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cloudEver since the term “cloud computing” was coined a few years back, the very thought of allowing a company’s data to sit out in some undisclosed location in cyberspace has left CIOs and CFOs quaking in their shoes. If they can’t control their data (or even know where it is) how can they protect it? Their worry is one of the main reasons why cloud computing is more talked about than actually adopted by businesses.

That’s why a claim by one of IBM’s security mavens, Harold Moss, chief technology officer of cloud computing strategy, seems so surprising. “There’s a misconception that cloud is less secure than traditional IT environments,” says Moss. “The cloud can actually be more secure.”

How is that possible? I’m sure some of you disagree with his conclusion, and I invite you to weigh in with comments…

Moss gives three reasons for his assessment:

1) When companies shift computing tasks to the cloud, they’re on guard. They make sure a good strategies and technologies are in place to protect their data.

2) They don’t just move everything at once and treat it all the same. The company, or the third-party cloud service provider, can set up a security regime that’s suitable for the applications they’re moving.

3) A third-party cloud service provider is likely to have superior security technology and expertise than does a company that’s just protecting its own data. That’s because it can spread the cost of security over a number of clients, while an individual company has to shoulder the entire burden itself. (This consideration is especially important in the case of small companies.)

The key to safeguarding data in the cloud, Moss says, is specialization. “One size doesn’t fit all. Not all clouds are the same,” he says. For instance, when IBM engineers designed the security for Lotus Live social networking and collaboration services, their focus was on giving users the maximum amount of control over who they share their information with and under what circumstances. The security considerations are quite different for an SAP financial application hosted in a cloud environment.

The idea that all clouds aren’t the same came to IBM gradually. In the early days of cloud computing, some of the industry pioneers painted the vision of vast data centers equipped with one kind of computer and running one kind of software. Everything would be treated the same. At IBM, the various business units pursued strategies aligned with the capabilities they offer and the needs of their clients. So they ended up producing differentiated cloud services–and different security schemes. “It sort of evolved that way. But it turns out it’s a good idea,” says Moss.

Is Moss right? Or is this a bunch of self-serving IBM marketing spin?

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This assumes that “people (and companies) are basically good” which runs against normal IT security wisdom. Companies I’ve seen moving to the cloud are more interested in being on the bandwagon than “on guard.”
So far, there are enough real world examples counter to Moss’ arguments to make us think again about creating new ventures in security as we venture into the Cloud.
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March 3, 2011
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Posted by: EtherealMind
 
February 28, 2011
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A very good and thought provoking topic. At this point, I think deploying important enterprise workloads into public clouds is ill-advised. There are security and availability concerns, of course, but also quality of service and cost goals that need to be met. Finally, the provider has to have some skin in the game.

I don’t necessarily buy the three reasons that Harold Moss uses to support his assertion that clouds can be more secure than traditional computing. I have more details on my own blog here….http://tinyurl.com/4hdmfgt

Great conversation on this topic, thanks for writing it!


Posted by: Dan Olds
 
February 28, 2011
5:26 pm

I don’t believe that cloud based IT environments are inherently insecure or secure, nor do I believe that on-premise IT environments are inherently secure (a trawl of media around data breaches is testament to this).

The technology factors in this discussion are relevant, and interesting to me personally as well. What I think is sometimes worth discussing further is the ‘people’ aspect. For smaller companies the appeal of Cloud might be the ability to focus their team on their core business, in the same way that they might outsource some business processes. In some regions of the world, the availability of information security skills may mean that building an appropriate in-house security capability is not possible or cost-effective.


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9:56 am

The comments about being in a plane as compared to a car really resonates with me. Most people do feel safer in a car, though the statistics prove that riding in a plane is safer than riding in a car.

A plane is driven by professional “drivers” and maybe folks need to reconsider the expertise provided by professional cloud “drivers” for their information processing needs.

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Posted by: Barry Ostrer
 
February 26, 2011
3:56 pm

Since cloud is about service delivery (and not technology) Moss’s statements should not come as a surprise – the capabilities of the service provider will align with what they are paid for in the market they choose to focus on. So while he said a service provider has the potential to be better at security (or other aspects of service delivery) the converse is also true – they can be worse. So choose your cliche’ – “caveat emptor” or “trust but verify” is still a part of the decision making process around use of service providers.


Posted by: Tim Durniak
 
February 26, 2011
2:29 pm

I applaud Joe Temple’s comment and will take it a step further. It IS about the client and the problem they are trying to solve. It is critical to keep several dimensions in mind when using the ephemeral term “cloud”. First, which deployment model are we talking about? There is a continuum from fully private (owned, managed, run on client’s floor) all the way to the fully public cloud (a la Amazon), with many stops and permutations in between. Second, which types of applications are we talking about? Absolutely business critical ranging all the way to “nice to have”? In IBM and with most clients we talk about this in terms of tiers. I usually suggest to clients that they might want to think twice about moving absolutely business critical all the way to a fully public cloud. Privacy/security is only one reason. There are a myriad of other considerations including integration with other applications and data, latency, network traffic, I/O, etc. However, it might be an interesting proposition to look at the lower tier of apps and consider them as candidates for one of the more public deployments. Again, privacy is only one of the considerations. The others are still important as well. That’s a long way of saying “it depends” when referring to the original post. For the most business critical environments, we might have substantial privacy and security barriers built around them so only the right people can access them for the right reasons. Those sorts of apps might be kept in a more private version of cloud (notice I didn’t say “private” as they could be in an off premises managed private cloud – remember the permutations of deployment models). However, if the tier 4 apps, which aren’t critical to the business and probably aren’t integrated with business critical apps or data, then the security/privacy concerns aren’t as significant. Does that mean the client would be comfortable putting these apps out in the ‘wild wild west’ with no protection? No! It means that, as with all things, there are levels of protection. Our enterprise cloud is protected by the same security and privacy standards that we apply to our own enterprise infrastructure. That is a high degree of protection, perhaps, in many cases, much more secure than some clients apply to their environments. So, in some cases, it is quite possibly true that the cloud is more secure. It just depends ….


Posted by: Julie Schuneman
 
February 26, 2011
1:47 pm

One of the ways I view the security of cloud services — like Evernote, one my favorite personal productivity tools — is the value of knowing that my notes and content, since its synchronized across laptop, mobile and the Web, is less in danger lost from a hard drive failure or misplaced device. I also tend to feel that services such as Dropbox, Box.net and others also have better backup and failsafe redundancies than I do as an individual.

That’s not to say that cloud-based services are less vulnerable to hacking or attack, but that there’s also nothing, as I see it, that makes them inherently more vulnerable that traditional IT.


Posted by: Jack Mason, IBM Global Business Services
 
February 25, 2011
8:47 pm

It’s the most secure resource already invented for all purposes found in our IT environment. But we need to take care about the infrastructure around it, the Broad Band connections are that reliable and stable in all world ? Seeing events like Egypt cutting internet access in a whole country leads us to re-think the concept of Grid and therefore Cloud-Grid.


Posted by: Gabriel Lodi
 
February 25, 2011
2:50 pm

Whats the waiting time to wait for a cloud reply(as compared to a normal system reply)–I mean with all the hand shakes and all that…and even then does it have to be routed back into DMZ(actually the MZ) to be verified(or cleansed) before it becomes the official reply?


Posted by: Dan Sweeney
 
February 25, 2011
2:03 pm

The key point Moss makes is that “one size does not fit all”. This is because there are different kinds of clouds.

I would add to this the thought that there are different kinds of clients. I have a sign in my office that says “It’s about the Client, stupid” We should think of a cloud implementation as a platform for running our solution. Then we choose the cloud platform over others based on its ability to match the requirements of the subject workload AS THE CLIENT WILL RUN IT. For some combinations of client, workload and platform alternatives the cloud configuration in question can indeed be more secure. For others not. Clouds are platforms and they should be chosen based on how they meet requirements imposed by “local factors”, which is to say which platform is most “fit for purpose”. Generalizations about “The cloud” as if it is a monolith ignore the fact that Clouds are platforms with some common capabilities but with very different capabilities. Generalizations about a particular cloud implementation removes our focus from where it should be: on the Client. Local factors rule.


Posted by: Joe Temple
 
February 25, 2011
12:56 pm

reminds me of this: you’re actually safer in an airplane than a car. But you’re not in control in plane. So you’re more scared.


Posted by: Michael Holmes
 
February 25, 2011
12:26 pm

From our Facebook page: Aditya Sharma comments: “At present cloud computing is not secure. Protocols are not enough to secure data in servers. But the power it offers is amazing.”


Posted by: Kevin Winterfield
 
February 25, 2011
12:25 pm

From our Facebook page: Sharad Kishore asks “What’s the waiting time to wait for a cloud reply–I mean the hand shakes and all that…and even then does it have to be routed back into DMZ to be verified?”


Posted by: Kevin Winterfield
 
February 25, 2011
12:24 pm

The cloud creates a single point of failure in an otherwise individual environment. Failures include corporate espionage, personal advancement, and all sorts of covert activity.
While the technology might be more impressive, the threat from within grows with the amount of sensitive data.


Posted by: Dan Mapes
 
5 Trackbacks
 
December 9, 2013
3:38 pm

[…] on cloud security, check out this Op Ed piece by Vivek Kundra, former CIO for the United States and this article weighing comments from […]


Posted by: Surprising Security Benefits of Cloud Computing | Techstar IT Solutions
 
October 18, 2013
5:32 pm

[…] own data center. The trigger was a statement attributed to IBM’s Harold Moss, reproduced in a blog post. Moss apparently said that “there’s a misconception that cloud is less secure than […]


Posted by: Today in Cloud — GigaOM Research
 
April 12, 2011
2:56 am

[...] this blog, IBM’er Steve Hamm lays out Moss’s case: “That’s why a claim by one of IBM’s security [...]


Posted by: The security debate can everyone be right? « Center for it-sikkerhed
 
February 25, 2011
1:56 pm

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Posted by: Tweets that mention Radical Thought: Cloud Computing Can be More Secure Than the Traditional Kind | A Smarter Planet Blog -- Topsy.com
 
February 25, 2011
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[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by IBM SW Newsletter, Nelson Biagio Jr . Nelson Biagio Jr said: RT @IBMSWNewsletter: #smarterplanet blog #Radical Thought #CloudComputing Can be + Secure Than the Traditional Kind http://bit.ly/gbXu1u [...]


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7 Tweets
 
March 3, 2011
3:10 pm

RT @Cloud_Expert: How secure is cloud computing? The answer may surprise you: http://tinyurl.com/4nwkhme << no real world examples. Ouch.


Posted by: TechIsMidlName (Stan Tech Stewart)
 
March 3, 2011
11:30 am

How secure is cloud computing? The answer may surprise you: http://tinyurl.com/4nwkhme


Posted by: Cloud_expert (Jurgen Peters)
 
March 2, 2011
9:06 pm

RT @stevehamm31: How secure is cloud computing? The answer may surprise you: http://tinyurl.com/4nwkhme


Posted by: hans_brouwer (hans brouwer)
 
February 25, 2011
6:52 pm

@stevehamm31: How secure is cloud computing? The answer may surprise you: http://tinyurl.com/4nwkhme” surprisingly hawthornish.


Posted by: ppmthinking (Bruce Baron)
 
February 25, 2011
4:34 pm

RT @stevehamm31: How secure is cloud computing? The answer may surprise you: http://tinyurl.com/4nwkhme


Posted by: Molly_Antos (Molly Antos)
 
February 25, 2011
4:32 pm

RT @stevehamm31: How secure is cloud computing? The answer may surprise you: http://tinyurl.com/4nwkhme


Posted by: ibmsocbiz (IBM Social Business)
 
February 25, 2011
4:29 pm

How secure is cloud computing? The answer may surprise you: http://tinyurl.com/4nwkhme


Posted by: stevehamm31 (Steve Hamm)
 
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