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OWASP: Security Spending Remains Mostly Unchanged With Cloud Computing

New Open Web Application Security Project report finds enterprises aren't sufficiently verifying cloud providers' security, either
Organizations adopting cloud computing or software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology may be saving money when it comes to their IT infrastructures, but a new report shows it doesn't significantly affect their security spending.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) survey, released today by the OWASP Security Spending Benchmarks Project, also found enterprises aren't properly vetting the security provided by their cloud computing providers. While about 60 percent of them say security is mentioned in contracts with their service providers, only about half of them said they asked their providers about their internal security policies (53 percent), encryption (54 percent), data segregation (40 percent), data location (41 percent), and compliance (44 percent).

Failing to verify, audit, or test a cloud provider's security is a common misstep in taking the SaaS route, security experts say. Some recommend hiring a third party to verify and evaluate the cloud provider's security, or to even negotiate an on-site visit of your own.

OWASP found far fewer organizations require actual documentation of the cloud provider's security: Only 35 percent said they mandate their provider put in writing their internal security policies; 29 percent, the encryption measures; 29 percent, data segregation setup; 34 percent, data location; and 39 percent, compliance with security rules and regulations.

"That's pretty significant," says Boaz Gelbord, project leader of the OWASP Security Spending Benchmarks Project and executive director of information security for Wireless Generation. "That means that organizations are putting themselves out in the cloud and not even inquiring as to what security there is in place. They are relying on their contractual [arrangement], and that may not be enough."

Many companies are still stuck in the old-school outsourcing mindset and haven't yet factored in the security implications of running a SaaS model. "Their No. 1 concern with cloud computing was the risk of data breaches, but this hasn't translated into action yet," Gelbord says.

And, interestingly, security spending doesn't change much when a company adopts cloud computing -- so far, anyway. "It could be a reflection of the early phase of getting to the cloud, and security budgets can take some time to turn around," Gelbord says.

Only 4 percent said their network security spending rose 10 to 20 percent with their SaaS adoption, while another 4 percent said it increased 20 percent. More than half said their network security spending either increased or decreased by less than 10 percent. More than half said their spending on security staff in the wake of a SaaS implementation changed less than 10 percent, and 9 percent said their staffing expenses declined 10 to 20 percent.

More than half of the respondents deploy online applications (a la Google Docs and Salesforce.com), while less than 25 percent use infrastructure-as-a-service (computing power like Amazon's EC2 service) or platform-as-a-service provisioning services (like Google's App Engine).

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