Cloud computing is just outsourcing, says forum

Apply your existing knowledge about procurement, contracts and security - but beware of the seven deadly sins

Information security professionals should treat cloud computing as they would any other external supplier, according to an analyst at the Information Security Forum.

"Cloud is just outsourcing. You can rely on knowledge of how you do outsourcing to an extent - there is enough there to help you, as long as you remember the seven deadly sins [of cloud computing]," Adrian Davis, principal research analyst at the Information Security Forum, told the (ISC)2 SecureLondon Conference (ISC)2.

According to Davis, there are seven deadly sins that IT professionals and the business as a whole can commit when it comes to cloud security.

First of all is ignorance - where no one knows, or even cares, if there are cloud services present in the business.

"If cloud is in your supply chain, and not everybody knows, it becomes doubly worse. If you have cloud in your supply chain and they slip up, you take responsibility," he warned.

Secondly, Davis said that organisations should be aware that when they buy a cloud service, they are normally held to the provider's terms and conditions. This means that the business needs to eliminate any ambiguity by clearly specifying security requirements in contracts, service level agreements (SLAs) and end-user licence agreements (EULAs).

Similarly, to avoid the deadly sin of trespassing, organisations need to understand what laws or regulations apply when using the cloud services, to avoid breaching them.

Meanwhile, IT security professionals need to be wary of the doubt that can be caused by not knowing if the cloud service provider is doing what it says it is doing in terms of security. This is because it can be difficult to obtain the assurance.

"For example, cloud providers won't let you audit their data centres. How do you know that they're doing what they say they're doing? How do you know that they are patching?" said Davis.

He warned that organisations should have the proper information management policies in place to avoid chaos - especially as the simple procurement nature of cloud can mean that anyone in the organisation can just go out and buy a cloud service, often without considering information security.

"If you don't know the classification or sensitivity of information, how do you judge what goes in the cloud and what doesn't? How does the cloud service provider back up and destroy the information? Is there proof that everything they do happens?" Davis said.

The final two deadly sins are conceit and complacency - a belief that an organisation's IT infrastructure and information security architecture can handle cloud data, and that the cloud is unbreakable.

"I submit that we are not ready for the shift that happens when you bring cloud into the organisation. And while people think that the cloud will never break, there is metal and connections somewhere underneath," Davis said.

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