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May 27th, 2009 6 comments

At the RSA conference I left the Cloud Security Alliance launch early in order to attend the Jericho Forum’s session on Cloud Computing.  It seems we haven’t solved the teleportation issue yet.  Maybe in the next draft…

We had a great session at the Jericho event with myself, Rich Mogull and Gunnar Peterson discussing Jericho’s COA and Cloud Cube work.  The conclusion of the discussion was that ultimately that Jericho and the CSA should join forces.



London and San Francisco, 21 May 2009 – Jericho Forum, the high level independent security expert group, and the Cloud Security Alliance, a not-for-profit group of information security and cloud computing security leaders, announced today that they are working together to promote best practices for secure collaboration in the cloud.  Both groups have a single goal: to help business understand the opportunity posed by cloud computing and encourage common and secure cloud practices.     Within the framework of the new partnership, both groups will continue to provide practical guidance on how to operate securely in the cloud while actively aiming to align the outcomes of their work.  

“This is good news for the industry” said Adrian Seccombe, CISO and Senior Enterprise Information Architect at Eli Lilly and Jericho Forum board member.  “The Cloud represents a compelling opportunity to achieve more with less but at the same time presents considerable security challenges.  For business to get the most out of it, this new development must be addressed responsibly and with eyes fully open.  Working together we believe that the Cloud Security Alliance and Jericho Forum can bring clear leadership in this important area and dispel some of the hype and confusion stirred up in the cloud.”

"The Cloud represents a fundamental shift in computing with limitless potential.  Solving the new set of risk issues it introduces is a shared responsibility of cloud provider and customer alike," said Jim Reavis, Co-founder of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).  "The Jericho Forum has shown early leadership in articulating and addressing the de-perimeterisation concept.  We are proud to join forces with them to provide pragmatic guidance for safely leveraging the cloud today as well as a clear vision for a future of pervasive and secure cloud computing."

Jericho Forum has lead the way for the last five years in the way de-perimeterisation is tackled and more recently in developing secure collaborative architectures. Last year the group published a Collaboration Oriented Architectures framework presenting a set of design principles allowing businesses to protect themselves against the security challenges posed by increased collaboration and the business potential offered by Web 2.0.  The Cloud Security Alliance has engaged, noted and well-recognised experts within crucial areas such as governance, law, network security, audit, application security, storage, cryptography, virtualization and risk management to provide authoritative guidance on how to adopt cloud computing solutions securely. 

Both groups recently published initial guidelines for cloud computing.   The Jericho Forum published a Cloud Cube Model designed to be an essential first tool to help business evaluate the risk and opportunity associated with moving in to the cloud.  A video presentation of this is available on YouTube (see( and an accompanying Cloud Cube Model positioning paper is downloadable from the Jericho Forum Web site (   At RSA in San Francisco, Cloud Security Alliance announced its formation and published an inaugural whitepaper, “Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing”,  downloadable from 

About Jericho Forum

Jericho Forum is an international IT security thought-leadership group dedicated to defining ways to deliver effective IT security solutions that will match the increasing business demands for secure IT operations in our open, Internet-driven, globally networked world.  Members include many leading organisations from both the user and vendor community including IBM, Symantec, Boeing, AstraZeneca, Qualys, BP, Eli Lilly, KLM, Cap Gemini, Motorola and Hewlett Packard.  

Together there aim is to:

·         Drive and influence development of new architectures, inter-workable technology solutions, and implementation approaches for securing our de-perimeterizing world

·         Support development of open standards that will underpin these technology solutions.

A full list of member organisations can be seen at

About Cloud Security Alliance

The Cloud Security Alliance is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within Cloud Computing, and to provide education on the uses of Cloud Computing to help secure all other forms of computing. The Cloud Security Alliance is led by industry practitioners and supported by founding charter companies PGP Corporation, Qualys, Inc. and Zscaler, Inc. For further information, the Cloud Security Alliance website is

It’s great to see things moving along.  Previously we also announced that the CSA and ISACA have joined forces to promote security best practices in Cloud Computing.

In case you’ve not seen it, we’re looking for volunteers to work on specific areas of the v2.0 guidance targeted for October, 2009.  You can also contribute your thoughts on the existing guidance via our CSA Google Group.

Jericho Forum’s Cloud Cube Model…Rubik, Rubric and Righteous!

April 16th, 2009 No comments

I’m looking forward to the RSA conference this year; I am going to get to discuss Virtualization and Cloud Computing security a lot.

One of the events I’m really looking forward to is a panel discussion at the Jericho Forum’s event (Wednesday the 22nd, starting at 3pm) with some really good friends of mine and members of the Forum.

We’re going to be discussing Jericho’s Cloud Cube Model:

jericho-cloudcubeI think that the Cloud Cube does a nice job describing the multi-dimensional elements of Cloud Computing and frames not only Cloud use cases, but also how they are deployed and utilized.

Here’s why I am excited; if you look at the Cube above and the table I built below in this blog (The Vagaries Of Cloudcabulary: Why Public, Private, Internal & External Definitions Don’t Work…) to get deeper into Cloud definitions, despite the differences in names, you will notice some remarkable similarities, especially the notion of how “internal/external” is called out separately from “perimertized/de-perimeterized.” This is akin to my table labeling of “Infrastructure located” and “managed by” column headings.  Further the “outsourced/insourced” maps to my “managed by:” column.  I like the “proprietary/open” dimension, also, which I didn’t include in my table, but I did reference in my Frogs presentation. I think I’ll extend the table to show that, also.


I am very much looking forward to discussing this on the panel.  I’ve been preaching about the Jericho Forum since my religious conversion many years ago.

As I said in my Frogs preso, Cloud Computing is the evolution of the “re-perimeterization” model on steroids.


Mission Accomplished: Dialog and Exploration of Jericho Forum Happening

September 21st, 2007 5 comments

Just to be clear, I don’t set out to "win" everything I post about.  It may come off that way, but I write from a stream of consciousness; my blog is usually my own little jot pad for working through thought patterns that could often times could use a little pinging from others on the subject.

My blog has seen the evolution of some of my thinking; it’s produced profound realizations and even reversals in my own opinions and thoughts.  I think that’s cool.

In the case of the last series of posts which started here regarding the Jericho Forum, however, I wanted to start a dialog.  I knew it was going to be a slog, because people always get riled up on the subject of the Jericho Forum’s vision.

I wanted to take this contentious subject and drag it into the light some more, especially here in the U.S. where the concepts are met with a litany of protest — usually due not to the content, but rather the context around which they are framed and by whom.

At any rate, I banged out my posts over the last couple of days and regardless of the fact that almost nobody can see the forest for the trees, here’s what we ended up with; I’d suggest reading the last two as the others are rather like a blog version of demolition derby that don’t actually rationalize much on the subject at all:

Mogull – Jericho Needs Assistance Restating the Obvious
Stiennon – De-perimeterization is Dead
Newby – The Horns of Jericho
Hutton – Jericho In Pictures
LonerVamp – Jericho 1-4: de-perimeterization and the jericho forum commandments

…and only because I love, I’m going to highlight the last line of what otherwise would be a very interesting exploration of LV’s Jericho ponderings:

So what we have so far is very heart-warming, feel-good idealistic
goals for a global infrastructure (extrastructure?) utilizing perfect
or near perfect protocols and devices that can withstand anything.
Sorry, but what the fuck…?

Wow.  I have no response to that.  On second thought, I do, but I’m not sure I can say it again without screaming.  See here for a clue.

If there’s anyone else I missed, send me a ping so I can add you.


Categories: Jericho Forum Tags:

The British Are Coming! In Defense (Again) of the Jericho Forum…

September 17th, 2007 10 comments

NutsjerichoThe English are coming…and you need to give them a break.  I have.

Back in 2006, after numerous frustrating discussions dating back almost three years without a convincing conclusion, I was quoted in an SC Magazine article titled "World Without Frontiers" which debated quite harshly the Jericho Forum’s evangelism of a security mindset and architecture dubbed as "de-perimeterization."

Here’s part of what I said:

Some people dismiss Jericho as trying to re-invent the wheel. "While
the group does an admirable job raising awareness, there is nothing
particularly new either in what it suggests or even how it suggests we
get there," says Chris Hoff, chief security strategist at Crossbeam

"There is a need for some additional technology and
process re-tooling, some of which is here already – in fact, we now
have an incredibly robust palette of resources to use. But why do we
need such a long word for something we already know? You can dress
something up as pretty as you like, but in my world that’s not called
‘deperimeterisation’, it’s called a common sense application of
rational risk management aligned to the needs of the business."   

insists the Forum’s vision is outmoded. "Its definition speaks to what
amounts to a very technically focused set of IT security practices,
rather than data survivability. What we should come to terms with is
that confidentiality, integrity and availability will be compromised.
It’s not a case of if, it’s a case of when.

The focus should
be less on IT security and more on information survivability; a
pervasive enterprise-wide risk management strategy and not a
narrowly-focused excuse for more complex end-point products," he says.

But is Jericho just offering insight into the obvious? "Of course,"
says Hoff. "Its suggestion that "deperimeterisation" is somehow a new
answer to a set of really diverse, complex and long-standing IT
security issues… simply ignores the present and blames the past," he

"We don’t need to radically deconstruct the solutions
universe to arrive at a more secure future. We just need to learn how
to appropriately measure risk and quantify how and why we deploy
technology to manage it. I admire Jericho’s effort, and identify with
the need. But the problem needs to be solved, not renamed."

I have stated previously that this was an unfortunate reaction to the marketing of the message and not the message itself, and I’ve come to understand what the Jericho Forum’s mission and its messaging actually represents.  It’s a shame that it took me that long and that others continue to miss the point.

Today Mike Rothman commented about NetworkWorld’s coverage of the latest Jericho Forum in New York last week.  The byline of the article suggested that "U.S. network execs clinging to firewalls" and it seems we’re right back on the Hamster Wheel of Pain, perpetuating a cruel myth.

After all this time, it appears that the Jericho Forum is apparently still suffering from a failure to communicate — there exists a language gap — probably due to that allergic issue we had once to an English King and his wacky ideas relating to the governance of our "little island."  Shame, that.

This is one problem that this transplanted Kiwi-American (same Queen after-all) is motivated to fix.

Unfortunately, the Jericho Forum’s message has become polluted and marginalized thanks to a perpetuated imprecise suggestion that the Forum recommends that folks simply turn off their firewalls and IPS’s and plug their systems directly into the Internet, as-is.

That’s simply not the case, and in fact the Forum has recognized some of this messaging mess, and both softened and clarified the definition by way of the issuance of their "10 Commandments." 

You can call it what you like: de-perimeterization, re-perimeterization or radical externalization, but here’s what the Jericho Forum actually advocates, which you can read about here:

header De-perimeterization explained
    The huge explosion in business use of the Web protocols means that:

  • today the traditional "firewalled" approach to securing a network boundary is at best Barrierflawed, and at worst ineffective. Examples include:

    • business demands that tunnel through perimeters or bypass them altogether
    • IT products that cross the boundary, encapsulating their protocols within Web protocols
    • security exploits that use e-mail and Web to get through the perimeter.


  • to respond to future business needs, the break-down of the traditional
    distinctions between “your” network and “ours” is inevitable
  • increasingly, information will flow between business organizations over
    shared and third-party networks, so that ultimately the only reliable
    security strategy is to protect the information itself, rather than the
    network and the rest of the IT infrastructure   

trend is what we call “de-perimeterization”. It has been developing for
several years now. We believe it must be central to all IT security
strategies today.

header The de-perimeterization solution
traditional security solutions like network boundary technology will
continue to have their roles, we must respond to their limitations. In
a fully de-perimeterized network, every component will be independently
secure, requiring systems and data protection on multiple levels, using
a mixture of

  • encryption
  • inherently-secure computer protocols
  • inherently-secure computer systems
  • data-level authentication

The design principles that guide the development of such technology solutions are what we call our “Commandments”, which capture the essential requirements for IT security in a de-perimeterized world.

I was discussing these exact points today in a session at an Institute for Applied Network Security conference today (and as I have before here) wherein I summarized this as the capability to:

Take a host with a secured OS, connect it into any network using whatever means you find appropriate,
without regard for having to think about whether you’re on the "inside"
or "outside." Communicate securely, access and exchange data in
policy-defined "zones of trust" using open, secure, authenticated and
encrypted protocols.

Did you know that one of the largest eCommerce sites on the planet doesn’t even bother with firewalls in front of its webservers!?  Why?  Because with 10+ Gb/s of incoming HTTP and HTTP/S connections using port 80 and 443 specifically, what would a firewall add that a set of ACLs that only allows port 80/443 through to the webservers cannot?

Nothing.  Could a WAF add value?  Perhaps.  But until then, this is a clear example of a U.S. company that gets the utility of not adding security in terms of a firewall just because that’s the way it’s always been done.

From the NetworkWorld article, this is a clear example of the following:

The forum’s view of firewalls is that they no longer meet the needs of businesses that increasingly need to let in traffic
                        to do business. Its deperimeterization thrust calls for using secure applications and firewall protections closer to user devices and servers.

It’s not about tossing away prior investment or abandoning one’s core beliefs, it’s about about being honest as to the status of information security/protection/assurance, and adapting appropriately.

Your perimeter *is* full of holes so what we need to do is fix the problems, not the symptoms.
That is the message.

So consider me the self-appointed U.S. Ambassador to our friends across the pond.  The Jericho Forum’s message is worth considering and deserves your attention.


Captain Stupendous — Making the Obvious…Obvious! Jericho Redux…

September 19th, 2007 8 comments

Sometimes you have to hurt the ones you love. 

I’m sorry, Rich.  This hurts me more than it hurts you…honest.

The Mogull decides that rather than contribute meaningful dialog to discuss the meat of the topic at hand, he would rather contribute to the FUD regarding the messaging of the Jericho Forum that I was actually trying to wade through.

…and he tried to be funny.  Sober.  Painful combination.

In a deliciously ironic underscore to his BlogSlog, Rich caps off his post with a brilliant gem of obviousness of his own whilst chiding everyone else to politely "stay on message" even when he leaves the reservation himself:

"I formally
submit “buy secure stuff” as a really good one to keep us busy for a

<phhhhhht> Kettle, come in over, this is Pot. <phhhhhhttt> Kettle, do you read, over? <phhhhhhht>  It’s really dark in here <phhhhhhttt>

So if we hit the rewind button for a second, let’s revisit Captain Stupendous’ illuminating commentary.  Yessir.  Captain Stupendous it is, Rich, since the franchise on Captain Obvious is plainly over-subscribed.

I spent my time in my last post suggesting that the Jericho Forum’s message is NOT that one should toss away their firewall.  I spent my time suggesting that rather reacting to the oft-quoted and emotionally flammable marketing and messaging, folks should actually read their 10 Commandments as a framework. 

I wish Rich would have read them because his post indicates to me that the sensational hyperbole he despises so much is hypocritically emanating from his own VoxHole. <sigh>

Here’s a very high-level generalization that I made which was to take the focus off of "throwing away your firewall":

Your perimeter *is* full of holes so what we need to do is fix the problems, not the symptoms.  That is the message.

And Senor Stupendous suggested:

Of course the perimeter is full of holes; I haven’t met a security
professional who thinks otherwise. Of course our software generally
sucks and we need secure platforms and protocols. But come on guys,
making up new terms and freaking out over firewalls isn’t doing you any
good. Anyone still think the network boundary is all you need? What? No
hands? Just the “special” kid in back? Okay, good, we can move on now.

You’re missing the point — both theirs and mine.  I was restating the argument as a setup to the retort.  But who can resist teasing the mentally challenged for a quick guffaw, eh, Short Bus?

Here is the actual meat of the Jericho Commandments.  I’m thrilled that Rich has this all handled and doesn’t need any guidance.  However, given how I just spent my last two days, I know that these issues are not only relevant, but require an investment of time, energy, and strategic planning to make actionable and remind folks that they need to think as well as do.

I defy you to show me where this says "throw away your firewalls."

Repeat after me: THIS IS A FRAMEWORK and provides guidance and a rational, strategic approach to Enterprise Architecture and how security should be baked in.  Please read this without the FUDtastic taint:


Rich sums up his opus with this piece of reasonable wisdom, which I wholeheartedly agree with:

You have some big companies on board and could use some serious
pressure to kick those market forces into gear.

…and to warm the cockles of your heart, I submit they do and they are.  Spend a little time with Dr. John Meakin, Andrew Yeomans, Stephen Bonner, Nick Bleech, etc. and stop being so bloody American 😉  These guys practice what they preach and as I found out, have been for some time.

They’ve refined the messaging some time ago.  Unload the baggage and give it a chance.

Look at the real message above and then see how your security program measures up against these topics and how your portfolio and roadmap provides for these capabilities.

Go forth and do stupendous things. <wink>


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

November 29th, 2012 15 comments

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

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

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

Let me clear some things up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

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

I trust that’s clear?


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

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Slides from My Cloud Security Alliance Keynote: The Cloud Magic 8 Ball (Future Of Cloud)

March 7th, 2010 No comments

Here are the slides from my Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) keynote from the Cloud Security Summit at the 2010 RSA Security Conference.

The punchline is as follows:

All this iteration and debate on the future of the “back-end” of Cloud Computing — the provider side of the equation — is ultimately less interesting than how the applications and content served up will be consumed.

Cloud Computing provides for the mass re-centralization of applications and data in mega-datacenters while simultaneously incredibly powerful mobile computing platforms provide for the mass re-distribution of (in many cases the same) applications and data.  We’re fixated on the security of the former but ignoring that of the latter — at our peril.

People worry about how Cloud Computing puts their applications and data in other people’s hands. The reality is that mobile computing — and the clouds that are here already and will form because of them — already put, quite literally, those applications and data in other people’s hands.

If we want to “secure” the things that matter most, we must focus BACK on information centricity and building survivable systems if we are to be successful in our approach.  I’ve written about the topics above many times, but this post from 2009 is quite apropos: The Quandary Of the Cloud: Centralized Compute But Distributed Data You can find other posts on Information Centricity here.

Slideshare direct link here (embedded below.)

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Cloud: Security Doesn’t Matter (Or, In Cloud, Nobody Can Hear You Scream)

January 25th, 2010 9 comments

In the Information Security community, many of us have long come to the conclusion that we are caught in what I call my “Security Hamster Sine Wave Of Pain.”  Those of us who have been doing this awhile recognize that InfoSec is a zero-sum game; it’s about staving off the inevitable and trying to ensure we can deal with the residual impact in the face of being “survivable” versus being “secure.”

While we can (and do) make incremental progress in certain areas, the collision of disruptive innovation, massive consumerization of technology along with the slow churn of security vendor roadmaps, dissolving budgets, natural marketspace commoditzation and the unfortunate velocity of attacker innovation yields the constant realization that we’re not motivated or incentivized to do the right thing or manage risk.

Instead, we’re poked in the side and haunted by the four letter word of our industry: compliance.

Compliance is often dismissed as irrelevant in the consumer space and associated instead with government or large enterprise, but as privacy continues to erode and breaches make the news, the fact that we’re putting more and more of our information — of all sorts — in the hands of others to manage is again beginning to stoke an upsurge in efforts to somehow measure and manage visibility against a standardized baseline of general, common sense and minimal efforts to guard against badness.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how “secure” Cloud providers suggest they are.  It doesn’t matter what breakthroughs in technology sprout up in the face of this new model of compute. The only measure that counts in the long run is how compliant you are.  That’s what will determine the success of Cloud.  Don’t believe me? Look at how the leading vendors in Cloud are responding today to their biggest (potential) customers — taking the “one size fits all” model of mass-market Cloud and beginning to chop it up and create one-off’s in order to satisfy…compliance.

Why?  Because it’s easier to deal with the vagaries of trust and isolation and multi-tenant environments by eliminating the latter to increase the former. If an auditor/examiner doesn’t understand or cannot measure your compliance to those things he/she is tasked to evaluate you against, you’re sunk.

The only thing that will budge the needle on this issue is how agile those who craft the regulatory guidelines are or how you can clearly demonstrate why your compensating controls mitigate the risk of the provider of service if they cannot. Given the nature and behavior of those involved in this space and where we are with putting our eggs in a vaporous basket, I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Movement in this area is glacial at best and in many cases out of touch with the realities of just how disruptive Cloud Computing is.  All it will take is one monumental cock-up due to a true Cloudtastrophe and the Cloud will hit the fan.

As I have oft suggested, the core issue we need to tackle in Cloud is trust, since the graceful surrender of such is at the heart of what Cloud requires.  Trust is comprised of Security, Control, Service Levels and Compliance.  It’s relatively easy to establish where we are today with the first three, but the last one is MIA.  We’re just *now* seeing movement in the form of SIGs to deal with virtualization.  Cloud?

When the best you have is a SAS-70, it’s time to weep.  Conversely, wishing for more regulation will simply extend the cycle.

What can you do?  Simple. Help educate your auditors and examiners. Read the Cloud Security Alliance’s guidelines. Participate in making the Automated Audit, Assertion, Assessment, and Assurance API (A6) a success so we can at least gain back some visibility and transparency which helps demonstrate compliance, since that’s how we’re measured.  Ultimately, if you’re able, focus on risk assessment in helping to advise your constituent business customers on how to migrate to Cloud Computing safely.

There are TONS of things one can do in order to make up for the shortcomings of Cloud security today.  The problem is, most of them erode the benefits of Cloud: agility, flexibility, cost savings, and dynamism.  We need to make the business aware of these tradeoffs as well as our auditors because we’re stuck.  We need the regulators and examiners to keep pace with technology — as painful as that might be in the short term — to guarantee our success in the long term.

Manage compliance, don’t let it manage you because a Cloud is a terrible thing to waste.


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These Apocalyptic Assessments Of Cloud Security Readiness Are Irrelevant…

July 7th, 2009 4 comments

angel-devilThere are voices raging in my head thanks to the battling angel and devil sitting on my shoulders.

These voices echo the security-focused protagonist and antagonist perspectives of Cloud Computing adoption.

The devil urges immediate adoption and suggests the Cloud is as (in)secure as it needs to be while still providing value.

The angel maintains that the Cloud, whilst a delightful place to vacation, is ready only for those who are pure of heart and traffic in non-sensitive, non-mission-critical data.

To whom do I (or we) listen?

The answer is a measured and practical one that we know already because we’ve given it many times before.

Is the Cloud Secure?  That’s  a silly question.  Is the Cloud “secure enough” is really the question that should be asked, and of course,  the answer is entirely contextual.

My co-worker, James Urquhart, wrote a great post today in which he summarized quite a few healthy debates that are good for Cloud Computing as they encourage discourse and debate.  One of them relates to the difference between the consumer and small/midsize business versus enterprise as it relates to Cloud adoption.  This is quite relevant to my point about “context” above, so for the purpose of this discussion, I’m referring to the enterprise.

To wit, enterprises aren’t as dumb as (we) vendors want them to be; they seize opportunity as it befits them and most times apply a reasonable amount of due care, diligence and evaluation before they leap headlong into course corrections offered by magical disruptive innovation.  There are market dynamics at play that are predictable and yet so many times we collectively gasp at the patterns of behaviors of technology adoption as though we’ve never witnessed them before.

Cloud is no different in that regard.  See my post regarding this behavior titled “Most CIO’s Not Sold On Cloud?  Good, They Shouldn’t Be.

When I see commentary from CEO’s of leading security companies (such as RSA’s Art Coviello and even my own, John Chambers) that highlight security as an enormous concern in Cloud, I urge people to reflect back on any of the major shifts they’ve seen in IT the last 15 years and consider which shoulder-chirper they listened to and why.

Suggesting that enterprises aren’t already conscious of what the Cloud means to their operational and security models is intellectually dishonest, really.

We’ve all seen convenience, agility and economics stomp all over security before and here’s how this movie will play out:

Cloud will reach a critical mass wherein the technology and operational models mature to a good-enough point, enough time passes without a significant number of material breaches or outages that disrupt confidence and then it becomes “accepted.”  Security, based upon how, where, why and when we invest will always play catch-up.  How much depends on how good a job we do to push the agenda.

The reality is that broad warnings about security in the Cloud are fine; they help remind and reinforce the fact that we need to do better, and quite frankly, I think we are.  So we can either chirp about how bad things are, or we can do something about it.

The good news is that even with the froth and churn, there is such a groundswell of activity by many groups (like the Cloud Security Alliance and the Jericho Forum) that we’re seeing an unprecedented attempt by both suppliers and consumers to do a better job of baking security in earlier.  The problem is that many people can’t see the forest for the trees; expectations of how quickly things can change are distorted and so everything appears to be an instant failure.  That’s sad.

Of course Cloud Security is not perfect, but in measure, the dialog, push for standards and recognition of need (as well as many roadmapped solutions I’m privy to) shows me that our overall response is a heck of a lot better that I’ve seen it in the past.

We’re certainly still playing catch up on the technology front and working toward better ways of dealing with instantiating business process on top of it all, but I’m quite optimistic that we’re compressing the timeframe of defining and ultimately delivering improved security capabilities in Cloud computing.

In the meantime, the compelling market forces of Cloud continue to steamroll onward, and so these apocalyptic assessments of Cloud Security readiness are irrelevant as we continue to see companies large and small utilize Cloud Computing to do things faster, better, more efficiently, cost effectively and with a level of security that meets their needs, which in the end is all that matters.

At the same point — and this is where the devil will prove out in the details — execution is what matters.


My Talks/Panels At AGC InfoSec & RSA Security Conferences

April 17th, 2009 No comments

Here’s what I’ve got planned for next week at the America’s Growth Capital InfoSec and RSA Security Conferences:

America’s Growth Capital 5th Annual Information Security Conference

  1. Monday, April 20th – Keynote 3:00pm – 3:30pm – The Frogs / Cloud Computing and Virtualization Security Fable
  2. Monday, April 20th – Panel Moderator 3:30 – 4:15pm – Virtualization, Security and Management with:
    Simon Crosby, CTO, Citrix (CTXS)
    Dennis Moreau, CTO, Configuresoft
    Jay Litkey, President and CEO, Embotics
    Wael Mohamed, President and CEO, Third Brigade
    Allwyn Sequeira, VMware (VMW)

RSA Security Conference

  1. Wednesday, April 22nd – 10:40 – 11:40am Panel Discussion – Host 203 Defending & Deconstructing Virtualization Best Practices with:
    Rob Randell Senior Security Specialist, VMware
    Dave Shackleford Chief Security Officer, Configuresoft
    Moderator:   Chris Farrow Vice President, Configuresoft

  2. Wednesday, April 22nd – 2:45pm – 3:45pm Panelist/Founding Member – Cloud Security Alliance Kick-off
  3. Wednesday, April 22nd – 3:00pm – 6:00pm Panelist Jericho Forum Cloud Computing Event
  4. Thursday, April 23rd – 10:40-11:40 Panel Discussion – FEA 303 VirtSec Cage Match with:
    Andreas Antonopoulos Sr. Vice President, Nemertes Research
    Michael Berman CTO, Catbird
    Stephen Herrod CTO and VP of R&D, VMware
    Simon Crosby CTO, Citrix Systems
  5. Friday, April 24th – 10:10am – 11:10 am Speaker w/Rich Mogull (Securosis) – Bus 402 – Disruptive Innovation & The Future of Security

I’ve got a bunch of press interviews, videos and briefings going also. Just so you know, Wednesday evening is overbooked 8 times at this point. 😉

If you need to reach me, ping me via email (choff @ packetfilter. com,) DM me via Twitter (@beaker) or call my voice router +1.978.631.0302


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