Securing the Cloud: Addressing Cloud Computing Security Concerns with Private Cloud
Cloud computing in the public cloud has raised some security questions for businesses that have regulatory compliance requirements. Barriers to adopting public cloud for security-sensitive applications have been created because many regulatory agencies have been slow to align security requirements with public cloud computing. To meet some of these security needs, a private cloud allows businesses to achieve the benefits of cloud computing while maintaining the security and privacy that dedicated hardware provides. Private cloud also provides users with a path for future migration to public cloud. This article describes security concerns in the public cloud and strategies for employing private cloud to address these issues.
Security against Hackers
The first security concern in any computing environment is the threat from hackers. Cloud computing in a shared environment creates new opportunities for hackers seeking to discover vulnerabilities, which may ultimately allow them to deny service or gain unauthorized access. Additionally, security experts have detailed methods for attacking cloud infrastructure from the inside by running hacker tools in the cloud itself.
Once a hacker has access into a node of a public cloud, the hacker gains greater visibility inside the cloud. The hacker then uses this inside information to more effectively probe the system and plan attacks. To combat this vulnerability, a private cloud restricts access to its resources to authorized users and administrators only. By preventing potential hackers from gaining an inside view, private cloud allows businesses to tightly control access to the entire environment.
Security against Resource Contention
Another concern in the public cloud is resource contention. A security issue can arise when the resource contention is the result of a Denial of Service (DoS) attack on another tenant of the shared infrastructure. The public cloud is a shared resource that can potentially expose all tenants in the cloud to security risks when any tenant becomes the target of a DoS attack. However, private cloud provides businesses with inherent protection from DoS attacks directed at other businesses by avoiding shared infrastructure.
Many regulatory compliance specifications, including HIPAA and PCI, specifically require data segregation (although not all public clouds use virtualization technology). While these standards have not been updated to address how data can be protected and segregated in the public cloud, they fit very well with private cloud. Since a private cloud uses dedicated hardware, it is comparatively simpler to segregate the data on separate servers and in separate virtual machines (VM). This allows businesses to maintain regulatory compliance while benefiting from cloud computing.
The example above includes the following components:
- Hypervisors - These are the physical servers that run the various virtual machines under hypervisor control.
- Firewall - Firewalls are an important first line of defense against attacks.
- IDS - Intrusion Detection System.
- DMZ segment - The demilitarized zone (DMZ) network segment has tightly controlled access to the public Internet.
- Private segment - This network segment has no access from the public Internet.
The custom configuration above is an example that includes both a public segment and a private segment, as well as both firewall and IDS hardware. In this example the two network segments enable publication of applications in a compliant manner regardless of whether a public or private network is required. Private network segments prohibit access from the public Internet and are a necessary component of many regulatory compliance specifications such as PCI DSS. The IDS device would proactively detect any incoming attacks and send alerts prompting the security staff to investigate and respond.
Cloud computing is constantly evolving, and as the technology advances, many of these security concerns will be addressed. Technology is being created that will allow virtual machines to move from private clouds to public clouds and back again. Businesses that choose to deploy private cloud today will benefit immediately by making the best use of their available resources. In addition, the businesses using private cloud to optimize their environments now will be well-positioned for a future transition to public cloud as their needs evolve and new technologies are developed.
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