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Posts Tagged ‘Cloud Security’

Is What We Need…An OpSec K/T Boundary Extinction-Level Event?

June 21st, 2012 1 comment

Tens of millions of Aons (a new quantification of time based on Amazon Web Services AMI spin-ups) from now, archeologists and technosophers will look back on the inevitable emergence of Cloud in the decade following the double-oughts and muse about the mysterious disappearance of the security operations species…

Or not.

The “Cloud Security, Meh!” crowd are an interesting bunch. They don’t seem to like change much.  To be fair, they’re not incentivized to.  However, while difficult, change is good…it just takes a lot to understand that some times.

It occurs to me that if we expect behavior to change in the way in which we approach “security,” it must start with a reset of expectations surrounding how we evaluate outcomes, how we’re measured, and most importantly the actual security leadership itself must change.

Most seasoned CxOs these days that have been in the business for 15+ years are in their late 30’s/early 40’s.  Most of “us” — from official scientifical research I have curated [at the bar] — came from System Administrator/Network Administrator roles back in the 80’s/90’s.

Now, what’s intriguing is that back then, “security” was just one functional component and responsibility of many duties slapped on the back of overworked and underfunded “router jockeys” or “unix neckbearders.”  Back in the day we did it all — we managed the network, massaged the Solaris/NT boxes, helped deploy and manage the apps and were responsible for “securing” it all as we connected stuff to the Internet.

You know, like, um, DevOps.

So today in larger organizations (notsomuch in smaller orgs/startups,) we have a raging rejection of this generalized approach to service delivery/IT by the VERY SAME individuals who arose phoenix-like from the crater left when the Internet exploded and the rampant adoption of technology and siloed operational models became “best practice.” Compliance didn’t help.  Then they got promoted.

In many cases then, the bristled reaction by security folks to things like virtualization, Cloud, Agile, DevOps, etc. is highly generational.  The up-and-coming rank-in-file digital natives who are starting to break into the industry will know these things as “normal,” much like a preschooler uses gestures on an iPad…it just…is.

However, their leadership — “us” — the 40+ year olds that are large and in charge are busy barking that youngsters should get off our IT lawn.  This is very much a generational issue.

So I think what that means is that ultimately we’re waiting for our own version of the K/T boundary extinction-level “opportunity,”  the horizon event at the boundary of the Cretacious/Tertiary periods 65 million years ago where almost all of the Earth’s large vertebrates — all dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, and pterosaurs — suddenly became extinct.  Boom.  Gone.  Damned meteorites.

Now, unless the next great piece of malware can target, infect and destroy humans as we Bing/Google/click our way into stupidity (coming next week from Iran?) ala Stuxnet/Flame, we’re not going to see these stodgy C(I)SOs vanish instantly, but over the next two decades, we’ll see a new generation arise who think, act and believe differently than we do today…I just hope it doesn’t take that long.

This change…it’s natural. It’s evolution, and patterns like these repeat (see the theory of punctuated equilibrium) even in the face of revolution.  It’s messy.

More often than not, it’s not the technology that’s the problem with “security” when we hit one of these inflection points in computing. No, it’s the organizational, operational, cultural, fiscal, and (dare I say) religious issues that hold us back.  Innovation breeds more innovation unless it’s shackled by people who can’t think outside of the box.

That right there is what defines a dino/plesio/mosa/ptero-saur.

Come to think of it, maybe we do need an OpSec extinction-level event to move us forward instead of waiting 20 years for the AARP forced slide to Florida.

Or, in the words of Gunny Highway from Heartbreak Ridge, we must “Improvise, adapt and overcome.”

If that’s not a DevOps Darwinian double-entendre, I don’t know what is ;)

Don’t be a dinosaur.

/Hoff

 

 

Quick Blip: Hoff In The Cube at VMworld 2011 – On VMware Security

September 1st, 2011 No comments

John Furrier and Dave Vellante from SiliconAngle were kind enough to have my on the Cube, live from VMworld 2011 on the topic of virtualization/cloud security, specifically VMware…:


Watch live video from SiliconANGLE.com on Justin.tv

Thanks for having me, guys.

/Hoff

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Incomplete Thought: Why Security Doesn’t Scale…Yet.

January 11th, 2011 1 comment
X-ray machines and metal detectors are used to...
Image via Wikipedia

There are lots of reasons one might use to illustrate why operationalizing security — both from the human and technology perspectives — doesn’t scale.

I’ve painted numerous pictures highlighting the cyclical nature of technology transitions, the supply/demand curve related to threats, vulnerabilities, technology and compensating controls and even relevant anecdotes involving the intersection of Moore’s and Metcalfe’s laws.  This really was a central theme in my Cloudinomicon presentation; “idempotent infrastructure, building survivable systems and bringing sexy back to information centricity.”

Here are some other examples of things I’ve written about in this realm.

Batting around how public “commodity” cloud solutions forces us to re-evaluate how, where, why and who “does” security was an interesting journey.  Ultimately, it comes down to architecture and poking at the sanctity of models hinged on an operational premise that may or may not be as relevant as it used to be.

However, I think the most poignant and yet potentially obvious answer to the “why doesn’t security scale?” question is the fact that security products, by design, don’t scale because they have not been created to allow for automation across almost every aspect of their architecture.

Automation and the interfaces (read: APIs) by which security products ought to be provisioned, orchestrated, and deployed are simply lacking in most security products.

Yes, there exist security products that are distributed but they are still managed, provisioned and deployed manually — generally using a management hub-spoke model that doesn’t lend itself to automated “anything” that does not otherwise rely upon bubble-gum and bailing wire scripting…

Sure, we’ve had things like SNMP as a “standard interface” for “management” for a long while ;)  We’ve had common ways of describing threats and vulnerabilities.  Recently we’ve seen the emergence of XML-based APIs emerge as a function of the latest generation of (mostly virtualized) firewall technologies, but most products still rely upon stand-alone GUIs, CLIs, element managers and a meat cloud of operators to push the go button (or reconfigure.)

Really annoying.

Alongside the lack of standard API-based management planes, control planes are largely proprietary and the output for correlated event-driven telemetry at all layers of the stack is equally lacking.  Of course the applications and security layers that run atop infrastructure are still largely discrete thus making the problem more difficult.

The good news is that virtualization in the enterprise and the emergence of the cultural and operational models predicated upon automation are starting to influence product roadmaps in ways that will positively affect the problem space described above but we’ve got a long haul as we make this transition.

Security vendors are starting to realize that they must retool many of their technology roadmaps to deal with the impact of dynamism and automation.  Some, not all, are discovering painfully the fact that simply creating a virtualized version of a physical appliance doesn’t make it a virtual security solution (or cloud security solution) in the same way that moving an application directly to cloud doesn’t necessarily make it a “cloud application.”

In the same way that one must often re-write or specifically design applications “designed” for cloud, we have to do the same for security.  Arguably there are things that can and should be preserved; the examples of the basic underpinnings such as firewalls that at their core don’t need to change but their “packaging” does.

I’m privy to lots of the underlying mechanics of these activities — from open source to highly-proprietary — and I’m heartened by the fact that we’re beginning to make progress.  We shouldn’t have to make a distinction between crafting and deploying security policies in physical or virtual environments.  We shouldn’t be held hostage by the separation of application logic from the underlying platforms.

In the long term, I’m optimistic we won’t have to.

/Hoff

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From the Concrete To The Hypervisor: Compliance and IaaS/PaaS Cloud – A Shared Responsibility

December 6th, 2010 No comments

* Update:  A few hours after writing this last night, AWS announced they had achieved Level 1 PCI DSS Compliance.* If you pay attention to how the announcement is worded, you’ll find a reasonable treatment of what PCI compliance means to an IaaS cloud provider – it’s actually the first time I’ve seen this honestly described:

Merchants and other service providers can now run their applications on AWS PCI-compliant technology infrastructure to store, process and transmit credit card information in the cloud. Customers can use AWS cloud infrastructure, which has been validated at the highest level (Level 1) of PCI compliance, to build their cardholder environment and achieve PCI certification for their applications.

Note how they phrased this, then read my original post below.

However, pay no attention to the fact that they chose to make this announcement on Pearl Harbor Day ;)

Here’s the thing…

A cloud provider can achieve compliance (such as PCI — yes v2.0 even) such that the in-scope elements of that provider which are audited and assessed can ultimately contribute to the compliance of a customer operating atop that environment.  We’ve seen a number of providers assert compliance across many fronts, but they marketed their way into a yellow card by over-reaching…

It should be clear already, but for a service to be considered compliant, it clearly means that the customer’s in-scope elements running atop a cloud provider must also undergo and achieve compliance.

That means compliance is elementally additive the same way “security” is when someone else has direct operational control over elements in the stack you don’t.

In the case of an IaaS cloud provider who may achieve compliance from the “concrete to the hypervisor,” (let’s use PCI again,) the customer in turn must have the contents of the virtual machine (OS, Applications, operations, controls, etc.) independently assessed and meet PCI compliance in order that the entire stack of in-scope elements can be described as compliant.

Thus security — and more specifically compliance — in IaaS (and PaaS) is a shared responsibility.

I’ve spent many a blog battling marketing dragons from cloud providers that assert or imply that by only using said provider’s network which has undergone and passed one or more audits against a compliance framework, that any of its customers magically inherit certification by default. I trust this is recognized as completely false.

As compliance frameworks catch up to the unique use-cases that multi-tenancy and technologies such as virtualization bring, we’ll see more “compliant cloud” offerings spring up, easing customer pain related to the underlying moving parts.  This is, for example, what FedRAMP is aiming to provide with “pre-approved” cloud offerings.  We’ve got visibility and transparency issues to solve , as well as temporal issues such as the frequency and period of compliance audits, but there’s progress.

We’re going to see more and more of this as infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service vendors look to mutually accelerate compliance to achieve that which software-as-a-service can more organically deliver as a function of stack control.

/Hoff

* Note: It’s still a little unclear to me how some of the PCI requirements are met in an environment like an IaaS Cloud provider where “applications” that we typically think of that traffic in PCI in-scope data don’t exist (but the infrastructure does,) but I would assume that AWS leverages other certifications such as SAS and ISO as a cumulative to petition the QSA for consideration during certification.  I’ll ask this question of AWS and see what I get back.

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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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VMware’s (New) vShield: The (Almost) Bottom Line

September 1st, 2010 2 comments

After my initial post yesterday (How To Wield the New vShield (Edge, App & Endpoint) remarking on the general sessions I sat through on vShield, I thought I’d add some additional color given my hands-on experience in the labs today.

I will reserve more extensive technical analysis of vShield Edge and App (I didn’t get to play with endpoint as there is not a lab for that) once I spend some additional quality-time with the products as they emerge.

Because people always desire for me to pop out of the cake quickly, here you go:

You should walk away from this post understanding that I think the approach holds promise within the scope of what VMware is trying to deliver. I think it can and will offer customers choice and flexibility in their security architecture and I think it addresses some serious segmentation, security and compliance gaps. It is a dramatically impactful set of solutions that is disruptive to the security and networking ecosystem. It should drive some interesting change. The proof, as they say, will be in the vPudding.

Let me first say that from VMware’s perspective I think vShield “2.0” (which logically represents many technologies and adjusted roadmaps both old and new) is clearly an important and integral part of both vSphere and vCloud Director’s future implementation strategies. It’s clear that VMware took a good, hard look at their security solution strategy and made some important and strategically-differentiated investments in this regard.

All things told, I think it’s a very good strategy for them and ultimately their customers. However, there will be some very interesting side-effects from these new features.

vShield Edge is as disruptive to the networking space (it provides L3+ networking, VPN, DHCP and NAT capabilities at the vDC edge) as it is to the security arena. When coupled with vShield App (and ultimately endpoint) you can expect VMware’s aggressive activity in retooling their offers here to cause further hastened organic development, investment, and consolidation via M&A in the security space as other vendors seek to play and complement the reabsorption of critical security capabilities back into the platform itself.

Now all of the goodness that this renewed security strategy brings also has some warts. I’ll get into some of them as I gain more hands-on experience and get some questions answered, but here’s the Cliff Note version with THREE really important points:

  1. The vShield suite is the more refined/retooled/repaired approach toward what VMware promised in delivery three years ago when I wrote about it in 2007 (Opening VMM/HyperVisors to Third Parties via API’s – Goodness or the Apocalypse?) and later in 2008 (VMware’s VMsafe: The Good, the Bad, and the Bubbly…“) and from 2009, lest we forget The Cart Before the Virtual Horse: VMware’s vShield/Zones vs. VMsafe API’s
    _
    Specifically, as the virtualization platform has matured, so has the Company’s realization that security is something they are going to have to take seriously and productize themselves as depending upon an ecosystem wasn’t working — mostly because doing so meant that the ecosystem had to uproot entire product roadmaps to deliver solutions and it was a game of “supply vs. demand chicken.”
    _
    However, much of this new capability isn’t fully baked yet, especially from the perspective of integration and usability and even feature set capabilities such as IPv6 support. Endpoint is basically the more streamlined application of APIs and libraries for anti-malware offloading so as to relieve a third party ISV from having to write fastpath drivers that sit in the kernel/VMM and disrupt their roadmaps. vShield App is the Zones solution polished to provide inter-VM firewalling capabilities.
    _
    Edge is really the new piece here and represents a new function to represent vDC perimeterized security capabilities.Many of these features are billed — quite openly — as relieving a customer from needing to use/deploy physical networking or security products. In fact, in some cases even virtual networking products such as the Cisco Nexus 1000v are not usable/supportable. This is and example of a reasonably closed, software-driven world of Cloud where the underlying infrastructure below the hypervisor doesn’t matter…until it does.
    _
  2. vShield Edge and App are, in the way they are currently configured and managed, very complex and unwieldy and the performance, resiliency and scale described in some of the sessions is yet unproven and in some cases represents serious architectural deficiencies at first blush. There are some nasty single points of failure in the engineering (as described) and it’s unclear how many reference architectures for large enterprise and service provider scale Cloud use have really been thought through given some of these issues.
    _
    As an example, only being able to instantiate a single (but required) vShield App virtual appliance per ESX host brings into focus serious scale, security architecture and resilience issues. Being able to deploy numerous Edge appliances brings into focus manageability and policy sprawl concerns.There are so many knobs and levers leveraged across the stack that it’s going to be very difficult in large environments to reconcile policy spread over the three (I only interacted with two) components and that says nothing about then integrating/interoperating with third party vSwitches, physical switches, virtual and physical security appliances. If you think it was challenging before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
    _
  3. The current deployment methodology reignites the battle that started to rage when security teams lost visibility into the security and networking layers and the virtual administrators controlled the infrastructure from the pNIC up. This takes the gap-filler virtual security solutions from small third parties such as Altor which played nicely with vCenter but allowed the security teams to manage policy and blows that model up. Now, security enforcement is a commodity feature delivered via the virtualization platform but requires too complex a set of knowledge and expertise of the underlying virtualization platform to be rendered effective by role-driven security teams.

While I’ll cover items #1 and #2 in a follow-on post, here’s what VMware can do in the short term to remedy what I think is a huges issue going forward with item #3, usability and management.

Specifically, in the same way vCloud Director sits above vCenter and abstracts away much of the “unnecessary internals” to present a simplified service catalog of resources/services to a consumer, VMware needs to provide a dedicated security administrator’s “portal” or management plane which unites the creation, management and deployment of policy from a SECURITY perspective of the various disparate functions offered by vShield App, Edge and Endpoint. [ED: This looks as though this might be what vShield Manager will address. There were no labs covering this and no session I saw gave any details on this offering (UI or API)]

If you expect a security administrator to have the in-depth knowledge of how to administer the entire (complex) virtualization platform in order to manage security, this model will break and cause tremendous friction. A security administrator shouldn’t have access to vCenter directly or even the vCloud Director interfaces.

Since much of the capability for automation and configuration is made available via API, the notion of building a purposed security interface to do so shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Some people might say that VMware should focus on building API capabilities and allow the ecosystem to fill the void with solutions that take advantage of the interfaces. The problem is that this strategy has not produced solutions that have enjoyed traction today and it’s quite clear that VMware is interested in controlling their own destiny in terms of Edge and App while allowing the rest of the world to play with Endpoint.

I’m sure I’m missing things and that given the exposure I’ve had (without any in-depth briefings) there may be material issues associated with where the products are given their early status, but I think it important to get these thoughts out of my head so I can chart their accuracy and it gives me a good reference point to direct the product managers to when they want to scalp me for heresy.

There’s an enormous amount of detail that I want to/can get into. The last time I did that it ended up in a 150 slide presentation I delivered at Black Hat…

Allow me to reiterate what I said in the beginning:

You should walk away from this post understanding that I think the approach holds promised within the scope of what VMware is trying to deliver. I think it can and will offer customers choice and flexibility in their security architecture and I think it addresses some serious segmentation, security and compliance gaps. It is a dramatically impactful set of solutions that is disruptive to the security and networking ecosystem. It should drive some interesting change. The proof, as they say, will be in the vPudding.

…and we all love vPudding.

/Hoff

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How To Wield the New vShield (Edge, App & Endpoint)

August 30th, 2010 4 comments
Image representing VMware as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Today at VMworld I spent my day in and out of sessions focused on the security of virtualized and cloud environments.

Many of these security sessions hinged on the release of VMware‘s new and improved suite of vShield product offerings which can be simply summarized by a deceptively simple set of descriptions:

  • vShield Edge – Think perimeter firewalling for the virtual datacenter (L3 and above)
  • vShield App – Think internal segmentation and zoning (L2)
  • vShield Endpoint – Anti-malware service offload

The promised capabilities of these solutions offer quite a well-rounded set of capabilities from a network and security perspective but there are many interesting things to consider as one looks at the melding of the VMsafe API, vShield Zones and the nepotistic relationship enjoyed between the vCloud (nee’ VMware vCloud Director) and vSphere platforms.

There are a series of capabilities emerging which seek to solve many of the constraints associated with multi-tenancy and scale challenges of heavily virtualized enterprise and service provider virtual data center environments.  However, many of the issues associated with those I raised in the Four Horsemen of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse still stand (performance, resilience/scale, management and cost) — especially since many of these features are delivered in the form of a virtual appliance.

Many of the issues I raise above (and asked again today in session) don’t have satisfactory answers which just shows you how immature we still are in our solution portfolios.

I’ll be diving deeper into each of the components as the week proceeds (and more details around vCloud Director are made available,) but one thing is certain — there’s a very interesting amplification of the existing tug-of-war  between the security capabilities/functionality provided by the virtualization/cloud platform providers and the network/security ecosystem trying to find relevance and alignment with them.

There is going to be a wringing out of the last few smaller virtualization/Cloud security players who have not yet been consolidated via M&A or attrition (Altor Networks, Catbird, HyTrust, Reflex, etc) as the three technologies above either further highlight an identified gap or demonstrate irrelevance in the face of capabilities “built-in” (even if you have to pay for them) by VMware themselves.

Further, the uneasy tension between  the classical physical networking vendors and the virtualization/cloud platform providers is going to come to a boil, especially as it comes to configuration management, compliance, and reporting as the differentiators between simple integration at the API level of control and data plane capabilities and things like virtual firewalling (and AV, and overlay VPNs and policy zoning) begins to commoditize.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not where the network *is* in a virtualized environment, it’s where it *isn’t* — the definition of where the network starts and stops is getting more and more abstracted.   This in turn drives the same conversation as it relates to security.  How we’re going to define, provision, orchestrate, and govern these virtual data centers concerns me greatly as there are so many touchpoints.

Hopefully this starts to get a little more clear as more and more of the infrastructure (virtual and physical) become manageable via API such that ultimately you won’t care WHAT tool is used to manage networking/security or even HOW other than the fact that policy can be defined consistently and implemented/instantiated via API across all levels transparently, regardless of what’s powering the moving parts.

This goes back to the discussions (video) I had with Simon Crosby on who should own security in virtualized environments and why (blog).

Now all this near term confusion and mess isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s going to force further investment, innovation and focus on problem solving that’s simply been stalled in the absence of both technology readiness, customer appetite and compliance alignment.

More later this week. [Ed: You can find the follow-on to this post here “VMware’s (New) vShield: The (Almost) Bottom Line]

/Hoff

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Dear Verizon Business: I Have Some Questions About Your PCI-Compliant Cloud…

August 24th, 2010 5 comments

You’ll forgive my impertinence, but the last time I saw a similar claim of a PCI compliant Cloud offering, it turned out rather anti-climatically for RackSpace/Mosso, so I just want to make sure I understand what is really being said.  I may be mixing things up in asking my questions, so hopefully someone can shed some light.

This press release announces that:

“…Verizon’s On-Demand Cloud Computing Solution First to Achieve PCI Compliance” and the company’s cloud computing solution called Computing as a Service (CaaS) which is “…delivered from Verizon cloud centers in the U.S. and Europe, is the first cloud-based solution to successfully complete the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) audit for storing, processing and transmitting credit card information.”

It’s unclear to me (at least) what’s considered in scope and what level/type of PCI certification we’re talking about here since it doesn’t appear that the underlying offering itself is merchant or transactional in nature, but rather Verizon is operating as a service provider that stores, processes, and transmits cardholder data on behalf of another entity.

Here’s what the article says about what Verizon undertook for DSS validation:

To become PCI DSS-validated, Verizon CaaS underwent a comprehensive third-party examination of its policies, procedures and technical systems, as well as an on-site assessment and systemwide vulnerability scan.

I’m interested in the underlying mechanicals of the CaaS offering.  Specifically, it would appear that the platform – compute, network, and storage — are virtualized.  What is unclear is if the [physical] resources allocated to a customer are dedicated or shared (multi-tenant,) regardless of virtualization.

According to this article in The Register (dated 2009,) the infrastructure is composed like this:

The CaaS offering from Verizon takes x64 server from Hewlett-Packard and slaps VMware’s ESX Server hypervisor and Red Hat Enterprise Linux instances atop it, allowing customers to set up and manage virtualized RHEL partitions and their applications. Based on the customer portal screen shots, the CaaS service also supports Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 operating system.

Some details emerge from the Verizon website that describes the environment more:

Every virtual farm comes securely bundled with a virtual load balancer, a virtual firewall, and defined network space. Once the farm is designed, built, and named – all in a matter of minutes through the CaaS Customer Management Portal – you can then choose whether you want to manage the servers in-house or have us manage them for you.

If the customer chooses to manage the “servers…in-house (sic)” is the customer’s network, staff and practices now in-scope as part of Verizon’s CaaS validation? Where does the line start/stop?

I’m very interested in the virtual load balancer (Zeus ZXTM perhaps?) and the virtual firewall (vShield? Altor? Reflex? VMsafe-API enabled Virtual Appliance?)  What about other controls (preventitive or detective such as IDS, IPS, AV, etc.)

The reason for my interest is how, if these resources are indeed shared, they are partitioned/configured and kept isolated especially in light of the fact that:

Customers have the flexibility to connect to their CaaS environment through our global IP backbone or by leveraging the Verizon Private IP network (our Layer 3 MPLS VPN) for secure communication with mission critical and back office systems.

It’s clear that Verizon has no dominion over what’s contained in the VM’s atop the hypervisor, but what about the network to which these virtualized compute resources are connected?

So for me, all this all comes down to scope. I’m trying to figure out what is actually included in this certification, what components in the stack were audited and how.  It’s not clear I’m going to get answers, but I thought I’d ask any way.

Oh, by the way, transparency and auditability would be swell for an environment such as this. How about CloudAudit? We even have a PCI DSS CompliancePack ;)

Question for my QSA peeps: Are service providers required to also adhere to sections like 6.6 (WAF/Binary analysis) of their offerings even if they are not acting as a merchant?

/Hoff

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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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The Security Hamster Sine Wave Of Pain: Public Cloud & The Return To Host-Based Protection…

July 7th, 2010 7 comments
Snort Intrusion Detection System Logo
Image via Wikipedia

This is a revisitation of a blog I wrote last year: Incomplete Thought: Cloud Security IS Host-Based…At The Moment

I use my ‘Security Hamster Sine Wave of Pain” to illustrate the cyclical nature of security investment and deployment models over time and how disruptive innovation and technology impacts the flip-flop across the horizon of choice.

To wit: most mass-market Public Cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services rely on highly-abstracted and limited exposure of networking capabilities.  This means that most traditional network-based security solutions are impractical or non-deployable in these environments.

Network-based virtual appliances which expect generally to be deployed in-line with the assets they protect are at a disadvantage given their topological dependency.

So what we see are security solution providers simply re-marketing their network-based solutions as host-based solutions instead…or confusing things with Barney announcements.

Take a press release today from SourceFire:

Snort and Sourcefire Vulnerability Research Team(TM) (VRT) rules are now available through the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) in the form of an Amazon Machine Image (AMI), enabling customers to proactively monitor network activity for malicious behavior and provide automated responses.

Leveraging Snort installed on the AMI, customers of Amazon Web Services can further secure their most critical cloud-based applications with Sourcefire’s leading protection. Snort and Sourcefire(R) VRT rules are also listed in the Amazon Web Services Solution Partner Directory, so that users can easily ensure that their AMI includes the latest updates.

As far as I can tell, this means you can install a ‘virtual appliance’ of Snort/Sourcefire as a standalone AMI, but there’s no real description on how one might actually implement it in an environment that isn’t topologically-friendly to this sort of network-based implementation constraint.*

Since you can’t easily “steer traffic” through an IPS in the model of AWS, can’t leverage promiscuous mode or taps, what does this packaging implementation actually mean?  Also, if  one has a few hundred AMI’s which contain applications spread out across multiple availability zones/regions, how does a solution like this scale (from both a performance or management perspective?)

I’ve spoken/written about this many times:

Where Are the Network Virtual Appliances? Hobbled By the Virtual Network, That’s Where… and

Dear Public Cloud Providers: Please Make Your Networking Capabilities Suck Less. Kthxbye

Ultimately, expect that Public Cloud will force the return to host-based HIDS/HIPS deployments — the return to agent-based security models.  This poses just as many operational challenges as those I allude to above.  We *must* have better ways of tying together network and host-based security solutions in these Public Cloud environments that make sense from an operational, cost, and security perspective.

/Hoff

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* I “spoke” with Marty Roesch on the Twitter and he filled in the gaps associated with how this version of Snort works – there’s a host-based packet capture element with a “network” redirect to a stand-alone AMI:

@Beaker AWS->Snort implementation is IDS-only at the moment, uses software packet tap off customer app instance, not topology-dependent

and…

they install our soft-tap on their AMI and send the traffic to our AMI for inspection/detection/reporting.

It will be interesting to see how performance nets out using this redirect model.

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