Cloud Security: Ten Questions to Ask Before You Jump In

From regulations to liability, CA cloud security expert Tim Brown outlines the key security issues you should explore while preparing for a cloud deployment.

By Tim Brown, Chief Security Architect, CA
Tue, January 26, 2010

CIO

The hype around cloud computing would make you think mass adoption will happen tomorrow. But recent studies by a number of sources have shown that security is the biggest barrier to cloud adoption. The reality is cloud computing is simply another step in technology evolution following the path of mainframe, client server and Web applications, all of which had — and still have — their own security issues.

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Security concerns did not stop those technologies from being deployed and they will not stop the adoption of cloud applications that solve real business needs. To secure the cloud, it needs to be treated as the next evolution in technology not a revolution that requires broad based changes to your security model. Security policies and procedures need to be adapted to include cloud models in order to prepare for the adoption of cloud-based services. Like other technologies, we're seeing early adopters take the lead and instill confidence in the cloud model by deploying private clouds or by experimenting with less-critical information in public clouds.

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Organizations are asking many questions and weighing the pros and cons of utilizing cloud solutions. Security, availability and management all need to be considered. As part of that process, here are 10 security-related questions organizations should consider to help them determine if a cloud deployment is right for them, and if so, which cloud model — private, public or hybrid.

1. How does a cloud deployment change my risk profile?
A cloud computing deployment — whether private or public — means you are no longer in complete control of the environment, the data, or the people. A change in control creates a change in risk — sometimes an increase in risk and in some cases a decrease in risk. Some cloud applications give you full transparency, advanced reporting, and integration with your existing systems. This can help lower your risk. Other cloud applications may be unable to modify their security profiles, they may not fit with your existing security measures, and may increase your risk. Ultimately the data and its sensitivity level will dictate what type of cloud is used or if a cloud model makes sense at all.

2. What do I need to do to ensure my existing security policy accommodates the cloud model?
A shift to a cloud paradigm is an opportunity to improve your overall security posture and your security policies. Early adopters of cloud applications will have influence and can help drive the security models implemented by the cloud providers. You should not create a new security policy for the cloud, but instead extend you existing security policies to accommodate this additional platform. To modify your policies for cloud, you need to consider similar factors: where the data is stored, how the data is protected, who has access to the data, compliance with regulations, and service level agreements.

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