Click here to close now.


Release Management Authors: Jnan Dash, Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Carmen Gonzalez

Blog Feed Post

Security in the Cloud Is All About Visibility and Control

Thor Olavsrud 18.02.2012 |

When it comes to security in the cloud, organizations are confident in their cloud providers, but also and reluctant to expose certain types of data and applications, according to IT industry association CompTIA. Security vendors maintain the problem is one of visibility and control, and each has a solution.

It’s an oft-repeated mantra: Organizations engaged in or investigating cloud computing in any of its many flavors are concerned about security. In fact, concerns about security, data privacy and data residency are often cited as inhibitors to cloud adoption. But are the concerns justified? Some security experts say visibility and control are the missing elements.

In a recent study of IT and business executives, CompTIA, the IT industry association, found that 50 percent of respondents cited greater reliance on Internet-based applications like cloud computing and software-as-a-service as a driving factor in their cyber security concerns. But a number of cloud experts say that in many ways data in the cloud is more secure than in an on-premise installation–or at least rapidly becoming that way–especially for smaller organizations that don’t have the resources to dedicate to security technology and expert staff.

Security Staffing Issues?

Access to enough IT staff with security expertise may be particularly tricky for organizations of all sizes. CompTIA says 41 percent of organizations reported moderate or significant deficiencies in security expertise among IT staff. On average, CompTIA says organizations were about 30 percent short of their headcount devoted to security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which adds the category of Information Security Analyst in 2011, unemployment for people employed in the category stands at 0 percent.

Christopher Primault, co-founder and managing director of, a business software marketplace that vets cloud-based apps and organizes information about them for small businesses, says that cloud services help organizations get around this problem because they provide professionals dedicated to safeguarding your information.

“Your data is probably safer with the vast majority of vendors than if you keep it on your premises,” Primault says. “I really believe it’s true.” He adds, “We only use cloud services, so we were born in the cloud. The cost for me to keep data in-house and protect that data would be high. Frankly, by having my data in the cloud, I feel more secure.”

Primault is not alone. According to CompTIA, 85 percent of organizations using cloud services are confident or very confident in their cloud service provider when it comes to security. But those same organizations are reluctant to put certain types of data or applications in the cloud.

“There is a slight paradox among users of the cloud right now,” says Tim Herbert, research vice president with CompTIA. “They convey very strong confidence in cloud service provider security. At the same time, many companies are very reluctant to put certain types of data or applications into a cloud environment. Companies have moved some of the non-critical systems into the cloud, but they are not there yet in terms of moving their most critical systems to the cloud.”

Firms are especially reluctant to put confidential company financial data and credit card data in the cloud. CompTIA found 49 percent of small firms, 55 percent of medium firms and 56 percent of large firms were unwilling to put confidential company financial data in the cloud. When it came to credit card data, 50 percent of small firms, 50 percent of medium firms and 53 percent of large firms were reluctant.

Cloud Security Assessment Shortcomings

Even as organizations struggle between confidence in the security measures of cloud service providers and reluctance to place sensitive data in the cloud, they are also on the whole overlooking critical elements of cloud security when evaluating service providers’ security policies, Herbert says. In particular, regulatory compliance, geolocation of data and the credentials of the provider are often glossed over.

“Despite some of the concerns, only 29 percent of the companies in the study say they engage in a heavy or comprehensive review of the cloud service providers’ security practices,” Herbert says.

In the study, 50 percent of respondents say they either sometimes or rarely/never assess the geographic location of a cloud provider’s data centers. A further 46 percent say they either sometimes or rarely/never assess the regulatory compliance of cloud providers. And 44 percent say they either sometimes or rarely/never assess a provider’s identity and access management. This can lead to some unpleasant surprises, according to CompTIA.

“Recently, the City of Los Angeles and Google learned the hard way what happens when an uncertain regulatory variable is introduced into a cloud deployment,” CompTIA says in its 9th Annual Information Security Trends Study. “LA had to alter its plan to shift 30,000 city employees to Google Apps when it was discovered that Google Apps was not fully compliant with the FBI’s security requirements for connecting to the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), a clearinghouse of law enforcement data administered by the Department of Justice.”

CompTIA adds, “This is one notable example of what is sure to be a more regular occurrence-organizations making the transition to the cloud only to discover a security-related element that forces a change of plans. As the cloud model matures, some of these issues may naturally work themselves out, but in the shorter-term, IT solution providers and cloud vendors can provide a valuable service in reducing the likelihood of these types of situations, Longer term, third party assessments of cloud service provider security policies, procedures and capabilities may become standard.”

Securing the Cloud

In the meantime, security vendors are determined to make the cloud a trusted environment in which organizations can do business.  ”The real challenge is that companies need to move to the cloud,” says Dave Canellos, CEO of Toronto-based PerspecSys, a provider of privacy, residency and security solutions for the cloud. “This isn’t a fad. It’s really about how you manage that responsibility and ensure that you protect the information that you are now managing.”

Nicholas Popp, vice president of product management and development at Symantec, acknowledges that the cloud is not quite up to par with on-premise installations when it comes to security. But he also says he believes the time is rapidly approaching.

“The cloud eventually will be more secure,” he says. “Security as a do-it-yourself operation is getting more and more difficult.”

Popp predicted that within three to five years, the cloud will be the more secure environment for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), while the horizon for larger enterprises is probably in the 10-year range.

“A lot of people will claim that the cloud is fundamentally insecure,” he says. “The real issue is not security, it’s more about control and visibility. It’s a trust issue. Salesforce and Google need to have good security. From a security standpoint, they’re going to be much better than most companies.”

The problem, Popp says, is that organizations don’t have a good mechanism for injecting their own security policies into cloud services and they don’t have the ability to access logs.

“The issue is that the cloud guys do not provide IT with enough control to set their own policy,” he says. “It’s actually difficult because every cloud is different. You have different APIs and security frameworks. They’re all going to have different ways to do security and expose that security. We need to create a new control point so IT can inject their own policies on top of these cloud services.”

Additionally, he says, an organization’s IT staff needs to have access to logs and backups for both regulatory compliance and the capability to perform forensics if something does get compromised. Symantec’s answer is O3, a cloud information gateway that it likens to the earth’s ozone layer. It’s intended to sit between an organization and its cloud services and act as a sort of cloud firewall. Popp says it will provide three layers of control: an identity and access control layer, an information protection layer and an information management layer. The first layer provides role-based access to information in the cloud, while the second enforces and organization’s security policy. The final layer will capture all the logs and allow organizations to demonstrate regulatory compliance.

PerspecSys takes another tack, though like Symantec it focuses on the message of control.

“We make cloud applications mission-critical for companies by ensuring that their sensitive data never moves outside the company’s network,” explains Canellos. “We help you use the application in the cloud, but keep the sensitive data behind your firewall at all times.”

PerspecSys focuses on protecting data in flight with an approach that Canellos says helps reduce the risk of data transfer, data processing and storage in the cloud.

“If you talk to data centers or the cloud providers, when the data is under their control, within the perimeter of their data center, they can give you all the assurances that the data is probably more secure than if it is with the perimeter of an SMB network,” he says. “But what happens when the data is in flight? At that point, if you look at the agreements companies have with data centers, that is no longer their responsibility.”

The PerspecSys Cloud Control Gateway uses tokenization to replace sensitive data in the cloud.

“Our solution sits between the conversation of the end user of the cloud application and the cloud,” Canellos says. “Essentially, we’re moderating the transaction between the end user and the cloud. Whatever the company has deemed to be sensitive information, we go ahead and steer that information to a local database behind the company firewall. In its place, we use replacement data.”

Israeli-firm Porticor also believes that trust and control of data in the cloud is the problem, but its answer is all about encryption and key management. Gilad Parann-Nissany, Porticor co-founder and CEO, likens Porticor’s solution to a safety deposit box in a Swiss bank. Porticor uses encryption key-splitting technology to give the customer a master encryption key common to all data objects in an application, while Porticor keeps its own set of encryption keys-’banker keys’ as Parann-Nissany refers to them-for each data object. When an application accesses the data store, it uses both parts of the key to dynamically encrypt and decrypt the data. The master key itself is homomorphically encrypted so it is never exposed, even when in use.

“The customer has control through the customer master key and the banker works very hard to secure every file and disk,” Parann-Nissany says. “Only the combination of the customer key and the banker key will open a disk.”

Moreover, the keys in Porticor’s possession are encrypted with the master key, so Porticor can’t even access the keys without the customer.

“Suppose you’re not dealing with a hacker,” Parann-Nissany says. “Your attacker is a business rival and they go to court and get a court order for your data. Because of the nature of the solution, we have nothing. Even the banker key is not there, it’s encrypted through the master key. They have to go to the customer if they want the data.”

He added, “The banker can never see the customer key. Even when it is being combined with the other keys, it is itself encrypted through this technique. The key point is that we can manage the customer keys without ever touching them or knowing them ourselves.”

CompTIA recommends that organizations use the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) as a resource for security questions when evaluating cloud service providers. The CSA, a nonprofit organization, has a list of more than 200 questions covering data integrity, security architecture, audits, regulatory compliance, governance, physical security, legal and more. It also publishes a top-level security roadmap for cloud operations.

Thor Olavsrud is a senior writer for Follow him @ThorOlavsrud.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Gilad Parann-Nissany

Gilad Parann-Nissany, Founder and CEO at Porticor is a pioneer of Cloud Computing. He has built SaaS Clouds for medium and small enterprises at SAP (CTO Small Business); contributing to several SAP products and reaching more than 8 million users. Recently he has created a consumer Cloud at - a cloud operating system that delighted hundreds of thousands of users while providing browser-based and mobile access to data, people and a variety of cloud-based applications. He is now CEO of Porticor, a leader in Virtual Privacy and Cloud Security.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment process from development to production scenarios using Docker containers.
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.