Traditional (draconian??) e-security departments are having a field day with all the media buzz surrounding the insecurity of the Cloud Computing. They are missing the big picture.
Risk management is important. However what I am seeing right now is that these traditional e-security departments are just concentrating on the the Vulnerability component of the Risk equation:
Total risk = Threat X Vulnerability X Asset value
Residual risk = Total risk – Countermeasures
They are completely leaving out the "likelihood of a event happening" from their analysis. Countermeasures are put in place to reduce the likelihood of an event, which minimizes the overall residual risk.
Countermeasures are put in place to reduce the likelihood of an event, which minimizes the overall residual risk.
There is a common misconception that a move to Cloud Computing is inherently insecure. I don't think that is the case. For example, with Google App you can easily utilize multi-factor authentication, or make to it even more secure you can place the Security Assertion server inside your corporate firewall. This would require the user to be on the corporate network before accessing any of the Google Apps. However, this would also cause inconvenience for the mobile user who doesn't like to login into a VPN connection. It is all about trade-offs. My key point is that there is nothing preventing an organization from securing the Cloud Services.
I really don't think Cloud Computing is to be blamed for the twitter hack. The attack would have been possible even if twitter was using a in-house Exchange Server with some provisions for remote access and weak passwords. It is all about authentication and access control. If twitter had instituted proper access control using multi-factor authentication, this would never have happened.
NIST recently published a working draft of the Cloud Computing Security presentation. Some of the Security Advantages mentioned in the presentation are:
1. Shifting public data to a external cloud reduces the exposure of the internal sensitive data
2. Cloud homogeneity makes security auditing/testing simpler
3. Clouds enable automated security management
4. Redundancy / Disaster Recovery
5. Data Fragmentation and Dispersal
6. Dedicated Security Team
7. Greater Investment in Security Infrastructure
8. Fault Tolerance and Reliability
9. Greater Resiliency
10. Hypervisor Protection Against Network Attacks
11. Possible Reduction of C&A Activities (Access to Pre-Accredited Clouds)
12. Simplification of Compliance Analysis
13. Data Held by Unbiased Party (cloud vendor assertion)
14. Low-Cost Disaster Recovery and Data Storage Solutions
15. On-Demand Security Controls
16. Real-Time Detection of System Tampering
17. Rapid Re-Constitution of Services
18. Advanced Honeynet Capabilities
I understand that these will depend on the actual implementation. It usually does for everything. For e.g. you can create world's most secure cipher, but the poor implementation is usually the weakest link.
But in theory, if cloud services are implemented properly, I think NIST's list of advantages hold true.
Problems are Soluble. Problems are inevitable - Professor David Deutsch
No amount of precautions can avoid problems that we do not yet foresee. Hence we need an attitude of problem fixing, not just problem "avoidance". An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, but that’s only if we know what to "prevent". If you’ve been punched on the nose, then the science of medicine does not consist of teaching you how to avoid punches. If medical science stopped seeking cures and concentrated on prevention only, then it would achieve very little of either.
The traditional Enterprise IT world is buzzing at the moment with plans on how to stop Cloud Computing from entering into the workplace. It ought to be buzzing with plans to reduce the security and privacy risks associated with Cloud Computing and improve data-portability and forensic capabilities. And not at all costs, but efficiently and cheaply. And some such plans exist, host-proof hosting, for example.
With problems that we are not aware of yet, the ability to put right - not the sheer good luck of avoiding indefinitely - is our only hope, not just of solving problems, but of making technological progress.
(the above is based on a talk by Professor David Deutsch on problem avoidance)