Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Well-Architected Cloud = Manage Your Risk. Seriously.

Manage your risk. You got cloud? What is well-architected?

Well-Architected = Risk Managed.

This series of questions came across my desk this morning. Interestingly, it took me back nearly 10 years when I first started in cloud security. I’ve been in information security for nearly 20 years, and I believe much of the strategy and definition – the construct – of the secure environment is still the same.

How would you define a well-architected cloud?

A well-architected cloud provides assurance, or the grounds for confidence that the integrity, availability, confidentiality, and accountability have been adequate met. “Adequately met” includes (1) functionality that performs correctly, (2) sufficient protection against unintentional errors by users or software, and (3) sufficient resistance to intentional penetration or by-pass. This is a close paraphrase of the definition of assurance from NIST SP 800-27. 

What are the elements that go into a well-architected cloud?

There are three elements covering the technical implementation of a well-architected cloud. The technical controls of best practices, regulations, and standards based on CIS, NIST, PCI DSS, and others can be summed up into one of three categories including configuration, solutions, and design. The situation is straightforward. The configuration of every application and endpoint must be configured to reduce the probability and impact of intentional and unintentional action. Hardening guides address many of these issues for network, compute, storage, and virtualization components. System solutions provide additional insight, accountability, or control over the security and compliance of the environment. Examples include firewalls, identity and access management, and systems monitoring. Finally, given that each one of the individual components are secured as much as possible, and additional solutions provide you the insight, accountability, and control over your environment, your last consideration is the environment design. This can include separating trusted and untrusted zones, implementing a DMZ, providing secure multi-tenancy, etc. 

What's the best way to achieve a well-architected cloud?

Identify the business objectives, dataflow, and preferred user interactions before building the system. Decide how subjects will interact with data objects and what controls will be in place across the reference monitor that controls authentication and authorization. The security model of the most trusted systems in the world depends upon strong access controls. This only works if you understand who has access to critical data and how to protect it using secure configurations, solutions, and design. Bottom line. Plan for it. The military has a saying, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”

What should IT never do when constructing a cloud architecture?

Assume that you can do a direct lift and shift into the cloud. The intent of the controls have not changed, and neither have your objectives. However, the implementation, visibility, and tools available do change. Take the time to understand the platform you are moving your data into and how that platform functions versus how you have handled your data in the past on premises.

What are the cloud architecture pitfalls that IT might fall into?

Again. Never assume you can do a direct lift and shift into the cloud. Never embark on a journey without a known destination and plans for how to get there. Start with a comprehensive set of security requirements inclusive of configurations, solutions, and design principles that must be met. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Cloud environments bring tremendous opportunity, as long as you can maintain visibility and manage risk across the entire environment. That's been a consistent message on this blog since its inception in 2011. Manage Your Risk.