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Securing the Cloud: Cloud Computer Security Techniques and Tactics

Securing the Cloud: Cloud Computer Security Techniques and Tactics

3.5 2
by Vic (J.R.) Winkler

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Securing the Cloud is the first book that helps you secure your information while taking part in the time and cost savings of cloud computing. As companies turn to burgeoning cloud computing technology to streamline and save money, security is a fundamental concern. The cloud offers flexibility, adaptability, scalability, and in the case of security -


Securing the Cloud is the first book that helps you secure your information while taking part in the time and cost savings of cloud computing. As companies turn to burgeoning cloud computing technology to streamline and save money, security is a fundamental concern. The cloud offers flexibility, adaptability, scalability, and in the case of security - resilience. Securing the Cloud explains how to make the move to the cloud, detailing the strengths and weaknesses of securing a company's information with different cloud approaches. It offers a clear and concise framework to secure a business' assets while making the most of this new technology.

This book considers alternate approaches for securing a piece of the cloud, such as private vs. public clouds, SaaS vs. IaaS, and loss of control and lack of trust. It discusses the cloud's impact on security roles, highlighting security as a service, data backup, and disaster recovery. It also describes the benefits of moving to the cloud - solving for limited availability of space, power, and storage.

This book will appeal to network and security IT staff and management responsible for design, implementation and management of IT structures from admins to CSOs, CTOs, CIOs and CISOs.

  • Named The 2011 Best Identity Management Book by InfoSec Reviews
  • Provides a sturdy and stable framework to secure your piece of the cloud, considering alternate approaches such as private vs. public clouds, SaaS vs. IaaS, and loss of control and lack of trust
  • Discusses the cloud's impact on security roles, highlighting security as a service, data backup, and disaster recovery
  • Details the benefits of moving to the cloud-solving for limited availability of space, power, and storage

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With so much buzz around Cloud Computing, books like this one written by Winkler are much in demand. Winkler’s experience in the computing business shines through and as readers we are spoiled with a great deal of useful strategic information jam packed almost 300 page volume on securing the cloud. As a former pre-sales engineer, what I loved most about this book was the obvious hands-on strategic and technical experience that Winkler bought to every aspect of it. It is really a practitioner’s guide to cloud computing security. I appreciated the descriptive figures, the tips, the warnings, the notes, the tools, the stories of failures and successes but most of all the comprehensive nature of the real world descriptions."—Computers & Security

"Securing the Cloud is the most useful and informative of all the books published to date on cloud security. If you are going to procure a cloud solution, or are already operating a cloud system, I would strongly recommend that you buy a copy."—Best Identity Management Book by InfoSecReviews Book Awards

"The author states this book will be a practical resource for anyone who is considering using, building or securing a cloud implementation, including infrastructure engineers, integrators, security architects, right up to execute-level management. The challenge with such a broad audience is pitching the text at the right level; I suspect some security professionals and executives may find the book far too detailed …. In the final chapter the author covers the operational aspects of managing a secure cloud. Overall a fairly technical but effective book, although perhaps a little too in-depth for execute-level management"—BCS.org

"Overall, this book is effective in delivering its message. However, it is very technical in nature; readers should be aware that it is more than a basic level text for understanding the requirements to be considered in securing cloud computing networks."—Security Management.com"[Winkler] – who has an impressive background in security, including at government level – makes a valiant attempt to cover the challenges that face them…The book doesn’t so much as tell you how to do it as provide a generic blueprint detailing all the factors you’ll need to consider to make safe use of cloud services…What [Winkler] does successfully is create a document against which you can judge your own policies and strategies. There are so many facets to cloud computing – and particularly to securing it – that it’s easy to overlook something important. With this book, you can evaluate your plans and see where the gaps are."—networksecurity.com

"provides the reader with a good overview of what you need to do to ensure that your cloud-based infrastructure provides you with an adequate level of security…The booked is written for those who need a good high-level framework in which to design security around their cloud initiatives. The author provides many real-world examples of how you can implement the various scenarios he details. This makes some of the more abstract concepts a bit easier to understand."—Ben Rothke: Security Reading Room

"Overall, Winkler’s book certainly achieves its goal, that is to ‘help one facilitate the design, deployment and secure using of a cloud.’ The work confirms that even advanced issues may be presented and explained in a transparent and comprehensible way. The author manages to guide a reader through all steps in cloud computing, from implementation or choice of a service provider to efficient protection of a user’s data. This book is highly recommended to network engineers but may also be worth reading for anyone interested in cloud computing."— IEEE Communications September 2011, p. 20

"This comprehensive guide to security concerns and best practices for cloud computing and cloud services provides practical advice for assessing security risks in remote infrastructure and applications and implementing security standards both in the design of new cloud products and the use of existing services. Topics discussed include cloud computing architectures, risk issues and legal topics, data security, internal and external clouds, information security frameworks and operational guidelines. Chapters include summaries, numerous illustrations and organizational charts, tables and sidebars. Winkler works for Booz Allen Hamilton, a security consulting firm working for the US government."—SciTech Book News

"Securing the Cloud might be the very first considerably technical book that I read as if it were a novel, and I attribute that to the author's great writing. He doesn't complicate what is simple, and has a way of simplifying complex concepts that makes for some very easy reading."—HelpNetSecurity.com

Product Details

Elsevier Science
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Read an Excerpt

Securing the Cloud

Cloud Computer Security Techniques and Tactics
By Vic (J.R.) Winkler


Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59749-593-6

Chapter One

Introduction to Cloud Computing and Security


• Understanding Cloud Computing

• The IT Foundation for Cloud

• The Bottom Line

• An Historical View: Roots of Cloud Computing

• A Brief Primer on Security: From 50,000 ft

• A Brief Primer on Architecture

• Security Architecture: A Brief Discussion

• Cloud Is Driving Broad Changes

Cloud computing is an evolutionary outgrowth of prior computing approaches, which builds upon existing and new technologies. Even as cloud presents new opportunities around shared resources, the relative newness of the model makes it difficult to separate reasonable claims from hype. In part, excessive marketing claims have led to completely unrealistic perspectives of cloud security. Claims that cloud computing is inherently insecure are as absurd as are claims that cloud computing brings no new security concerns. Prospective cloud users can sense that there is value here, but their understanding of the issues is often incomplete.


Just as the Internet revolutionized and democratized access to information, cloud computing is doing the same for Information Technology (IT). Cloud computing represents a paradigm shift for delivering resources and services; this results in important benefits for both cloud providers and cloud consumers. From how we build IT systems and how we use them to how we organize and structure IT resources, cloud is refactoring the IT landscape. Instead of uncrating computers and racking them in your server closet, the cloud allows for virtually downloading hardware and associated infrastructure. By abstracting IT infrastructure and services to be relatively transparent, the act of building a virtual data center is now possible in minutes, with minimal technical background and at a fraction of the cost of buying a single server.

How is this possible?


Living up to its name, the term cloud conveys a nebulous quality. The term has historical roots in describing telephone networks as well as the Internet and has recently been applied to a seemingly endless range of products, services, technologies, and infrastructure. This makes for a difficult situation if we are to have a shared understanding of cloud computing.

This book uses the term cloud very broadly to include both cloud computing and cloud services. We will refine and build on this broad description in the course of this book, but initially we define these two terms:

Cloud Computing An IT model or computing environment composed of IT components (hardware, software, networking, and services) as well as the processes around the deployment of these elements that together enable us to develop and deliver cloud services via the Internet or a private network.

Cloud Services Services that are expressed by a cloud and delivered over the Internet or a private network. Services range from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), to platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS), and include other services that are layered on these basic service models (more on these in Chapter 2).

Cloud Scale, Patterns, and Operational Efficiency

First, a detour: Upon entering a data center that hosts a cloud infrastructure, you will notice the immense size of the space and the overwhelming noise that comes from countless identically racked computers that are all neatly cabled and look the same. Massive scale, a disciplined appearance, and repeated patterns are three qualities of successful cloud implementations. These qualities are obviously not unique to the cloud, but they do contribute to the advantages of the cloud model. And it isn't simply the scale or the disciplined uniformity of a cloud infrastructure build: By developing appropriate repeated patterns and implementing them at a massive scale, you will gain cost advantages at all phases of the cloud life cycle: From procurement, build-out to operations, costs can be minimized through multiplied simplification. These same advantages benefit security as well.


The following quotes about the noise of thousands of fans and disk drives in the Sun Public Cloud come from a friend and former manager Dan Butzer as he was interviewed on NPR: "This is the sound of lots of data being crunched and lots of data being stored" and "This amount of power has a certain sound to it, and it kind of sounds like a buzz. All around you, the other end of these machines, there may be tens of thousands or millions of people doing what they need to do. They have no idea that these things are here. This is the Internet. We're sitting in the Internet."

Our short detour through the server room can serve as an introduction to the cloud model, but before we exit the facility, let's take a look at a different collection of racked servers. This non-cloud server cage is being visited by a tired-looking engineer whom you can see standing alone in the din, rubbing the back of his head while clearly perplexed by a complete rat's nest of Ethernet and other cabling. You can almost hear him thinking: "Where is the other end of this cable ...?" By following regular patterns in infrastructure to the point of cabling, inefficiencies as these can largely be designed out, along with the errors in operation that are correlated with a less-disciplined implementation.

A Synergistic Trick

As we saw in our server room tour, at the IT infrastructure level, cloud computing involves assembling or pooling computing resources in huge aggregate quantities. Additional hardware can be added to the infrastructure as demand for resources approaches oversubscribed levels. Using virtualization, servers appear to multiply inside hardware per The Sorcerer's Apprentice. But traditional IT had the same tools, so what is different with cloud?

The cloud model performs a synergistic trick with its constituent technology components. The cloud model benefits from a convergence between technologies, from their synergies, and from complimentary approaches for managing IT resources. This results in a critical mass of compelling value that we can operate and deliver at an acceptable cost. There are few facets of the cloud model that are entirely new. What makes cloud computing so compelling can be summed up in the saying from Aristotle: "The whole is more than the sum of the parts."

Elasticity, Shape Shifting, and Security

The need for elasticity in cloud computing has spawned new solutions for managing infrastructure. Providing elasticity in cloud computing goes beyond simply flexing resource allocation as a customer requires more servers or more storage. Cloud elasticity entails continual reconfiguration in network and related controls from the cloud Internet ingress through core switches and down to individual virtual machines (VMs) and storage. This amounts to infrastructure shape shifting.

There are profound security implications to performing such dynamic changes to security controls; each one must be orchestrated correctly and performed to successful completion. Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and VMs can come and go, only to reappear elsewhere in the infrastructure, traceability becomes ephemeral, and thus elasticity greatly complicates security monitoring.

This elastic and shape-shifting quality demands a sophisticated management infrastructure that continually reflects both the desired state and the actual state of infrastructure configuration controls along with all resource allocation. One approach to achieve this is to use a database as a continually current and authoritative information source that operates in conjunction with all cloud infrastructure management and control functions—security included. Specific solutions for managing infrastructure are sometimes called configuration management databases (CMDBs), a term that stems from the configuration management process in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). Notably, to support the automation in a cloud, the CMDB must span a far wider set of information than ITIL acknowledges.


In this section, we take a high level look at the underlying technology pieces from which cloud computing infrastructure is built. These can be broadly categorized as follows:

Infrastructure Cloud computing infrastructure is an assemblage of computer servers, storage, and network components that are organized to allow for incremental growth well beyond typical infrastructure scale levels. These components should be selected for their capability to support requirements for scalability, efficiency, robustness, and security. Commodity or typical enterprise servers may not offer appropriate network support, reliability, or other qualities to efficiently and securely deliver against service level agreements (SLAs). Also, cloud servers may prove less expensive to operate, and they may be more reliable without internal disks in each server.

IP-based Networks In cloud infrastructure, the network serves as the means to connect users to the cloud as well as to interconnect the internal cloud. An enterprise model of networking does meet the needs for efficient and secure cloud provisioning and operation. At cloud scale, network needs drive toward specifying carrier-grade networking along with optimized networking strategies. Multiple switches in datapaths become single points of failure (SPOF) and compound cost in various ways.

Although optimization may point to a single unified network, security requires that the network be partitioned or virtualized to effect separation between different classes of traffic. Although networking can become flatter, you should expect to see multiple parallel networks in order to support security. Some of these segregate platform management from public data and service traffic, and others may be necessary to enable patterns for scale. These additional networks entail additional cost, but for the price, you also get physical separation and superior security. • Virtualization With deep roots in computing, virtualization is used to partition a single physical server into multiple VMs—or a single physical resource (such as storage or networking) into multiple virtual ones. Virtualization allows for server consolidation with great utilization flexibility. For cloud computing, virtualization has great value in rapid commissioning and decommissioning of servers. Cloud virtualization software also presents a dynamic perspective and unified view of resource utilization and efficiencies for cloud IT operations. Virtualization is the primary enabling technology for achieving cost-effective server utilization while supporting separation between multiple tenants on physical hardware. Virtualization is not the only way to achieve these benefits, but its advantages make it the approach of choice.

Software Enables all aspects of cloud infrastructure management, provisioning, service development, accounting, and security. It is critical that cloud infrastructure is able to dynamically enforce policies for separation, isolation, monitoring, and service composition. The regular patterns of cloud infrastructure enable software to automate the tasks providing elasticity and shape shifting in order to present services that are composed of servers, VMs, storage, services, and other IT components. With software, we can automate provisioning and deprovisioning. • Service Interfaces The service interface between the provider and the consumer is a key differentiator for cloud. It represents a contract that enforces the value proposition with SLAs and price terms. It is largely this interface that makes clouds stand out as new. It makes for competitive value, and it enables competition between providers. With the addition of self-service interfaces, we gain further optimizations. Cloud customers can engage cloud resources in an automated manner without having IT act as an impediment. Storage and other resources are expressed through graphical interfaces that the user can manipulate to define and subsequently instantiate virtual IT infrastructure. A Web browser, a credit card, and it's off to build your own virtual data center.

Figure 1.1 represents the relationship between individual components and their aggregation into a set of pooled and virtualized resources that can be allocated to specific uses or users—in essence, cloud computing that supports cloud services.


Excerpted from Securing the Cloud by Vic (J.R.) Winkler Copyright © 2011 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of SYNGRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Vic (J.R.) Winkler is a Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, providing technical consultation to U.S. Government clients. He is a published InfoSec and cyber security researcher as well as an expert in intrusion/anomaly detection.

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Securing the Cloud: Cloud Computer Security Techniques and Tactics 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
April30 More than 1 year ago
This book gave me a really good understanding of what cloud computing is, what the security concerns are and how to deal with them. It is clear and well written, and gave me a god understanding of technical areas that I knew very little about. What I liked the most were the chapters on cloud security architecture and cloud operations. These are areas I would probably never work in, but now I have an appreciation for what architects and operations personnel face.