There’s been a lot of discussion on cloud computing in the blogosphere and general press lately, and although I’ll probably hate myself for it, it’s time to jump in beyond some sophomoric (albeit really funny) humor.

Chris Hoff inspired this with his post on TCG IF-MAP; a framework/standard for exchanging network security objects and events. It’s roots are in NAC, although as Alan Shimel informs us there’s been very little adoption.

Since cloud computing is a crappy marketing term that can mean pretty much whatever you want, I won’t dig into the various permutations in this post. For the purposes of this post I’ll be focusing on distributed services (e.g. grid computing), online services, and SaaS. I won’t be referring to in the cloud filtering and other network-only services.

Chris’s posting, and most of the ones I’ve seen out there, are heavily focused on network security concepts as they relate to the cloud. but if we look at cloud computing from a macro level, there are additional layers that are just as critical (in no particular order):


  • Network: The usual network security controls.
  • Service: Security around the exposed APIs and services.
  • User: Authentication- which in the cloud word will need to move to more adaptive authentication, rather than our current username/password static model.
  • Transaction: Security controls around individual transactions- via transaction authentication, adaptive authorization, or other approaches.
  • Data: Information-centric security controls for cloud based data. How’s that for buzzword bingo? Okay, this actually includes security controls over the back end data, distributed data, and any content exchanged with the user.

Down the road we’ll dig into these in more detail, but anytime we start distributing services and functionality over an open public network with no inherent security controls, we need to focus on the design issues and reduce design flaws as early as possible. We can’t just look at this as a network problem- our authentication, authorization, information, and service (layer 7) controls are likely even more important.

This gets me thinking it’s time to write a new framework… not that anyone will adopt it.