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2/13/2017
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National Security, Regulation, Identity Top Themes At Cloud Security Summit

Gen. Keith Alexander gives Trump a thumbs-up and Cloud Security Alliance releases a new application.

RSA CONFERENCE -- San Francisco – While deep conversations about DNS infrastructure and Dyn DDoSes were absent, the most popular refrains at today’s Cloud Security Alliance Summit here were related instead to regulation, identity, and how to use the cloud to improve security.

Keynote speaker Gen. Keith Alexander (ret.) -- who served as the first commander of the US Cyber Command from 2010 to 2014 and director of the NSA from 2005 to 2014 - proposed a new model for securing government systems.

“Why did [the Office of Personnel Management] get hacked?” said Gen. Alexander, now CEO and president of IronNet Cybersecurity. “They didn’t have the resources to" defend themselves, he said.

Historically, the government has left individual agencies “on their own as if they were individual organizations on their own to defend themselves. But they’re not," he said.

Moving government agencies to the cloud, he said, would ultimately make it possible to create a defensive surface far stronger than what currently exists, protecting the entire government. "Reading the Constitution, it reads ‘provide for the common defense,’ not only for the defense of you who are really big and the really critical,” he said.

The same practice could be applied to businesses in the same vertical industry, to make compliance with regulations easier and more effective, he indicated.

Gen. Alexander also remarked that he met President Trump for the first time recently, as a civilian at a White House cybersecurity meeting Jan. 31. Once the press left, said Alexander, the President listened to each person, took in their advice, and weighed what they said. “I think what I saw there was the President our nation needs to solve this problem.”

Regulation and More Regulation

Throughout the day, speakers discussed regulation -- how more was coming, how to make complying with it easier, and even how to avoid complying with it at all. 

The usual alphabet soup of HIPAA, FISMA, FedRAMP, etc., made passing appearances, but more time was devoted to the tricky topic of government intelligence agencies or law enforcement subpoenaing cloud users or cloud service providers for data. 

“The subpoenas are not the problem; the blind subpoenas are the problem,” said Venafi CEO Jeff Hudson. As Hudson explained, because of the secretive nature of these exposures, the government begins to seem like an adversary and a blind subpoena seems like a breach.

Building on that sentiment, Chris Eng, Veracode vice president of research, said “If I don’t have the data, I can’t give it up." He said he believed cloud users' desire to avoid these situations should push them to stop storing data they don't really need, and he predicts more cloud service providers will move to end-to-end encryption and put keys in the hands of users to avoid these sticky situations.

Robert Herjavec, CEO of Herjavec Group (and star of Shark Tank, who has served as cybersecurity advisor to the government of Canada and recently joined the US Chamber of Commerce Task Force for Cybersecurity) predicts there will be more and more cloud regulation -- which, among other factors, will contribute to the creation of more country-specific cloud services, that keep data within national borders.

CSA's First Commercial Product

The CSA itself is making a new contribution to help organizations prepare for whatever compliance obligations that may be on the horizon -- announcing, today, the official launch of STARWatch. Building on the CSA Security Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR) program, STARWatch is a SaaS application that enables organizations to manage all their cloud providers, as well as their own private clouds, set consistent security baselines, and perform audits. The application already boasts 250 licensees, activated during the beta phase. 

“We created the STARWatch application with two main objectives in mind – to simplify assurance and vendor management as well as to streamline compliance,” said Daniele Catteddu, CTO for the Cloud Security Alliance, in a release.

This is the first commercial product that CSA has released. In an interview here, CSA CEO Jim Reavis said STARWatch was created because of demands from the CSA members for such an offering. It's essentially a tool to make all the Alliance's earlier research more usable and actionable, he said.

While Reavis didn't rule out the possibility of CSA releasing more products in the future, he also didn't indicate the Alliance had plans to make this a habit. Rather, they would take the approach of being the "standards-bearer" for the industry, he said.

Identity

“You need to get your identity act together,” said CEO of Centrify Tom Kemp. He mentioned that despite the fact that the vast majority of attacks derive from an excess of passwords and privileges, only a small share of cybersecurity investments are spent on identity solutions.

“In Starbucks, you’re not using a next-gen firewall,” said Kemp. “You need to be securing the user.”

Centrify is an identity-as-a-service provider; but Kemp was not the only one beating the identity drum. The subject came up repeatedly throughout the day.

Hudson added that the identity of machines, not just users, was essential, particularly as it related to IoT security.

Herjavec, however, noted that identity management “requires a lot of care and feeding.”

Related Content:

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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