Some words about Security in the Cloud

The security of cloud services has been the subject of heated debate and neither side is giving an inch.

One side claims cloud computing harbours uncontrollable risks and warns that we may well lose control of our own data; to them, every new security incident is grist to the mill.

The other side sees cloud computing as the way to higher security through the increasing industrialisation of IT services.

Both lines of argument have their merits. We can naturally expect a greater aggregation of data at certain providers as IT continues to industrialise. If a security incident were to occur in this situation, the assumption is that larger masses of data and even more enterprises could be affected as well. Inasmuch, the damage caused by a security incident at such a provider would be greater than the damage ensuing in the individual operations of an enterprise that has outsourced its data and services to that provider.  And there is another factor that makes the impact look even worse. While in-house security incidents are almost never reported (unless required by law), not so for the processes that many enterprises have contracted out to this provider. There will be no mantle of silence to cover up a security incident that affects so many enterprises and causes so much damage.

Deciding which side is right will depend on business indicators which we simply do not have at this time because they do not have to be reported in today’s regulatory climate.

Yet one thing is clear: the need to establish a systematic approach to secure our own data and processes.

That makes it indispensable to learn how to integrate our technical and business situation with cloud computing. As part of the big picture, (Cf. Chapter 3.3.1) cloud computing can be seen in the context of other hot topics.

The basic tendency is to try to prevent security incidents. That goes not only for cloud computing but also general business practice. To achieve that goal, we must clarify and understand the risks associated with cloud computing. That is the only way to do justice to the idea of Prevention.

Significant risk management parameters are ‘impact’ and ‘probability’. As the probability may be low, but not ‘nil’, an effective process must be established comprising two component to deal with actual risks:

  1. Detection
  2. Reaction

Detection is the process of flagging security incidents. Various studies show that only about 50% of all security incidents are detected within a week, while the rest are only discovered much later. Cloud computing complicates matters further.

Detection of a security incident must trigger a suitable reaction. Given the changing architectures in cloud computing, the procedures for obtaining legal evidence of security incidents are subject to change, and  both enterprises and the courts have yet to follow suit.

Look at the big picture and understand that the management of identities and authentication for a user’s cloud ecosystem is a not-to-be-underestimated strategic factor.