Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Feed Post

Amazon Compliance Confession About Customers, Not Itself

Amazon EC2 and S3 are no more or less safe than they were last week despite hype around PCI compliance admission

The recent admission / announcement that “Amazon EC2 is not PCI compliant” (this is not exactly true, but we’ll get to that later) has set off a rush of blogs, articles, and tweets that say, in effect, EC2 is no longer “safe”. But a lack of compliance does not make Amazon any more less safe than achieving PCI compliance makes a site more safe.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, I submit as proof the admission of Heartland CEO Robert Carr that even though their “site” and “systems” were designated as PCI compliant, still they were attacked, breached, and the subject of ridicule and scorn for months in the press and security-focused blogosphere.

imagePCI compliance doesn't mean secure. We and others were declared PCI compliant shortly before the intrusions.” – Heartland CEO Robert Carr in an interview with Bill Brenner, Senior Editor, CSO Online

PCI compliance doesn’t automatically make a site safe. Lack of PCI compliance doesn’t make EC2 unsafe, either. It means it isn’t compliant with the policies designated by the PCI council for handling credit card transactions and sensitive data.  And, if we look past the hand-waving, we’ll find that Amazon admits you can’t build a PCI Level 1 compliant application using EC2 and S3, but you can build a PCI Level 2 compliant application.

“It is possible for you to build a PCI level 2 compliant app in our AWS cloud using EC2 and S3, but you cannot achieve level 1 compliance.”

So how does this statement translate into “OMG! Amazon is unsafe!”? This is clearly about what the customer can and cannot do, not an admission of the security status of Amazon’s underlying infrastructure.

Amazon clearly states you cannot be level 1 compliant because it requires on-site auditing that they simply can’t (or won’t) allow. The inability to meet a requirement because of logistics (level 1 requires an on-site audit which Amazon states is not possible) is hardly the same as failing to meet the requirement for a firewall, or default password use. The inability to meet that one requirement is hardly reason for condemnation of Amazon’s overall security posture. Its inability for you to meet PCI compliance does not automatically mean its systems and environment are “unsafe”. Amazon points to the “on-site audit” requirement as a reason why you cannot achieve PCI Level 1 compliance. For all we know Amazon meets or exceeds every other requirement for PCI level 1 compliance that is required of a service-provider. Inferring anything about the security posture of Amazon’s internal systems from one message in a forum is simply not possible.

Furthermore, Amazon says YOU cannot build a PCI Level 1 compliant application. In other words, its announcement wasn’t an observation about the security of its systems, it was an observation regarding what you, the customer, can and cannot achieve using its systems.

In fact, in that same forum message that set off this Chicken Little episode, the Amazon representative clearly states Amazon does, in fact, meet PCI compliance standards elsewhere:

Our payment system is PCI compliant and it is an “alternative payment processing service” meaning your users re-direct to our platform to conduct the payment event using their credit cards or bank accounts. [emphasis added]

Nothing in Amazon’s “confession” implies anything about its security posture; if anything its note that its payment systems are PCI compliant means its underlying systems are as secure as any other meeting PCI compliance. Therefore there is no reason to believe that Amazon is any less safe than it was last week. In fact, the statement that you can achieve level 2 compliance means Amazon has, in fact, checked over its systems and that they will meet the requirements required for much of the PCI standard – probably the pieces that are important to assuring the security of systems.

PCI compliance is not a rubber stamp of safety. Achieving PCI compliance does not automatically confer some special safety status upon an organization. Neither does the reverse hold true; organizations that do not fall under PCI and therefore need not worry themselves about compliance with its standards are not necessarily “unsafe”.

This entire situation is a raw deal for Amazon. EC2 and S3 are no more – or less – secure than they were before this unsurprising announcement regarding PCI compliance and applications built atop its systems. The misinterpretation of its admission and its viral-like spread is little more than FUD that does more harm than good – both to Amazon and cloud computing in general.

 

Follow me on Twitter View Lori's profile on SlideShare friendfeedicon_facebook AddThis Feed Button Bookmark and Share

 

Related blogs & articles:

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Machine learning has taken residence at our cities' cores and now we can finally have "smart cities." Cities are a collection of buildings made to provide the structure and safety necessary for people to function, create and survive. Buildings are a pool of ever-changing performance data from large automated systems such as heating and cooling to the people that live and work within them. Through machine learning, buildings can optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort by ...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...