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Monday, August 27, 2012

Cloud Threat : Shared Technology Issues


1.   When a computer processor is designed/manufactured...viz core 2 Duo or quad-core processor or for this purpose any processor,the processor doesn't know what will it be finally used for....I mean it may be used as a standalone machine or a server machine!!!Here's the issue..ie this processor was not meant to be used for cloud....but how does this matter?This matter because from the security point of view this processor was meant to support strong ISOLATION properties which is not the case in routine manufacturing.Only dependent on the hypervisors for the regular interface as discussed at an earlier post here.In cases of cloud we have to handle two platforms ..one is the OS running like windows or any other OS which comes along with inbuilt and already exploited vulnerabilities that keep getting patched(what about Zero day???) and the other is hypervisor vulnerabilities(just google on hypersvisor vulnerabilities and u see what's in store to get surprised).Both of these combined together would be deadly if not taken care of...because in the cloud world, reacting to a damage would be like taking some one to hospital after an accident or a bomb blast whereas it should be the other way round....remove all possibilities of the accident and ensure 100% secure Areas....latter being too tough to imagine in current environment.

2.   I read about this few years back when I was not very much clear on Cloud Computing concepts(though still naive but better then past!!! :-),there was an incident involving a hypervisor breach that was not widely publicized.Now if u know about XBox 360(is a video game console developed by Microsoft that competes with Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii),it has an embedded hypervisor (surprisingly not Hyper-V),so it was some time in 2007, that there was a documented buffer overflow vulnerability in this hypervisor which could be exploited to gain access to the hypervisor mode and thus, to the entire system. Microsoft immediately released a patch for this.Now unlike regular Windows OS Option, patches are not optional for Xbox users. Thus,the patch was applied the next time a user connected to Xbox Live or installed a new game. Proof of concepts quickly appeared that exploited the hypervisor vulnerability as well as online documentation on how people have used the Xbox “hypervisor exploit” to crack their systems.(...got this info from http://blogs.gartner.com/neil_macdonald/2009/02/20/hypervisor-attacks-in-the-real-world/)

3.   Thus arises a need for strong secured compartments to ensure that the individual cloud users are not compromised in a manner that would ensure unmanageable losses in monitory terms as well as brand devaluation.The CSA gives the following point wise remidiation format for designing the policy boundaries to counter Shared Technology Issues : 

-  Promote strong authentication and access control for administrative access and operations.

-  Monitor environment for unauthorized changes/activity.

-  Enforce service level agreements for patching and vulnerability remediation.

-  Implement security best practices for installation/configuration.

-  Conduct vulnerability scanning and configuration audits.

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