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I have been working with Clouds since before the coining of the term itself (back then, the startup I was working for called it "Agile Infrastructure"; now it's known as "IaaS"). From the very beginning, a frequent blocker to adoption has been the question of security. "We can't go to the Cloud because it is simply not secure," goes the complaint.

Well, I'm here to say it's bunk -- pure bunk. There is NO new security problem in the Cloud.

There is, in fact, a security problem in external Clouds -- but it is already in your data center right now.

If you take a truly secure system and place it in an external or hybrid cloud, it will remain secure. Simply exposing a secure system to a larger number of potentially hostile assailants is not enough to make it vulnerable. No, a truly secure system is designed to remain that way even during escalating pressure.

The problem is that very few of our current systems are truly secure. They rely heavily on the notion that threats are few behind the corporate firewall, so they don't need to have air-tight security. That concept is -- and always was -- a mistake. And now that conditions are changing in the Cloud, the inappropriate assumption is causing major headaches. The leaks in the boat are becoming apparent now that it is finally in the water.

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Security in the Cloud and the CCSK

Posted by on in Cloud Strategy

Search for cloud computing and you will get approximately 190 million results, search for cloud computing security and you will get 120 million results. This is very rough data of course but it gives us an idea that when talking about Cloud, security is a big concern. Go to a conference and talk about Cloud, and you can be certain that one of the big questions you will get asked is "But what about Security ?"

Disclaimer and bias: This question always leaves me pondering, mostly because my personal background and bias always makes me wonder what people are afraid off in the Cloud and what do they see that Cloud brings to bear that is different from any existing distributed systems running over the internet. I am not an enterprise security expert, I used to teach an introductory course on network security, but I have spent my fair share thinking about Clouds especially at the IaaS layer. There, the new technology that could represent a new attack vector is virtualization and I only read about two non-traditional efforts that really challenged the security of virtualization: the controversial bluepill project in 2006 and the cross-VM side channel attack reported by a research group at MIT in 2009 (there are of course more...). Most problems publicly described with IaaS have been with spam and DDOS. Where on one hand cloud providers are being used to send spam and on the other hand cloud providers are victim of DDOS threatening the availability of services.

However, in the fall I had the chance to participate in the DELL in the Clouds Think Tank in London. It is there that I started to understand that what most people where worried about with the Cloud had more to do with legal issues, governance, compliance and contracts than hardcore attacks. Indeed when dealing with a cloud provider you are exposing your data to new risks for the simple fact that it is not under your total control and you need to manage those risks. Moving your data out of your secured premises and putting them in the hands of another party exposes you to new threats. This is the core of information assurance and risk management. Cloud security is therefore more about updating your security guidelines, making sure that you are compliant with the law and being confident that you can respond appropriately to any attack or business continuity issues. Cloud security is less about the fear of a new technology that exposes new attack vectors. The risks may be new to your enterprise but the attacks and vulnerabilities used are not new to the internet.

To learn more and come up with a plan I now point people to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and their guidelines. It is a 176 pages document which coupled with the ENISA cloud security assessment (125 pages :)) forms the basis of the CSA Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK). I have finished reading the CSA guidelines and once I read the ENISA report I will take the CCSK exam.

The CSA guidelines are a set of reports covering fourteen domains of interest to Cloud security. From Governance and Legal Issues to Incident Response and Virtualization (to name a few). One sentence truly resonated with me due to my personal bias explained earlier. It is in the Application Security domain chapter which states: "Cloud-based software applications require a design rigor similar to an application connecting to the raw internet - the security must be provided by the application without any assumptions being made about the external environment" indeed doing the opposite would be one of the fallacies of distributed systems design enunciated by Peter Deutsch from SUN. There lies in my view the biggest risk, thinking that you can take an application that has been designed in-house assuming a secure local network and wanting to move it to the cloud as-is not managing the risks due to the fact that a) the network is not secure b) bandwidth is not infinite c) latency is not zero d) transport has a cost.

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A configuration vulnerability has been discovered in CloudStack that could allow a malicious user to execute arbitrary CloudStack API calls, such as deleting all VMs being managed by CloudStack. John Kinsella of the Apache CloudStack PPMC announced the vulnerability on Sunday. The issue does have a workaround that can be applied immediately.

Severity

This is considered a critical vulnerability. You should take action to mitigate the issue immediately. Note that this can be mitigated with no downtime.

Affected Versions

All versions of CloudStack released by Citrix/Cloud.com are believed to be affected. If you’re running a version of CloudStack from the ASF git repository prior to October 7th for testing/development, that is also affected. Note that there have been no official releases from the Apache project as of yet.

Known Exploits

There are no known exploits at this time.

Mitigation

If you’re running an affected version of CloudStack, you can close this vulnerability by doing the following:

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This Week In Cloud Computing

Posted by on in Cloud News

Here are some interesting headlines from the open source and cloud computing news.

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

"A cloud provider can achieve compliance (such as PCI — yes v2.0 even) such that the in-...

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Rooting for the Cloud Security Alliance

Posted by on in Cloud News

This week marks the first meeting and launch of the Cloud Security Alliance, and I imagine it will be a welcome arrival for everyone who is interested in the long-term growth of cloud computing.

These industry groups often get written off for too much talk and too little action, but in the case of security, I think...

Tagged in: Cloud Security
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Open@Citrix

Citrix supports the open source community via developer support and evangeslism. We have a number of developers and evangelists that participate actively in the open source community in Apache Cloudstack, OpenDaylight, Xen Project and XenServer. We also conduct educational activities via the Build A Cloud events held all over the world. 

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