Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

Digital Forensic Challenges within Cloud Computing

Will cloud forensics be effective in managing boundaries of responsibility and access?

Proponents of the cloud ecosystem touts its "vastness, flexibility and scalability as advantages for the implementation of cloud services. However, from a digital point of view this can be a veritable forensic challenge as we view the cloud in terms of its scope and diversity.

According to Dr. Stephen Wolthusen[1] "Digital forensics (also referred to at times as computer forensics) encompasses approaches and techniques for gathering and analyzing traces of human and computer-generated activity in such a way that it is suitable in a court of law."

A key challenge to a digital investigator called to pursue an investigation with cloud resources as a subset will be to establish and map computational and storage structures that will fall within the realm of the investigation. Bear in mind that for any system (cloud or otherwise) security incidents will cross boundaries of responsibility and access.[2]

Within the digital forensic process where there is a no one-size-fits-all solution for a digital forensic examination, all forensic evidence must follow the Forensic process of :

Collection - Examination - Analysis - Reporting. Also no matter its environment, forensic evidence must:

•Be relevant to the issue at hand
•Be authentic
•Not be unfairly prejudicial not be hearsay or if hearsay, able to meet the requirements for an exception
•Be the original or duplicate of the evidence or able to meet an exception to that rule.
Within the cloud computing ecosystem I believe there may be a dilemma in terms of time stamps. A question for cloud vendors would be, with a distributed and "vast" infrastructure how will they ensure synchronized clocks across all their systems? Synchronized clocks across a distributed global system may not be a possibility, and if this supposition holds true, then what other solution will a cloud vendor provide in such an instance?

Another challenge can be with that of reciprocity. Digital forensics within the cloud computing environment can have legal implications within an international jurisdiction which will require corporation from established relationships with legal entities in foreign countries and/or the establishment of new ones if possible.

As with any live forensic examination another challenge will be the establishing of snapshots of the system in operation. But in this case one can question if this is good enough for such a "vast" and possibly globally distributed ecosystem.

Take the instance of malware injected into the kernel space of a system; it is possible that it may be programmed to modify data or functionality...or both, in a variety of ways upon detection of a probe, or simply set to shut-down,obfuscate evidence, or delete pertinent data residues within a set time frame. Can a forensic examiner be notified of this change, or more pertinent can a cloud service provider implement protocols, tools or processes to ensure that such an event can be mitigated in real time? Most likely not, at least for now.

However a solution of sorts to this dilemma can be gleaned from thesis suggested in a paper by Wolthusen [1] which states: Data may be present or available in a given configuration for a limited time or be staged through different levels of storage hierarchies; it is hence important to place bounds on events in question so as to be able to capture events of interest completely.

In terms of the "vast" distributed environment that can comprise a cloud ecosystem under investigation; we have to be aware of the fact that within such an ecosystem, any forensic investigation can cause: parallel or unrelated services to be interrupted to completed halted, infringe on third party rights and cross jurisdictional boundaries and in the case of duplication require infeasible storage volumes. [1]

Aspects of Control within Cloud Computing Service Models:

SaaS: Here the cloud user, dependent on their contracted services with the cloud vendor will only control certain configuration parameters, whilst the cloud vendor maintain control over application\s and underlying infrastructure.

PaaS: Here the cloud vendor controls the cloud infrastructure and runtime environments when the cloud user controls the application.

IaaS: Although a cloud user will have control over their servers with the installed Operating Systems and applications with this cloud offering the cloud vendor will still controls the virtualization infrastructure and at least parts of the network infrastructure.

These aspects will affect how a digital forensic examination is conducted as, every cloud computing environment will have variations. Therefore the degrees of methods/tools protocols etc. implemented in identifying relevant events that support the detection and analysis of attacks have to be crafted accordingly.

Four Forensic Challenges within the Cloud Ecosystem

Grobauer and Schreck [2] identified the following forensic challenges within the cloud computing environment:

1.Separation of customer's data sources during evidence collection
2.Adapting forensic analysis methods to the cloud
3.Improving live analysis techniques
4.Improving log generation & analysis techniques
Another major challenge is a need to establish a complete understanding of processes, their dependencies and distribution across different systems within the cloud ecosystem. [1]

Wolthusen[1] also states that, "if semantic dependencies must be captured, this must not only capture the immediate data required to reconstruct a view or document or to recreate and reconstruct a process, but also sufficient information to ascertain the semantics of the event at the point in time of the event."

However would not the establishment of such a process potentially impact customers not involved in an investigation that are sharing the cloud-space that is part of a cloud forensic examination?

Despite the semantics and challenges of the Cloud Computing Environment it is my opinion that:

Cloud Computing users must open dialogue with their vendor regarding processes and protocols for successfully handling/managing incidents. These need to be clearly established within the requirements portion, when drafting their service level agreement (SLA).

References

1.Overcast: Forensic Discovery in Cloud Environments -Stephen D. Wolthusen
2.Towards Incident Handling in the Cloud:Challenges and Approaches -Bernd Grobauer,Thomas Schreck

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Jon Shende

Jon RG Shende is an executive with over 18 years of industry experience. He commenced his career, in the medical arena, then moved into the Oil and Gas environment where he was introduced to SCADA and network technologies,also becoming certified in Industrial Pump and Valve repairs. Jon gained global experience over his career working within several verticals to include pharma, medical sales and marketing services as well as within the technology services environment, eventually becoming the youngest VP of an international enterprise. He is a graduate of the University of Oxford, holds a Masters certificate in Business Administration, as well as an MSc in IT Security, specializing in Computer Crime and Forensics with a thesis on security in the Cloud. Jon, well versed with the technology startup and mid sized venture ecosystems, has contributed at the C and Senior Director level for former clients. As an IT Security Executive, Jon has experience with Virtualization,Strategy, Governance,Risk Management, Continuity and Compliance. He was an early adopter of web-services, web-based tools and successfully beta tested a remote assistance and support software for a major telecom. Within the realm of sales, marketing and business development, Jon earned commendations for turnaround strategies within the services and pharma industry. For one pharma contract he was responsibe for bringing low performing districts up to number 1 rankings for consecutive quarters; as well as outperforming quotas from 125% up to 314%. Part of this was achieved by working closely with sales and marketing teams to ensure message and product placement were on point. Professionally he is a Fellow of the BCS Chartered Institute for IT, an HITRUST Certified CSF Practitioner and holds the CITP and CRISC certifications.Jon Shende currently works as a Senior Director for a CSP. A recognised thought Leader, Jon has been invited to speak for the SANs Institute, has spoken at Cloud Expo in New York as well as sat on a panel at Cloud Expo Santa Clara, and has been an Ernst and Young CPE conference speaker. His personal blog is located at http://jonshende.blogspot.com/view/magazine "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit."

Latest Stories
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
"We focus on composable infrastructure. Composable infrastructure has been named by companies like Gartner as the evolution of the IT infrastructure where everything is now driven by software," explained Bruno Andrade, CEO and Founder of HTBase, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Tintri focuses on the Ops side of the DevOps, which basically is pushing more and more of the accessibility of the infrastructure to the developers and trying to get behind the scenes," explained Dhiraj Sehgal of Tintri in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Hardware virtualization and cloud computing allowed us to increase resource utilization and increase our flexibility to respond to business demand. Docker Containers are the next quantum leap - Are they?! Databases always represented an additional set of challenges unique to running workloads requiring a maximum of I/O, network, CPU resources combined with data locality.
For organizations that have amassed large sums of software complexity, taking a microservices approach is the first step toward DevOps and continuous improvement / development. Integrating system-level analysis with microservices makes it easier to change and add functionality to applications at any time without the increase of risk. Before you start big transformation projects or a cloud migration, make sure these changes won’t take down your entire organization.
Cloud promises the agility required by today’s digital businesses. As organizations adopt cloud based infrastructures and services, their IT resources become increasingly dynamic and hybrid in nature. Managing these require modern IT operations and tools. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Raj Sundaram, Senior Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies, will discuss how to modernize your IT operations in order to proactively manage your hybrid cloud and IT environments. He will be sharing bes...
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...
In this presentation, Striim CTO and founder Steve Wilkes will discuss practical strategies for counteracting fraud and cyberattacks by leveraging real-time streaming analytics. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Steve Wilkes, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Striim, will provide a detailed look into leveraging streaming data management to correlate events in real time, and identify potential breaches across IoT and non-IoT systems throughout the enterprise. Strategies for processing massive ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara California. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infras...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
What's the role of an IT self-service portal when you get to continuous delivery and Infrastructure as Code? This general session showed how to create the continuous delivery culture and eight accelerators for leading the change. Don Demcsak is a DevOps and Cloud Native Modernization Principal for Dell EMC based out of New Jersey. He is a former, long time, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, specializing in building and architecting Application Delivery Pipelines for hybrid legacy, and cloud ...