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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 ūüėČ

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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The Future Of Audit & Compliance Is…Facebook?

November 20th, 2010 No comments
SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 15:  Facebook founder...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I’ve had an ephiphany.¬† The future is coming wherein we’ll truly have social security…

As the technology and operational models of virtualization and cloud computing mature and become operationally ubiquitous, ultimately delivering on the promise of agile, real-time service delivery via extreme levels of automation, the ugly necessities of security, audit and risk assessment will also require an evolution via automation to leverage the same.

At some point, that means the automated collection and overall assessment of posture (from a security, compliance, and risk perspective) will automagically occur (lest we continue to be the giant speed bump we’re described to be,) and pop out indicatively with glee with an end result of “good,” “bad,” or “pass,” “fail,” not unlike one of those in-flesh turkey thermometers that indicates doneness once a pre-set temperature is reached.

What does that have to do with Facebook?

Simple.

When we’ve all been sucked into the collective hive of the InterCloud matrix, the CISO/assessor/auditor/regulator will look at the score, the resultant assertions and the supporting artifacts gathered via automation and simply click on a button:

You see, the auditor/regulator really is your friend. ūüėČ

It’s a cruel future.¬† We’re all Zuck’d.

/Hoff

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Incomplete Thought: Compliance – The Autotune Of The Security Industry

November 20th, 2010 3 comments
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31:  Rapper T-Pain p...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but lately the ability to carry a tune while singing is optional.

Thanks to Cher and T-Pain, the rampant use of the Autotune in the music industry has enabled pretty much anyone to record a song and make it sound like they can sing (from the Autotune of encyclopedias, Wikipedia):

Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes, and has allowed singers to perform perfectly tuned vocal tracks without the need of singing in tune. While its main purpose is to slightly bend sung pitches to the nearest true semitone (to the exact pitch of the nearest tone in traditional equal temperament), Auto-Tune can be used as an effect to distort the human voice when pitch is raised/lowered significantly.[3]

A similar “innovation” has happened to the security industry.¬† Instead of having to actually craft and execute a well-tuned security program which focuses on managing risk in harmony with the business, we’ve simply learned to hum a little, add a couple of splashy effects and let the compliance Autotune do it’s thing.

It doesn’t matter that we’re off-key.¬† It doesn’t matter that we’re not in tune.¬† It doesn’t matter that we hide mistakes.

All that matters is that auditors can sing along, repeating the chorus and ensure that we hit the Top 40.

/Hoff

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FedRAMP. My First Impression? We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat…

November 3rd, 2010 3 comments

I’m grumpy, confused and scared.¬† Classic signs of shock.¬† I can only describe what I’m feeling by virtue of an analog…

There’s a scene in the movie Jaws where Chief Brody, chumming with fish guts to attract and kill the giant shark from the back of the boat called “The Orca,” meets said fish for the first time.¬† Terrified by it’s menacing size, he informs [Captain] Quint “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

I felt like that today as I read through the recently released draft of the long-anticipated FedRAMP documents.¬† I saw the menace briefly surface, grin at me, and silently slip back into the deep.¬† Sadly, channeling Brody, I whispered to myself “…we’re gonna need something much sturdier to land this fish we call cloud.”

I’m not going to make any friends with this blog.

I can barely get my arms around all of the issues I have.  There will be sequels, just like with Jaws, though unlike Roy Schneider, I will continue to be as handsome as ever.

Here’s what I do know…it’s 81 pages long and despite my unhappiness with the content and organization, per Vivek Kundra’s introduction, I can say that it will certainly “encourage robust debate on the best path forward.”¬† Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it…

What I expected isn’t what was delivered in this document. Perhaps in the back of my mind it’s exactly what I expected, it’s just not what I wanted.

This is clearly a workstream product crafted by committee and watered down in the process.¬† Unlike the shark in Jaws, it’s missing it’s teeth, but it’s just as frightening because its heft is scary enough.¬† Even though all I can see is the dorsal fin cresting the water’s surface,¬† it’s enough to make me run for the shore.

As I read though the draft, I was struck by a wave of overwhelming disappointment.¬† This reads like nothing more than a document which scrapes together other existing legacy risk assessment, vulnerability management, monitoring and reporting frameworks and loosely defines interactions between various parties to arrive at a certification which I find hard to believe isn’t simply a way for audit companies to make more money and service providers to get rubber-stamped service ATO’s without much in the way of improved security or compliance.

This isn’t bettering security, compliance, governance or being innovative.¬† It’s not solving problems at a mass scale through automation or using new and better-suited mousetraps to do it.¬† It’s gluing stuff we already have together in an attempt to make people feel better about a hugely disruptive technical, cultural, economic and organizational shift.¬† This isn’t Gov2.0 at all.¬† It’s Gov1.0 with a patch.¬† It’s certainly not Cloud.

Besides the Center for Internet Security reference, there’s no mention of frameworks, tools, or organizations outside of government at all…that explains the myopic focus of “what we have” versus “what we need.”

The document is organized into three chapters:

Chapter 1: Cloud Computing Security Requirement Baseline
This chapter presents a list of baseline security controls for Low and Moderate
impact Cloud systems. NIST Special Publication 800-53R3 provided the foundation
for the development of these security controls.

Chapter 2: Continuous Monitoring
This chapter describes the process under which authorized cloud computing systems
will be monitored. This section defines continuous monitoring deliverables,
reporting frequency and responsibility for cloud service provider compliance with
FISMA.

Chapter 3: Potential Assessment & Authorization Approach
This chapter describes the proposed operational approach for A&A’s for cloud
computing systems. This reflects upon all aspects of an authorization (including
sponsorship, leveraging, maintenance and continuous monitoring), a joint
authorization process, and roles and responsibilities for Federal agencies and Cloud
Service Providers in accordance with the Risk Management Framework detailed in
NIST Special Publication 800-37R1.

It’s clear that the document was written almost exclusively from the perspective of farming out services to Public cloud providers capable of meeting FIPS 199 Low/Moderate requirements.¬† It appears to be written in the beginning from the perspective of SaaS services and the scoping and definition of cloud isn’t framed — so it’s really difficult to understand what sort of ‘cloud’ services are in scope.¬† NIST’s own cloud models aren’t presented.¬† Beyond Public SaaS services, it’s hard to understand whether Private, Hybrid, and Community clouds — PaaS or IaaS — were considered.

It’s like reading an article in Wired about the Administration’s love affair with Google while the realities of security and compliance are cloudwashed over.

I found the additional requirements and guidance related to the NIST 800-53-aligned control objectives to be hit or miss and some of them utterly laughable (such as SC-7 – Boundary Protection: “Requirement: The service provider and service consumer ensure that federal information (other than unrestricted information) being transmitted from federal government entities to external entities using information systems providing cloud services is inspected by TIC processes.”¬† Good luck with that.¬† Sections on backup are equally funny.

The “Continuous Monitoring” section requirements wherein the deliverable frequency and responsibile party is laid out engenders a response from “The Princess Bride:”

You keep using that word (continuous)…I do not think it means what you think it means…

Only 2 of the 14 categories are those which FedRAMP is required to provide (pentesting and IV&V of controls.)  All others are the responsibility of the provider.

Sigh.

There’s also not a clear distinction that in a service deployed on IaaS (as an example) where anything in the workload’s VM fits into this scheme (you know…all the really important stuff like information and applications) and how agency processes intersect with the CSP, FedRAMP and the¬† JAB.

The very dynamism and agility of cloud are swept under the rug, especially in sections discussing change control.¬† It’s almost laughable…code changes in some “cloud” SaaS vendors every few hours.¬† The rigid and obtuse classification of the severity of changes is absolutely ludicrous.

I’m unclear if the folks responsible for some of this document have ever used cloud based services, frankly.

“Is there anything good in the document,” you might ask?¬† Yes, yes there is. Firstly, it exists and frames the topic for discussion.¬† We’ll go from there.

However, I’m at a loss as how to deliver useful and meaningful commentary back to this team using the methodology they’ve constructed…there’s just so much wrong here.

I’ll do my best to hook up with folks at the NIST Cloud Workshop tomorrow and try, however if I smell anything remotely like seafood, I’m outa there.

/Hoff

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Navigating PCI DSS (2.0) – Related to Virtualization/Cloud, May the Schwartz Be With You!

November 1st, 2010 3 comments

[Disclaimer: I’m not a QSA. I don’t even play one on the Internet. Those who are will generally react to posts like these with the stock “it depends” answer, to which I respond “you’re right, it does.¬† Not sure where that leaves us other than with a collective sigh, but…]

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) last week released version 2.0 of the Data Security Standard (DSS.) [Legal agreement required]  This is an update from v1.2.1 but strangely does not introduce any major new requirements but instead clarifies language.

Accompanying this latest revision is also a guidance document titled “Navigating PCI DSS: Understanding the Intent of the Requirements, v2.0” [PDF]

One of the more interesting additions in the guidance is the direct call-out of virtualization which, although late to the game given the importance of this technology and its operational impact, is a welcome edition to this reader.¬† I should mention I’ve sat in on three of the virtualization SIG calls which gives me an interesting perspective as I read through the document.¬† Let me just summarize by saying that “…you can’t please all the people, all of the time…” ūüėČ

What I find profoundly interesting is that since virtualization is a such a prominent and enabling foundational technology in IaaS Cloud offerings, the guidance is still written as though the multi-tenant issues surrounding cloud computing (as an extension of virtualization) don’t exist and that shared infrastructure doesn’t complicate the picture.¬† Certainly there are “cloud” providers who don’t use infrastructure shared with other providers beyond themselves in order to deliver service to different customers (I think we call them SaaS providers,) but think about the context of people wanting to use AWS to deliver services that are in scope for PCI.

Here’s what the navigation document has to say specific to virtualization and ultimately how that maps to IaaS cloud offerings.¬† We’re going to cover just the introductory paragraph in this post with the guidance elements and the actual DSS in a follow-on.¬† However, since many people are going to use this navigation document as their first blush, let’s see where that gets us:

PCI DSS requirements apply to all system components. In the context of PCI DSS, ‚Äúsystem components‚ÄĚ are defined as any network component, server or application that is included in, or connected to, the cardholder data environment. System components‚ÄĚ also include any virtualization components such as virtual machines, virtual switches/routers, virtual appliances, virtual applications/desktops, and hypervisors.

I would have liked to see specific mention of virtual storage here and although it’s likely included by implication in the management system/sub-system mentions above and below, the direct mention of APIs. Thanks to heavy levels of automation, the operational movements related to DevOps and with APIs becoming the interface of the integration and management planes, these are unexplored lands for many.

I’m also inclined to wonder about virtualization approaches that is not server-centric such as physical networking devices, databases, etc.

If virtualization is implemented, all components within the virtual environment will need to be identified and considered in scope for the review, including the individual virtual hosts or devices, guest machines, applications, management interfaces, central management consoles, hypervisors, etc. All intra-host communications and data flows must be identified and documented, as well as those between the virtual component and other system components.

It can be quite interesting to imagine the scoping exercises (or de-scoping more specifically) associated with this requirement in a cloud environment.¬† Even if the virtualized platforms are operated solely on behalf of a single customer (read: no shared infrastructure — private cloud,)¬† this is still an onerous task, so I wonder how — if at all — this could be accomplished in a public IaaS offering given the lack of transparency we see in today’s cloud operators.¬† Much of what is being asked for relating to infrastructure and “data flows” between the “virtual component and other system components” represents the CSP’s secret sauce.

The implementation of a virtualized environment must meet the intent of all requirements, such that the virtualized systems can effectively be regarded as separate hardware. For example, there must be a clear segmentation of functions and segregation of networks with different security levels; segmentation should prevent the sharing of production and test/development environments; the virtual configuration must be secured such that vulnerabilities in one function cannot impact the security of other functions; and attached devices, such as USB/serial devices, should not be accessible by all virtual instances.

“…clear segmentation of functions and segregation of networks with different security levels” and “the virtual configuration must be secured such that vulnerabilities in one function cannot impact the security of other functions,” eh? I don’t see how anyone can expect to meet this requirement in any system underpinned with a virtualized infrastructure stack (hardware or software) whether it’s multi-tenant or not.¬† One vulnerability in the hypervisor makes this an impossibility.¬† Add in management, storage, networking. This basically comes down to trusting in the sanctity of the hypervisor.

Additionally, all virtual management interface protocols should be included in system documentation, and roles and permissions should be defined for managing virtual networks and virtual system components. Virtualization platforms must have the ability to enforce separation of duties and least privilege, to separate virtual network management from virtual server management.

Special care is also needed when implementing authentication controls to ensure that users authenticate to the proper virtual system components, and distinguish between the guest VMs (virtual machines) and the hypervisor.

The rest is pretty standard stuff, but if you read the guidance sections (next post) it gets even more fun.¬† This is why the subjectivity, expertise and experience of the QSA is so related to the quality of the audit when virtualization and cloud are involved.¬† For example, let’s take a sneak peek at section 2.2.1, as it is a bit juicy:

2.2.1 Implement only one primary function per server to prevent functions that require different security levels from co-existing
on the same server. (For example, web servers, database servers, and DNS should be implemented on separate servers.)
Note: Where virtualization technologies are in use, implement only one primary function per virtual system component
.

I¬† acknowledge that there are “cloud” providers who are PCI certified at the highest tier.¬† Many of them are SaaS providers.¬† Many simply use their own server stacks in co-located facilities but due to their size and services merely call themselves cloud providers — many aren’t even virtualized per the description above.¬†¬† Further, there are also methods of limiting scope and newer technologies such as tokenization that can assist in solving some of the information-centric issues with what would otherwise be in-scope data, but they offset many of the cost-driven efficiencies marketed by mass-market, low-cost cloud providers today.

Love to hear from an IaaS public cloud provider who is PCI certified (to the VM boundary) with customers that are in turn certified with in-scope applications and cardholder data or even a SaaS provider who sits atop an IaaS provider…

Just read this first before responding, please.

/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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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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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.
  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…
  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.”
  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.
  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 ‚ÄĒ Hoff‚Äôs 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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