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ProfitBricks budget cloud in SECURITY FAIL

Security pro spanks upstart's floppy policies

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Startup cloud company ProfitBricks has been lashed by a security researcher for some security screw-ups discovered after it revamped its prices to undercut Amazon Web Services.

In a telephone call on Friday, ProfitBricks cofounder Andreas Gauger confirmed that the masterimage of one of his company's Linux images had been built on an internet-facing computer, and that the company was going to inspect all available OS images for any net nasties that may have crept in.

The security howlers were highlighted by Kenneth White, who told The Register on Thursday that after hearing about ProfitBricks massive price reduction earlier in the week he began investigating the cloud, and stumbled on some serious problems.

White found that the 6.3 CentOS image had apparently been built on a public internet-facing computer.

"The fact that the equivalent of a trusted 'gold master' OS image was originally built on a public-facing box is unfathomable to me," White said via email. "Imagine if you put a naked Windows XP/WIn 7 box on the internet and *then* ran Windows update, over the course of two days. Would you trust that build to hold your sensitive data?"

ProfitBricks has acknowledged the problem, and Gauger described it as a "human error." ProfitBricks is putting measures in place to make sure it doesn't happen again, he said, stating that "in the future we will enforce the security policy more".

The company is inspecting all existing images, he said. "We are going through all the images now and making sure they don't have any vulnerabilities. ... certainly we have now to go through all the images and take some time and make sure no vulnerabilities [are] in them." On Sunday, ProfitBricks confirmed in a blog post that the images were fine.

Upon further investigation, White also flagged a number of alarming (in)security measures in place on the cloud. Some of the perceived flaws include the fact ProfitBricks generates root passwords for each Linux instance and emails the password to the account owner, that there isn't a way to push public SSH keys and go password-less pre-boot, that there is no firewall in place on instances by default, and that to gain console access to the VM through the ProfitBricks GUI you need to install Java on your laptop.

"It's just madness to send passwords and to have everything enabled by default on the hostile web," White said.

These policies jar with those present in the major clouds of Google and Amazon, for example, both of which have instances start in a secure non-listening state, with the admin opening up access manually.

Both companies also use keys rather than passwords which is far, far more secure. This means Amazon never need create or send a password to an admin, and instead through the use of key pairs an instance can be secured with risk distributed across both Amazon and the admin.

"On the other side here – for SSH, I think we can change this as soon as possible," Gauger said. "We are working on a signup process anyway right now. I hope we can get this into this project."

In the blog post on Sunday, ProfitBricks confirmed that moving to a private-public key pair is scheduled for a September 2013 release. However, the title of the post – "ProfitBricks and Transparency" – rather neatly leaves out any words likely to get a security-conscious admin to click, or indeed draw any kind of attention at all. ®

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