Cloud Security: Keeping Those Keys Safe

Cloud security: Keeping those keys safe

Jack Murgia, from Cloud Controllers, sent me an interesting query last week: “How does LabSlice ensure that the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Access Keys remain secure within the application?”

This is a great question, as the AWS Access Keys are the keys to the house for any business using the Amazon Web Services cloud. It’s true that our application stores more keys than most (we provide an AWS management service that utilizes our customers’ keys), but you will more than likely find keys used within your application, whether to upload files to cloud storage (S3) or within scripts that are launched by your application.

In fact, any cloud service provided by any vendor will ultimately involve some sort of key, certificate or credential authentication to give the application access to various cloud resources. So extend these ideas to the cloud of your choice…

We secure our cloud platform by:

  • Leveraging the inbuilt security controls of our development platform: In our case we use the ASP.NET Membership Services to manage application authentication and password storage, declarative security to limit access to sensitive parts of the application (eg. those that utilize AWS keys) and page security definitions to ensure that only particular users have access to particular pages. None of these controls are specific to the cloud, but security at home starts by making sure you have locked your doors and closed your windows.
  • Storing sensitive attributes in encrypted format on disk: Storing the AWS keys in encrypted format protects them from systems administrators and other management folk that may need to get console access to our application. It also ensures that the keys remain secure when nightly backups are taken and shipped to S3.
  • Running all key transactions over HTTPS, not just the login page: This seems to be a new trend in security (likely due to FireSheep) and we decided to adopt it as well. It’s a useful additional control to protect those AWS transactions that are run under the context of our customers’ AWS Access Keys.

But this is about cloud security…

Notice that the security controls we use have little to do with cloud computing. So is there anything cloud-related that we do to improve security? Turns out there is. I have come across three useful controls that are very cloud specific and that both us and our customers are implementing:

1.             Termination protection: This is a feature of the Amazon cloud that blocks APIs from terminating a machine. It’s somewhat of an operations control, to stop your administrator from mindlessly terminating a production machine. But it’s also a useful security control in case your Access Keys somehow leak out, or maybe to protect yourself against a malicious employee days before their own termination.

2.             Access Key permissions: By default most keys used in the cloud give global access to everything. As cloud vendors mature, so do the restrictions on these keys. If you’re using keys for limited activities (say, to upload files to S3) then it’s a good idea to restrict permissions solely to those activities. Our customers also limit the AWS Access Key permissions of the keys they use on our system. For example, Cloud Controller’s policy (see below) specifically forbids the ability to take snapshots, which is a good way to reduce their attack surface whilst using our system.

3.             Network access: Again, a specific control to Amazon, which can be mapped to your favorite provider. If you’re using Amazon then you would naturally want to use their Security Groups (firewall) to block public access to your RDP and SSH interfaces.

Notice the difference?

Whilst cloud does has its security controls, the vast majority of our efforts go into implementing and maintaining security using familiar techniques that have nothing to do with cloud computing. If you’re using the cloud then forget about cloud security. Go back to basics and learn about CIA and follow the OWASP Top 10 guide. Whilst cloud has valid security concerns, the vast majority of security compromises in the cloud will still end up due to a failure with the basics: Poor access control, vulnerability to command injection (eg. SQL) and inadequate logging and monitoring.

 

By Simon Ellis

About CloudTweaks

Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading authorities in connected technology information and services.

We embrace and instill thought leadership insights, relevant and timely news related stories, unbiased benchmark reporting as well as offer green/cleantech learning and consultive services around the world.

Our vision is to create awareness and to help find innovative ways to connect our planet in a positive eco-friendly manner.

In the meantime, you may connect with CloudTweaks by following and sharing our resources.

View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Comics
Cloud-Based or On-Premise ERP Deployment? Find Out

Cloud-Based or On-Premise ERP Deployment? Find Out

ERP Deployment You know how ERP deployment can improve processes within your supply chain, and the things to keep in mind when implementing an ERP system. But do you know if cloud-based or on-premise ERP deployment is better for your company or industry? While cloud computing is becoming more and more popular, it is worth…

Moving Your Email To The Cloud? Beware Of Unintentional Data Spoliation!

Moving Your Email To The Cloud? Beware Of Unintentional Data Spoliation!

Cloud Email Migration In today’s litigious society, preserving your company’s data is a must if you (and your legal team) want to avoid hefty fines for data spoliation. But what about when you move to the cloud? Of course, you’ve probably thought of this already. You’ll have a migration strategy in place and you’ll carefully…

Technology Influencer in Chief: 5 Steps to Success for Today’s CMOs

Technology Influencer in Chief: 5 Steps to Success for Today’s CMOs

Success for Today’s CMOs Being a CMO is an exhilarating experience – it’s a lot like running a triathlon and then following it with a base jump. Not only do you play an active role in building a company and brand, but the decisions you make have direct impact on the company’s business outcomes for…

7 Common Cloud Security Missteps

7 Common Cloud Security Missteps

Cloud Security Missteps Cloud computing remains shrouded in mystery for the average American. The most common sentiment is, “It’s not secure.” Few realize how many cloud applications they access every day: Facebook, Gmail, Uber, Evernote, Venmo, and the list goes on and on… People flock to cloud services for convenient solutions to everyday tasks. They…

Do Not Rely On Passwords To Protect Your Online Information

Do Not Rely On Passwords To Protect Your Online Information

Password Challenges  Simple passwords are no longer safe to use online. John Barco, vice president of Global Product Marketing at ForgeRock, explains why it’s time the industry embraced more advanced identity-centric solutions that improve the customer experience while also providing stronger security. Since the beginning of logins, consumers have used a simple username and password to…

Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery  Ok, ok – I understand most of you are saying disaster recovery (DR) is still a critical aspect of running any type of operations. After all – we need to secure our future operations in case of disaster. Sure – that is still the case but things are changing – fast. There are…

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

The True Meaning of Availability What is real availability? In our line of work, cloud service providers approach availability from the inside out. And in many cases, some never make it past their own front door given how challenging it is to keep the lights on at home let alone factors that are out of…

The Rise Of BI Data And How To Use It Effectively

The Rise Of BI Data And How To Use It Effectively

The Rise of BI Data Every few years, a new concept or technological development is introduced that drastically improves the business world as a whole. In 1983, the first commercially handheld mobile phone debuted and provided workers with an unprecedented amount of availability, leading to more productivity and profits. More recently, the Cloud has taken…

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

How to Identify and Authenticate in the Expanding IoT Ecosystem It is a necessity to protect IoT devices and their associated data. As the IoT ecosystem continues to expand, the need to create an identity to newly-connected things is becoming increasingly crucial. These ‘things’ can include anything from basic sensors and gateways to industrial controls…