Category Archives: Security

Leveraging Cloud Computing Through Automation

Leveraging Cloud Computing Through Automation

If you can define it, you can have it

It’s true. The full potential of automation cannot be fully realized until it is informed and supported by an effective IT service management strategy (ITSM) that encompasses your entire IT environment, as well as business objectives, and corporate policy. Technology and business really can function as one. That’s when the magic starts.

Realizing that potential is not easy to accomplish, however. And I’m saying that with some hard knocks behind it. You need to have a clear vision of the transformation that leveraging cloud computing through automation and orchestration can accomplish for your organization, but you also have to know that the journey from here to there is apt to have some challenging, if not harrowing moments.

That’s because much of the journey involves rooting around in your own stuff: the IT environment that has been cobbled together over the years, much of it by technicians who have added several lines to their resume since leaving your company; the culture of aggressively protected fiefdoms between your server, storage and network teams that has them jousting against each other in recurring budget fights; the conflicting expectations of C-level executives who want you to do more of everything and spend less doing it; and the tendency on the part of virtually everyone in your organization to want to do things tomorrow just the way they did them yesterday.

The Rabbit-Hole of Self Discovery

Be careful what you wish for. The pursuit of the benefits of automation leads you inevitably down the rabbit hole of self discovery. You need to know why things work the way they do in your organization—not just the technology but the people and processes as well. You need to examine all the assumptions you’ve made about the interdependencies across your infrastructure. You need to stand eyeball to eyeball with everything about your IT environment that keeps you up at night trying not to think about.

And, when you have become intimately familiar with every detail of the way things are, then you have to define—in exact detail—everything you want to accomplish in the future. Want to reduce time to market for new services? What does that mean, exactly? Want to leverage the technical, financial and operational efficiencies of cloud computing? How do you plan to do that…exactly.

The good news is: If you can define it in enough detail, you can have it.

Automation accomplished through a tight integration with ITSM forces you to work at the right level of detail to define what you want to accomplish. Some of the details you have to work with, however, are highly nuanced.

A Matter of Pride

Some are people. It’s easy enough to complete automation scripts that will do some task and update your ITSM system. The issue is: what if someone accesses your infrastructure and does something manually, i.e., doesn’t use the automation. How do you know that? Most service management techs take it as a matter of pride to be able to go in on the command line and solve problems. They may not like being told: “Hey. You are not allowed to go in on the command line anymore. Now there are two buttons you can push: Reset or Restart.infographic-host-cloud

Your technicians need to have confidence that the tools and procedures they are given can actually solve the problems they are charged with fixing. The only way they are going to have that confidence is if they understand how automation works at its most basic level. Automation tied into ITSM has the potential to free your technicians from repetitive tasks of routine maintenance, but switching their allegiance over to some automated process isn’t any easier for them then it was when IT teams came streaming into virtually every other department in the organization and automated what they did for a living.

Ironically, the IT department has been a hold out on the automation that their technology has set loose on everyone else. Now it’s their turn. And, for the same reasons. Just like everyone else in the corporate world, things are happening way too fast for the most agile technician to keep up using manual tools and seat-of-the pants methods—no matter how willing he or she is to work all-nighters on the weekend. As the IT environment expands to private, public and hybrid cloud environments systems need to be able respond dynamically to each other in accordance with pre-approved policies and procedures. Automation is the only way they can do that at the speeds required.

It’s a good rule of thumb to try out automation with your technicians first and then gradually make it available to a wider community of users. Before you make anything available at a self-service portal, you need to be very sure it can’t inadvertently be used against you. We generally let our monitoring team try out an automation script first and make sure they have no problems with it. Then we’ll let the network technicians use it and work any kinks out before turning it on within service management so customers/end users can do it for themselves.

An Expanding Wave of Data

Plan on changing…all the time. The inescapable truth about automation is that as you extend its reach you need to be aware in real-time of an expanding wave of data about essentially everything that’s going on in your IT environment. The inter-dependencies of systems within your environment grow exponentially as you integrate more functions into automation. Basically, anything has the potential to change everything else. Ideally, you would have an enterprise service bus combined with messaging that is able to see the entire process flow between all your systems. Your hypervisor needs to be able to report on itself to a central queue, for example. It might say, “I just deployed a virtual machine,” and your other systems then will be able to respond accordingly. Service management, in this incident, will see the message from your hypervisor and know to create a configuration item (CI).

Just the thought of all the uncertainties you can expect to encounter on the automation journey toward cloud computing is enough to cause the hardiest IT pros to pause and start to think that maybe standing still isn’t such a bad strategy. It’s worked until now, they might say.

Standing still is not a strategy, especially in this day and age.

A Great Adventure

Automation and the journey toward cloud computing in general have all the components of a great adventure. Exciting technology, leaps ahead in capabilities, performance, and efficiency. Technicians could see it as an opportunity to get free of mundane, repetitive tasks and unleash their talent to tackle creative projects that support the business. Technology leaders could see it as an opportunity to actually be able to do more with less and become a true service provider instead of just a cost center. Business leaders could see it as an opportunity to surge ahead of the competition and finance IT out of the operational expense budget (OpEx) instead of capital expense budget (Capex).

But if the prospect of all the things – real and imagined – that could go wrong still discourages you from getting started with your automation adventure, consider this for motivation: There is always more to be afraid of in standing still than there is in moving forward.

Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” Satchel Paige

By Brian Day

As Senior Director of Cloud Dev/Ops and Solution Development for Logicalis, Brian is responsible for managing the Logicalis Cloud and the development of new solutions.

Cloud Infographic: Top Mobile Malware Trends

Cloud Infographic: Top Mobile Malware Trends

Cloud Infographic: Top Mobile Malware Trends

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

In the modern high technology world, we observe mobile malware spreading with such rapid advances. The inforgraphic provided below by will help you get the general overview of infection strains and rates with regard to mobile threats.

85.970 new mobile threats were discovered from January to June 2014. This is 68% more as compared with January-June 2013.

Top infected markets from around the world are as follows: China, India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, USA, Nigeria, Vietnam, Russia, Thailand and Malaysia.

37.5 million Android devices were reported to be infected in the first half of 2014. This is 78.6% more as compared with the same period in 2013.  Overall, 62% of mobile malware are considered to bring financial benefits for malware engineers. 11% of mobile threats serve as leakage of confidential information, which is usually sold illegally.

Here are several examples of mobile malware for your consideration:

1. Ransomware
2. Profit
3. Data Theft
4. Botnets.


By Lilit Melkonyan

Should The Cloud Be To Blame Or The App Invasion? – Part 2: The Reality

Should The Cloud Be To Blame Or The App Invasion? – Part 2: The Reality

Should The Cloud Be To Blame Or The App Invasion? – Part 2: The Reality

In part one of our mini two part series, published yesterday, we looked at some of the fallout from the recent celebrity photograph scandal. We looked at Apple’s response, deducing that they correctly believed that users were more responsible than the tech giant, while also learning that  a recent report by the University of New Haven’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group believed that poor app design and incorrect usage were the primary factors putting user’s data at risk.


In part two, we now look at whether the cloud has any case to answer, what other security vulnerabilities exist, and what the future holds for online storage services.

So, does the cloud have a case to answer? Apple’s iCloud service (seemingly the main source of the stolen images) secures data by encrypting it when it is sent over the internet, storing it in an encrypted format on their own servers and using secure tokens for authentication. It means that data is theoretically protected from unauthorised access both while it is being transmitted between devices and while it is stored. Additionally, iCloud – along with most online storage services – uses a minimum of 128-bit AES encryption, the same level of security employed by major financial institutions.

ChrisMoralesNonetheless, there are still flaws in the system. Questions such as your mother’s maiden name are often used by companies to improve online security, yet the recent theft shows the ease with which those questions can be hacked. “Personal questions as a password recovery mechanism is flawed”, Chris Morales, Manager of security-testing and analysis firm NSS Labs said. “[If you have to use them] don’t provide the obvious expected answers to questions like mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, or where you were born. If you have a user’s e-mail and know a bit of personal history on that person, it isn’t that hard to get the password”.

As people post increasingly sensitive information to social networks, it has become easier for criminals to obtain the answers to security questions. That means consumers can rarely rely on just one set of defences and have to add more layers, even if it makes online accounts less convenient. It’s especially true for famous people because security questions protecting their online accounts from intruders are often trivial to answer solely based on the publically information available about them. It doesn’t amount to much of a security barrier.

The conclusion is that the cloud isn’t really to blame, but cloud providers are arguably equally as culpable as any other security system by making it too easy to hack and instigate a password reset.

Despite all the encryption security put in place by Apple, online accounts often have unrecognised and unnoticed vulnerabilities. Apple are now facing accusations that they have given people a false sense of security. Technology magazine Wired first reported that software from a Russian firm, ElcomSoft, was being mentioned on a hackers discussion group as a useful tool for infiltrating iCloud accounts, with the software being marketed to police and law enforcement groups as a way to access backups of iCloud content with an iPad or iPhone. It has called into question the security of the much-vaunted ‘two-step verification system’ because it can be easily bypassed using any software that allows access to iCloud backups. Indeed Apple’s own website says the two-step process only protects the ‘My Apple ID’ page, ‘App Store, iTunes or iBooks Store purchases’ and ‘Apple ID Support’. It makes no mention of any protection for photos, contacts or calendar entries, which are all backed up to iCloud – yet in response to the hack on Tuesday, Apple suggested its customers “always use a strong password and enable two-step verification”.

So the truth is somewhere in the middle, and everyone must take a share of the blame. Apple, users, security software designers and device manufacturers all need to improve in order to make the cloud as risk free as possible. Ultimately, the cloud offers too many benefits to both home users and businesses for it to be discarded, and even if usage sees a momentary dip, it will still rebound and grow to levels far in excess of what we see today. The cloud is here to stay, and a naked celebrity won’t change anything.

(Image Source:

By Daniel Price

Should The Cloud Be To Blame Or The App Invasion? – Part 1: The Fallout

Should The Cloud Be To Blame Or The App Invasion? – Part 1: The Fallout

Should The Cloud Be To Blame Or The App Invasion? – Part 1: The Fallout

Recent days have seen an avalanche of private images belonging to celebrities released on to various internet chat boards. The photos claim to show stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Victoria Justice in either nude or other compromising positions.

While sites such as Reddit, Imgur, and 4Chan have been working hard to remove the images, the damage has already been done. A lot of the blame has been laid at the door of cloud computing, with users flooding forums to express their disgust at how insecure online storage sites appeared to be, whilst also claiming they would no longer be using services such as iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive or DropBox.

A look at Reddit’s pages reveal the scale of user dissatisfaction – but also some interesting and reasoned responses from more knowledgeable commentators. What’s the truth behind all the misunderstanding and misinformation? Is the cloud to blame or are apps and users at fault? Is the cloud more or less secure than keeping photos and other data on your own local hard drive?


The situation is complex. A recent report by the University of New Haven’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group says that security flaws, breaches of privacy and additional vulnerabilities in apps as diverse as instant chat services, online dating sites and social media facilities are now putting nearly one billion subscribers as risk of problems. The report has now been released as a series of videos.

Ibrahim Baggili, a Professor of Computer Science at UNH’s Tagliatela College of Engineering says “Anyone who has used or continues to use the tested applications are at risk of confidential breaches involving a variety of data, including their passwords in some instances”. It’s a comment that suggests that the droves of people criticising Apple, SnapChat and Facebook are not being subjective and that poorly designed apps are more responsible for the problems than the cloud. He adds “Although all of the data transmitted through these apps is supposed to go securely from just one person to another, we have found that private communications can be viewed by others because the data is not being encrypted and the original user has no clue”, again putting the emphasis on poor app design.

For their part, Apple said on Tuesday that hackers obtained the nude celebrity photos by stealing images from individual accounts rather than through a wide-ranging attack on the company’s iCloud and Find my iPhone services, adding that it had only released these results after conducting 40 hours of investigation. The company has said they will cooperate fully with a newly-launched FBI investigation into the leak, though urged all users to adopt stronger passwords and enable a two-step authentication feature to prevent data thefts.

The fact they have switched the onus back onto users is telling. They clearly believe that their servers are as secure as they could realistically expect to be and they cannot be held responsible for users mismanaging the technology they are provided with, failing to understand how or when their devices share data, or leaving their accounts vulnerable by having weak passwords or using unsecured networks to access accounts.

They undoubtedly have a point – users who are complaining that the cloud is wholly and solely responsible are missing the point. Data saved on a local hard drive is just as unsafe when saved on a local machine or USB drive if its owner is irresponsible. Viruses and malware can monitor your keystrokes, steal your personal data, obtain your passwords and pose as legitimate websites, while USB drives can be lost, stolen or corrupted without the owner realising until it is far too late. Ultimately any computer, phone or tablet that accesses the internet is at risk – and the large online storage providers do a much better job of encrypting and securing data than an average home user.

What’s your opinion? User error or company failures? Is the cloud blameless or architect of its own downfall? Let us know below.

Tomorrow we will publish Part Two, focussing on whether the cloud has any case to answer, what alternatives – if any – are available that could give you the same freedom as the cloud can, and what the future holds for online storage services.

By Daniel Price

Cyber Forensics Research Study: Possible 968 Million Android Users Affected

Cyber Forensics Research Study: Possible 968 Million Android Users Affected

Cyber Forensics Research Study: Possible 968 Million Android Users Affected

A recent study has been released by the Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group (cFREG) at the University of New Haven, which found that there are serious security and privacy problems in the Android platform. 968 million Android users may be at risk due to the flaws in various social media and communication apps. These flaws could allow an attacker to access users’ passwords, as well as private data stored on company servers. According to Ibrahim Baggili, director of the cFREG and assistant professor of computer science at UNH’s Tagliatela College of Engineering, an attacker could access all sorts of data: “Depending on the app, user locations, passwords, chat logs, images, video, audio and sketches can be viewed by people invading the user’s privacy.”


The problem is exacerbated by a lack of responsiveness on the part of app developers, which have not responded to Baggili’s warnings and have made no move to acknowledge or address the flaws revealed by the study. “Most companies did not even respond,” said Baggili. “This exacerbates the problem – and it shows that mobile developers are still not taking security seriously.”

Anyone who has used or continues to use the tested applications are at risk of confidential breeches involving a variety of data, including their passwords in some instances” says Baggili.

Baggili’s team is now creating videos that explain the problems, identify which apps may put users at risk, and provide steps for securing personal data. One video will be posted daily to YouTube from Monday, September 8 through Friday, September 12. The cFREG’s YouTube channel is

Although all of the data transmitted through these apps is supposed to go securely from just one person to another, we have found that private communications can be viewed by others because the data is not being encrypted and the original user has no clue.” Baggili said this is especially true when there is a “man-in-the-middle attack.”

Baggili said many people feel they have nothing to hide. Yet, strangers can easily tap into a variety of “private” data without informing the app user.

UNHcFREG was established in fall, 2013 as part of UNH’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science, to research digital forensics, security and privacy awareness and help reduce cybercrime. Last spring, UNHcFREG discovered vulnerabilities in WhatsApp, which has 500 million users and Viber, which has 300 million users.

By Gustav Steinhardt

On A Clear Day: Downtime In Cloud Computing

On A Clear Day: Downtime In Cloud Computing

On A Clear Day: Downtime In Cloud Computingdisaster-recovery

As most know, and as the recent Azure outage kindly reminded those who don’t, cloud storage isn’t infallible. Power outages happen all the time. Software is prone to catching nasty bugs. Human error can never be ruled out. Service providers openly acknowledge the possibility of failure. Some, like Amazon, even offer spreading data across eight regional data centers around the world, for an extra fee, but others offer discounts if the guaranteed uptime is not met.

The good news is that power outages don’t happen often, and they rarely affect the whole service. It’s still, however, a disconcerting thought that downtime, or, in the worst case scenario, data loss can tamper with the functioning of your own app, resulting in huge losses and angry customers. Furthermore, if entire data centers are affected, entire apps and websites can be affected for hours at a time.

Notable outages in 2014

There have been bigger and smaller outages in 2014. For what it’s worth, Netflix was down for two hours on January 3rd, and DropBox was unavailable for three hours a week later. Azure’s recent, but only partial outage was perhaps the biggest this year, as far as hitting the headlines is concerned. It doesn’t amount to much overall downtime, however you put it.

That being said, a 2013 research paper estimates 2007-2012 losses caused by cloud service providers to be $273m, which might not be an astonishing figure, given the size of the industry. It’s certainly an enlightening figure, however. The bottom line is that no service can realistically guarantee even near-constant uptime. 99.9% a month is still 45 minutes of allowed downtime, and a few unlucky businesses can very well suffer from that. Certain types of businesses, such as brokerage firms, can suffer immensely from any downtime.

Backups, spread storage, and challenge-response mechanisms

Giants like Netflix can afford to spread their storage across the globe, protecting their service against power outages and data center failures — not from their own code, though. Even many who can’t afford this can still afford backups and implement them differently, for example, by hosting a read-only version of the website in a separate data center. In the end, that’s merely storing twice as much just for extra safety, a practice that doesn’t fare well with websites hosting terabytes of user-generated content.

Regular data review is also cumbersome, though possibly cheaper. A third way exists in implementing challenge-response mechanisms that automatically check the integrity of data. The gist is that protocols are made that allow an agent (e.g., a separate instance) to ask the server for a response, which can only be given if the data is intact and as needed. This can be cheaper, but ultimately only protects your data, not your uptime, which remains in the hands and goodwill of the cloud provider service.

And what of the layman entrepreneur? It seems that adopting cloud computing is ultimately a trade-off: lose some control over your data for the innumerable benefits of the cloud . Instead of being tempted to drop the cloud or abort moving to it due to safety reasons, businesses should strive to adapt their apps so that they don’t go haywire when there’s downtime… and hope for the best.

And what’s your experience dealing with downtime? Let us know below.

By Lauris Veips

Cloud Infographic: Data Protection For The Edge

Cloud Infographic: Data Protection For The Edge

Cloud Infographic: Data Protection For The Edge

With the ever increasing role of big data in our lives, protecting data must be a top priority for IT leaders, marketers and executives across enterprises, but the research shows that an increasing number of employees are actually failing to do so, exposing their mission-critical data to significant risks.

Provided is an infographic provided courtesy of Code42 which illustrates some of these risks.

Data Protection Infographic_001

vArmour Raises $36 Million To Protect The Data Defined Perimeter

vArmour Raises $36 Million To Protect The Data Defined Perimeter

Menlo Ventures, Columbus Nova Technology Partners and Citi Ventures Contribute Funds to Accelerate Development of Disruptive Technology, Scale to Meet Global DemandvArmour

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA–(Source: Marketwired – Aug 20, 2014)vArmour, a stealth security company designed to protect the new data defined perimeter for enterprises, today announced it has raised $36 million in funding, including a Series B round closed in December 2013 ($15 million) led by Menlo Ventures and a Series C round closed in August 2014 ($21 million) led by Columbus Nova Technology Partners (CNTP), Citi Ventures and Work-Bench Ventures, bringing total company funding to $42 million. vArmour will use the capital to scale development and sales teams to help the enterprise protect their new data defined perimeter in today’s reality of pervasive virtualization, constant threats and advanced security breaches.

“vArmour has the escape velocity to completely disrupt the security industry,” said Mohsen Moazami, Founder and Managing Director, CNTP. “We went all in on vArmour as I’m confident that vArmour’s continued growth will deliver a solution for the enterprise that can visualize, manage and ultimately protect the data center in a way we’ve never seen before.”

Our investment in vArmour is a testament to the potential for its technology to shape the future of enterprise security for the data center,” said Arvind Purushotham, Managing Director at Citi Ventures. “As an organization that supports billions of secure transactions per day, Citi is dedicated to consumer trust and vArmour’s management team shares our vision for the importance of enterprise security.”

Three-fourths of organizations have active command-and-control communications, indicating that attackers have control of breached systems and are possibly already receiving data from them.* As massive, growing amounts of data continue to be distributed on a global scale, security controls need to move deep into the data center and be as dynamic as the applications and data they protect. There, at the data defined perimeter, vArmour provides the needed protection dynamically and securely by giving enterprises instant visibility and control of their East/West traffic flows for both old and new data centers architectures.

Advanced targeted attacks are easily bypassing traditional firewalls and signature-based prevention mechanisms. All organizations should now assume that they are in a state of continuous compromise. However, organizations have deluded themselves into believing that 100 percent prevention is possible, and they have become overly reliant on blocking-based and signature-based mechanisms for protection. As a result, most enterprises have limited capabilities to detect and respond to breaches when they inevitably occur, resulting in longer ‘dwell times’ and increased damage,” wrote Neil MacDonald and Peter Firstbrook of Gartner.** “In reality, going forward, improved prevention, detection, response and prediction capabilities are all needed to deal with all types of attacks, ‘advanced’ or not. Furthermore, these should not be viewed as siloed capabilities; rather, they should work intelligently together as an integrated, adaptive system to constitute a complete protection process for advanced threats.”

As part of the investments, Pravin Vazirani, general partner at Menlo Ventures and Mohsen Moazami, CNTP, will both join the vArmour Board of Directors. Recently, Lane Bess and Dave Stevens, both previous CEOs of Palo Alto Networks, were also announced as investors and vArmour board members, offering their combined 60 years of experience leading and growing security, data center and tech start-ups, including current roles at Brocade and Zscaler. The company, which has been in stealth-mode since its founding in January 2011, previously announced a $6 million Series A led by Highland Capital in January 2013 and is now prepared to launch later in 2014.
Our investors saw first-hand vArmour’s large scale deployments of advanced data center security technology on a global basis and they realized that we have created something extremely valuable that solves a strategic issue for the enterprise,” said Tim Eades, vArmour CEO. “Today, our board represents some of the best minds in security with Lane and Dave from Palo Alto Networks, now joined by Mohsen from CNTP and Pravin from Menlo. With our all-star team throughout the US, EMEA and APAC, we’re in the best position to bring this technology to market and forever change the rules for security in the data center.”

Those interested in learning more about the newly defined data perimeter and East/West traffic flows are invited to attend an upcoming webinar on August 20. For more information on the webinar, presented by vArmour, distinguished ESG analyst Jon Oltsik and Demetrios “Laz” Lazarikos, Blue Lava Consulting IT Security Strategist and former CISO for Sears Online, visit

vArmour is continuing to grow and is aggressively hiring at all levels. For those interested in learning more, visit

*Source: FireEye

**Source: Gartner, Designing an Adaptive Security Architecture for Protection From Advanced Attacks, 12 February 2014 G00259490, Neil MacDonald | Peter Firstbrook

About vArmour

Based in Mountain View, Calif., vArmour is a stealth security company focused on securing the data defined perimeter of enterprises. The company has raised $42 million in funding led by Highland Capital Partners, Menlo Ventures, Columbus Nova Technology Partners and Citi Ventures. Executives from NetScreen, Juniper Networks, Silver Tail Systems, Citrix, Riverbed and IBM lead the company, which will launch in 2014. Learn more at

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