Things change when you move to the cloud. With the rise of DevOps, a shift toward using containers versus just virtual machines, and standing up more cloud workloads than ever, security teams are scrambling just to keep pace, let alone get ahead of the cyber threat landscape. The problem, though, is that we really DO need to get ahead of the threats that inherently come with all this, because falling behind means we’re dangerously exposed to cyber threats.
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Examples of New Types of Cyberattacks
As cloud computing services evolve, the cloud potentially opens up entirely new ways for attacks to take place. In February 2017, the Content Delivery Network (CDN) CloudFlare was exposed by Tavis Ormandy of the Google Project Zero team to have major memory leakage in their web caching services. All sorts of sensitive data were exposed, including passwords, authentication tokens, cookies, and more. While this is just one example of a cloud-oriented service having a major security issue (which, for the record, they responded to immediately and quickly remediated), it demonstrates that we may have more exposure points than we realized.
Cloud systems and images also have OS and component vulnerabilities, just like those in the enterprise. Heartbleed, Shellshock, and other major flaws can affect cloud systems. In fact, CASB provider Skyhigh Networks cited .
There are new issues to worry about too. Software engineer Ian Duffy discovered a major flaw in Microsoft Azure in February 2017. When deploying Red Hat instances in Azure, Duffy found that they contained two major problems. First, instances exposed admin API keys in a configuration file named WALinuxAgent. This ultimately allowed access to any virtual machine hard drives within the customer account. The second issue included embedded details of backend Azure update servers that could be hijacked from tenant instances. This was accomplished through a shared SSL certificate that acted as a trust verification control. This type of issue demonstrates poor validation and analysis procedures on the part of the cloud provider administration team.
Cyber Risk Exposure Growing
As if this wasn’t enough, we’re also seeing a higher risk tolerance on the part of organizations. Organizations are putting more sensitive customer-related data, particularly customer personally identifiable information (PII) and healthcare records, in cloud environments. In the SANS 2017 Cloud Security survey, 40% of respondents said they are storing customer PII in the cloud (compared to 35% in 2016), while 21% are storing healthcare records in the cloud (19% in 2016). The most widely cited concerns about the cloud were unauthorized access to data by outsiders, users circumventing security controls, and the difficulty in investigating and responding to cloud-based incidents.
To improve configuration management, patch status assessment, and threat surface reduction, many teams are looking to echo the automation movement through more rapid and dynamic vulnerability scanning and assessment in the cloud. We also need to embrace the idea of SecDevOps, which strives to automate core security tasks by embedding security controls and processes into the DevOps workflow. Ideally, security can then integrate controls into the deployment pipeline more effectively without causing delays and issues with implementing DevOps security controls after systems are already running.
With faster operations, DevOps pushing code changes forward more rapidly than ever, and new types of assets appearing in the cloud all the time, it’s critical for security teams to develop a model of scanning visualization and benchmarking of cyber risk across the entire attack surface. Without visibility across internal assets and public cloud environments collectively, organizations can easily miss an aspect of security that’s been overlooked in the integration of hybrid cloud components and infrastructure.
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Dave Shackleford, Cybersecurity Expert and Founder of Voodoo Security
Dave Shackleford is the owner and principal consultant of Voodoo Security and a SANS analyst, senior instructor, and course author. He has consulted with hundreds of organizations in the areas of security, regulatory compliance, and network architecture and engineering, and is a VMware vExpert with extensive experience designing and configuring secure virtualized infrastructures. He has previously worked as CSO for Configuresoft, CTO for the Center for Internet Security, and as a security architect, analyst, and manager for several Fortune 500 companies.