Viewing posts categorised under: Business
30Jan
The Rubric Automated Security Policies
Business

No matter how security focused an organization is, the cloud era has brought on a new set of issues tied to lack of visibility and control over what gets deployed and where it’s deployed. This is why having automated security controls is critical in the protection of critical information being exposed, and more importantly leaked.

Today, Tech Crunch reported a security flaw at Rubrik, a major IT security and cloud management provider that could have lead to the exfiltration of key customer data had it not been caught. The article noted that a server, which was a part of developing a new customer support system, was improperly configured, leading to the risk of data being exfiltrated. It would be easy to point the finger at Rubrik and say they are responsible, however the truth is, in a consistently changing environment such as the cloud,  it is difficult for us as humans to effectively ensure all systems are properly protected during provisioning and migration of workloads and applications.

Many people who are deployed in Azure and AWS assume they are automatically protected through native cloud security controls. This is a perfect example of how those controls are not sufficient in protecting the workloads that are being rapidly provisioned and constantly migrated due to agile development of new applications to support customer functionality and business operations.  But even with a solid level of security in place, the system could have still gone unnoticed. This is where automation becomes important.

Preventing this type or issue is exactly why ShieldX was founded.  With ShieldX you can set Application Aware ACLs to be automatically applied to servers as they are provisioned or migrated. This means ShieldX security policies would have been applied to the elastic search service and guaranteed the same access restriction no matter where it appears in the cloud environment. With ShieldX, customers get “Layered Security and Layered defense” by means of “ACLs/Micro segmentation”, and Indicator Of Pivot modeled around “Cyber Kill chain”, providing single pane of glass for security controls deployed on-premise, AWS and Azure.  With ShieldX in place, organizations like Rubrik can create automated policies that will automatically apply the appropriate security controls as the systems come online. Finally, enterprises can focus on defining the appropriate security intent and have cloud native security platform offered by ShieldX  transform that intent into actual policy and rich set of controls with automation and orchestration to increase security posture and reduce TCO .

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03Jan
PART III: AWS and Azure–Cloud security isn’t true security
Business

This is part III of III.

Solve it

If individual cloud-based security isn’t the quick fix customers are seeking, what is? Well, that was a trick question of course. There is no quick fix. There IS a fix. And that is a pre-planned comprehensive stack that addresses your responsibility in cloud computing. Theses include but are not limited to segments such as the storage and exchange of customer data according to HIPAA compliance, GDPR, PCI-DATA, the SEC, and the list goes on.

 

When you go with a trusted multi-cloud provider like ShieldX, you replace the patchwork of features and providers with a high-visibility solution that addresses the above and more. You get your manager off of your behind when you remove those licensing and maintenance fees. Your costs go down. And instead of playing 3-D chess to avoid misconfigurations, you can breathe.

 

Some CISOs get started by consulting with their team, then building a map to show the missing pieces of their security apparatus and their solutions. Don’t forget to work with application owners to understand any potential threat vectors. A solid strategy will address:

  • Missing security apparatus
  • Threat vectors in application/components
  • A good security hygiene
  • Access control permissions

 

Regardless of what your security approach you are planning in your cloud or multi-cloud environment, please do not go with the approach of lift and shift. Understand the security implications of your presences by evaluating the difference and exchange between on-premises and cloud security. Then call us.

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17Dec
VMWare Security Analysis
Business

Data center virtualization was originally designed to improve the utilization rates of computing, networking and storage assets. As the early pioneer of such technologies, VMWare grew to become the dominant vendor of data center virtualization software. Unfortunately, cloud providers’ popularity and rapid feature expansion have not matched the limited security solutions they offer along with their data packages.

Unaware customers who migrate their assets via providers like VMWare, without a holistic inter-cloud security strategy in place, are left both insecure and financially vulnerable.

While every cloud provider should be considered an analog, in this advisory we will address VMWare specifically as both a trendsetting example and leading cloud provider. Here we provide users with five reasons to consider an inter-cloud security approach when those assets are in play.

 

A successful software-defined data center implementation should support scaling of computing resources

This allows for business units to add new applications rapidly and with enhanced DC security. This should be enabled in a VMWare-powered data center. But this is not a feature VMWare offers. A barely hidden secret in IT corners is that many previous loyalists have chosen to convert to AWS and prompted a rapid rise in demand for cloud computing and IaaS.

A comparison of the growth in AWS-based virtualization and VMWare’s on-premise virtual servers illustrates the movement toward AWS.

Solution 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
AWS 3108 4644 7880 12,219 17,459
VMWare 5150 6040 6650 7090 7920(*)

(All figures in $mil.)

*Re-statements to account for Dell acquisition

 

The result has been that enterprises now own two separately virtualized assets. One is in their data centers with VMWare, and the other is in AWS VPCs and/or Azure Vnets. The public cloud has delivered economic benefits for them as well as more flexible control over their resources.

 

VMWare’s virtual networking and security toolkit are not built to maximize security

While VMWare has robust server virtualization offerings, its security features are simply too underdeveloped for the majority of customers’ needs.

To supplement them, customers seek alternatives with Cisco ACI and a multi-vendor mix for their security needs. Meanwhile, the cumulative cost to VMWare customers keeps rising. Gartner has seen consistent adoption of these offerings over the past year, and Cisco now reports over 3,500 paying ACI customers. (Gartner MQ on Data Centers)

 

VMWare never quite ‘got’ public cloud standards

VMWare initially took an adversarial stance towards their competitors. Of course, these were public clouds, most notably Amazon’s AWS. Not only did VMWare downplay the compelling benefits of AWS, but more importantly they did little to match their capabilities or provide alternative, legitimate pathways for customer workload migration.

Then they followed up with their own public cloud solution which experienced a myriad of growing pains. Their vCloud Air was sold to OVH in May 2017.

 

Add-ons add up

After launch when it was forced to reconsider its position, VMWare offered its cloud customers an option of deploying its virtualization toolset (VMWare cloud on AWS) on top of the already virtualized AWS cloud (functionality illustrated by VMPro).

The following table quantifies the cost of running VMWare Cloud on AWS compared to native AWS virtual servers, VMWare providing no additional benefit.

Note the additional cost requirement to heavily invest in VMWare’s private data center in order to access preferred pricing in AWS.

 

VMWare on-premise license requirements Yearly cost of 10 VMWare servers on AWS (1) Yearly cost of 10 AWS EC2 instances without VMWare overhead (2)
100 CPUs of vSphere Enterprise Plus $467,883 $193.20
100 CPUs of vSphere Enterprise Plus & 10 CPUs of NSX $441,890 $193.20
100 CPUs of vSphere Enterprise Plus & 20 CPUs of NSX and 20 VSAN licenses $389,903 $193.20

(1)(VMWare data procured from their blog.)

(2)(AWS pricing is based on a reserved instance standard for a 3-year term as derived from their pricing sheet)

 

VMWare has not delivered on its promise of a robust security platform

When it comes to segmentation and threat prevention across the data center and public cloud, its customers are still waiting for answers. VMWare has underdeveloped inter-cloud security offerings—and they are hampering customer adoption of true multi-cloud infrastructure.

Let’s go back to the very beginning of connective security, starting with virtual servers. Virtual servers naturally gave rise to virtual network switches, which connected them within a single physical server and across their data center. The servers needed to be segmented and inter-server traffic inspected for threats.

Initially, VMWare offered the VMSafe API to allow partners to bring their expertise to bear in order to keep this virtual network safe for their customers. But after getting their partners invested in this approach, VMWare abruptly canceled their API effort in favor of internally developed techniques. The outcome was that the virtual network suffered in its security posture compared to what was delivered on the physical network. This limited security foundation is unfortunately coupled with an aging virtual network and repackaged as an “inter-cloud” offering called NSX-T. NSX-T is not lacking in bold claims.

While the NSX-T design guide claims to provide “micro-segmentation for AWS workloads,” it does not offer any threat mitigation beyond the original NSX offering, which is limited to working on top of AWS with little support for other leading clouds such as Azure and GCP.

The security offered by NSX-T is based on basic firewall functionality for N-S traffic and  coupled to the segmentation built into each vNIC.

NSX-T does not begin to address the fundamental requirements of a multi-cloud security solution. The security policy must be expressed as an intention to be applied not to VMs, but to operations from application workloads. The solution must work seamlessly across all major clouds.

Customers who have integrated their assets with VMWare have been struggling to absorb and deploy this limited model as they look to mitigate inter-cloud security challenges.

Take a hint from a proprietary major utility company, which had to deploy virtual firewalls in addition to NSX to protect their virtualized data center. Operationally, these dual security frameworks were challenging to maintain.

The customer was unsure, after all their efforts, whether they had the protection they needed. When they moved their workloads to AWS, the same data center security implementation could not be deployed there. The increasing opex and capex burdens, and reduced confidence in security, set back their timeline for moving additional workloads to the cloud.

VMWare’s capitulation to AWS has resulted in a new marketing approach wherein VMs from the data center can migrate to AWS. As noted earlier, this doubles their customers’ spend and reduces their flexibility. Additionally, this migration is currently supported on AWS, but not on Azure or Google Cloud.

Meanwhile, VMWare has taken to the airwaves stating that there are too many security offerings in the marketplace. The implication is that customers should turn to VMware for a simplified and seamless security umbrella.

 

Summary

Enterprise customers are attuned to VMware messaging and some have absorbed its technology and marketing pitch. While VMWare has robust server virtualization offerings, its security solutions are inadequate in relation to its features.

When what is being provided does not meet their fast-changing usage needs, customers either turn to complex and costly add-on solutions, or are otherwise hampered in their search for workload security across multi-cloud platforms.

Moving forward, enterprises should consider a true SDDC strategy that offers overarching protection for cross-platform assets. Don’t put blind faith in security for your entire company as provided by one of several cloud platforms in use.

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07Nov
Cathay Pacific: Get Off of My Cloud
Business

Just today, government authorities in Hong Kong launched a formal investigation into the breach to understand if privacy laws were violated. While privacy laws are extremely important, the investigation should also focus on HOW this happened. While post-mortems for any breach is useful, I think this attack highlights a new category of cloud attacks we haven’t seen much before—but will with increasing frequency.

First, a little about Cathay Pacific and their cloud deployment.  Like many, they’ve adopted a multicloud strategy:

“In the past three years, Cathay Pacific has been making a shift away from legacy systems to the cloud,” says Aloysius Cheang, executive vice president for Asia Pacific at the Center for Strategic Cyberspace + Security Science, a U.K. think tank for cyber centric leadership. “It now employs a hybrid cloud as part of its strategy to replace their legacy systems,” he says.

The airline is using software from Redhat to build the underlying open platform infrastructure, and it is using Amazon Web Services to hold customer-facing applications, such as online check-in system, flight schedule, fares and web hosting, as was described during AWS Summit Hong Kong in 2017, Cheang points out. “As a result of these front-end apps, I presume that the customer data will be accessible from these apps which are hosted on AWS,” he says.

Last April, we wrote about the new attack surface that comes with cloud migration. One of the attacks, X-Cloud, seems to have been the attack method deployed against Cathay Pacific. By all measures, it was pretty successful as hackers took, according the headlines, 860,000 passport numbers, about 245,000 Hong Kong identity card numbers, accessed 403 expired credit card numbers and 27 credit card numbers with no card verification value (CVV).

What is a X-Cloud attack?  From our April blog:

Many enterprises are under the impression that they can go easy on security if they don’t host ‘critical workload’ or ‘sensitive data’ resources in the cloud, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Attackers commonly use public clouds to gain entry into on-premise data centers.

Once your organization makes the decision to migrate any workloads into the public cloud, the perimeter of your on-premise data center also extends into that public cloud environment.

So the appropriate defenses are needed but, the security controls used to protect your on-premise data center cannot easily extend into your public cloud environment.

This forces many organizations to adopt a fragmented security posture that is complex to maintain and leaves the door open for attackers. Public cloud workloads can become infected with malware. As the malware replicates and spreads, the attack can easily jump from the public to the private cloud using standard protocols—if there are no lateral defenses in place.

Cathay Pacific style attack patterns

Cathay Pacific moved application front-ends to the public cloud—extending their perimeter into the great beyond.  Many companies discover quickly that you can’t easily keep your old security tools in front of those migrated workloads as it would require them to migrate into the public clouds as well. Congratulations, you have a new attack surface.

In the past, the infrastructure was all on premise and shielded by comprehensive security controls.  With the onset of cloud computing, now if the web tier is extended—how do you protect assets in this contorted, new architecture?

Attackers understand this very well. One typical trick is to breach the web server in AWS and drop a backdoor accessible from the outside.  Then they tell the backdoor to copy all the data from the database, which needs to be accessible to fulfill the web application’s purpose. However, data is typically served in parts dependent on the authenticated user. With that backdoor, the authentication is bypassed, and the web server has access to the whole data set.

What is really important to note here is that even micro segmentation alone (!) wouldn’t protect against such an attack — the web server needs access to the data that it serves.

So Willkommen (I’m Austrian) to the new realities of cloud security. In this new era, we have to break old habits and old ways of thinking rooted in yesterday’s security approach and we have to admit to ourselves that the chokepoint approach won’t work anymore. For the CISO in today’s IT world, the security game has, in many ways, become a whole new model to work with.  In years past, the name of game was “containment – with chokepoints”. It was a tightly controlled world – and CISO’s had the ability to lock it down and only allow dataflows through a select set of avenues.

What is the right way?  Let’s start with some inspiration from Mick:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8HHqUwKdP8

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12Dec
Cloud Security Without Compromise
Business

According to the Telegraph, “65% of large businesses reported a cyber breach or attack in the past 12 months. Yet nine out of 10 businesses don’t even have an incident management plan in the event of a cyber breach.”*

We are in the midst of an accelerating technology shift from traditional on-premise solutions to the cloud. As such, there is growing demand to secure migrating workloads, data and assets.  But do IT organizations have the right solutions and the will to catch up and meet this challenge head on?

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16Jun
Micro-Segmentation Alone Is Not Enough
Business

Micro-segmentation has become a de facto standard and requirement to manage highly virtualized data centers and cloud computing environments. According to a recent article by Jon Oltsik, ESG senior principal analyst and founder of the firm’s cybersecurity service, ESG research has uncovered that in 2017, “68% of enterprise organizations use some type of software-based micro-segmentation technology.”*

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16Jun
The Strategy Behind the Startup Madness
Business

Welcome to ShieldX and our Blog. This inaugural post provides insight into ShieldX, the company, its mission and how ShieldX is able to offer, within only 18 months, a validated, market-changing innovation with market-renowned recognition as a Gartner 2017 Cool Vendor in Cloud Security.

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About Author

Ratinder Ahuja

Ratinder Ahuja

Founder & CEORatinder leads ShieldX and its mission as its central pivot point, drawing from a career as a successful serial entrepreneur and corporate leader, bringing with him his unique blend of business acumen, industry network and deep technical knowledge.
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