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Corporate Security Blog

Securing the Oracle Cloud

Eran Feigenbaum
CSO, Oracle Cloud

Greetings from sunny Seattle! My name is Eran Feigenbaum and I am the Chief Information Security Officer for the Oracle Cloud. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) is what we call a Gen2 cloud, a fundamentally re-designed public cloud, architected for superior customer isolation and enterprise application performance than the cloud designs of ten years past. OCI is the platform for Autonomous Data Warehouse and Autonomous Transaction Processing  and, in short order, for all Oracle applications  (see Oracle CEO Mark Hurd on moving NetSuite to the Oracle Cloud),.  This is my inaugural post on our relaunched corporate security blog (thank you Mary Ann) and I’m thrilled to begin a substantive discussion with you about public cloud security. But first things first, with this blog I will describe how my group is organized and functions to protect the infrastructure for the literally thousands of applications and services moving to and continuously being developed on Oracle OCI.

My journey to Oracle was paved on over two decades-worth of experience in security. I was lucky to experience the cloud evolution from all sides in my various roles as pen tester, architect, cloud provider and cloud customer. Certainly, the core set of learnings came from nearly a decade of leading security for what is now Google Cloud. This was during a time when cloud business models were very much in their infancy, as were the protection mechanisms for customer isolation. Later, I would understand the challenges differently as the CISO of an e-commerce venture. Jet.com was a cloud-native business, so while we had no physical data centers, I understood well the limitations of first-generation cloud designs in dealing with cloud-borne threats and data protection requirements. So, when it came to joining OCI, the decision was an easy one. In its Gen2 offering, I saw that Oracle was building the future of enterprise cloud; a place where “enterprise-grade” had meaningful payoff in architecture choices like isolated network virtualization to control threat proliferation and as importantly, DevSecOps was foundational to OCI, not a transformation challenge. What security leader would not want to be a part of that?

OCI distinguishes itself among cloud providers for having predictable performance and a security-first design, so most of our customers are organizations with high sensitivity to data and information protection. They are building high performance computing applications, and that includes our Oracle internal customers, so security must be continuous, ubiquitous, agile and above all scalable. By extension then, the OCI Security Group is in many ways the modern Security Operations Center (SOC). Our job is to enable the continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline.

In building the team, I aimed at three main goals: 1) build a complete organization that could address not only detection and response but proactively ensure the security of services developed and deployed on OCI, 2) create a culture and operating practice of frequent communication and metrics sharing among teams to ensure continuous goal evaluation and 3) align with the practices that Oracle’s corporate security teams had set and refined over four decades of protecting customers’ most sensitive data.

To that end the Chief Security Office at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) consists of six (6) teams. Between these six (6) teams, the OCI Security Group provides a comprehensive and proactive set of security services, technologies, guidance, and processes that ensure a good security posture and address security risks.

  • Security Assurance: Works collaboratively with the security teams and stakeholders throughout Oracle to drive the development and deployment of security controls, technologies, processes, and guidance for those building on OCI.
  • Product Security: This team really examines and evolves the OCI architecture, both hardware and software/services, to ensure we are taking advantage of innovations and making those changes that enhance our security posture.
  • Offensive Security: The work of this team is really to understand and emulate the methods of bad actors. Some of the work involves research, penetration testing and simulating advanced threats, against our hardware and software. All work is about strengthening our architecture and defensive capability.
  • Defensive Security: These are really the first responders of cloud security. They work proactively to spot weaknesses and in the event of incidents, work to remediate them within the shortest possible window.
  • Security Automation Services: We know that automation is fundamental to scaling but it is also key to shortening detection and response time. The team aggregates and correlates information about risks and methods to develop visualizations and tools that expedite risk reduction.
  • Security Go-To-Market: One of the most common requests of me is to share information on our security architecture, methods, tooling and best practices. Our internal and external customers want reference architectures and information on how to benefit from our experience. Having this function as part of the group gives the team access to ground truth and aligns with a core value to “put customers first”.

While the team organization is set up for completeness of function in service to the CI/CD pipeline, the key to achieving continuous security and security improvement is how well all members operate as a unit. I think of each team as being essential to the others. Each area generates intelligence that informs the other units and propels them in a kind of virtuous cycle with security automation enabling accelerated revolutions through this cycle.

Figure 1: The OCI Security Group: Functionally interdependent and mission aligned

As Oracle engineers, for instance, plan for the re-homing or development of new applications and services on OCI, our security architecture works with them. Throughout the drawing board and design phases, we advise on best practices, compliance considerations, tooling and what the process for continuous security will look like during the integration and deployment phases. Security assurance personnel, experts in code review best practices, give guidance and create awareness about the benefits of a security mindset for code development. At time of implementation and execution, the offensive security team conducts tests looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities which will be surfaced both to the development teams as well as to our defensive security teams for both near term and long-term strategic remediation. This process is continuous as changes and updates can quickly alter the security posture of an environment or an application, so our aim is rapid response and most importantly refining practices and processes that will reduce the risk from those same vulnerabilities for the long term. This latter includes continuous security awareness training so that a security mindset is the cultural norm even as we scale and grow at a rapid pace.

Agility and scale in security are an imperative for a cloud operator, especially one at Oracle’s size and scope which attracts the most security sensitive businesses, governments and organizations. Our approach to security automation applies to nearly every activity and process of OCI security. We observe that which can be replicated and actioned either without human intervention or through self service mechanisms. Automation provides innovations and tooling that help not only our OCI security group but internal security stakeholders and even customers. Through visibility and self-service mechanisms, we make developers and service owners part of the OCI security mission and consequently improve our ability to maintain consistent security.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that key to security effectiveness is not only an organizational structure built for the modern cloud but also security functional areas that are interdependent and in constant communication. One of the best ways that I have found to do this in my career managing large teams is through the Objective and Key Results (OKR) process. Similar, to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), OKRs enable measurement of success or failure, but unlike KPIs, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) encourage leaders, teams and contributors to make big bets, stretch beyond what seems merely achievable toward what can be revolutionary. In his seminal book Measure What Matters (of which I talk about to anyone who will listen), John Doerr outlines the structure by which agile enterprises stay aligned to mission even as they adjust to account for changes in business conditions. The key results will confirm if the direction is correct or needs adjusting. The teams of the OCI Security group stay aligned and informed by one another through the OKR system. The focus on cross communication, deduplication and realignment give us visibility to the incremental improvements and successes.

With this description of the OCI Security Group, I’ve given you some insights to how we secure the industry’s most technically advanced public cloud. Over the next months, I am eager to delve deeper on the architecture choices and innovations that set us apart. Let the journey of getting to know OCI security begin!