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Blurred Lines: Why Your Network Should Trust No One | @CloudExpo #Cloud

In this new environment, trust must be limited to only the resources or information that an individual needs to do his job

The lines between the corporate network and Internet are getting increasingly blurry. As companies rely on the cloud, employees become more mobile and there is a rise in third-party users who need access to certain applications or resources. Traditional network perimeters, VPNs and the concept of trusting everyone as long as they had the right credentials to log in is simply not enough these days. In fact, this broad trust has resulted in serious breaches, with personal, corporate and government data being exposed to hackers.

In this new environment, trust must be limited to only the resources or information that an individual needs to do his or her job, rather than allowing the doors to the entire network, or portions of it, to swing open to anyone with a password. Some forward-looking companies are doing just that; turning this trust factor upside down with a new deperimeterization model that views each individual as untrusted from the start, and limits their access to only the applications they need based on device used and location from which they're working, among other selective criteria.

Open Network Access = Big Security Problems
VPNs (SSL/IPSEC), network access lists and whitelists are among the commonly used security and access control solutions in use today. These have been relatively effective network perimeter solutions when all employees are connected via controlled corporate resources. But they aren't foolproof. As evidenced by recent Android vulnerabilities, such as Stagefright, it is difficult to even determine if those devices are secure. VPNs require users to essentially open portions of their network(s) to each individual even if they just wanted to provide access to a file or database. Though it is certainly possible to provide access to a specific host, the management of these on an individual basis can be Herculean, as environments and access requirements grow; essential flying in the face of a critical security tenet of "least privilege."

Just consider the 40 million credit and debit card numbers exposed to hackers of Target's network, the sensitive information of more than 22 million people compromised in the Office of Personnel Management breach and other hacks involving UCLA and the Army National Guard, to name a few. All of these breaches have one thing in common: the entire network and all the information residing in it were put at risk when credentials got into the hands of untrusted individuals.

Traditional network perimeters, typically protected by VPNs and these other solutions, have essentially been erased in today's sharing economy. Mobile employees use the Internet to access network resources from wherever they may be at any given time. Cloud-based applications play a bigger role in their daily routines. And organizations find it necessary to allow contractors, partners and vendors to access internal resources to do their jobs.

With such changes to the IT environment, organizations are losing visibility into network activity and control over who accesses network resources because the conventional access control solutions do not seamlessly extend into the cloud. Now organizations must adopt new deperimeterization approaches that can protect their systems and data on multiple levels - mixing encryption, secure transmission protocols, hardened systems and application-level access - to create separation and isolation between the Internet and corporate resources, and providing access in a least privilege manner.

Pioneers in Deperimeterization Security Tactics
Several companies, such as Google, Coca-Cola Co., Verizon Communications Inc., Mazda Motor Corp., Time and Yamaha, are eliminating conventional network perimeters by moving all IT resources to the cloud, and, as a result, are employing drastically different security tactics.

In December 2014, Google outlined its new model, referred to as BeyondCorp., in a white paper. The authors noted that "[w]hile most enterprises assume that the internal network is a safe environment in which to expose corporate applications, Google's experience has proven that this faith is misplaced. Rather, one should assume that an internal network is as fraught with danger as the public Internet and build enterprise applications based upon this assumption."

The authors explained that the BeyondCorp initiative moves them to a new model "that dispenses with a privileged corporate network. Instead, access depends solely on device and user credentials.... All access to enterprise resources is fully authenticated, fully authorized, and fully encrypted based upon device state and user credentials. We can enforce fine-grained access to different parts of enterprise resources. As a result, all Google employees can work successfully from any network, and without the need for a traditional VPN connection into the privileged network. The user experience between local and remote access to enterprise resources is effectively identical, apart from potential differences in latency."

Similarly, earlier this year, Coca-Cola Co., joined forces with Verizon Communications Inc., Mazda Motor Corp. and other members of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) to develop specifications for a solution that uses virtualization for a software defined perimeter (SDP). Like what Google is doing, the solution would focus on authenticating a user's device and confirming his or her identity. Using that identity information, the system then determines which corporate software or cloud services the user employee has permission to access and sets up a one-time use virtual private network for those specific apps or cloud services. The CSA project participants told the Wall Street Journal that "[t]his structure prevents the theft of passwords and tokens, and helps protect against distributed denial of service attacks or complex hacks in which cybercriminals move laterally through corporate networks to breach systems that harbor intellectual property or credit card numbers."

Application Access: A Key Part of the New Security Paradigm
As organizations look at strategies for ensuring security in the new, deperimeterized world, an important component relates to application access. As the companies mentioned above, simply granting users access to the network will not suffice, so more granular control - as far down as the application level - is required.

Because of its scalability, the cloud can easily be used to deliver application security as a service. Operating independently and outside of an organization's network resources, a cloud-based application security solution can effectively create an air gap between corporate infrastructure and the Internet. By taking this approach, the potential attack surface is significantly reduced because applications become essentially invisible to the public from a direct-attack perspective.

With a cloud-based application security approach, users can integrate data path protection, identity access, application security and management visibility, allowing only authenticated users to be granted access to the resources they need. This approach enables access to be secured using identity-based management and fortified controls, and can be applied in the same manner across all network resources - whether they're in a variety of private and/or public clouds, or on the customer premises.

As infrastructure moves outside the traditional corporate walls to a variety of distributed clouds and control of users becomes more complex, organizations are realizing that the old security rules no longer apply. No user should be trusted with more access than they realistically need.

Organizations must take their network security practices to a higher level, gaining granular control over user access and leveraging cloud-based application security to further distance their infrastructure, data and applications from the inherent risk of being exposed to the Internet.

More Stories By Mark Carrizosa

Mark Carrizosa is the vice president of Security at Soha Systems, a cloud-based application security provider for enterprises and SaaS providers. He joined Soha Systems in 2015 from Walmart where, as principal security architect, he developed and implemented the company’s global e-commerce security architecture framework. Prior to Walmart, he held security management roles at Wells Fargo and PetSmart.

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