Welcome!

AJAX & REA Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Plutora Blog, Ram Sonagara

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, SOA & WOA, Virtualization, AJAX & REA, Web 2.0, Security, GovIT

Cloud Expo: Blog Post

FFIEC's Recognition of Cloud Security Advantages

How credit unions, smaller banks can now use outsourcing for compliance using security-as-a-service

Last month the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) shared an opinion on the viability and security of cloud computing. In the four-page statement, the interagency body empowered to prescribe uniform principles, standards, stated that cloud computing is “another form of outsourcing with the same basic risk characteristics and risk management requirements as traditional forms of outsourcing.”

What they are offering is a back-handed endorsement of cloud computing with the caveat that if you perform your due diligence and the solution passes the security smell test, there is no reason why a financial institution cannot enjoy the full scope of cloud based benefits.

Like most other industries on the planet, banks, credit unions, investment brokerages, hedge funds, title and mortgage companies, credit card enterprises outsource certain parts of their business for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it is a skill that is outside their core competencies like the physical transference of currency (armored cars). For others it incorporates economic and efficiency factors like reducing and controlling costs, expanding operational capacity, and employing best-of-breed philosophies. Regardless of the reasoning, outsourcing is an integral part of international business standards.

“Outsourcing to a cloud service provider can be advantageous to financial institutions because of potential benefits such as cost reduction, flexibility, scalability, improved load balancing, and speed.” FFIEC Information Technology Subcommittee July 10, 2012

This is especially good news for credit unions and other smaller finance-centric enterprise organizations on the hook for compliance, heightened data and asset protection and access control   just like their multi-national brethren. In that the FFIEC has labeled cloud computing as an acceptable practice, I want to focus on three specific callouts that directly affect how and why security managed from the cloud (aka cloud-based security) fits with the strategic technology goals of any financial institution.

  • Legal and Regulatory Considerations All financial institutions operate under the heavy scrutiny of federal, state, local and industrial standards. It demands a certain degree of transparency (as well as privacy), a certain reliance on reporting and auditing, and heavy emphasis on compliance with various requirements. Although a serious and very complex issue, the ability to depend on several factors managed from the cloud, eases some of the burden. Regardless of where sensitive financial, personal and transactional data and is stored security-as-a-service typically provides the best-of-breed oversight institutions demand. Strictly from a security management perspective, understanding who and how and when any endpoint is attempting to access or ping a network asset at any time day or night is not only good practice, but a strict edict of laws like PCI and Sarbanes Oxley. But taken one step further, the ability to look beyond the obvious brute force attacks, the ability to instantly analyze traffic from a variety of silos and the ability inform, escalate and report any anomalies bases on strict interpretation of the law, creates. The cloud fits this stratagem simply by providing the additional expertise, faster and more accurate auditing and more “bang for the buck.

”I recall what a Network Apps Manager from Texas Capital Bank stated in a recent conference: "We get audited. We get audited a lot! In the span of a typical year we are audited by 6 different external and regulatory compliance groups." I get dizzy just thinking of the constant drain on resources it takes to keep up with it all. Not to put a fine point on it, but just consider the manpower, reporting and computing  relief an organization can experience simply by outsourcing Identity Management to provision and de-provision users , customers and vendors...not to mention the additional control from SaaS Single Sign On.

  • Holistic InfoSec All Financial institutions are typically at the center of many hacking attacks. The rule of thumb with cloud-based (or really any security strategy), is don’t worry about the attacks you can see coming. Most of the truly devastating breaches come from more insidious sources that are quiet and subtle. It is these types of assaults that look for cracks in a multitude of small, seemingly insignificant corners. This is why any strategy must contain a holistic approach. One that looks at and ties together the various and varied silos of information. This situational context approach identifies issues that might not raise red flags in one silo, but when correlated with other data points might require reporting, escalation and instant remediation.

And it’s no secret that global hackers have set their sites on American financial institutions but if you are running a credit union in Watertown, MN, do you need to fear nation-state cyber-terrorism? Probably not as much as Citibank, but shoring up your network perimeter is a must. Solutions like SIEM and Log Management have an excellent track record managed from the cloud. Other considerations such as careless third party users and employees, password mismanagement, poor vetting of third-party security protocols, access controls, must be addressed to achieve a true holistic approach strategy.  But for that credit union in Watertown or the title company in Carpenteria, CA there is limited budget to apply such an enterprise strategy. And that’s where cloud security comes in as a huge benefit. Security-as-a-service is typically a cash flow positive endeavor. This means there is no capital expenditures (it’s all OpEx) and there is no ROI lag time in terms of buying an expensive server or waiting 6 months to develop and deploy and appropriate program. Zero day deployment and pay-as-you-go scalability provide immediate return and immediate coverage.

  • Data segregation and recoverability: The nature of this issue is the overall security of data regardless of where and how it is stored. There are many whose lack of trust in the cloud prevents them from seeing that just because data is sitting on a server outside their four walls, means it is any less secure. By using the advice of the FFIEC, applying risk assessments against any outsourced solution, . It’s the same for any investment. If you do poor research on a electronic lock company, there are catastrophic risks involved. Many cloud providers invest a great deal in their security features. And of course, a company the sells security-as-a-service, must be as or more bulletproof than any on premises alternative in its ability to maintain data security, IT integrity and guaranteed continued service.

Now this isn’t aimed so much at Bank of America or Goldman Sachs, but rather “Main Street” institutions who don’t have a spare $100K waiting to spend on on-premise servers, $1 million to develop and deploy a holistic security strategy and another $150K for dedicated analysts to monitor activity around the clock. Cloud-based security provides more functionality, greater scope, and greater manageability than a typical local institution can afford to do in house. Through multi-tenancy, economies of scope and leveraged enterprise best-of-breed expertise and capabilities, every financial institution can benefit from top-class security…as long as they do their homework!

As with any business decision, whether to migrate certain aspects of enterprise operation to the cloud, depends on several factors. Does it promote your strategic and tactical plans/goals? Have you done your homework and made sure both the vendor and the solution are a good (and trustworthy) fit? Does it provide ROI in a reasonable/expected time frame? Does the reward outpace the risk? Is the risk manageable? I could go on. But the argument is no longer be should I utilize the cloud. The better question is in what situations and how do cloud based solutions create benefit and advantages for my company?

If you wish to learn more about the application of holistic security, read the white paper: Applying Security Holistically from the Cloud: A Paradigm Shift Applying Situational Awareness in SIEM Deployments.

Kevin Nikkhoo

CloudAccess.com

More Stories By Kevin Nikkhoo

With more than 32 years of experience in information technology, and an extensive and successful entrepreneurial background, Kevin Nikkhoo is the CEO of the dynamic security-as-a-service startup Cloud Access. CloudAccess is at the forefront of the latest evolution of IT asset protection--the cloud.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from McGill University, Master of Computer Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles, and an MBA from the University of Southern California with emphasis in entrepreneurial studies.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, ...
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at ...
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and asse...
DevOps is all about agility. However, you don't want to be on a high-speed bus to nowhere. The right DevOps approach controls velocity with a tight feedback loop that not only consists of operational data but also incorporates business context. With a business context in the decision making, the right business priorities are incorporated, which results in a higher value creation. In his session at DevOps Summit, Todd Rader, Solutions Architect at AppDynamics, discussed key monitoring techniques...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
High-performing enterprise Software Quality Assurance (SQA) teams validate systems that are ready for use - getting most actively involved as components integrate and form complete systems. These teams catch and report on defects, making sure the customer gets the best software possible. SQA teams have leveraged automation and virtualization to execute more thorough testing in less time - bringing Dev and Ops together, ensuring production readiness. Does the emergence of DevOps mean the end of E...
Mobile commerce traffic is surpassing desktop, yet less than 20% of sales in the U.S. are mobile commerce sales. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Franklin, Segment Manager, Commerce, at Verizon Digital Media Services, defined mobile devices and discussed how next generation means simplification. It means taking your digital content and turning it into instantly gratifying experiences.
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. Acco...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps,...
Between the compelling mockups and specs produced by your analysts and designers, and the resulting application built by your developers, there is a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral out of control, and applications fall short of requirements. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a new approach where business and development users collaborate – each using tools appropriate to their goals and expertise – to build mo...
NuoDB just introduced the Swifts 2.1 Release. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc., discussed why scaling databases in the cloud is challenging, why building your application on top of the infrastructure that is designed with this in mind makes a difference, and what you can do with NuoDB that simplifies your programming model, your operations model.
"For the past 4 years we have been working mainly to export. For the last 3 or 4 years the main market was Russia. In the past year we have been working to expand our footprint in Europe and the United States," explained Andris Gailitis, CEO of DEAC, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
“We are a managed services company. We have taken the key aspects of the cloud and the purposed data center and merged the two together and launched the Purposed Cloud about 18–24 months ago," explained Chetan Patwardhan, CEO of Stratogent, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
“The year of the cloud – we have no idea when it's really happening but we think it's happening now. For those technology providers like Zentera that are helping enterprises move to the cloud - it's been fun to watch," noted Mike Loftus, VP Product Management and Marketing at Zentera Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile ...
"SOASTA built the concept of cloud testing in 2008. It's grown from rather meager beginnings to where now we are provisioning hundreds of thousands of servers on a daily basis on behalf of customers around the world to test their applications," explained Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Verizon Digital Media Services is responsible for the broadcast, video and content delivery network that accelerates, scales and helps our customers reach end users with all kinds of video and web content," stated James Segil, CMO of Verizon Digital Media Services, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.