The Scariest Cloud Security Statistic You’ll See This Year

Who is most responsible for determining the adequacy of security in the cloud in your organization?

Dome9, whom you may recall is a security management-as-a-service solution that aims to take the complexity out of managing administrative access to cloud-deployed servers, recently commissioned research on the subject of cloud computing and security from the Ponemon Institute and came up with some interesting results that indicate cloud chaos isn’t confined to just its definition.

The research, conducted this fall and focusing on the perceptions and practices of IT security practitioners, indicated that 54% of respondents felt IT operations and infrastructure personnel were not aware of the risks of open ports in cloud computing environments.

I found that hard to swallow. After all, we’re talking about IT practitioners. Surely these folks recognize the dangers associated with open ports on servers in general. But other data in the survey makes this a reasonable assumption, as 51% of respondents said leaving administrative server ports open in cloud computing environments was very likely or likely to expose the company to increased attacks and risks, with 19% indicating such events had already happened.

Yet 30% of those surveyed claimed it was not likely or simply would not happen. At all. I remain wishing Ponemon had asked the same questions of the same respondents about similar scenarios in their own data center as I ‘m confident the results would be very heavily weighted toward the “likely or very likely to happen.” It may be time for a reminder of Hoff’s law: “If your security practices suck in the physical realm, you’ll be delighted by the surprising lack of change when you move to Cloud.”

However, digging down into the data one begins to find the real answer to this very troubling statistic in the assignment of responsibility for security of cloud-deployed servers. It is, without a doubt, the scariest statistic with respect to cloud security I’ve seen all year, and it seems to say that for some organizations, at least, the cloud of Damocles is swinging mightily.

If it doesn’t scare you that business functions are most cited as being ultimately responsible for determining adequacies of security controls in the cloud, it might frighten you to know that 54% of respondents indicated that IT operations and infrastructure personnel were not very or completely unknowledgeable with respect to the dangers inherent in open ports on servers in cloud computing environments – and that 35% of those organizations rely on IT operations to determine the adequacy of security in cloud deployments.

While certainly IT security is involved in these decisions (at least one hopes that is the case) that the most responsibility is assigned to those least knowledgeable in the risks.

That 19% of respondents indicated already experiencing an attack because of open ports on cloud-deployed servers is no longer such a surprising result of the study.


The Ponemon study is very interesting in its results, and indicates that we’ve got a ways to go when it comes to cloud and security and increasing our comfort level combining the two. Cloud is a transformational and highly disruptive technology, and at times it may be transforming organizations in ways that are perhaps troubling – such as handing responsibility of security to business or non-security practitioners. Or perhaps it’s simply exposing weaknesses in current processes that should force change. Or it may be something we have to live with.

It behooves IT security, then, to ensure it is finding ways to address the threats they know exist in the cloud through education of those responsible for ensuring it.

It means finding tools like Dome9 to assist the less-security savvy in the organization with ensuring that security policies are consistently applied in cloud environments as well as in the data center. It may require new technology and solutions that are designed with the capability to easily replicate policies across multiple environments, to ensure that a standard level of security is maintained regardless of where applications are deployed.

As cloud becomes normalized as part of the organization’s deployment options, the ability to effectively manage security, availability, and performance across all application deployments becomes critical. The interconnects (integration) between applications in an organization means that the operational risk of one is necessarily shared by others. Consistent enforcement of all delivery-related policies – security, performance, and availability – is paramount to ensuring the successful integration of cloud-based resources, systems, and applications into the IT organization’s operational processes.

You can register to read the full report on Dome9’s web site.

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Published Nov 14, 2011
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