What are the Security Impacts of Private Cloud

It is remarkable how much the use and progress of the cloud have changed the way businesses and their employees work. It may be easy to believe that there are no downsides with the advantages on offer, but private cloud security remains an important consideration.

See Also: What are the Security Impacts of Public Cloud?

While opportunities abound in the cloud, there are challenges and pitfalls to get the results you want. The data shows that public cloud usage is increasing, but private clouds still carry most of their workloads.

One of the reasons for the increasing popularity of public cloud environments is that it does not require capital investment on behalf of the user. With a public cloud, businesses buy server space from a third-party provider. Servers are multi-tenant cloud distributions, meaning other companies’ data can be stored on the same server as your company’s data. Many businesses use some form of public cloud for email, document sharing, or hosting web servers.

See Also: Best Practices for Cloud Security

Single-tenant private clouds are available. The servers are either owned and managed by the organization or rented from a data center. A private cloud’s hardware can be stored onsite at a company’s property or hosted in a data center. Private cloud is a compliance requirement in tightly regulated industries such as finance and healthcare.

When it comes to private clouds, ownership is owned by a single company acting as an extension of a traditional data center. It is a non-shared resource optimized to provide processing power and storage capacity for various types of functions.

See Also: What are the Security Risks of Cloud Computing?

However, in this ownership model, where private clouds can offer heightened security, the data is assured that it is compliant with the mandatory legislation and not accessible by unauthorized persons.

A private cloud can be customized to meet your needs not only when it comes to performance but also for authentication. As a result, the most advantageous usage cases are those that are subject to mandatory security or data privacy legislation or that require a powerful firewall to protect sensitive assets.

Since private cloud requires a significant upfront infrastructure investment, it makes sense to use it in the following situations:

  • If your data protection and data requirements prevent you from using public cloud technology,
  • If your organization is large enough that economies of scale make the private cloud cost-effective
  • If you have specific service requirements that the public cloud cannot satisfy

Private Cloud Pros and Cons

For medium and large businesses, private clouds can offer economies of scale that add value to up-front capital investment. Additionally, there are a few private cloud security benefits. For example, with a private cloud, data is controlled and stored by the servers owned by the organization, offering maximum control over access and data sovereignty.

Moreover, private clouds allow businesses to customize their infrastructures as needed instead of being restricted to a public cloud vendor’s offerings.

In the private cloud, there are no compromises. For certain businesses, pre-equity funding is prohibitive. Buying resources makes little sense in other instances, such as industries where resource use is highly variable. Finally, the private cloud requires IT, staff, or service providers, to protect the underlying infrastructure abstracted by public cloud providers.

What are Private Cloud Security Recomendations?

With private clouds, you control physical servers and access to servers. From an enterprise perspective, a private cloud has some security benefits. Your information lives behind your firewall. Some other advantages of private cloud are as follows:

  • Your data can live behind your locked doors.
  • You do not need to be connected to the internet, and you can completely isolate your data infrastructure.
  • You know exactly where your data lives.
  • You can design the architecture according to your exact needs.
  • You know who is given physical access.
  • There is absolute clarity about ownership.
  • No risk if your cloud provider shuts down.
  • On the other hand, private cloud also has some disadvantages:
  • Your employees have physical access.
  • You are alone when defending against attacks.
  • You are faced with natural disaster risks.
  • You are faced with the risks of your ISP.
  • You are faced with the risks of your local electricity grid.
  • Your safety is entirely your responsibility.

Creating a private cloud in your on-premises data center can change the game. “Private cloud” refers to the power of on-demand computing at your disposal, with complete flexibility to create a technical solution to suit your specific application needs.

A private cloud frees you from the whims of providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, allowing you to do things the way you want, such as storing data locally and easily managing compliance. In most cases, it saves enormous costs.

However, private clouds come with unique challenges. Using a private cloud exposes the company to a variety of threats, some of which are less well-known.

Private Cloud Is Still a Cloud

Many organizations look to private cloud initiatives as a remedy for the perceived problems of public cloud solutions. Still, it is essential to realize that a private cloud uses the same or very similar infrastructure as a public cloud, from commercial hardware to virtualization.

Virtual Infrastructure Management (VIM) and Management and Regulation (MANO) applications provided by hypervisors such as VMware ESXi or software such as KVM, VMware vRealize, and OpenStack are used in both cloud types.

All of the problems we perceive with the public cloud are also present in the private cloud. However, while most of these concerns are the public cloud provider’s responsibility, they become your responsibility when you are public and private.

Public cloud vendors are expected to have a skilled workforce to run cloud technology and deal with issues. Is everybody on your IT team on the same page? How much would it cost to train them in emerging cloud technology such as OpenStack or to recruit new cloud experts?

How will you tackle security in your private cloud, from patch management to policy updates and the adoption of new technology that can create new vulnerabilities and expose your infrastructure to unknown threat vectors?

You will indeed have much more power and flexibility to solve the problems that matter to you in your data center. But to start with, you may run into precisely the same issues.

Security Violations

In the public cloud, security responsibility is shared between the cloud vendor and the organization using the cloud services. While physical hardware, virtualization, and cloud services are managed and secured by the cloud provider, you are responsible for whatever happens inside the virtual machine (VM).

The security of a private cloud can be less than that of a public cloud. In most cases, public cloud providers will have precise methods, procedures, and tools to protect the different layers of the cloud stack. They have years of experience and world-class skills in security.

Of course, public clouds are a more tempting target for hackers, but cloud providers have a comprehensive understanding of cloud security issues and how to fix them; as a private organization, you must gain that expertise.

Another concern is hybrid clouds, which are increasingly used. Security is even more complex in hybrid clouds. How do you extend protection from your private data center to the public cloud when you move workloads from private to public?

There will eventually be a change from on-premise security systems to cloud-based security systems. In this transition, as traffic and applications are transferred from one system to another, there is a considerable risk of security loss, inviting breaches. Loss of security is not an easy problem to solve.

Performance Issues

Performance is a well-known issue in virtualized environments. It’s difficult to predict how changing loads at the infrastructure level would impact application efficiency and user experience due to the highly dynamic nature of the environment.

Users in the public cloud know how many computer instances they have and how much computing power they have. But many other things can affect performance, such as network bandwidth, latency, noisy neighbors in shared computing resources, access to essential resources and services, and the speed of that access.

See Also: Cloud Security Checklist

In the private cloud, you have much more flexibility in how the cloud is created. You can choose the hardware and software components, network infrastructure, and topology to give you the best performance for your use case.

Just as public cloud vendors cannot consistently deliver the performance required by users due to the complexity of virtualized and dynamically changing infrastructures, you cannot always meet your theoretical performance target in your private cloud.

Hidden bottlenecks can occur in virtualized systems. Performance can vary depending on the current mix of workloads, software upgrades from VMware, OpenStack, other system elements, and many other factors.

An essential step in reducing this risk is to have an ongoing process to verify your performance. With each deployment, you should find a way to perform a clear and realistic performance test, preferably an automated test that can expose problems at an early stage. Your company carries the risk of unanticipated performance issues if you don’t have such a process in place.

Access Control to Cloud Infrastructure

One of the most significant advantages of the cloud is that it makes corporate data accessible via an internet connection. This is the result, but as IT professionals know, there are many steps and considerations to reach this endpoint successfully.

In a traditional data storage model, companies have an internal locked server room monitored and maintained by IT staff and, if necessary, security teams. To access data stored on servers, employees must log on from a network computer.

When storing company data and communications, the question of who has access to this vital information has always been a concerned.

Data Loss

Many private cloud applications are at risk of massive data loss. Data loss can occur on three layers: the hypervisor layer, the virtual machine layer, and the disaster recovery or backup system layer.

See Also: Cloud Storage Security: How to Keep Data Safe in the Cloud?

Due to a private cloud’s dynamic nature, traditional techniques to protect data may not be sufficient and may not work in predictable ways in all scenarios. Numerous potential misconfiguration scenarios can lead to disastrous results.

Running multiple VMware ESX versions using virtual machine file system (VMFS) options, some of which are not supported by previous versions, can cause some VMs to fail, data loss, and downtime.

If a critical application runs on two VMs with a live copy and a backup copy, and one of them fails, there will usually be an automatic failover. If this failover starts the backup on the same physical host as the live copy, there is only one failure point.

Suppose there is a high-performance RAID 1 for production data and a lower performance RAID 5 for archiving and staging. In that case, there may be an incompatibility where some VMs write production to lower performance storage, causing performance degradation or data loss.

Specialization and Learning Curve

Private clouds have existed for quite some time, and the majority of them were built using well-known and widely used tech infrastructure. However, more and more private cloud projects choose the powerful and lower cost option represented by open-source platforms.

See Also: PCI Compliance in the Cloud

OpenStack is quickly becoming the new de facto norm for private clouds, but it is still a huge unknown. If your team doesn’t have successful OpenStack experts, it will be tough to start an OpenStack project from scratch.

If you don’t do this right in the early stages of the OpenStack deployment, things can break down later. This can affect your ability to create private clouds with the same capabilities you need and mix your timelines for milestones during the project.

Lack of Visibility

One reason to move from public to private cloud is to gain additional visibility into what is happening in the cloud. A common perception is that you can see things like workloads, usage, traffic, and performance much better once you enter your own data center.

There is no easy solution in the public cloud to gain visibility into your network traffic at the packet level. Amazon’s current monitoring tools, such as CloudWatch and CloudTrail, do not allow you to look inside packages to perform advanced diagnosis of network issues and prevent security issues.

The situation is not much better in the private cloud, either. You will face the problem of “east-west traffic,” which is network traffic flowing between virtual machines (VMs) that do not touch a physical cable and are therefore not completely visible to traditional monitoring tools.

East-west traffic generates 80% or more traffic in a virtualized data center, creating a major blind spot for IT teams.

There is a need for a solution for east-west traffic visibility in the virtualized data center infrastructure. The individual user and device traffic can be accessed and redirected to monitoring tools for analysis and reporting.

Limited Scale

Many organizations create a private cloud instead of a regular data center to gain on-demand computing power and develop enterprise applications and services faster. However, the capacity of your private cloud will be constrained by your budget.

You cannot buy an infinite amount of computing resources to support the private cloud’s workloads. Purchasing several machines to accommodate a light load is not cost-effective.

A hybrid cloud, which offers a “cloud burst” from private cloud to public cloud if workloads surpass your local resources, is the conventional solution to this issue. However, implementing a hybrid cloud will increase the expense and complexity of your private cloud project. Also, a common reason to create a private cloud in the first place is to comply with internal policies or external regulations.

For example, there may be an internal policy that highly confidential data should be on-premises and not leak into the public cloud or a legal requirement that data cannot leave the country. Using a hybrid cloud for peak loading can be problematic in these scenarios.

If a hybrid cloud is not a viable solution, you run the risk of exceeding your capacity, losing the economies of scale and cost savings that lead you to build your private cloud in the first place.

Surkay Baykarahttp://www.pcidssguide.com
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Biznet. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Biznet, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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