Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thoughts on What's New About Cloud Computing Security

Authors: Yanpei Chen, Vern Paxson and Randy H. Katz
While the economic case for cloud computing is compelling, the security challenges it poses are equally striking. In this work we strive to frame the full space of cloud-computing security issues, attempting to separate justified concerns from possible over-reactions. We examine contemporary and historical perspectives from industry, academia, government, and “black hats”. We argue that few cloud computing security issues are fundamentally new or fundamentally intractable; often what appears “new” is so only relative to “traditional” computing of the past several years. Looking back further to the time-sharing era, many of these problems already received attention. On the other hand, we argue that two facets are to some degree new and fundamental to cloud computing: the complexities of multi-party trust considerations, and the ensuing need for mutual auditability.

My Summary:
This technical report provides many nice analogies and comparisons between mechanisms and problems that have been faced in the days of yore (e.g. Multics) and today's cloud computing environment. There are several examples of what problems are old and what are new. It has a nice compilation of anecdotes and references on how the Cloud has been broken or abused such as FBI raiding a Cloud data center because one of the customers might have been doing illegal stuff. They emphasize that one of the major problems faced today is auditing so that authorities know they have seized all evidence and so that customers know that only required evidence was seized and no more. Similarly, auditing is required to help customers and providers build mutual trust. The paper does not break new ground, but does nicely summarize many of the issues faced in cloud computing security. However, they gloss over regulatory issues such as enforcing HIPAA compliance in multi-tenant systems and the possibility of having to update these requirements.

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