opportunities to improve the way in which we think about and implement the practices and technology needed to secure the things that matter most to us.

/Hoff

(Yeah, I know. Not particularly novel or complex, right? Nope. That’s the point. Just like  ”How to Kick Ass in Information Security — Hoff’s Spritually-Enlightened Top Ten Guide to Health, Wealth and Happiness“)

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Video Of My Cloudifornication Presentation [Microsoft BlueHat v9]

August 16th, 2010 2 comments

In advance of publishing a more consolidated compilation of various recordings of my presentations, I thought I’d post this one.

This is from Microsoft’s BlueHat v9 and is from my “Cloudifornication: Indiscriminate Information Intercourse Involving Internet Infrastructure” presentation.

The direct link is here in case you have scripting disabled.

The follow-on to this is my latest presentation – “Cloudinomicon: Idempotent Infrastructure, Building Survivable Systems, and Bringing Sexy Back To Information Centricity.

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