Tuesday Aug 25, 2009

NEW: Immutable Service Container Podcast

Things have certainly been busy around here lately! Over the last two months, we have announced the Immutable Service Container project, published an OpenSolaris-based ISC Construction Kit (Preview) and a corresponding pre-configured OVF image, shared a number of network architecture and autonomic security models leveraging the ISC concept, and even published an ISC Technical Overview presentation. Well, as it turns out, we are not done yet!

A few weeks back, I received an invitation from Marianne Salciccia to record an Innovation@Sun interview with Hal Stern (Distinguished Engineer and VP, Global Systems Engineering) where we would talk about Immutable Service Containers. I am happy to say that as of yesterday, the podcast is live!

Hal and I had a great chat where we discussed topics such as:

  • micro-virtualization: how adding a thin management layer between the hypervisor and the service lends reliability to security enforcement and monitoring controls
  • how "immutable" Immutable Service Containers are
  • how ISCs implement defense in depth measures
  • current implementations with Solaris and OpenSolaris
  • what's next for ISCs, including building core concepts into projects such as OpenSolaris on EC2, OpenSolaris Just Enough OS (JeOS); potential VirtualBox implementations; and integration of autonomic security techniques

If these topics sound interesting, please give the podcast a listen and let us know what you think! Work continues on the ISC architectural strategies and implementation models, so this is a great time to share your ideas, concerns, and requirements.

Hope to hear from you soon! Take care!

Technorati Tag:

Friday Aug 14, 2009

NEW: Security Enhanced OpenSolaris 2009.06 on Amazon EC2

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the availability of security enhanced OpenSolaris 2009.06 on Amazon EC2! This release builds upon the work previously completed for the hardened OpenSolaris 2008.11 images as well as recent advances from the Immutable Service Container project. The end result is a OpenSolaris 2009.06 virtual machine image that is hardened, leverages a non-executable stack, encrypted swap as well as auditing enabled and pre-configured to record administrative events, logins, logouts, and all command executions. Just as with the OpenSolaris 2008.11 images, the hardening configuration of these new images complies with the recommendations published by Sun, the Center for Internet Security as well as the U.S. National Security Agency. This really cool thing is that they are all have the exact same guidance! I wonder how that happened?

Want to give it a spin? Check out the release announcement for more details. The AMI identifier is ami-e56e8f8c! Please send us your feedback!

As always, this work would not have been possible without the extensive support of the OpenSolaris on EC2 team. You are the greatest! Thank you so much for all of your help and support in making these images a reality!

Technorati Tag:

Thursday Jul 09, 2009

Encrypted ZFS using Amazon EBS and OpenSolaris 2009.06

Recently, I had the pleasure of exchanging e-mail with István Soós who had contacted our OpenSolaris on EC2 team asking how he could use OpenSolaris along with Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Elastic Block Stores (EBS) to create a subversion-based source code control system. Sounds simple, right? Well, István threw us a curve ball. He wanted the revision control system to run on OpenSolaris and be stored on an encrypted, mirrored ZFS file system backed by EBS. Now, you have to admit, that is pretty cool!

This is the point in the story where István met. After going over the requirements, it appeared as though the encrypted scratch space work that had been done for the Immutable Service Container project was a near fit except that persistence was needed. So, I provided István with links to this work which of course linked to Darren's original article on ZFS encryption using LOFI. Just a day later, István replied that his environment was up and running! Talk about speed and agility in the Cloud Computing world!

I would definitely encourage you to check out all of the details on István's blog. I especially want to thank István for sharing this great article that I hope will encourage others to try new things and keep pushing the OpenSolaris envelope forward!

Take care!

Technorati Tag:

Tuesday Jul 07, 2009

Immutable Service Containers Updates

In my last post, I discussed the Immutable Service Container project and announced the availability of an ISC Construction Kit to automate the creation of OpenSolaris-based ISCs.

Today, I wanted to provide a few updates. Specifically, I would like to announce:

  • a new Immutable Service Container presentation (ODP, PDF) that provides a technical overview of the ISC approach, design goals, and the OpenSolaris implementation available today.
  • an updated Private Virtual Network architecture page highlighting additional network topologies that implement different network isolation strategies. These are a few of the models that are being considered for future ISC Construction Kit updates.
  • an updated Autonomic security architecture page that provides a number of use cases showing ISCs as an essential building block for these kinds of architectures.

Additional architectural content is in development and as always I am very interested in your feedback and ideas.

Take care!

Technorati Tag:

Wednesday Jul 01, 2009

NEW: OpenSolaris Immutable Service Containers

While the need for security and integrity is well-recognized, it is less often well-implemented. Security assessments and industry reports regularly show how sporadic and inconsistent security configurations become for organizations both large and small. Published recommended security practices and settings remain unused in many environments and existing, once secured, deployments suffer from atrophy due to neglect.

Why is this? There is no one answer. Some organizations are simply unaware of the security recommendations, tools, and techniques available to them. Others lack the necessary skill and experience to implement the guidance and maintain secured configurations. It is not uncommon for these organizations to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of recommendations, settings and options. Still others may feel that security is not an issue in their environment. The list goes on and on, yet the need for security and integrity has never been more important.

Interestingly, the evolution and convergence of technology is cultivating new ideas and solutions to help organizations better protect their services and data. One such idea is being demonstrated by the Immutable Service Container (ISC) project. Immutable Service Containers are an architectural deployment pattern used to describe a platform for highly secure service delivery. Building upon concepts and functionality enabled by operating systems, hypervisors, virtualization, and networking, ISCs provide a secured container into which a service or set of services is deployed. Each ISC embodies at its core the key principles inherent in the Sun Systemic Security framework including: self-preservation, defense in depth, least privilege, compartmentalization and proportionality. Further, ISC design borrows from Cloud Computing principles such as service abstraction, micro-virtualization, automation, and "fail in place".

By designing service delivery platforms using the Immutable Service Containers mode, a number of significant security benefits:

  • For application owners:
    • ISCs help to protect applications and services from tampering
    • ISCs provide a consistent set of security interfaces and resources for applications and services to use
  • For system administrators:
    • ISCs isolate services from one another to avoid contamination
    • ISCs separate service delivery from security enforcement/monitoring
    • ISCs can be (mostly) pre-configured by security experts
  • For IT managers:
    • ISCs creation can be automated, pre-integrating security functionality making them faster and easier to build and deploy
    • ISCs leverage industry accepted security practices making them easier to audit and support

It is expected that Immutable Service Containers will form the most basic architectural building block for more complex, highly dynamic and autonomic architectures. The goal of the ISC project is to more fully describe the architecture and attributes of ISCs, their inherent benefits, their construction as well as to document practical examples using various software applications.

While the notion of ISCs is not based upon any one product or technology, an instantiation has been recently developed using OpenSolaris 2009.06. This instantiation offers a pre-integrated configuration leveraging OpenSolaris security recommended practices and settings. With ISCs, you are not starting from a blank slate, but rather you can now build upon the security expertise of others. Let's look at the OpenSolaris-based ISC more closely.

In an ISC configuration, the global zone is treated as a system controller and exposed services are deployed (only) into their own non-global zones. From a networking perspective, however, the entire environment is viewed as a single entity (one IP address) where the global zone acts as a security monitoring and arbitration point for all of the services running in non-global zones.

As a foundation, this highly optimized environment is pre-configured with:

Further, the default OpenSolaris ISC uses:

  • Non-Global Zone. Exposed services are deployed in a non-global zone. There they can take advantage of the core security benefits enabled by OpenSolaris non-global zones such as restricted access to the kernel, memory, devices, etc. For more information on non-global zone security capabilities, see the Sun BluePrint titled "Understanding the Security Capabilities of Solaris Zones Software". Using a fresh ISC, you can simply install your service into the provided non -global zone as you normally would.

    Further in the ISC model, each non-global zone has its own encrypted scratch space (w/its own ephemeral key), its own persistent storage location, as well as a pre-configured auditing and networking configuration that matches that of the global zone. You do not need to use the encrypted scratch space or persistent storage, but it is there if you want to take advantage of it. Obviously, additional resource controls (CPU, memory, etc.) can be added as necessary. These are not pre-configured due to the variability of service payloads.

  • Solaris Auditing. A default audit policy is implemented in the global zone and all non-global zones that tracks login and logout events, administrative events as well as all commands (and command line arguments) executed on the system. The audit configuration and audit trail are kept in the global zone where they cannot be accessed by any of the non-global zones. The audit trail is also pre-configure d to be delivered by SYSLOG (by default this information is captured in /var/log/auditlog).
  • Private Virtual Network. A private virtual network is configured by default for all of the non-global zones. This network isolates each non-global zone to its own virtual NIC. By default, the global and non-global zones can freely initiate external communications, although this can be restricted if needed. A non-global zone is not permitted to accept connections, by default. Non-global zone service s can be exposed through the global zone IP address by adjusting the IP Filter and IP NAT policies (below).
  • Solaris IP NAT. Each non-global zone is pre-configured to have a private address assigned to its virtual NIC. To allow the non -global zone to communicate with external systems and networks, an IP NAT policy is implemented. Outgoing connections are masked using the IP address of the global zone. Incoming connections are redirected based upon the port used to communicate. Beyond simple hardening of the non-global zone (a state which can be altered from within the non-global zone itself), this mechanism ensures that the global zone can control which services are exposed by the non-global zone and on which ports.
  • Solaris IP Filter. A default packet filtering policy is implemented in the global zone allowing only DHCP (for the exposed network interface) and SSH (to the global zone). Additional rules are available (but disabled) to allow access to non-global zones on an as-needed basis. Further, rules are implemented to deny external access to any non-global zone that has changed its pre-assigned (private) IP address. Packet filtering is pre-configured to log packets to SYSLOG (by default this information is captured in /var/log/ipflog).

So what does all of this really mean? Using the ISC model, you can deploy your services in a micro-virtualized environment that offers protection against kernel-based root kits (and some forms of user-land root kits), offers flexible file system immutability (based upon read-only file systems mounted into the non-global zone), can take advantage of process least privilege and resource controls, and is operated in a hardened environment where there is a packet filtering, NAT and auditing policy that is effectively out of the reach of the deployed service. This means that should a service be compromised in a non-global zone, it will not be able to impact the integrity or validity of the auditing, packet filtering, and NAT configuration or logs. While you may not be able to stop every form of attack, having reliable audit trails can significantly help to determine the extent of the breach and facilitate recovery.

The following diagram puts all of the pieces together:

Additional private virtual networking models are also being considered. All in all, the ISC model offers a very compelling deployment model. The accessiblity and attractiveness of this model is further enhanced by the availability of an ISC construction kit that allows you to take an OpenSolaris 2009.06 system and convert it to the ISC model with a single command. Sound interesting? Give it a try, come join the project and be sure to send along your feedback !

Technorati Tag:


This area of cyberspace is dedicated the goal of raising cybersecurity awareness. This blog will discuss cybersecurity risks, trends, news and best practices with a focus on improving mission assurance.


« October 2015