Virtualization can be key to cloud security, RSA chief says

It can enable the kind of dynamic security that's needed, Art Coviello says

SAN FRANCISCO -- Virtualization technologies can help enable better security and control in cloud computing environments, RSA chief Art Coviello said today.

In a keynote address at the RSA Security Conference here, Coviello struck an optimistic tone on cloud security issues. While he acknowledged some of the concerns enterprises might have about moving data and applications to the cloud, he said that approaches to addressing any issues are closer than many think.

"Trust in the cloud is achievable today," Coviello said, adding that the key is to stop depending on security controls designed for physical infrastructures. Instead, companies need to be thinking about leveraging virtualization technologies to enable the enhanced security, visibility and control they want in cloud environments.

Coviello argued that security needs to be moved closer to the information and transactions it's protecting. In virtual environments, static perimeters give way to logical boundaries defined by information and transactions. As a result security needs to become logical as well.

"The IT stack is changing. Our boundaries are logical rather than physical. We can no longer depend on physical infrastructure for protection," he said.

Virtual machines by nature are designed to dynamically adjust to workloads, he said. For security to really work in those kinds of environments, the controls need to be just as dynamic. "That means building security into virtualized components and, by extension, distributing security throughout the cloud," he said.

Security policies and best practices will need to be codified and enforced via automated security management systems for the cloud, Coviello said. The emphasis should be on enabling security that is more risk-based and adaptive to evolving conditions -- and less static.

The economics and agility enabled by cloud computing are pushing a growing number of companies to adopt it, regardless of the security and control concerns they may have, he said.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, "if leveraged properly, virtualization can be a pathway to surpassing the level of control and visibility that exists today in physical environments," he said.

As part of RSA's own effort to enable this sort of security, the company has launched a service called RSA Cloud Trust Authority , Coviello said. The service will leverage virtualization tools from VMware to deliver a set of identity management and compliance monitoring services in the cloud.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

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