Clouds in BlackHat’s conference
Being the other side of the pond I wasn’t able to attend Black Hat, but I have been keeping a keen eye on the posted conference materials and talk recordings being released after the conference’ close. As I’ve recently been researching the latest buzz of Cloud Computing, naturally I was initially drawn to the talks with Cloud computing as a topic.
First up is Kostya Kortchinsky’s Cloudburst: Hacking 3D (and Breaking Out of VMware. This presentation details an exploit vector for breaking out of the guest environment and allowing arbitrary code execution on the underlying host. Kortchinsky clearly knows his stuff, but I’ll admit most of his talk goes well above my head. For reasons touched on below I think this is a virtualisation issue not a Cloud issue, which was likely added to title to cash in on the current buzz, but either way the bottom line is guest escape is rapidly moving from theoretical threat to practical attack vector and something that should be considered when designing any system, network or architecture.
Secondly, the Sensepost team do a great job of explaining security issues new or prevelant to Cloud architecture with Clobbering the Cloud! and include some great (read humorous) images to help illustrate they points. I especially like the idea of building and sharing trojaned/backdoored machine images and waiting for the unsuspecting to take advantage of your generousity :) The videos used within the actual presentation are available direct from the Sensepost site, here.
Taking away the award for longest talk title related to Cloud Computing is: Cloud Computing Models and Vulnerabilities: Raining on the Trendy New Parade. This talk discusses the three components of the cloud ‘stack'; Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas).
I love the definition used for cloud computing or more accurately the statement that Cloud Computing is NOT:
- Remote Backup
- Most of the stuff called cloud computing
- And: ‘If you’re not re-writing your software, it’s not Cloud Computing’
From my previous research into Cloud Computing I feel that a lot of the security concerns often raised are not new or unique to the Cloud, and that well established and basic best practice will defend against the issues. The speakers of this presentation seem to be of a similar mind, but suggest that the early big players in this market are not necessarily doing all in their power, the example is that something as basic as logging and audit trails aren’t fully available within the current on market solutions.
Likewise depending on Cloud providers contracts and EULA clients of cloud services may not be able to fully control the security testing of ‘their’ environment as some providers forbid ‘malicious’ traffic being targetted at their architecture and platforms, which could limit and/or remove the ability to perform fully comprehensive penetration testing, which depending on location, market and data may be a legal or regulatory requirement.
Whilst not related to the Black Hat conference I read an article from datacentreknowledge.com from RackSpace, claiming that the Cloud is going spell the end of shared hosting as we know it. In my view this can only be a PR fluff piece, as anyone that understands hosted services, even those selling Cloud services themselves, agree that regardless of how you rate the benefits of Cloud architecture it is not, and cannot be, a silver bullet to solve all the world’s IT problems, leaving a market for traditional architectures.
If the Cloud is here to stay, so is everything else. Regardless of an individual IT professional’s personal opinion of Cloud computing it must be fully understood and measured on technical merits alongside existing solutions to be able to provide best value and ROI, implementing any solution based on ‘religious’ arguements is not in the best interests of any business.