Cloudy with a Chance of Security

We found all manner of interesting practices and trends as it relates to cloud and security in our State of Application Delivery 2015 report. One of the more fascinating data points was a relationship between security posture and cloud adoption. That is, it appears that the more applications an organization migrates to the cloud, the less strict its security posture becomes.

Really. I was a bit disturbed by that, too. At least at first.

The reality is that simply asking about "applications in the cloud" isn't enough. It's perfectly reasonable to expect an organization that pays careful attention to application security (securing all three Cs) in the data center might not appear to be as careful if those applications move to a SaaS offering. Not because the attitude toward security has changed, mind you, but because there's no means for an organization to apply that level of scrutiny to a SaaS. They can't deploy a WAF inspect inbound requests and outbound responses, after all.

But if those apps are migrating to an IaaS environment, where services like web application firewalls and application aware services can be deployed, then we're looking at a very different story. After all, if you can and choose not to, then you're purposefully degrading your security posture; hedging your bets that "in the cloud" is somehow safer than "in the data center."

I'd guess that in the case of our results with respect to cloud and security practices, that there's some of both these scenarios (and probably some other ones, too) that explain the abandonment in security practices with increases in cloud presence that the data shows.

Lesson learned: don't just ask about migration to "the cloud"; specifically dig in and ask whether an app is migrating to SaaS* or to IaaS or even to PaaS. That's important, because it has an impact on the amount and type of attention paid to securing that app. SaaS is more likely to be governed by an identity federation architecture that enables corporate oversight over access. IaaS is more likely to be protected by application layer security services but not traditional network security services (in the sense that the organization deploys and manages these services, of course cloud providers include these services, making them not only redundant but unnecessary).

What we can, say, however, is that thanks to the migration of applications to cloud environments organizations certainly have less control over access to and security of those applications, whether intentional or not. The movement of apps toward the cloud has introduced fewer security practices on the part of the organization, and that might be a wee bit problematic.

"Out of sight, out of mind" is not an appropriate attitude for information security, after all.

I'll leave you with this infographic full of data related to cloud and security (and cloud security, I suppose) and a reminder that we have plenty more security-related (and application service-related, of course) data in the full report, which you can get here , along with archives of webinars exploring the data and concepts in more depth.

If you're at RSA this week, feel free to stop by the F5 booth (it's the one with the big red ball ) and find out more about our full-stack approach to security, including apps "in the cloud".




* I still maintain SaaS isn't really cloud computing, it's a hyper-scaled application on the Internet. We usually call those "apps", not "cloud".  Call me Lori Quixote. It's my windmill, I'll tip at it if I want to.

Published Apr 20, 2015
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