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Cloud Vendors Need Least Privilege For Better Security

Posted June 16, 2011    Peter McCalister

If you want to use the cloud and need to do it in a secure and compliant way you’re going to need to think about who’s responsible for what. As numerous studies and articles have highlighted, most cloud vendors today don’t provide a platform that’s fully up to enterprise security standards.

Cloud vendors need to do their part by providing a good foundation of security technologies like firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware, encryption of data in motion, patch management and log management. Cloud customers also need to do their part by using this foundation to secure their operations and ensure the proper policies and procedures are in place. So that leaves the complicated stuff – shared responsibilities and the special case of the privileged users in the cloud.

Vendor priorities will be aligned with those of their customers. Today for most cloud users those priorities are reducing cost, workload and deployment time while providing new levels of scalability. Some of these priorities are at odds with the time and resources required to do proper security.
However, if customers demand it and show they will pay for it vendors will step up and provide the security that’s needed. As a recent report by the Ponemon Institute on the Security of Cloud Computing Providers showed “while security as a true service from the cloud is rarely offered to customers today, about one-third of cloud providers in our study are considering such solutions as a new source of revenue sometime in the next two years.”

Many cloud vendors have large scale operations that offer the potential for more resources and expertise to protect your data. But that potential will only be fully realized if customers provide the oversight, funds and service level requirements to make sound security processes a good business decision for the vendors. This entails security teams getting more involved, companies allowing security to influence buying decisions and insisting on regular reporting on security processes and service-level agreements.

If you want your cloud vendors to be secure enough to protect your corporation’s most sensitive data, then you have to insist on it, communicate your requirements, oversee the controls, ask for reports and ultimately take shared responsibility for the security of the cloud.

That leaves the final piece of the cloud security puzzle – the special case of the privileged users in the cloud.

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