Is Public Cloud Security As Mysterious As Crop Circles?

BeyondTrust, August 18th, 2011

There are many of you out there who have seen pictures of crop circles and believe that they are truly a mystery that no one will ever get to the bottom of. For those of us in the information security field, I think we are starting to believe that the key to security in public clouds may be as elusive as the secret to crop circles.

Case in point, Amazon continues to deliver new, enterprise grade capabilities in its AWS cloud offering. Their recent release of federation capabilities is quite impressive. Coupled with their earlier release of policy based IAM capabilities. it gives their security and compliance sensitive customers a number of powerful tools to work with. Enterprises can now create temporary security credentials for AWS to allow existing identities (from, for example, a LDAP server) to make use of IAM’s fine-grained access controls.

Others like IBM with their Smart Cloud Enterprise and Enterprise+ offerings are also stepping up to meet the security and reliability standards of their most demanding customers.

But talking to a former Peregrine Systems colleague who is spending a lot of time with cloud vendors, highlighted that one big remaining issue is the mystery of what goes on at the hypervisor level in public clouds. As I highlighted in an earlier post the recent report by the Ponemon Institute on the Security of Cloud Computing Providers shows that cloud providers are “least confident in their ability to restrict privileged user access to sensitive data”.

We are helping our customers extend their existing insider security infrastructure, policies and compliance reporting to their private, public and hybrid clouds (more on that next week) but we can’t yet help control and monitor what the cloud provider’s many insiders are doing. But I will say this, if the cloud providers want to remove the mystery, we are happy to help provide the tools to do it.