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Security Breaches, Data Loss, Outages: The Bad Side of Cloud

What to consider and how to be proactive about cloud security.

As a big supporter of cloud computing, this is never an easy topic to discuss. However, security concerns will always be present as threats continue to rise. Let me give you an example. As soon as the whole Heartbleed topic arose, our organization began fielding calls from various IT shops asking for remediation, fixes, and patches. The crazy part was that not all OpenSSL systems were impacted. Many pre-version 1 OpenSSL systems were safe. Many others were facing the challenge up correcting and fixing this serious vulnerability. Cisco, Juniper, F5, and many others were actively deploying fixes to ensure that their systems stay safe. Numerous social media giants – Facebook and LinkedIn for example – were also having to deal with OpenSSL issues. Furthermore, even though they were stating that patches have been deployed, these giants were asking all of their users to reset their passwords… just in case.

Interdependencies on cryptography library pieces can allow for a standardization around security protocols. However, it can also cause issues like Heartbleed where a number of large providers are impacted by the same very serious issue. Although cloud computing is a powerful platform, it can certainly have its “cloudier” days.

Although we’ve come a long way with cloud design, there are still some concerns and issues to overcome. There are so many moving parts that create a cloud environment that sometimes, not all of the pieces fit together entirely well. In looking at cloud computing, consider some of the following:

  • Cloud and security. This is still absolutely an issue. In fact, it’s a growing issue. Arbor Networks 9th annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report illustrates this point very clearly with the largest reported DDoS attack in 2013 clocking in at 309 Gbps. As cloud computing becomes more popular, it will become the target of more malicious attacks. No single environment is safe and every infrastructure must be controlled with set policies in place. Heartbleed is a perfect example where a number of massive cloud organizations can be impacted by a standardized security structure.
  • Dealing with data loss. Allowing users to get into the cloud is one thing. Accessing applications through a cloud model is a powerful way to allow end-users to work remotely. However, what happens when users start uploading files to the cloud? Healthcare is a great example where data loss can be extremely costly. A recent report from the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) really paints the picture around the ramifications of a data breach. Over the recent years, the numbers around healthcare data breaches can be quit sobering.
    • Total Breaches: 495
    • Total Records: 21.12 million
    • Total Cost: $4.1 billion
    • Average Size: 42,659 records
    • Average Cost: $8.27 million
    • Average Time to Identify: 84.78 days
    • Average Time to Notify: 68.31 days

Many organizations often times don’t have a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) system plan in place. This means that a user, even non-maliciously, might post some information or upload a file which can contain sensitive information.

  • Cloud outages. No entity is 100% safe from some type of disaster or emergency. In fact, a powerful storm in June of 2012 knocked out an entire data center which was owned by Amazon. What was hosted in that data center? Amazon Web Services. All affected AWS businesses in that data center were effectively down. Cloud-centric companies like Instagram, Netflix, and Pinterest were all made production ineffective for over six hours. To paint a clearer picture, there was a recent study conducted by the International Working Group on Cloud Computing Resiliency. This report showed that since 2007, about 568 hours were logged as downtime between 13 major cloud carriers. This has, so far, cost the customer about $72 million.

So what do you do? If you take a look at the responses from folks like Facebook, Google, and even LinkedIn, you’ll see proactive actions which address the issue immediately and sets in motion plans to fix problems like this moving forward. You can never predict the future, especially not in IT or security. But you can be vigilant and ready for things like this to happen.

New proactive security solutions like virtual security appliances give you the ability to deploy agile, powerful, and intelligent security systems anywhere within your infrastructure. The other big part is that these security platforms can be service-oriented. This means you can monitor specific network nodes and data points within a very distributed environment.

For now, cloud computing has really done a good job staying out of the spotlight when it comes to major security issues. Yes, Dropbox might accidentally delete a few of your files, or some source code becomes exposed. But the reality is that a public cloud environment hasn’t really ever experience amassive data breach. Ask yourself this question, what would happen if AWS lost 80 million records like in the very recent Anthem breach? The conversation around public cloud security would certainly shift quickly. But the reality is that they haven’t. Maybe this gives us more hope that the cloud architecture is being designed in such a way that data is properly segregated, networks are well designed, and the proper boarder security technologies are in place. It all sounds great; but the key is to never become complacent. As more organizations move to a cloud-based model, advanced persistent threats may follow.

Article was originally published on Data Center Knowledge.

TAGS: Security
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