A Cloud Security Bill of Rights
By Dave Armlin, Director of Customer Support at CloudSwitch
Cloud security remains a top concern for enterprise cloud deployments. Unresolved policy and control issues make it difficult to meet the requirements of corporate security and networking teams. As a result, we frequently hear from our customers that they assume they can only put the lowest-risk data and applications into the cloud – or that their cloud projects are on hold till the security issues get resolved. This is a major limitation for cloud adoption, often creating a false belief that the cloud only works for apps “that don’t matter,” or for companies who are willing to take risks.
Customers Have the Right to Demand More
We believe that customers have the right to demand more from the cloud industry when it comes to security. They know the levels of security needed across the range of apps and data in their portfolios. And they shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than the security and control they’ve put in place internally.
Here’s what customers have the right to expect regarding cloud security:
- The right to control their data: In the shared environment of the cloud, customer data needs to be protected from unauthorized access at all times, and must be off limits to cloud providers and their technology partners. This means that data needs to be encrypted end to end, from inside the corporate firewall, across the Internet, and within the cloud — in storage, during processing, and in transit through the cloud network. The cloud should be a seamless extension of the customer’s IT environment, while the cloud provider sees only an encrypted connection running into its virtual servers and storage.
- The right to own their encryption keys: The biggest encryption challenge in the cloud involves managing the encryption keys used to decrypt data. The standard practice of storing the keys in the cloud and exposing them to the cloud provider greatly reduces the effectiveness of encrypting the data in the first place. Storing keys in virtual storage alongside the data also defeats much of the protection since if someone gains access to the disk, they will have both the data and the keys needed to access it. Thus the control of the encryption keys need to stay with the customer at all times, with keys delivered securely to the virtual machines in the cloud only when needed to decrypt the data for processing.
- The right to their access policies: For many enterprise applications, the only way to use the cloud safely is for the customer to use their own security policies and remain in control of them in the cloud. System administrators already have controls in place, typically with Active Directory, and use Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) to define users, groups, and roles to control access to applications and computing resources. A customer should be able to extend the internal security policies out to the cloud, so roles and permissions are consistent regardless of where a workload runs.
- The right to their network services: Every enterprise has a unique network infrastructure and configuration settings for providing connectivity between servers and applications. This includes a combination of things like addressing, related services (DHCP/DNS), identity and directory services (LDAP/Active Directory), WAN optimizers, load balancers, and firewalls. Cloud providers have completely different network architectures designed to support their multi-tenant environments. Customers should be able to choose whether they want to use the cloud provider’s network services or extend the products they’ve already put in place internally (many of which are now available in the cloud as virtual appliances).
- The right to their compliance processes: If the business depends on the ability to demonstrate compliance with government or industry regulations, the customer already has proven processes in place. Customers should be able to extend those compliance processes into the cloud, rather than be required by the cloud provider to adopt a whole new set of guidelines and procedures.
- The right to put their data where they want: Often, data must legally reside in specific geographic locations (e.g., EU, Canada), but the rest of the app tiers can be located wherever makes sense for performance and latency reasons. Customers should be able to put their data in the most suitable environment and move it when needed, whether to a preferred cloud or back to the data center, without being constrained by a particular cloud platform or technology stack. Applications should be able to run across multiple networks, geographic locations and computing environments, tying back seamlessly to processes running in the data center.
For Cloud Providers, It’s Time to Step Up
Making these rights available to cloud customers is not easy; otherwise cloud providers would have done it already. But if customers don’t set their standards high, they’ll start making compromises, either in the level of security they’re willing to accept or the types of workloads they’re willing to put in the cloud. For their part, cloud providers and their technology partners need to give customers the same security and control they already expect internally so they can use the cloud without risk and without constraints. Customers have the right to demand a safe environment for their apps and data — when the cloud industry can deliver it, everybody wins.