8 Ways to Secure Your Cloud Infrastructure

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Clouding Around - A mini-blog series on the Cloud with Arif Mohamed

Part 1: 8 Ways to Secure Your Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud security remains a top concern for businesses. Fortunately, today’s data center managers have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal to secure their private cloud infrastructure.

Here are eight things you can use to secure your private cloud.

1. AES-NI Data Encryption

End-to-end encryption can be transformational for the private cloud, securing data at all levels through enterprise-class encryption. The latest Intel processors feature Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI), a set of new instructions that enhance performance by speeding up the execution of encryption algorithms.

The instructions are built into Intel® Xeon server processors as well as client platforms including mobile devices.

When encryption software utilises them, the AES-NI instructions dramatically accelerate encryption and decryption – by up to 10 times compared with software-only AES.

This speedy encryption means that it is possible to incorporate encryption across the data centre without significantly impacting infrastructure performance.

2. Security Protocols

By incorporating a range of security protocols and secure connections, you will build a more secure private cloud.

As well as encrypting data, clouds can also use cryptographic protocols to secure browser access to the customer portal, and to transfer encrypted data.

For example, Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols are used to assure safe communications over networks, including the Internet. Both of these are widely used for application such as secure web browsing, through HTTPS, as well as email, IM and VoIP.

They are also critical for cloud computing, enabling applications to communicate over the network and throughout the cloud while preventing undetected tampering that modifies content, or eavesdropping on content as it’s transferred.

3. OpenSSL, RSAX and Function Stitching

Intel works closely with OpenSSL, a popular open source multiplatform security library. OpenSSL is FIPS 140-2 certified: a computer security standard developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cryptographic Module Validation Program.

It can be used to secure web transactions through services such as Gmail, e-commerce platforms and Facebook, to safeguard connections on Intel architecture.

Two functions of OpenSSL, that Intel has contributed to, are RSAX and function stitching.

The first is a unique implementation of the popular RSA 1024-bit algorithm, and produces significantly better performance than previous OpenSSL implementations. RSAX can accelerate the time it takes to initiate an SSL session – up to 1.5 times. This provides a better user experience and increases the number of simultaneous sessions your server can handle.

As for function stitching: bulk data buffers use two algorithms for encryption and authentication, but rather than encrypting and authenticating data serially, function stitching interleaves instructions from these two algorithms. By executing them simultaneously, it improves the utilisation of execution resources and boosts performance.

Function stitching can result in up to 4.8 times performance improvement for secure web servers when combined with RSAX and Intel AES-NI.

4. Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Data protection is rooted in the encryption and secure transfer of data. Data loss prevention (DLP) is a complementary approach focused on detecting and preventing the leakage of sensitive information, either by malicious intent or inadvertent mistake.

DLP solutions can profile content against rules and capture violations or index and analyse data to develop new rules. IT can establish policies that govern how data is used in the organisation and by whom. By doing this they can clarify security practices, identify potential fraud and avert accidental or unauthorised malicious transfer of information.

An example of this technology is McAfee Total Protection for Data Loss Prevention. This software can be used to support an organisation’s governance policies.

5. Authentication

Protecting your platform begins with managing the users who access your cloud. This is a large undertaking because of the array of external and internal applications, and the continual churn of employees.

Ideally, authentication is strengthened by routing it in hardware. With Intel Identity Protection Technology (Intel IPT), Intel has built tamper-resistant, two-factor authentication directly into PCs based on third-generation Intel core vPro processors, as well as Ultrabook devices.

Intel IPT offers token generation built into the hardware, eliminating the need for a separate physical token. Third-party software applications work in tandem with the hardware, strengthening the authentication process.

Through Intel IPT technology, businesses can secure their access points by using one-time passwords or public key infrastructure.

6. API-level Controls

Another way in which you can secure your cloud infrastructure is by enforcingAPI-level controls. The API gateway layer is where security policy enforcement and cloud service orchestration and integration take place. An increased need to expose application services to third parties, and mobile applications is driving the need for controlled, compliant application service governance.

WithAPI-level controls, you gain a measure of protection for your departmental and edge system infrastructure, and reduce the risk of content-born attacks on applications.

Intel Expressway Service Gateway is an example of a scalable software appliance that provides enforcement points and authenticates API requests against existing enterprise identity and access management system.

7. Trusted Servers and Compute Pools

Because of cloud computing’s reliance on virtualisation, it is essential to establish trust in the cloud. This can be achieved by creating trusted servers and compute pools. Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) builds trust into each server, at the server level, by establishing a root of trust that helps assure system integrity within each system.

The technology checks hypervisor integrity at launch by measuring the code of the hypervisor and comparing it to a known good value. Launch can be blocked if the measurements do not match.

8. Secure Architecture Based on TXT

It’s possible to create a secure cloud architecture based on TXT technology, which is embedded in the hardware of Intel Xeon processor-based servers. Intel TXT works with the layers of the security stack to protect infrastructure, establish trust and verify adherence to security standards.

As mentioned, it works with the hypervisor layer, and also the cloud orchestration layer, the security policy management layer and the Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), and Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) layer.

Conclusion

Cloud security has come a long way. It’s now possible, through the variety of tools and technologies outlined above, to adequately secure both your data and your user. In so doing, you will establish security and trust in the cloud and gain from the agility, efficiency and cost savings that cloud computing brings.

- Arif