Addressing privacy and security issues for data processing in the cloud



Author: Andrey Brito, Luigi Romano, Stefan Köpsell & Christof Fetzer
Focus Area: Trustworthy cloud platforms and services


Who stands to benefit and how : 

Developers of applications will have access to services that provide integrity and confidentiality guarantees for both storage and processing of sensitive data. Cloud providers, either IaaS, PaaS or SaaS, will be able to offer services that are more robust against attack aiming to steal confidential data.

Position Paper: 

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability of applications and their data are of immediate concern to almost all organisations that use cloud computing. This is particularly true for organisations that must comply with strict confidentiality, availability and integrity policies, including those which process personal data and those supporting society’s most critical infrastructures, such as finance, utilities, health care and smart grids. Critical infrastructure operators have legitimate concerns about the dependability of applications hosted in third-party clouds: cloud providers are already struggling to give strong security guarantees that data will be protected. This already limits security guarantees regarding confidentiality, integrity, and availability. The lack of adequate dependability, however, is increasingly becoming the primary barrier to the broad adoption of cloud computing, not only in the critical infrastructure domain but also in all domains in which the survival of a company depends on the reliability of the cloud. Hence, the cloud becomes itself a critical infrastructure for which we need to guarantee sufficient dependability such that we can justifiably place our trust in the hosted applications.

The SecureCloud project aims to remove technical impediments to dependable cloud computing, i.e., SecureCloud will ensure the confidentiality, integrity, availability and security of applications and their data. Thereby, SecureCloud encourages and enable a greater uptake of cost-effective, environment-friendly, and innovative cloud solutions, in particular, for critical infrastructure applications throughout Europe and Brazil. Secure storage of sensitive data in untrusted clouds is widely regarded as a solved problem. However, the secure and efficient processing of sensitive data in untrusted cloud is an open issue for secure cloud computing. The innovative approach to cloud dependability pursued in the SecureCloud project leverages the emergence of a new and promising technology—secure commodity CPUs—which promises to enable a new generation of dependable applications by basing trust in hardware mechanisms offered by commodity CPUs, in particular, Intel’s Secure Guard eXtensions (SGX). This permits applications to be isolated not only from other applications in the cloud but also from the underlying operating system and the hypervisor. It allows users to run their sensitive applications in a public cloud without the need to unconditionally trust the cloud provider.

The innovations that we envision within SecureCloud are challenging to attain but, if successful, will help place Europe and Brazil at the forefront of dependable cloud operations. Concretely, we distil our goals for the project into the following four objectives:

  1. Substantially improve the state-of-the-art in cloud dependability for critical applications by developing innovative and effective mechanisms to enforce dependability, i.e., security, covering integrity and confidentiality, as well as availability and reliability;
  2. Seamlessly integrate the new dependability features into a standard cloud stack to encourage easy migration of critical (as well as non-critical) applications to the cloud without compromising application dependability;
  3. Convincingly validate and demonstrate the benefits of our approach by applying it to realistic and demanding big data use cases in the domain of critical infrastructures (smart grids); and
  4. Widely promote and disseminate the innovative outcomes of this project by influencing the standards and best practices that will lead to broad adoption by European and Brazilian industry.