What, Me Worry?

According to Yahoo news Infrastructure Services Users Worry Less About Security. This article references a Yankee Group study that found although security remains a top barrier slowing the adoption of cloud services in the enterprise, most companies that have adopted Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) worry less about security once they begin using the technology.

Once they’ve made the leap into the cloud, the article suggests, users conclude that the security issues aren’t as significant as they had been led to believe. I find myself in partial agreement with this; the industry has created a level of hysteria around cloud security that isn’t necessarily productive. Taking pot shots at the security model in the cloud is pretty easy, and so many do—regardless of whether their aim is true (and for many, their aim is not).

Nevertheless, my interpretation of these results is that they are uncovering less a phenomenon of confidence genuinely earned and more a case of misplaced trust. The article makes an interesting observation about the source of this trust:

Twenty-nine percent of the companies in the survey viewed system integrators as their most trusted suppliers of cloud computing. But among early adopters of IaaS, 33 percent said they turn to telecom companies first.

Do you remember, back around the turn of the century, when large-scale PKI was first emerging? The prevailing wisdom was that state-sponsored PKI should be administered by the post offices because this organization above all was perceived as trustworthy (as well as being centralized and a national responsibility). Hong Kong, for instance, adopted this model. But in general, the postal-run PKI model didn’t take hold, and today few federal post services are in the business of administering national identity. Trust doesn’t transfer well, and trust with letters and packages doesn’t easily extend to trust with identity.

Investing generalized trust in the telcos reminds me of the early PKI experience. The market is immature, and because of this so too are our impressions. Truthfully, I think that the telcos will be good cloud providers—not because I have an inherent trust in them (I actively dislike my cell provider on most days), but because the telcos I’ve spoken to that have engaged in cloud initiatives are actually executing extremely well. Nevertheless, I don’t think I should trust them to secure my applications. This is ultimately my responsibility as a cloud customer, and because of I can’t reasonably trust any provider entirely, I must assume a highly defensive stance in how I secure my cloud-resident applications.

I hope my provider is good at security; but I need to assume he is not, and prepare myself accordingly.

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