Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View


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From a security perspective, this sort of divided ownership of the cloud can create severe challenges in terms of end-to-end visibility, control and compliance.

Of course, the cloud is a shared infrastructure, and when it comes to security events, there will likely always be some shared responsibility. But the lack of a centralized security strategy and inconsistent security policies and standards leading to potential grey areas of responsibility can create serious security gaps, and put critical data and other digital resources at risk. Even in the best-case scenario, where it should be clear as to who is responsible for a security event such as a vulnerability in the cloud platform , only about half of respondents were able to identify the root cause and responsibility.

Complicating things further, there is yet another set of tools as to which responsibility should be clear. The cloud providers themselves also offer a range of security solutions built into their platforms as services. And many of the cloud management platforms, hypervisors, orchestration tools and other bits of cloud infrastructure have various levels of security available.

However, the truth is adhering to the shared responsibility model, whenever the customer applies any configuration to these tools, they become his responsibility. Nonetheless, divisions of responsibilities are not always clear for different events. The best course of action is to identify and apply best practices to any resource and service consumed in the cloud. A root cause analysis RCA playbook should identify possible threats and plot actions where possible, and plot strategies for determining the root cause of an event.

This includes identifying all key stakeholders, determining which investigation tools are available for threat analysis, establishing processes for orchestrating responses and resources between all parties and digitize and map those details to actual cloud technologies. Further, any response should be automated as much as possible.

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Once the primary divisions of responsibility for a dealing with a security event is worked out between providers, vendors and customers—such as determining if a security breach is the result of a corrupted service or a misconfigured system—most cloud customers still have to address the divisions of responsibility within their own organization. Part of the challenge is many organizations have taken an ad hoc approach to cloud development. For many reasons, these groups may be reluctant to turn over the security of their individual cloud environment to the central security team.

For example, speed is a critical component of DevOps efforts, so any security implementation that interferes with their primary objective of delivering applications is going to be a problem. Part of the reason is traditional IT security teams rarely know much about cloud environments, and the security tools they recommend often bottleneck development.

From DevOps to DevSecOps: Owning Cloud Security

However, handing over to the DevOps teams building out cloud applications and environments is problematic as they have little to no expertise when it comes to security. Resolving this challenge can be as simple as adding a cybersecurity specialist to each of the various DevOps teams. Once integrated, DevSecOps can help navigate the fine line of the shared responsibility model to ensure both development and security requirements are met.

Part of that is achieved through the selection, deployment and management of tools designed to meet the twin challenges of speed and security. For example, many SaaS-based security solutions, such as web application firewalls, are self-scalable, allowing web applications to grow as needed without compromising protection.

Choosing the right tool can also ensure it can be easily stitched into an application transaction with minimal effort. Some of them even have the advantage of having already included deployment, maintenance, scaling and fine-tuning functions. The proper application of automation plays an equally critical role in this process. Checking configurations and scanning objects for malware are time-consuming activities that can get pushed to the side when other issues arise.

Automated cloud security solution selected and designed by the DevSecOps team can provide comprehensive configuration assessments, dynamically secure stored data, automatically scan for public cloud vulnerabilities, identify misconfigurations that put data at risk, scan files stored in the cloud and prevent the unauthorized downloading of sensitive information.


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DevOps has become part of C-suite and board-level discussions, attesting to the growing critical value of web applications and digital transformation as part of the broader business strategy. However, if the frequency of breaches and the growing concerns of CISOs are any indication, executives aggressively pushing for cloud solutions often have a mistaken understanding of the nature of the security risks that cloud adoption and careless DevOps programs can introduce into their organization. This, however, is still a very broad set of permissions.

Within the scope of this permission the Gmail service would be able to request the contacts of any user at any time. This ticket proves that the Gmail service is currently servicing a request on behalf of that particular end user.


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This enables the Contacts service to implement a safeguard where it only returns data for the end user named in the ticket. Every subsequent request from the client device into Google needs to present that user credential. When a service receives an end user credential, it passes the credential to the central identity service for verification.

Service Identity and Access Management: The infrastructure provides service identity, automatic mutual authentication, encrypted inter-service communication and enforcement of access policies defined by the service owner. Up to this point in the discussion, we have described how we deploy services securely.

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We now turn to discussing how we implement secure data storage on the infrastructure. Most applications at Google access physical storage indirectly via these storage services. The storage services can be configured to use keys from the central key management service to encrypt data before it is written to physical storage.

This key management service supports automatic key rotation, provides extensive audit logs, and integrates with the previously mentioned end user permission tickets to link keys to particular end users. Performing encryption at the application layer allows the infrastructure to isolate itself from potential threats at the lower levels of storage such as malicious disk firmware. That said, the infrastructure also implements additional layers of protection. We enable hardware encryption support in our hard drives and SSDs and meticulously track each drive through its lifecycle.

Before a decommissioned encrypted storage device can physically leave our custody, it is cleaned using a multi-step process that includes two independent verifications. Devices that do not pass this wiping procedure are physically destroyed e. This allows us to recover from unintentional deletions, whether customer-initiated or due to a bug or process error internally.

When an end user deletes their entire account, the infrastructure notifies services handling end user data that the account has been deleted. The services can then schedule data associated with the deleted end user account for deletion. This feature enables the developer of a service to easily implement end user control. Until this point in this document, we have described how we secure services on our infrastructure.

In this section we turn to describing how we secure communication between the internet and these services. As discussed earlier, the infrastructure consists of a large set of physical machines which are interconnected over the LAN and WAN and the security of inter-service communication is not dependent on the security of the network.

However, we do isolate our infrastructure from the internet into a private IP space so that we can more easily implement additional protections such as defenses against denial of service DoS attacks by only exposing a subset of the machines directly to external internet traffic. When a service wants to make itself available on the Internet, it can register itself with an infrastructure service called the Google Front End GFE.

The GFE ensures that all TLS connections are terminated using correct certificates and following best practices such as supporting perfect forward secrecy. The GFE additionally applies protections against Denial of Service attacks which we will discuss in more detail later.

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In effect, any internal service which chooses to publish itself externally uses the GFE as a smart reverse-proxy front end. Note that GFEs run on the infrastructure like any other service and thus have the ability to scale to match incoming request volumes. The sheer scale of our infrastructure enables Google to simply absorb many DoS attacks. That said, we have multi-tier, multi-layer DoS protections that further reduce the risk of any DoS impact on a service running behind a GFE. After our backbone delivers an external connection to one of our data centers, it passes through several layers of hardware and software load-balancing.

These load balancers report information about incoming traffic to a central DoS service running on the infrastructure. When the central DoS service detects that a DoS attack is taking place, it can configure the load balancers to drop or throttle traffic associated with the attack. The central DoS service can then also configure the GFE instances to drop or throttle attack traffic.

After DoS protection, the next layer of defense comes from our central identity service. This service usually manifests to end users as the Google login page. Beyond asking for a simple username and password, the service also intelligently challenges users for additional information based on risk factors such as whether they have logged in from the same device or a similar location in the past.


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  8. After authenticating the user, the identity service issues credentials such as cookies and OAuth tokens that can be used for subsequent calls. Users also have the option of employing second factors such as OTPs or phishing-resistant Security Keys when signing in.

    These devices are now available in the market and other major web services also have followed us in implementing U2F support. Up to this point we have described how security is designed into our infrastructure and have also described some of the mechanisms for secure operation such as access controls on RPCs. Beyond the central source control and two-party review features described earlier, we also provide libraries that prevent developers from introducing certain classes of security bugs. For example, we have libraries and frameworks that eliminate XSS vulnerabilities in web apps.

    We also have automated tools for automatically detecting security bugs including fuzzers, static analysis tools, and web security scanners. As a final check, we use manual security reviews that range from quick triages for less risky features to in-depth design and implementation reviews for the most risky features. These reviews are conducted by a team that includes experts across web security, cryptography, and operating system security.

    The reviews can also result in new security library features and new fuzzers that can then be applied to other future products. In addition, we run a Vulnerability Rewards Program where we pay anyone who is able to discover and inform us of bugs in our infrastructure or applications. We have paid several million dollars in rewards in this program.

    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View
    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View
    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View
    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View
    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View
    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View
    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View
    Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View Building the Infrastructure for Cloud Security: A Solutions View

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