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Security and The Cloud

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be another post on how security is holding up cloud adoption or how the cloud is destroying security.  There is already too much negativity regarding the reporting of security news (some would say all news).  I do however want to discuss how security is changing due to the cloud and cloud technologies.  In my opinion cloud computing is actually good for security.

What’s in a word

I probably use the word “cloud” too much, I realise it’s an industry buzzword for something that has been around for ages but it works.  Call it Outsourcing, Virtulisation, SaaS or Utility Computing, they are all variations of Internet computing by machines that you do not directly own and have just licensed for the time that you need.

The ring of steel

For years security experts have been saying that companies should stop using the idea of a ring of steel around their internal network. The concept that you are either connected to the internal (trusted) network or the external (untrusted) network is very outdated and just doesn’t work with today’s computing use but companies still insist on using it.

While people have tried to adopt this topology to greater granularity with “Chinese firewalls” (lets separate accounts from development) people will continue to have to move data around between areas of the business to do their work and it quickly becomes an IT vs Business battle.

With more companies needing to get company data outside the building either to access it from a smartphone or share the data with another company the whole procedure falls down altogether.

Smaller rings

One solution is to adapt the model to it’s ultimate conclusion.  A ring of steel for each machine/job/task.  Until now this has been an impossible task, from a practice standpoint but now that companies are moving to cloud and virtual environments resources can be configured in any way needed.  No longer are you required to physically move cables in the patch room to change a networks topology.  Instead of one server with one operating system running web, email and any number of other tasks you can have that same server with many operating systems all locked down to do their one job well.  Most servers in the cloud and virtual environments come with their own firewall and authentication mechanism that can be easily managed on mass.  How many hardware server rooms can say that?

Outside is inside

Given this new model there is no need to have a “corporate firewall” on the edge of your network at all.  Why not let the internet in?  This is in fact what we do at Dogsbody Technology. Every machine on the network is public and even internal switching is treated as public.  If we want to move a private file from one machine to another it needs to be done in a secure/encrypted way.  While that sounds like a lot of work it really isn’t.  You save on a lot of infrastructure from not having to worry about a locked down network and while it does take a while to setup safe transfer methods, once you are set up there is no difference between transferring a private file to the computer next to you or a computer the other side of the world.

Not the end of the story

Of course, like all security, this is not the end of the story and will not fix all your issues.  Monitoring and company policy are still required to stop, find and block exceptions but we’ll discuss that in a separate blog post.

If you have any questions or comments reading this post them please do leave a comment below or contact Dogsbody Technology for more information.

Buzzword Bingo

As happens when you are a company registered on social media sites we occasionally get sent invites to advertise on their networks. We’ve always been proud to receive most of our business via referrals and word of mouth but when LinkedIn offers you $100 of free advertising it seems silly to say no. The results turned out to be an interesting window into the words and phrases that are popular at the moment.

When creating adverts online it’s always a good idea to run more than one advert at once, you can then run them for a bit and keep modifying the one that’s doing the worse. After a while you end up with some adverts that are pretty well tuned for the people you want to attract. We didn’t bother modifying any ads this time as it was a short ad run but we did create a number of different ads with slightly different wording.

(Quick side note: When running ads it’s always a good idea to link them to your websites analytics. Not just to separate out the traffic to your site but to link that traffic to actual contacts/sales etc. Surely it’s better to get 100 clicks to your site where 10 become customers than get 10000 clicks and 1 customer. Especially when you are paying by the click!)

To keep things easy we set a maximum spend of $10 per day and ran all of the ads below for 10 days…

Advert Clicks Impressions CTR
Cloud ComputingLet us show you how to get the most from powerful Amazon AWS services. 51 162168 0.031%
Electronics & AutomationIntegrate your website with the real world. The ideas are endless. 1 10451 0.010%
VMwareWe can help you adopt a Virtualisation solution that is right for you. 1 10552 0.009%
Amazon AWSLet us show you how to get the most from powerful Cloud Computing services. 3 40700 0.007%
SysAdminLet us worry about the system administration of your server. 0 12724 0.000%
VirtualisationWe can help you adopt a VMware solution that is right for you. 0 10403 0.000%

As you can see, the Cloud Computing and Amazon AWS ads are identical with the words swapped. The same is true for the VMware and Virtualisation adverts.

What does all this mean?

The Impression Count is the number of times that LinkedIn users have been show each advert. LinkedIn decide when to show your advert and while you can pay more money to “bid” to a higher position it is linked to the text in the page that LinkedIn is showing to the user. It is therefore safe to say that LinkedIn treat the title of your ad as more important that the text (Ads with the same overall text had very different impression counts).

CTR stands for Click Through Rate, how many and what percentage of the people that saw the ad actually clicked on it. As you can see the numbers are low but at $2 per click the money goes down fast.

Results

Based on all the above we can make the following statements about the popularity of certain buzzwords:

  • A lot more people are talking about Cloud Computing than Virtualisation. This was quite surprising to us. While Cloud Computing is the buzzword du jour Virtualisation is the pin that runs it and for the swing to be so unbalanced is slightly unnerving.
  • “Cloud Computing” is bigger than “Amazon AWS”. this makes sense, it’s a subset. AWS is just one vendor of cloud computing services.
  • “VMware” is more popular than “Virtualisation”. no, wait, what!? A very interesting find. I don’t think anyone would argue that VMware is one of the biggest players in the Virtualisation market but for it to be bigger is interesting.
  • Advertising on LinkedIn is expensive! $100 for 56 clicks to our website. Lets just say we are glad it was a free trial and we don’t need to heavily advertise :-)

I realise the sample numbers on this were low. We would love to hear if you have any other statistics to back this up or blow us out the water. Feel free to comment below.