Welcome!

Cognitive Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Bob Gourley, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Cognitive Computing , Agile Computing, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

Cloud Security: Five Lessons from the Yahoo Password Breach

This one-off incident should not dampen enterprise enthusiasm for a road map to hybrid computing adoption

Last week one news item that attracted media attention was the hacking of some nearly 450,000 passwords from Yahoo Service called ‘Yahoo Voice'. The communications on the incident state that, SQL Injection is the primary technique adopted by hackers to get the information out of databases and publish them.

As per further communications, we find the affected company taking more precautions to ensure that security is their highest priority. These events will also generally shake the Cloud Adoption at the enterprise level, where always the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the minds of CIOs may increase due to these incidents.

However the following are the best practices and guidelines that should be adopted by any enterprise when adopting hybrid cloud computing and a one-off incident should not dampen their road map to hybrid computing adoption.

In other words the incident is not really due to the adoption of Cloud or a multi-tenant model rather from not following the age-old best practices. This also indicates the significance of Cloud Brokers or intermediaries who have substantial knowledge of enterprise computing paradigm to play an increasing role in ensuring enterprises adopt cloud computing in a secure manner.

Lessons Learned In Yahoo Password Hacking

1. Not Following Security Fundamentals During Development
Whatever the changes in technology are, the fundamentals of development and coding remains the same. Most times SaaS vendors have high pressure on time-to-market, which may at times make them work around on security fundamentals, which is not correct. If you are accepting input from the user, it needs to be validated always before the input is acted upon. Lack of validation of input is the root cause behind attacks like Cross-Site Scripting or SQL Injection. In a multi tenant world the risk of SQL Injection is increased many a fold, because the hacker could always enter the system as a legitimate user by creating an valid account and then start hacking the data other customers.

I have earlier elaborated about SQL Injection In SaaS in an article in 2010 itself, whose thought process is still valid when it comes to developing SaaS and multi tenant applications.

2. Not Encrypting at the Database Level
Encryption of key data is one of the most important security aspect of any database in general and a multi tenant database in particular. However most times enterprises may take the path of encrypting at the Virtual Machine or Volume level, which means the Entire Disk even if it is physically stolen will not be useful to the hacker.

While this is a very useful feature such level of encryption still not useful, when the hacker legitimately gets access to the virtual machine in which the database is hosted. So additionally database level encryption which further provides encryption at the user level, i.e only users who have got READ permissions on the database can view the data, will provide an added level of security.

In my earlier article on Protecting Data At Rest In Public Clouds, I have compared the options between middle ware vs RDBMS in protecting the data. As evident a combination of both would make the multi-tenant database highly secured.

3. Exposing Too Much Metadata
How many times you have a database table storing credit card information is named as ‘CREDIT_CARD' or the password column in a user database is named as PIN or Password. While the best practices of database design in the past indicated the use of correct column names, and meta data like comments at the database level, they may act detrimental to the sensitive data in a today's world.

It is always advisable to avoid too much meta data from sensitive columns and keep them as part of the supporting documentation. There is no rule which states that a CREDIT CARD information is stored in a table named temp_t1 and let your application map temp_t1 is indeed a table containing credit card information.

4. Not Using Best of Features in the Databases
Today most of the software vendors have the pressure to make their product run against multiple databases . This provides them a much wider marketing capability. While this is important from the business perspective, due to this restriction we have seen the products that are using powerful RDBMS systems as a mere data store and not utilizing their best security features. This will result in reduced security at the database level because none of the security features are really used.

In my earlier article on Implementing Multi Tenancy Using Oracle Virtual Private Database, I have elaborated on how the best features like VPD in Oracle provide lot of security features so that if properly applied, some data is not visible to a user unless the application sets the appropriate context. Similarly these features can mask a certain columns to be not visible when queried directly. Also the features like fine grained auditing provide lot of auditing features against database security breaches.

Also if database level security is properly applied, we could utilize roles, grants and privileges in such a manner that the database connections get only EXECUTE privileges on the stored procedures and no direct READ access to the underlying tables, these kind of design patterns protect the data further.

This points to the fact that the product vendors should concentrate on unique security features of the databases like Oracle, Sql Server and DB2 and implement them in their design apart from the application level security. The need for porting the application to multiple databases should not reduce the security needs of the application.

5. Not Masking the Data
Masking the data is about , taking the data in the current form and convert it into a different format for storage purposes. It is slightly different from the encryption that the data is in readable form but will not make any sense if you don't know the de-masking algorithm. Traditionally masking is only done when the production data is ported to a test or development machine and also when a production data is ported to a offshore development location.

However we have not seen much instances of live production instances using masking techniques to protect the security information.

What is the golden rule that states that a social security number always to be stored as a single column of 9 characters and stored contiguously, what if the same is stored in three different columns with the numbers flipped and the application reverses them and forms into a proper social security number? This is just an example, the same principle can be applied to a credit card or a password or a pin, so that only application knows how to make meaning out of a masked sensitive data and not anyone else.

Summary
As indicated in the beginning of the articles, there will be a few instances of security breaches when so much new services are delivered over the public internet in a short time. However enterprises need not worry from them as they are not issues out of the fundamental concept of Cloud or Multi Tenancy itself, but because of the way the they are implemented. Adopting the best of design patterns like DAO access pattern which abstracts the database calls from the application and doing proper validation along with the database level protection techniques explained above, will prevent these incidents in the future.

More Stories By Srinivasan Sundara Rajan

Highly passionate about utilizing Digital Technologies to enable next generation enterprise. Believes in enterprise transformation through the Natives (Cloud Native & Mobile Native).

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists will examine how DevOps helps to meet th...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), an industry leader in automated, scalable and secure networks, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Juniper Networks challenges the status quo with products, solutions and services that transform the economics of networking. The company co-innovates with customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure network...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at Dell EMC, introduced a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organization...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...