Storage Security: Getting Beyond M&M SANs

Wednesday Feb 25th 2004 by Drew Robb
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Storage Security: Getting Beyond M&M SANs

"Most SANs are like M&Ms" — hard and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

This observation on Storage Area Network (SAN) design comes from Clement Kent, the Chief Technical Officer of security firm Kasten Chase, Inc. He makes a vital point. Companies spend precious resources hardening the outer network shell with firewalls, passwords, certificates, and keys, but all too often the center – the actual data – is left as vulnerable as ever. Let's look at what it takes to secure a SAN all the way from the edge to the core.

Keep the Shell Hard

Opening the enterprise data farm to corporate users in far-flung remote offices makes data more usable and more valuable, but it also makes it far more vulnerable. Hackers and crackers continue to probe industrial defenses using new attack technologies, making it essential to deploy the latest developments in intrusion detection, firewalls, hardened switches and routers, and management systems.

Storage administrators must not make the mistake of leaving everything to network personnel. At the very least, they must stay current with perimeter defense technology and wage a constant funding campaign for new tools and upgrades.

Harden the Core

Imagine the consequences if a criminal walked off with the daily backup tapes — blackmail, class-action lawsuits, or corporate train wrecks would be real possibilities as a result. Storage personnel should always take the viewpoint that the bad guys could at some point succeed in their efforts, so steps must be taken to minimize the value of what the thieves might obtain.

This viewpoint is the first step toward real SAN security. If the data on the stolen backup tapes is encrypted, the criminal gains nothing and the company is safeguarded.

Still, storage encryption technology is not absolutely perfect, and SAN architects should not delude themselves by thinking otherwise. Given time and teraflops, a criminal can beat even 128-bit encryption. But storage encryption does wrap the data in yet another protective layer and hardens the core of any SAN. Storage encryption appliances such as Decru's Data Fort, Kasten Chase's Assurency SecureData, and NeoScale Systems' CryptoStor provide security without a costly performance hit. Using separate keys for data compartments can create an access control layer on top of the hardware zoning and LUN masking underneath.

Centralize Command

Security is everyone's responsibility, but unless one person is given the responsibility and authority to oversee all areas of corporate security, the company can expect to have gaps in its coverage. A single appointed security manager can bridge the gap between network security and storage security specialists. Make the security manager the security policy approver, so that all conflicting procedures can be resolved through him or her, and gaps between boundaries can be eliminated.

Also solicit input from Human Resources to ensure that security policies have real teeth and unpleasant consequences for employees who slide off the straight and narrow. Obtain corporate buy-in to spread security awareness and responsibility to all parts of the company. These are vital steps, as end-to-end SAN security does not come cheap.

Page 2: Audit Often

Continued from Page 1

Audit Often

Conduct annual security audits to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT Analysis). There are good guidelines available from the Storage Security Industry Forum (SSIF), a part of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

Stay on the watch for new developments in network and storage security as well as new threats from outside and inside the firewalls. Some of the basics for every audit, as recommended by SNIA, include:

  • Policies that cover both network and storage security, as well as all interfaces between the two areas
  • Policies that are current with new laws and regulations affecting your data security
  • Evaluate the best balance between access limitation and data availability
  • Levels of confidentiality applied to data appropriately
  • An active and current employee security awareness program
  • Storage centers, network hardware, and servers located in physically secure buildings
  • Zoning and LUN masking appropriate to current business needs
  • Processes that team up the multiple specialties for system architecture change
  • Testing and quickly implementing new software patches and firmware versions
Harden the Wetware

The eternal fact remains that security depends on what is going on between a human's two ears (the wetware). FBI statistics show that 50 to 80 percent of security breaches originate inside the firewall. This means that if a company is attacked, the odds are that a co-worker is the culprit, whether that be a disgruntled employee, an industrial spy, or just someone foggy from medication and having a careless day.

Further, the keepers of the keys and the guards at the gate are all potential targets for the seductive tricks of industrial and international espionage. Regardless of how closely guarded organizational passwords and keys may be, security comes down to the age-old question of "Who will watch the Watchers?"

This is a tough look at security. Many companies simply are not ready to confront the "50% to 80%" statistic. Investing in hardware, software, and badge readers is easier to understand and approve than addressing people problems. Yet the hard truth is that security crosses over into Corporate Ethics, Human Resources, and Line Management.

Keeping people happy with their jobs and loyal to the company is the sunny side of corporate security. Demanding periodic drug tests and background screening of new employees is the darker side. In these difficult times of downsizing, suspended pay raises, and unpaid overtime, all levels of management must work creatively to maintain employee morale — including their own. Building high morale and loyalty in that wetware between the human ears goes a very long way towards transforming an M&M SAN into one that’s a tough nut to crack.

Feature courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet.

» See All Articles by Drew Robb

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