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Creating a Governance Model for Public Cloud Security

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Filed under Cloud Practice

(re-post from the blog of PaulSPatterson.com)

What does public cloud governance mean to you?

Their are obvious opportunities that the public cloud offers, and while the rewards far outweigh the risks, there are still risks. Applying governance to your cloud strategy will set you in a better position to realize value, within the levels of risk that you are willing to accept.

The flexibility of today’s cloud services, especially public cloud services, provides for very convenient and easy ways of “spinning up” services on demand. Just like the way grocery store candy and magazine stands serve customer impulse buying tendencies, so do the offerings of some public cloud services. It is very easy to provision a new service in the public cloud. With Windows Azure for example, I can fire up a full blown 8 server infrastructure, complete with networking and integrated services, in a matter of twenty minutes. That simple convenience makes it easy to cater to impulse tendencies.

Policies and procedures are meant to ensure that activities are executed in way that are in the best interest of the organization. Additional governance processes specifically for cloud services ensures that those services are used in a controlled way, so that the interests of the organization are maintained. Creating and deploying a cloud based server farm that includes virtual networking connected to your on-premise infrastructure, for example, presents risks. With a set of governed practices, that cloud based deployment will meet the expectations of the organization, and thus make your CIO sleep better at night.

Is governance for cloud services needed? Well, let’s try and answer the questions that help determine if your use of cloud services should be governed in some what or another.

What returns do you expect to receive from public cloud services? What opportunities will be lost of you don’t adopt a cloud strategy?

Again, the risk of using public cloud services are likely insignificant compared to the opportunities that will be lost.  Operational efficiencies. Improved customer service and satisfaction. Sales and revenue. There are plenty of opportunities in adopting a public cloud strategy. Planning and executing on a sound cloud strategy can enabled an organization to realize a return from new opportunities.

Policies and practices will typically guide how public cloud services will provide value.  Governed cloud services are expected meet organizational expectations, with goal being that the services used will return value and  realize new opportunities.

If you used a cloud service today, is there clear direction and does that direction align with strategic objectives?

Cloud services are not the means to an end. Cloud services are simply another mechanism for enabling and delivering business value. Your current internal data center, or your “private cloud”, was created for a reason; to deliver value to the organization.  Decisions on IT spending are ultimately measured against strategic objectives. The decisions made to use cloud services should be traced back to clearly defined, accepted, and measured organizational priorities.

Do you have a cloud strategy for your organization? If so, does that strategy include plans to meet enterprise goals and objectives?

Are you ready for the cloud? How do you feel when someone starts talking to you about public cloud services?

Some organizations are not ready for the public cloud, or cloud computing in general for that matter. There is a lot of publicized hype and marketing about cloud services. The cloud computing landscape can be confusing and intimidating at best. Being ready for the public cloud means being comfortable about what the public cloud offers, and what risks are, and are not.

An organizations’ readiness for public cloud services can be gauged by the following:

  • The amount of public cloud knowledge in the enterprise.
  • Organizational attitude towards the public cloud, and does the organizations’ culture support public cloud opportunities.
  • Existing strategies conflict with using public cloud services.
  • What does your gut say?

Determining an organizations readiness for adopting a Public Cloud strategy is critical in identifying adoption pressure points. Rather than brute force the implementation of a strategy, due diligence will hash out and prioritize the opportunities that will bring the organization to a state of Public Cloud readiness. Risks should be identified with existing organizational culture, knowledge, and policies and practices. A readiness assessment can then created and vetted.

What else?

Some resource that I have found of interest (so far)…

Hey, this is just one of many topics I am discovering  in my never ending public cloud security journey. I likely just touched the surface on this particular topic and if you have any insight, opinions, or whatever, please let me know. The more discussion the better.

Cheers!

Organizations Struggle with SharePoint Data Security Governance

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Filed under Cloud Practice, SharePoint

(re-post from the blog of PaulSPatterson.com)

This article is not quite specific to my cloud security bandwagon context, however I was just reading an interesting report from Aberdeen Group. The report, titled SharePoint Collaboration Secure and Mobile, talks to a couple of SharePoint data security concerns that I found interesting. Most notably, how organizations are not performing well at data governance with their SharePoint environments.

Data Security and the Cloud Sprawl

Keeping track of corporate data is harder today than it ever has been. Introduce the use of cloud services for data management, and now your looking at whole different dimension end-points to worry about.  Adding the elastic and organic nature of the cloud, specifically in how cloud services are used to host data, seems to only compound security and privacy concerns.

And it’s tough to keep up. As quickly as we move to adjust and implement governance models, a new way of doing something in the cloud is made available. SharePoint is arguably the most commonly used collaboration software used today. Consider the massive amount of documents, lists, and knowledge that is managed by today’s enterprise SharePoint environments, and the number of users that have access to those environments. Those same users are also accessing elastic cloud services and social networks that when combined, represent a sprawl of new risks that are sometimes impossible to map and keep track of.

SharePoint Concerns

Coming back to SharePoint, Aberdeen presents some points about what organizations are performing well at with SharePoint, and what they are not doing well at. Two pieces of insight are presented in the report; how well are organizations doing when they use complementary security technologies for SharePoint, and how they are struggling with SharePoint data governance.

The use of complementary security technologies seems to be what most are doing well at. Measurements of security-related incidents, non-compliance incidents, and human related errors, were each used to determine how organizations fared.  Strategies such as; disk encryption, data classification, data loss prevention, and rights management are used. According to the report, best-in-class users of SharePoint are leaders in the use of disk encryption and data classification, while the lagging performers seem to have more issues due to data loss, and rights management security.

Clearly understanding expectations of how data is accessed and used seems to be a challenge for most organizations using SharePoint. SharePoint empowers users with the ability to do a lot of things, including the ability to define very granular security permissions. Without a clear and defined expectation of what users should or should not do, users can wreak havoc with the data. Organizations, according to the report, are struggling with data governance.

What Can Be Done?

As per the report, there are some steps that can be taken to mitigate a more secure SharePoint environment.

  • Data Classification. Taking an inward-out strategy by putting controls on the data. The idea that information about the data follows the data wherever it goes, even it happens to go outside of the SharePoint environment – such as into the cloud sprawl.
  • Prioritize Security Objectives. Create, or apply existing, data security and compliance protocols to SharePoint data.
  • Policies and Procedures. Especially important for publicly traded companies, data in SharePoint needs to meet legislated compliance regulations, as well as organizations guidelines.
  • Knowledge and Training. Teach users how to do things right the first time.
  • Best Practices. Using security best practices will scaffold the privacy and protection of the data.
  • Complementary Tools. There are many complementary data protection tools for SharePoint. Use them.

I can see much of the above being applied to pretty much any other internal, and external cloud-based, environment. What attracted me to this report were data security concerns, and how poorly many organizations are doing with data governance.

Do you see any of this being a concern? How about in your own organization?

Canadian Legislation and Cloud Security

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Filed under Cloud Practice

(…re-post from PaulSPatterson.com)

If you’re a Canadian based enterprise looking into cloud services, you need to understand that Canada has it’s own domestic security policies that, essentially, mirror those of the United States. You’ve likely heard of the United States’ Patriot Act. Canada has it’s own version of the Patriot Act called the Anti-Terrorism Act (Bill C-36), which amended the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (CSIS Act) as well as the National Defense Act.

The Anti-Terrorism Act is legislation created in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US. This act amends existing legislation to give Canadian security agencies additional powers to respond to terrorism threats. In effect, the act offers more security and surveillance powers to agencies, when required.  Some of the provisions of act expired in March of 2007, which were not renewed as a result of a House of Commons vote a month earlier.

In 2012, Bill S-7 was introduced in  the Senate. Bill S-7, also known as the “Combating Terrorism Act” sought to restore the expired C-36 provisions, as well as amend new crimes to the bill. The recent bombings in Boston escalated the agenda of S-7, which resulted in a vote in April which saw the bill passed into legislation.

The Anti-Terrorism Act is similar in context to the Patriot Act in the US. What is somewhat different is that Bill C-36 also considers other concerns. Consider the United States Foreign Intelligence Service Court (FISC), which is responsible for issuing surveillance warrants to the likes of the FBI and NSA – basically allowing foreign spies to be spied on. Bill C-36 provides amendments to the CSIS Act that essentially offers the same powers to Canada’s own domestic security and intelligence communities. Considering that Canada is known as a world leader in communications research and technology…

Understanding that these laws are created in the spirit of preventing terrorism, and not meant to be an over arching mechanism to keep tabs on everyone and everything. The immediate thought of a Hollywood type spy movie plot is an unfortunate, and a sensational, scenario that many in the real world immediately think about when first we talk about security and privacy in the cloud. We have the oversight, and general understanding of what the difference is between right and wrong, to mitigate the risks that the legislation is not being used for what it is intended to be used for.

What to know more about Canadian privacy legislation, and then some? Check out this massive list of resources compiled by David T.S. Fraser here…

Also, his blog post by Shaun Calderwood from Perpetual West is another terrific resource for all things cloud security and privacy in Canada.

What are your thoughts on domestic cloud security and privacy concerns?

Canadian Cloud Law

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Filed under Cloud Practice

(re-post from the blog of PaulSPatterson.com)

One of my favorite sites these days is David T.S. Fraser’s Canadian Cloud Law Blog (www.cloudlawyer.ca). I can easily answer objections related to using cloud services; especially from people here in Canada. However, I am just one person, and having resources such as David’s blog certainly helps add credibility to the objection handling in my cloud context conversations.

If you are a Canadian organization, or doing business with a Canadian organization, then I encourage you to visit David’s blog. If anything, browse through the Cloud Computing Privacy FAQ on the site. The information on the FAQ is fantastic, and is a great reference point for further cloud privacy conversations.

Remember, using the cloud is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There are private and hybrid cloud opportunities that will address privacy concerns, while still offering real value to the organization. Canadian enterprises specifically can take advantage of these types of integrated cloud scenarios to benefit in ways that will offer a great return.

Data is just a part of the overall solution. Keeping data on-premise while leveraging public cloud services to offload processing, for example, is one scenario that has been proven to be successful. Keeping the data private and within the organizational boundaries keeps data concerns private. Leveraging the elastic nature of cloud services to take care of “spinning up” services when needed takes the load of otherwise important internal IT infrastructure. Data doesn’t need to be stored externally, and when the data is used it is compressed and encrypted for use by external services but not stored externally.

There are plenty of options and opportunities for Canadian enterprises to leverage the cloud. Feel free to send me a note, or contact me directly, with whatever questions or conversations you have. I love talking about this stuff.

Curious to know more about what the cloud means to Canadian organizations? I’d be more than happy to chat about it.

Cheers!

Organizational Control and Public Cloud Services

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Filed under Cloud Practice

(…a re-post from PaulSPatterson.com)

In my journey of public cloud security enlightenment, I’ve been hording a wealth of reference material. One of the things I’ve found is a terrific article titled, “Cloud Computing Security in the Enterprise”  by Dan Blum, a former VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner. In it is a section that talks about how new security management  thinking must take place when an organization looks at public cloud services.

It is important that organizations understand the risks in adopting the use of public cloud services. Legislation, regulatory requirements, and organization policies and procedures will not change as quickly as the cloud evolves. Embarking on a cloud strategy means an organization is subject to threats above and beyond what it is already exposed to. Organizations need to understand how risks transfer to the cloud when investigating cloud service arrangements.

The more an organization leverages public cloud services, the more control shifts from the organization, to the cloud service provider. For example, a solution architecture that is completely deployed on premise means the organization has, for the most part, complete control of the deployment. At the other extreme is an solution that is entirely hosted by an external service provider, whereby the control of the deployment is mostly, of not entirely, controlled by the service provider.

The following diagram illustrates the comparative control models that is typical of a organizations cloud environment, moving from a on premise scenario, to a public cloud services scenario.

When it comes to the service provider having all the control, the organization takes on more of a monitoring and feedback focus. What does this mean in terms of public cloud governance? I don’t know yet – that something I’m still learning about. However I find this information about how the security control model changes the more a cloud architecture moves from a on premise cloud scenario to a public cloud.

Are you considering cloud services? Let us know, we can help.

Windows Communication Foundation Security Must Reads

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Filed under .NET, Software Architecture

I’ve been on a bit of a Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) security kick lately. Maybe because of all the Azure and cloud based development we’ve been doing here at Quercus Solutions.

Here are my top reads for all things WCF Security (so far):

  1. Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) Basic Programming Lifecycle : http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms732098
     - Note section titled Parameters and Return Values : Data Contracts
  2. Securing Services and Clients : http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms734736
  3. Message Security in WCF : http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms733137.aspx
  4. How to: Use Transport Security and Message Credentials : http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms789011
  5. Microsoft Patterns and Practices – Improving Web Services Security Guide : http://wcfsecurityguide.codeplex.com/wikipage?title=Ch%2007%20-%20Message%20and%20Transport%20Security%20in%20WCF-
    - Note the Protection Level section for ServiceContract the attributes.
    - Pay attention to the Internet Scenarios section.

Also, another great reference: http://wcfsecurityguide.codeplex.com/

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Password Storage 101

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Filed under .NET, Software Architecture

For all sites that store memberships in a database, security and encryption of sensitive data is extremely important. The password being the obvious field that would need to be protected.  It’s surprising to see how many sites still use plain text passwords or one-way hashes for password storage and don’t realize how easy those are to hack.  Most systems implement a format known as the “one-way hash”. This means that for any input that set the password, the same input will always result in the same hash. But, there is no mathematical method of taking the resulting hash and determining what the original input was.  Using a system such as MD5, hashing the password “qwerty” will result in the string “d8578edf8458ce06fbc5bb76a58c5ca4″, but if I give this same string to people to reverse, it will be impossible for them to determine that the string comes from “password”.

How does this work from an application perspective? Lets assume your building out a membership provider, when you first go to create the user you will store the password as a hash – so instead of storing ‘qwerty’ you will store “d8578edf8458ce06fbc5bb76a58c5ca4″. When that user logs in next, they will enter their password, the system will hash this password using the same algorithm and compare the hashed values, there is no way for you to compare the actual passwords without hashing them. This is quickly becoming standard practice.

Now what if I wanted to break into this account? The fact that the same input always generates the same hash tag means I can build up a database of inputs and outputs and use that to attack an account, this is called using a ‘rainbow table’, a database of inputs/outputs used to determine a hashed password.  Rainbow tables are easily found on the internet, so this one-way hash is not as safe as once thought.  If your interested in learning more about rainbow tables, check out http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/.

So what’s the best way of stoping rainbow table hacking? Salting. By generating a random “salt” for every user and attaching it to their passwords before hashing, you have made the rainbow tables ineffective. For example, the password ‘qwerty123′ becomes ‘qwerty123AS@#$fgr=’ and is then hashed into ’8a7bb436d4849395072483f7715b7edb’.  Because the salt generates a random string and each user in your database has a different salt value, you have effectively removed the threat of rainbow tables.

If you want to read more about the inner workings of rainbow tables, take a look at this post: http://chargen.matasano.com/chargen/2007/9/7/enough-with-the-rainbow-tables-what-you-need-to-know-about-s.html

Article source: http://robbiemadan.com/2012/04/26/password-storage-101/

Federated Claims Based Security

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Filed under SharePoint, Software Architecture

Systems are becoming more and more interconnected each day. Coordinating all that interconnectivity becomes a challenge, especially in terms of security. A party or client, such as a user, web service, web site, or even another device, may need to collaborate with more than one system. Using a claims-based security approach, a coordinated effort can be made to provide common security information to all systems . Here is how….
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