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Liabilities Can’t Be Outsourced

Posted May 12, 2011    Peter McCalister

I wish I could take credit for the title of this blog, but it comes from a sentence recently written by Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer at DarkReading.com. In his article Mr. Lemos waxes poetic on how “Recent Breaches Spur New Thinking on Cloud Security.” This got me thinking about liability and how it seems everyone tries to delegate it away.

It didn’t work when you tried to blame the dog for eating your homework in grammar school and it definitely won’t fly if you try to blame your cloud vendor for losing or jeopardizing your data that you decided to put in said cloud vendor’s data center. On top of that you face article headlines like those reported in ComputerWorld that state “Security Still Top Concern With Could, Despite Amazon Outage” being seen by your boss and then there’s no place left to hide because the “ignorance excuse” won’t work.

The ComputerWorld article goes on to quote Gartner Cloud Computing Analyst, Kyle Hilgendorf as saying “Enterprises I speak to are more concerned with security than they are about availability, reliability and performance.” And rightly so, as anyone taking the leap to cloud computing will recognize that ultimately a great deal of trust is being put into the cloud provider. To help mitigate this risk ask your provider (even if it is an internal group for private cloud instantiations) the following questions:

Who has privileged access (root or superuser credentials) to the physical and virtual servers that house your data in the cloud?
What controls are in place to limit or control what specific things (view, copy, delete, modify) can be done in a privileged capacity?
How can you as a cloud user review logs or reports to ensure protection?

Bottom line, is that cloud computing needs least privilege as much, if not more so, than corporate-based computing because ultimately liabilities can’t be outsourced.

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