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ISC2 Former Staff

Don't Fear the Cloud!


By David Shearer, CISSP, CEO (ISC)² 

Let's face it, there's still a fair amount of fear when it comes to the cloud, and I know firsthand people in Texas and Florida recently experienced some devastating weather that tests individuals' and organizations' resiliency. Natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Irma and others around the world can serve as a reminder that cybersecurity, IT/ICT and OT for that matter, need to work in complementary ways to ensure not only cybersecurity resiliency but business and mission fulfillment resiliency (i.e. Continuity of Operations). I break these areas out, because I frequently hear them discussed in stovepipe ways. That vertical versus horizontal view simply does not serve the endgame for the organizations we serve.


I'm old enough to remember putting in PBX core communications switches. Then we moved to IP Trunked PBXs for addressing long-distance charges, and then facilities-based voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) implementations. Early on, we had facilities-based VoIP scalability issues, but we eventually worked through most of those limitations. In the early days, VoIP-based solution architectures were constrained to a facility. Then soft phones came to pass along with cloud-based communications services. OK, you're likely asking, “Dave, where are you going with this?” Well, we talk a lot about the CIA triad: Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. In the context of this post, I'm focusing on Availability without discounting the importance of Confidentiality and Integrity. 


(ISC)² teamed with the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) to develop the Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP®) certification. Both organizations believe you shouldn't fear the cloud, but you need to move solutions to the cloud in the most secure way possible. We all know there are no absolute guarantees when it comes to security, but leveraging best practices and sound risk-mitigation strategies gives organizations a fighting chance.  


Cybersecurity is an important part of the equation, but we need to work in complementary ways with the IT, ICT and OT communities to help ensure the availability aspects of the CIA triad. When Irma impacted Florida, (ISC)² was fortunate that we designed our enterprise architecture leveraging cloud services. I won't go into details about this for obvious security reasons, but I will say in the case of a regional disaster like Irma, we were far better prepared to ensure availability of our operations and services. Cloud-based phone and service center solutions enable us to leverage remote work and shift work load to other regions of our operations. Our headquarters building was without power for days, and fortunately the computing and storage workloads we moved from on-premise to the cloud helped us sustain our operations with minimal impact to our members.


I write this merely to raise awareness and remind people there are no options available to us that are risk-free when it comes to leveraging technology to host our information assets and supporting our mission and business operations. I write this with a fair amount of trepidation, because it always seems that when we talk about how good we are, we end up being tested. However, in the wake of Irma, I feel compelled to write about how cloud-based communication services, computing and storage can provide for – when done well – operational and cybersecurity resiliency. Both outcomes are vitally important to any organization. The paradox we’re always trying to balance is operational capabilities with appropriate levels of security to manage risks. Suffice it to say, if it were easy, anyone could do it. Even with the best plans, our efforts can be thwarted. Again, that's where cybersecurity and operational resiliency converge. I break these two capabilities out intentionally to help raise awareness of the inherent tension between the two. In some cases, we may be able to restore operational capabilities in advance of cybersecurity confidence, but it's a risk management issue. How risk adverse is an organization? If an organization is willing to restore operations in advance of cybersecurity confidence, it certainly can. Cybersecurity is not a hard-and-fast gate to business or mission operations. Cybersecurity should provide a gauge to an organization to determine their level of risk acceptance, because there are no guarantees when it comes to cybersecurity.


This may sound like I'm ending on a fear, uncertainty and doubt note, but that's not my intention. I've seen where the cloud provides a better security posture for many organizations. Servers in office closets and even in fairly well design business computer rooms frequently will not provide service in regional property destruction and power outage situations. Additionally, some outsourced data center solutions will suffer from regional disruptions. In the case of Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), this is very frequently the case. Organizations counting on single facility-based solutions in times of natural disasters can fail miserably at addressing the "A" in the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability triad. So at (ISC)², along with our friends at the CSA, we say "Don't fear the cloud." Understand how to leverage the cloud for operational, cybersecurity and competitive advantage. Public sector organization should also consider the type of resiliency cloud-based solutions can provide during natural disasters. Few organizations can afford the type of geographical data center diversity that cloud solution providers can deliver, particularly when it comes to availability. An often overlooked capability when considering on-premise versus cloud-based solutions is continuity of operations (e.g., availability). Granted, information assets that are not “available” have little risk to confidentiality and integrity, because few organizations continue to operate without information asset and service availability.


That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


David Shearer
| CEO | | | |
16 Replies
Newcomer I

Hi redorbit,


I like your post, and think you have some vaid points.  Here are my observations:


Control - The fears companies have about losing control of their data if it is hosted in the cloud are not unfounded.  It is up to each company to properly classify their data, determine if the benefits of hosting the data in the cloud is worth the risk of unauthorized disclosure, and then develop controls for cloud-hosted data that address the risk.  I think this is one of the reasons why hybrid cloud is getting a lot of traction.  Some companies are hedging their bets and keeping the crown jewels close to the home.


Security - Again, these are valid concerns.  One way that companies can address their concerns about future audit headaches is to get the auditors involved early in the analysis and design phases of cloud adoption/migration projects.  Auditors should be able to suggest controls for cloud technologies that meet policy and regulatory requirements.  It's too late to get auditor advice once the solution is up.


Jobs - Yep.  When considering only the money spent, the OPEX model of cloud is often ends up being more expensive than the CAPEX model of on-prem.  Companies then often offset the additional cost of cloud through redundancies/layoffs/outsourcing of IT Operations staff.  It's debatable whether or not this will end up being a long-term trend.  What is incumbent upon each and every one of us is to adapt to the times.  Get as much experience as you can.  Utilize resources like the free Amazon EC2 instance.  Study.  Certify.  As with everything in tech, cloud will continue to evolve.  It's not going to go away.



Newcomer I



I dont but have tried and failed the CCSP already (by 2 questions :-() but it doesnt matter

whether i fear it or not where i am we are well into it.

I also find that once you have the cloud , suddenly you have a heap of new security devices

which you have paid for and need to use.

If you are on AZURE for instance you have microsoft cloud app security (an addalon CASB

bought by microsoft and therefore rather good), also the Microsoft security centre which is

also an aquired security device so thats good.

Now to develope some policies , get this gear monitored and working !

Thats a bit of a challenge!




Viewer II

You make very good points as to why people are concerned, but I would like to expand on those concerns with why they may not necessarily valid if an organziation takes the time to properly plan.


If architected and implemented correctly (BIG caveat), organizations have complete visibility of their resources in the cloud...there aren't any servers hiding under someone's desk. And with features such as AWS' Organizations, an enterprise can manage and govern all of their AWS cloud accounts to monitor and enforce enterprise policies.  


The key to success is understanding the shared responsibility model and be diligent for your portion in the cloud.  All of the news about breaches in the cloud have been from cloud customers not protecting their portion and not taking advantage of all the security features and warnings - no encryption, public access, posting credentials in code on GitHub, etc. 


Taking things to the next level, an organization can automate and scale security so that very little human intervention is required.  So not only can the cloud (with the right provider) be just as secure as on-prem, it has the potential to be more secure than on-prem.  


We simply need to apply the same lessons learned from traditional IT to the Cloud.  You can't rely on a new Firewall out of the box, it is your responsibility to configure it properly and maintain it.  It is the same for cloud services, there are some default security settings, but it is still the customer's responsibility to configure, monitor, and maintain security.  

Viewer III

Agreed. Just like driverless cars, the new technology doesn't have to be perfect, just better than the alternatives. But is should be better. Whether it is, will always depend upon how well it is done in house, and how well an outsource provider does it. An outsource provider who specializes in the service offered and gains economies and efficiencies of scale CAN be better.


With cloud, we must also be mindful of where their responsibilities end and what remains for the consumer organization. It is not a magic bullet.


Great comment!

There are a few great articles on Netflix and their "chaos monkey" process that speaks to your point. Moving to the cloud alone doesn't create availbility, rather properly architecting availbility in the cloud and reguarly testing availbility creates availability. 

Viewer II

I work for a fortune 500 that has opted to move everything to the Cloud and if a system migration to the Cloud is not feasible ( like mainframe) then to contract a MSP. 


I am firmly of the opinion that the business drivers of the decision to move to the Cloud largely determine the end-state security posture of systems not the Cloud technology itself. I would advise not to fear Cloud technology per se but trepidation of the specific business drivers of moving to it is valid - as those will determine your future security posture in the Cloud.


It is entirely possible, and I would argue likely, that a corporation's security posture will be substantially weakened in the Cloud if the "primary" driver is near-immediate CapEx and OpEx reduction rather than system availability, business agility or even increased operational automation. 
















Newcomer I

Nice read and I agree.


The cloud is an important asset to businesses. We need to embrace it beacuse at the end of the day it is about keeping the business up to bring in profits.