In a recent discussion with several customers we asked a questions, "How many of you are deploying clouds?", everyone raised their hand. Then we asked similar questions about public and private clouds. Everyone still raised their hand. Many companies are implementing new infrastructure that includes both private and public cloud. This is often referred to as a hybrid cloud. In the Gartner research report Top 10 Strategic Trends for 2011, cloud computing tops the list. IDC research shows security as the top challenge for cloud computing. None of this comes as a surprise to security vendors like BeyondTrust who have been working with customers to secure their datacenters including virtual environments during the last several years.
So what's different now? Cloud computing introduces some new challenges to controlling access to privileged information and proving compliance. Who has access to privileged information? What actions are being taken to ensure compliance? These questions become more difficult to answer once systems are deployed in the cloud. Often security is assumed to be the responsibility of the cloud provider, however as a customer you can take control of access to the operating systems of whatever is running in the cloud by implementing a least privilege solution that will ensure only authorized users can get access to the systems and that their activities are monitored and recorded to meet compliance requirements like PCI.
Some companies currently use the open source tool, sudo, as their tool for elevating privileges. With sudo, privileges can be granted quickly on a per request basis. This ad hoc method of elevating privileges often creates a series of conflicting and difficult to maintain sudoer files, hosted on local servers, with local log files. Many organizations find that a spot check of sudoer files shows privileged access for employees who are no longer with the company. Not only does this put the company at risk it doesn't meet compliance requirements. These sudoer files become impossible to maintain as you move systems into the cloud. There is also a long list of sudo vulnerabilities making it a poor choice for cloud computing.
The best choice for implementing a least privilege solution is to have a privileged delegation strategy. A strategy that is planned and systematically implemented, one that is easy to manage and provides integrated logging while minimizing the impact to users and avoiding help desk tickets. But it isn't enough to just implement least privilege; many companies are required by regulation to provide entitlement reporting. Regulations that require some type of entitlement reporting include Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI, and HIPPA. So your privilege delegation strategy needs to include these critical reports as well.
So like virtualization, cloud is becoming part of the infrastructure strategy for most enterprises. Privileged Identity Management (PIM) is a critical requirement of this infrastructure that ensures you meet the security and compliance needs of your company. It will eliminate the misuse of privilege both in your datacenter and the cloud, help satisfy ever changing governance mandates and deliver on-demand entitlement reports and keystroke logs as needed for audits.