Cloud Security is the set of security protocols, methodologies and technologies that protect the availability of cloud resources and the integrity of data stored in a cloud computing environment. Cloud security differs from traditional computer security in that it is not focused on preventing access to specific machines. Cloud security also addresses issues of identity management and privacy.
Cloud computing is changing our digital world - The "Cloud" is simply using the Internet to access shared computing resources. It’s changing the way we consume, share and use digital information because it makes access to information and computing power easier, faster, more affordable. In fact, more and more companies are adopting cloud computing even as they face new security challenges.
Cloud Computing Security (sometimes referred to simply as "Cloud Security") is an evolving sub-domain of computer security, network security, and, more broadly, information security. It refers to a broad set of policies, technologies, and controls deployed to protect data, applications, and the associated infrastructure of cloud computing.
Cloud security is not to be confused with security software offerings that are "cloud-based" (a.k.a. security-as-a-service).
Security issues associated with the Cloud
There are a number of security issues/concerns associated with cloud computing but these issues 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. In most cases, the provider must ensure that their infrastructure is secure and that their clients’ data and applications are protected while the customer must ensure that the provider has taken the proper security measures to protect their information.
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 virtualization software can cause whole datacenter to go down or reconfigured to attacker's liking.
Cloud Security Controls
Cloud security architecture is only effective 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 set in place to prevent any purposeful attack on a cloud system. Much like a warning sign on a fence or a property, these controls do not reduce the actual vulnerability of a system.
These controls upgrade the strength of the system by managing the vulnerabilities. The preventative control will safeguard vulnerabilities of the system. If an attack were to occur, the preventative controls are in place to cover the attack and reduce the damage and violation to the system's security.
Corrective controls are used to reduce the effect of an attack. Unlike the preventative controls, the corrective controls take action as an attack is occurring.
Detective controls are used to detect any attacks that may be occurring to the system. In the event of an attack, the detective control will signal the preventative or corrective controls to address the issue.
Dimensions of Cloud Security
Correct security controls should be implemented according to asset, threat, and vulnerability risk assessment matrices. While cloud security concerns can be grouped into any number of dimensions these dimensions have been aggregated into three general areas: Security and Privacy, Compliance, and Legal or Contractual Issues.
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 provide an identity management solution of their own.
Physical and personnel security
Providers ensure that physical machines are adequately secure and that access to these machines as well as all relevant customer data is not only restricted but that access is documented.
Cloud providers assure customers that they will have regular and predictable access to their data and applications.
Cloud providers ensure that applications available as a service via the cloud are secure by implementing testing and acceptance procedures for outsourced or packaged application code. It also requires application security measures be in place in the production environment.
Finally, providers ensure that all critical data (credit card numbers, for example) are masked 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.
In addition, providers and customers must consider legal issues, such as Contracts and E-Discovery, and the related laws, which may vary by country.
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