Staying alive after migrating to the cloud

Test, prod, poke and break, but even that won't stop every outage.

Despite the mystique around cloud computing, when it comes to security, cloud infrastructure faces the exact same risks that in-house or hosted infrastructure face, according to

Drazen Drazic, managing director of penetration testing firm, Securus Global.

“The technologies are the same, just adapted differently somewhat – so essentially you get the same issues as you would with any standard security review/penetration testing,” he told

Potential weak points include security threats commonly overlooked in the enterprise such as web application vulnerabilities that lead to cross site scripting flaws and SQL injections. Cloud vendors too may have poorly configured or un-patched systems.

“But also, because of the nature of the cloud environments in many cases, the ability to jump out of your environment and see data from other clients. That’s always a scary thing,” said Drazic.

When Securus conducts a review of a cloud provider, its staff look for twelve pressure points that could fall to a motivated attacker, from the initial security breach to routes available to the attacker once inside. These include the ability to:

§ Gain unauthorised access to servers or devices
§ Access protected functionality without valid credentials
§ Bypass firewalls and access control devices
§ Modify and manipulating information.
§ Access another customers information and accounts
§ Access protected functionality without valid credentials
§ Perform unauthorised financial transactions, move funds and change payments.
§ Capture another user’s information
§ Hijack another user’s session
§ Obtain sensitive information
§ Brute-force services requiring authentication
§ Leverage compromised devices and services to pivot deeper

Sense of Security’s chief technology officer, Jason Edelstein, agreed that customers should be certain that their chosen provider clearly segments their networks from other customers.

“Otherwise you can open yourself up to puddle hopping attacks where one client behind the firewall gets hacked and then another customer is attacked sideways not afforded the protection of the firewall,” he said.

Of course, if a customer does not have penetration testers or for that matter an army of monkey simulators, there are security standards and audits that could help provide assurance that the ship is not a leaky one.

ISO 27001 and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) were useful standards to indicate the trustworthiness of a cloud provider, said Edelstein.

Although a customer might not plan to house payment data in the cloud, PCI DSS is a good proxy for the provider’s ability to host non-payment systems to an acceptable level of security for most commercial operations, he added.

Finally, customers should also insist on the contract with the provider including a “right to audit” clause.

“[This] entitles the customer the right to audit the environment at any frequency, but recommended at least annually, at the client’s expense with any determined remedial activities for the service provider’s account,” said Edelstein. 

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