Mastering the Journey—Building Network Manageability and Security for your Path

This is the third post in our series, “Network Operations and Security Professionals’ Guide to Managing Public Cloud Journeys”, which we will release as a white paper after we complete the draft and have some time for public feedback. You might want to start with our first and second posts. Special thanks to Gigamon for licensing. As always, the content is being developed completely independently using our Totally Transparent Research methodology. Learning cloud adoption patterns doesn’t just help us identify key problems and risks – we can use them to guide operational decisions to address the issues they consistently raise. This research focuses on managing networks and network security, but the patterns include broad security and operational implications which cover all facets of your cloud journey. Governance issues aside, we find that networking is typically one of the first areas of focus for organizations, so it’s a good target for our first focused research. (For the curious, IAM and compliance are two other top areas organizations focus on, and struggle with, early in the process). Recommendations for a Safe and Smooth Journey Developer Led Mark sighed with relief and satisfaction as he validated the VPN certs were propagated and approved the ticket for firewall rule change. The security group was already in good shape and they managed to avoid having to add any kind of direct connect to the AWS account for the formerly-rogue project. He pulled up their new cloud assessment dashboard and all the critical issues were clear. It would still take the IAM team and the project’s developers a few months to scale down unneeded privileges but… not his problem. The federated identity portal was already hooked up and he would get real time alerts on any security group changes. “Now onto the next one,” he mumbled after he glanced at his queue and lost his short-lived satisfaction. “Hey, stop complaining!” remarked Sarah, “We should be clear after this backlog now that accounting is watching the credit cards for cloud charges; just run the assessment and see what we have before you start complaining.” Having your entire organization dragged into the cloud thanks to the efforts of a single team is disconcerting, but not unmanageable. The following steps will help you both wrangle the errant project under control, and build a base for moving forward. This was the first adoption pattern we started to encounter a decade ago as cloud starting growing, so there are plenty of lessons to pull from. Based on our experiences, a few principles really help manage the situation: Remember that to meet this pattern you should be new to either the cloud in general, or to this cloud platform specifically. These are not recommendations for unsanctioned projects covered by your existing experience and footprint. Don’t be antagonistic. Yes, the team probably knew better and shouldn’t have done it… but your goal now is corrective actions, not punitive. You goal is to reduce urgent risks while developing a plan to bring the errant project into the fold. Don’t simply apply your existing policies and tooling from other environments to this one. You need tooling and processes appropriate for this cloud provider. In our experience, despite the initial angst, these projects are excellent opportunities to learn your initial lessons on this platform, and to start building out for a larger supported program. If you keep one eye on immediate risks and the other on long-term benefits, everything should be fine. The following recommendations go a long way towards reducing risks and increasing your chances of success. But before the bullet points we have one overarching recommendation: As you gain control over the unapproved project, use it to learn the particulars of this cloud provider and build out your core cloud management capabilities. When you assess, set yourself up to support your next ten assessments. When you enable monitoring and visibility, do so in a way which supports your next projects. Wherever possible build a core service rather than a one-off. Step one is to figure out what you are dealing with: How many environments are involved? How many accounts, subscriptions, or projects? How are the environments structured? This involves mapping out the application, the PaaS services offered by the provider (they offer PaaS services such as load balancers and serverless capabilities), the IAM, the network(s), and the data storage. How are the services configured? How are the networks structured and connected? The Software Defined Networks (SDN) used by all major cloud platforms only look the same on the surface – under the hood they are quite a bit different. And, most importantly, Where does this project touch other enterprise resources and data?!? This is essential for understanding your exposure. Are there unknown VPN connections? Did someone peer through an existing dedicated network pipe? Is the project talking to an internal database over the Internet? We’ve seen all these and more. Then prioritize your biggest risks: Internet exposures are common and one of the first things to lock down. We commonly see resources such as administrative servers and jump boxes exposed to the Internet at large. In nearly every single assessment we find at least one instance or container with port 22 exposed to the world. The quick fix for these is to lock them down to your known IP address ranges. Cloud providers’ security groups are very effective because they just drop traffic which doesn’t meet the rules, so they are an extremely effective security control and a better first step than trying to push everything through an on-premise firewall or virtual appliance. Identity and Access Management is the next big piece to focus on. This research is focused more on networking, so we won’t spend much time on this here. But when developers build out environments they almost always over-privilege access to themselves and application components. They also tend to use static credentials, because unsanctioned projects are unlikely to integrate into your federated identity management. Sweep out static credentials, enable federation, and turn

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