MIT developing 'self-healing' clouds to enhance security

June 29, 2012

With data security in cloud computing still a divisive issue for many technology experts, any form of data protection is looked at with a hopeful eye. One new ambitious effort comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where researchers are seeking to build "self-healing" clouds, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The goal is for the cloud to heal, since criminals, cybercriminals are getting better at beating defenses nearly as fast a security teams can put them in place. This makes it hard to truly guarantee secure cloud computing, or any other system for that matter, but security can make it as hard as possible to be broken.

"The analogy most people give is having a lock on your door," MIT researcher Stelios Sidiroglou-Douskos, who is working on the self-healing cloud project, told AFP. "It's not a guarantee no one will break in, but it's a question of how much time it will take, and if your lock is better than your neighbor's."

Self-healing
Security concerns over a rash of data breaches are behind the need for a self-healing cloud, Sidiroglou-Douskos told AFP. Among them, high-profile information thefts from Sony and Google stood out as warning signed. Instead of working to develop another security defense on the outside - high-level security controls can already be put in place - MIT is seeking to develop government-funded technology to heal the breaches from the outside in.

"You can have better defenses [in the cloud,] but if an attack happens, it's highly amplified," Sidiroglou-Douskos told AFP.
The technology the researchers are working on would instead work like "human immunology," according to Sidiroglou-Douskos. Focusing on data loss prevention and building up greater security for the future.

Cloud security
Sidiroglou-Douskos and company don't believe that the cloud is unsafe, just that any system is potentially vulnerable. The cloud simply holds more important data and becomes a greater target for hacking and cyberespionage.

For some businesses, the worry about large-scale attacks might not be so great. Instead they worry about breaches and attacks on a smaller scale. It becomes more about staying ahead of the ever-changing threats.

"Cloud-based services have many benefits and one of the biggest is actually the security," managing director of Memset, Kate Craig-Wood told the Telegraph. "As a business, you need to ensure that your security systems are constantly updated and reassessed … and this is true for both the cloud and internal IT systems."

The MIT researchers see that some of the issues surrounding cloud security revolve around the diverse uses for the technology. Measures have to be able to be put into place for everything from personal email security to military-grade encryption for matters of national security.

-McAfee Cloud Security