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Stratsec critical of cloud security

Potential haven for botnets, study finds

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A study conducted by BAE security subsidiary Stratsec claims that cloud services aren’t doing enough to secure their instances against being used to host attacks.

The company has described a series of experiments here. Stratsec says it was able to set up botnets – it refers to them as botClouds – on all five of the cloud services it tested, and that none either raised alerts nor placed restrictions on the accounts that were originating malicious traffic.

While the study doesn’t name the cloud services it tested, El Reg would assume that all five have had a private notification by Stratsec.

The experiments were conducted by setting up accounts with various cloud providers, setting up ten cloud instances on each account, and using those instances to send malicious traffic at “victim” systems on controlled networks. Common services like HTTP, FTP and SMTP were enabled on the victims.

The cloud services were then used to fire a variety of attacks against the victims: malformed traffic, malware attacks, DoS attacks, brute-force attacks against the FTP passwords, shellcode attacks on the victims’ services, and Web application attacks (such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and path traversal).

With this setup in place, four experimental setups were tested with the victim in (a) a corporate-style environment behind an IDS and firewall; (b) on the same cloud service that hosted the attacks; (c) the victim on one cloud service suffering an attack launched from another. In the last experiment, the attack on the private network victim was extended to 48 hours to try and elicit a response from the cloud providers.

Stratsec reports that “although we were expecting responses from cloud providers”, very little happened. There were no connection resets or terminations on the traffic, nor was the malicious traffic throttled or rate limited. The attacks failed to draw a response in the form of an alert or an account suspension, and although one provider blocked FTP, SMTP and HTTP traffic by default, the experimenters only needed to use a non-standard port to continue the attacks.

Without a stronger security posture from cloud providers, the report states, their services offer a cheap, scalable, reliable, and user-friendly platform – for anyone wanting to set up a botCloud. Moreover, they note, a corporate with its own relatively mature in-house security could find itself degrading its protection by moving to the cloud. ®

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