By Orgad Kimchi on May 20, 2013
When we meet with our partners, we often ask them, “ What are their main security challenges for public cloud infrastructure.? What worries them in this regard?”
This is what we've gathered from our partners regarding the security challenges:
1. Protect data at rest in transit and in use using encryption
2. Prevent denial of service attacks against their infrastructure
3. Segregate network traffic between different cloud users
4. Disable hostile code (e.g.’ rootkit’ attacks)
5. Minimize operating system attack surface
6. Secure data deletions once we have done with our project
7. Enable strong authorization and authentication for non secure protocols
Based on these guidelines, we began to design our Oracle Developer Cloud. Our vision was to leverage Solaris 11 technologies in order to meet those security requirements.
First - Our partners would like to encrypt everything from disk up the layers to the application without the performance overhead which is usually associated with this type of technology.
The SPARC T4 (and lately the SPARC T5) integrated cryptographic accelerator allow us to encrypt data using ZFS encryption capability.
We can encrypt all the network traffic using SSL from the client connection to the cloud main portal using the Secure Global Desktop (SGD) technology and also encrypt the network traffic between the application tier to the database tier. In addition to that we can protect our Database tables using Oracle Transparent Data Encryption (TDE).
During our performance tests we saw that the performance impact was very low (less than 5%) when we enabled those encryption technologies.
The following example shows how we created an encrypted file system
# zfs create -o encryption=on rpool/zfs_file_system
Enter passphrase for 'rpool/zfs_file_system':
NOTE - In the above example, we used a passphrase that is interactively requested but we can use SSL or a key repository.
Second - How we can mitigate denial of service attacks?
The new Solaris 11 network virtualization technology allow us to apply virtualization technologies to our network by splitting the physical network card into multiple virtual network ‘cards’. in addition, it provides the capability to setup flow which is sophisticated quality of service mechanism.
Flows allow us to limit the network bandwidth for a specific network port on specific network interface.
In the following example we limit the SSL traffic to 100Mb on the vnic0 network interface
# dladm create-vnic vnic0 –l net0
# flowadm add-flow -l vnic0 -a transport=TCP,local_port=443 https-flow
# flowadm set-flowprop -p maxbw=100M https-flow
During any (Denial of Service) DOS attack against this web server, we can minimize the impact on the rest of the infrastructure.
Third - How can we isolate network traffic between different tenants of the public cloud?
The new Solaris 11 network technology allow us to segregate the network traffic on multiple layers.
For example we can limit the network traffic based on the layer two using VLANs
# dladm create-vnic -l net0 -v 2 vnic1
Also we can be implement firewall rules for layer three separations using the Solaris 11 built-in firewall software.
For an example of Solaris 11 firewall see
In addition to the firewall software, Solaris 11 has built-in load balancer and routing software. In a cloud based environment it means that new functionality can be added promptly since we don't need an extra hardware in order to implement those extra functions.
Fourth - Rootkits have become a serious threat is allowing the insertion of hostile code using custom kernel modules.
The Solaris Zones technology prevents loading or unloading kernel modules (since local zones lack the sys_config privilege).
This way we can limit the attack surface and prevent this type of attack.
In the following example we can see that even the root user is unable to load custom kernel module inside a Solaris zone
# ppriv -De modload -p /tmp/systrace
modload: missing privilege "ALL" (euid = 0, syscall = 152) needed at modctl+0x52
Insufficient privileges to load a module
Fifth - the Solaris immutable zones technology allows us to minimize the operating system attack surface
For example: disable the ability to install new IPS packages and modify file systems like /etc
We can setup Solaris immutable zones using the zonecfg command.
# zonecfg -z secure-zone
Use 'create' to begin configuring a new zone.
create: Using system default template 'SYSdefault'
zonecfg:secure-zone> set zonepath=/zones/secure-zone
zonecfg:secure-zone> set file-mac-profile=fixed-configuration
# zoneadm -z secure-zone install
We can combine the ZFS encryption and immutable zones for more examples see:
Sixth - The main challenge of building secure BIG Data solution is the lack of built-in security mechanism for authorization and authentication.
The Integrated Solaris Kerberos allows us to enable strong authorization and authentication for non-secure by default distributed systems like Apache Hadoop.
The following example demonstrates how easy it is to install and setup Kerberos infrastructure on Solaris 11
# pkg install pkg://solaris/system/security/kerberos-5
# kdcmgr -a kws/admin -r EXAMPLE.COM create master
Finally - our partners want to assure that when the projects are finished and complete, all the data is erased without the ability to recover this data by looking at the disk blocks directly bypassing the file system layer.
ZFS assured delete feature allows us to implement this kind of secure deletion.
The following example shows how we can change the ZFS wrapping key to a random data (output of /dev/random) then we unmount the file system and finally destroy it.
# zfs key -c -o keysource=raw,file:///dev/random rpool/zfs_file_system
# zfs key -u rpool/zfs_file_system
# zfs destroy rpool/zfs_file_system
In this blog entry, I covered how we can leverage the SPARC T4/T5 and the Solaris 11 features in order to build secure cloud infrastructure. Those technologies allow us to build highly protected environments without the need to invest extra budget on special hardware. They also allow us to protect our data and network traffic from various threats.
If you would like to hear more about those technologies, please join us at the next IGT cloud meet-up