For A Better Cloud Security – Wheel it Different, instead of Reinventing the Wheel !

Saas served as sauce? Wow. But only as long as it’s secure. And that’s where the penny drops. No matter. Big money now is way too big on cloud services. We can’t roll back the Age of Participation. The jury may be pondering on how secure is the cloud, but the verdict is only going to tweak “how secure is the cloud” to “how to secure the cloud”.

Yes, there is a cloud over the cloud. Less than a year ago, hackers stole 6 million passwords from dating site eHarmony and LinkedIn fueling the debate over cloud security. DropBox, a free online service provider that lets you share documents freely online, became “a problem child for cloud security” in the words of a cloud services expert.

The “Notorious Nine” threats to cloud computing security according to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), a not-for-profit body: Data breaches, data loss, account or service traffic hijacking, insecure interfaces and APIs, Denial of service, malicious insiders, cloud abuse, insufficient due diligence, and shared technology vulnerabilities.

However, a problem is an opportunity in disguise, and so the algorithm waiting to be discovered is to how to outsmart the hackers and overcome the threats to cloud security. More so, since the advantages that accrue from cloud services viz. flexibility, scalability, economies of scale, for instance, far outweigh the risks associated with the cloud.

One way for better cloud security is to use a tried, tested and trusted Cloud Service Provider (CSP) rather than to self-design a high availability data center. Also, a CSP yields more economies of scale.
Virtualized servers, though less secure than the physical servers they replace, are getting more and more secure than before. According to research by Gartner, virtual servers were less secure than the physical servers they replaced by 60% in 2012. In 2015, they will be only 30% less secure.

To do the new in cloud security, we could begin by reinventing the old. The traditional methods of data security, viz. Logical security, Physical security and Premises security, also apply to securing the cloud. Logical security protects data using software safeguards such as password access, authentication, and authorization, and ensuring proper allocation of privileges.

The risk in Cloud Service Offerings arises because a single host with multiple virtual machines may be attacked by one of the guest operating systems. Or a guest operating system may be used to attack another guest operating system. Cloud services are accessed from the Internet and so are vulnerable to attacks arising from Denial of Service or widespread infrastructure failure.

Traditional security protocols can also be successfully mapped to work in a cloud environment. For example Traditional physical controls such as firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Network Access Control (NAC) products that ensure access control can continue to be critical components of the security architecture. However, these appliances no longer need to be a physical piece of hardware. A virtual firewall, like for example Cisco’s security gateway, performs the same functions of a physical firewall but has been virtualized to work with the hypervisor. This is catching on fast. Gartner researchers predict that by 2015, 40% of security controls in the data centers will be virtualized.

Moral of the cloud: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to secure the cloud. But we need to keep talking – to wheel it differently.