Security Intelligence and the Cloud

There is no doubt the cloud is becoming increasingly important. Organizations are moving applications, IT infrastructure and services to outsourced infrastructures at increasingly rapid rates. However, it isn’t often clear how specific assets and data are affected by an organization’s cloud strategy. Unfortunately, it is often not as simple as, “Move it to the cloud!” which can leave things, well, a little hazy. Considerations such as compliance, realizing existing on-premises investments and, of course, security — which is at the top of many organizations’ minds at the moment — come into play. The impact on security intelligence is particularly complex for two major reasons.

How the Cloud Affects Security Intelligence

First, as organizations move parts of their infrastructure and applications to the cloud, they absolutely need to secure them as they would if they were still on-premises. This cannot be overemphasized. Many of the same security concerns and compliance mandates still exist. For example, who is using the applications and services? Is the use suspicious? Is any data being exfiltrated? From where are the services being accessed? Have any of your compromised hosts or on-premises accounts accessed these services? If so, what did they do?

Whether something is in the cloud or on-premises, these questions need to be answered and analyzed on a continual basis. Of vital importance, these incidents also need to be integrated within an organization’s overall incident response workflow to ensure consistent response processes are followed and guarantee the business impact of an incident is managed effectively.

Download: The Case for Security Intelligence Services, Hosted from the Cloud

Second, while security systems — particularly those that store sensitive data — may not be an organization’s first choice to move to the cloud, there is no doubt there is a viable financial business case to do so. Therefore, it is imperative that security systems have an on-premises and cloud-based strategy.

Because these issues are seen often within the IBM Security Intelligence product suite, IBM has outlined a framework to help assess the most appropriate approach based on the cloud adoption strategy, maturity and security and compliance requirements.

Cloud Strategy

The four levels are described as follows:

1. Collect From the Cloud

This is most appropriate for organizations that are starting to use some of the more common public cloud-based services, such as Salesforce.com, but are not yet ready, willing or able to move their security monitoring and compliance data and applications to the cloud. In these circumstances, organizations need to collect security-relevant data directly from their cloud services and integrate it seamlessly into their on-premises security operations processes and systems. To achieve this, they need their on-premises security intelligence system to integrate with cloud-based services to retrieve security data.

2. Utilize the Cloud

Utilizing the cloud can be an appropriate strategy for organizations that want to start realizing some of the operating expense and distributed and elastic benefits of the cloud but also want to realize their investment in on-premises infrastructure; thus, they likely subsequently adopted a hybrid cloud. With this approach, organizations start to grow their security intelligence deployment into the cloud to collect, store and analyze data right there and only bring it back on-premises on an as-needed basis. The significance is that these organizations still have a single pane of glass into their on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure as their deployments span both in a seamless fashion.

3. Managed From the Cloud

When organizations want to minimize their investments in on-premises capital expenditures infrastructure and they are able to deploy their whole security intelligence infrastructure in the cloud (including all data), managed from the cloud can be applicable. These organizations would only have minimal on-premises infrastructure, whose sole purpose is to collect security data from on-premises devices, assets and applications and then forward it in a secure manner to the cloud-based security intelligence system for storage, correlation, alerting and reporting.

4. Serviced From the Cloud

This approach enables organizations that want to utilize security intelligence as a service — for example, paying monthly on an as-needed basis. Minimal on-premises software is needed to collect security data. It is then forwarded to the cloud-based security intelligence service for storage, monitoring and alerting.

Regardless of which cloud adoption strategy you determine will work best for your organization, this framework should help stress the importance of including current and future security needs and be a useful reference to make your decision a little less cloudy.

Download: The Case for Security Intelligence Services, Hosted from the Cloud

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Chris Meenan

Product Manager for QRadar, IBM Security

Chris Meenan is a Product Manager working on the QRadar Security Intelligence Product within the IBM Security division. He has over 10 years experience in product management and been involved in developing, managing, releasing and selling software products for over 20 years. Chris has a extensive market, domain, and customer knowledge in IT Security, Customer Relationship Management and Telecom OSS solutions. Chris holds a 1st Honours degree in Physics, and has a PhD in Mobile Satellite communications.