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Cloud

1/9/2014
02:30 PM
Bill Kleyman
Bill Kleyman
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Cloud Gazing: 3 Security Trends To Watch

The ultimate success of cloud computing depends on the security solutions we wrap around it.

Cloud computing continues to break barriers and deliver new types of workloads and content. Just look at how many users are connecting via the Internet. Statistics show us that a typical user accesses two to three devices every day. If you work in tech, I have no doubt that this number is even larger.

The security environment around cloud continues to evolve as well. The days of the PC, as we all know, are coming to an end. With so much more information traversing the cloud, the focus has shifted from endpoint security to delivering applications, data, and a great user experience. But this leaves open questions about how we keep all of this data secure, provide a powerful end-user experience, and still maintain information integrity

Unfortunately, I left my crystal ball at home today. So instead of predicting what the future will bring, let me tell you about three important trends that are happening now that will shape the cloud computing experience going forward.

Applications and APIs. Applications are truly becoming cloud-centric. More users are ditching the standard PC and employing cloud apps through mobile devices. This makes application-layer security critical. APIs are also creating more optimized application communication. These logical cross-connects can span entire datacenters, enabling applications to utilize resources on a whole new level, via application firewalls, hypervisor-layer security, and new possibilities of inter-app security wrapping.

Next-generation firewalls (physical and virtual). Security vendors are developing security technologies that span datacenters, cloud, and various data points. Already today, we are seeing virtual as well as physical appliances running new types of security engines, scanning processes, and creating greater levels of protection. But, as these NGFW technologies progress, there will be an even greater need for visibility into the data security layer. Over the next couple of years, security platforms like those from Palo Alto, Checkpoint, Fortinet, Cisco, and others will work to create an intelligent framework that connects datacenters and information.

Data collaboration security. Compliance and regulation is driving the need for better data control and security. What’s more, all of this data will need to work with various cloud delivery options and possibly traverse a variety of networks. We are now seeing options around data segregation and the creating of optimized data controls. For example, the latest Omnibus Rule change for HIPAA allows products like Citrix ShareFile to process protected healthcare information (PHI) directly in the cloud. This new data security and collaboration methodology will allow organizations to maintain HIPAA as well as PCI/DSS compliance.

As with any technology, when use becomes more widespread, the target gets bigger. The amount of data we continue to push through the cloud will continue to increase as more services are developed to be cloud-centric. Next-generation security technologies will help keep data secure, and our ability to logically segment key data points will allow for even greater information agility. But the future of the cloud will only be as powerful as the security solutions we can wrap around these new emerging platforms.

Bill Kleyman is an enthusiastic technologist with experience in datacenter design, management, and deployment.

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Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2014 | 3:57:12 PM
Re: Cloud & Compliance -- more data breaches TK in healthcare?
Those are pretty interesting examples! I came to the same conclusion -- that the causes of the large breaches you reported were all based on physical issues -- that had very little to do with the cloud. We'll see if the same holds true a year from now!

 
Bill Kleyman
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Bill Kleyman,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 10:57:00 AM
Re: Cloud & Compliance -- more data breaches TK in healthcare?
@Marilyn -- Well, the assessment isn't wrong. Certainly as more healthcare organizations move into the cloud, it will create more targets for the bad guy. But isn't that the evolution of technology? We saw this with the age of the PC and now are seeing it in the cloud.

Healthcare and infrastructure security will have to evolve to the needs of the modern business and to encompass new security measures. Just because an environment is in the cloud doesn't mean it has to be unsecure. 

Using the same source as a reference -- I wrote an article for HealthITSecurity.com recently that looked at some of the largest security breaches:

1. Utah Department of Health

Number affected: About 780,000

What happened: A weak password policy was in effect on a network server.

2. Emory Healthcare

Number affected: About 315,000

What happened:  10 backup disks went missing due to an unlocked storage facility door.

3. South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Number affected: About 230,000

What happened:  17 Excel spreadsheets were illegally copied.

In reality - all three of those organizations have cloud services already running. And, those three examples really don't have anything to do with the cloud. A lot of these breaches are physical in nature because of some oversight. When it comes to such large targets - in some cases - cloud is probably one of the lesser concerns.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
1/17/2014 | 9:54:44 AM
Re: Cloud & Compliance -- more data breaches TK in healthcare?
Bill, thanks for raising the compliance issue in the context of new HIPAA Omnibus Rules and the ACA that went into effect last September.  As I understand it (and I'm no expert!) the new rule levies hefty fines, requires more audits and added enforcement related to the protection of patients' protected health information. But, it also, according to HealthITSecurity.com and others, also opens up cloud computing to healthcare organizations like never before, which some in the industry predict will translate into a huge increase in HIT data breaches next year.  Do you agree with that assessment? What do others think?

 

 

"
 
Bill Kleyman
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Bill Kleyman,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/16/2014 | 6:39:13 PM
Re: Cloud & Compliance -- Application Security
@Marilyn - It's really an all-encompassing effort. Developers need be smarter around the securiy that they use and cloud profesionals need to be ever-vigilant.

The cloud is a vastly growing environment where more organizations are finding direct benefits. However, when it comes to security and cloud best practices - it's still hard to define the absolute optimal security designs.

Let me give you a very interesting example. I recently spoke to a friend who is a professional white hat security expert. His organization gets hired by large enterprizes to test security strategies. Recently, he worked with the Amazon cloud and the virtual images within the infrastructure. A lot of the images used within the AWS cloud are actually provided by the community. These Amazin Machine Images are then used to spin up servers. So, as part of a research project, the team of white hat professionals designed a community AMI and uploaded it to Amazon -- all contolled of course. That AMI had a "backdoor" built in.

You'd be absolutely amazed at home many organizations and people downloaded and used that image. The findings were quickly reported to the appropriate people.

That said -- there are still gaps in security when it comes to cloud. Using good deployment methods and creating strong code built around solid transmission security practices is still one of the best ways to secure your cloud and application environment. 
Bill Kleyman
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Bill Kleyman,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/16/2014 | 6:32:25 PM
Re: Cloud & Compliance
@daniel - You're so very correct. There is a change in how people target the modern data center. Advanced persisten threats (APTs) are evolving at a very fast pace. Securing applications and data is critical to maintain the integrity of your infrastructure.

Logical targets are growing against the modern data center. More bad guys are taking their aim at the data center because more people are moving to rhe cloud. There's a good reason that I say that "The Data center is the center of the Universe." Unfortunately -- as the cloud and data center get bigger -- so does the target. For example:




 

 

 

 

 

 
Bill Kleyman
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Bill Kleyman,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/16/2014 | 6:26:26 PM
Re: Cloud & Compliance
@Marilyn - It's really revolving around the processing of transient protected healthcare information (PHI). However, the bigger picture are the changes that are actually happening. Community clouds housing compliance-oriented applications and workloads are going to be come a lot more popular. Let's look at another exapmle, Rackspace. According to Rackspace, when you host your infrastructure in their cloud, you can also sign up with a separate payment processor to provide tokenization, which occurs when you replace credit card data with meaningless numbers or "tokens." When you accept a payment, non-PCI data is routed to your Rackspace-hosted environment, while the tokenized credit card data is routed to your payment processor. Since your customers' credit card data is not routed to your Rackspace hosted infrastructure—only the payment processor—your Rackspace environment stays out of the scope of your PCI requirements.

All of these security-oriented environments are now being delivered via the cloud. This can be e-commerce data or healthcare information. The point is that both cloud security and how workloads are being delivered is evolving. 
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
1/13/2014 | 7:11:05 AM
Re: Cloud & Compliance -- Application Security
@DanielCawrey -- Where do you see the major gaps in a application security in the cloud and what kind of tools do you think IT departments need to fill them. Or is it more an issue that the app developers need to be doing a better job writing secure code?
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/10/2014 | 12:55:02 PM
Re: Cloud & Compliance
IT really needs to focuse more on application security. This brings more emphasis on software, a very common trend these days.

There's only so much that can be done on the hardware level, and as a result software is simply the next step. This could be good or bad depending on how good a particular effort's software development really is. 
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
1/9/2014 | 5:13:42 PM
Cloud & Compliance
That's interesting about the changing HIPAA regulations around cloud. Are they primarily related to electronic health records? Or are there other applications that will have an impact on cloud security.
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