Cloud computing security or, more simply, cloud security refers to a broad set of policies, technologies, and controls deployed to protect data, applications, and the associated infrastructure of cloud computing. It is a sub-domain of computer security, network security, and, more broadly, information security.
Security issues associated with the cloud
Cloud computing and storage provides users with capabilities to store and process their data in third-party data centers. Organizations use the cloud in a variety of different service models (with acronyms such as SaaS,PaaS, and IaaS) and deployment models (private, public, hybrid, and community). Security concerns associated with cloud computing fall into two broad categories: security issues faced by cloud providers (organizations providing software-, platform-, or infrastructure-as-a-service via the cloud) and security issues faced by their customers (companies or organizations who host applications or store data on the cloud). The responsibility is shared, however. The provider must ensure that their infrastructure is secure and that their clients’ data and applications are protected, while the user must take measures to fortify their application and use strong passwords and authentication measures.
When an organization elects to store data or host applications on the public cloud, it loses its ability to have physical access to the servers hosting its information. As a result, potentially sensitive data is at risk from insider attacks. According to a recent Cloud Security Alliance report, insider attacks are the sixth biggest threat in cloud computing. Therefore, cloud service providers must ensure that thorough background checks are conducted for employees who have physical access to the servers in the data center. Additionally, data centers must be frequently monitored for suspicious activity.
In order to conserve resources, cut costs, and maintain efficiency, cloud service providers often store more than one customer’s data on the same server. As a result, there is a chance that one user’s private data can be viewed by other users (possibly even competitors). To handle such sensitive situations, cloud service providers should ensure proper data isolation and logical storage segregation.
The extensive use of virtualization in implementing cloud infrastructure brings unique security concerns for customers or tenants of a public cloud service. Virtualization alters the relationship between the OS and underlying hardware – be it computing, storage or even networking. This introduces an additional layer – virtualization – that itself must be properly configured, managed and secured. Specific concerns include the potential to compromise the virtualization software, or “hypervisor”. While these concerns are largely theoretical, they do exist. For example, a breach in the administrator workstation with the management software of the virtualization software can cause the whole datacenter to go down or be reconfigured to an attacker’s liking.
Cloud security controls
Cloud security architecture is effective only if the correct defensive implementations are in place. An efficient cloud security architecture should recognize the issues that will arise with security management. The security management addresses these issues with security controls. These controls are put in place to safeguard any weaknesses in the system and reduce the effect of an attack. While there are many types of controls behind a cloud security architecture, they can usually be found in one of the following categories:
These controls are intended to reduce attacks on a cloud system. Much like a warning sign on a fence or a property, deterrent controls typically reduce the threat level by informing potential attackers that there will be adverse consequences for them if they proceed. (Some consider them a subset of preventive controls.)
Preventive controls strengthen the system against incidents, generally by reducing if not actually eliminating vulnerabilities. Strong authentication of cloud users, for instance, makes it less likely that unauthorized users can access cloud systems, and more likely that cloud users are positively identified.
Detective controls are intended to detect and react appropriately to any incidents that occur. In the event of an attack, a detective control will signal the preventative or corrective controls to address the issue. System and network security monitoring, including intrusion detection and prevention arrangements, are typically employed to detect attacks on cloud systems and the supporting communications infrastructure.
Corrective controls reduce the consequences of an incident, normally by limiting the damage. They come into effect during or after an incident. Restoring system backups in order to rebuild a compromised system is an example of a corrective control.
Security and privacy
Every enterprise will have its own identity management system to control access to information and computing resources. Cloud providers either integrate the customer’s identity management system into their own infrastructure, using federation or SSO technology, or a biometric-based identification system, or provide an identity management system of their own. CloudID, for instance, provides privacy-preserving cloud-based and cross-enterprise biometric identification. It links the confidential information of the users to their biometrics and stores it in an encrypted fashion. Making use of a searchable encryption technique, biometric identification is performed in encrypted domain to make sure that the cloud provider or potential attackers do not gain access to any sensitive data or even the contents of the individual queries.
Cloud service providers physically secure the IT hardware (servers, routers, cables etc.) against unauthorized access, interference, theft, fires, floods etc. and ensure that essential supplies (such as electricity) are sufficiently robust to minimize the possibility of disruption. This is normally achieved by serving cloud applications from ‘world-class’ (i.e. professionally specified, designed, constructed, managed, monitored and maintained) data centers.
Various information security concerns relating to the IT and other professionals associated with cloud services are typically handled through pre-, para- and post-employment activities such as security screening potential recruits, security awareness and training programs, proactive.
Providers ensure that all critical data (credit card numbers, for example) are masked or encrypted and that only authorized users have access to data in its entirety. Moreover, digital identities and credentials must be protected as should any data that the provider collects or produces about customer activity in the cloud.