November / December 2013


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Special Issue on Cloud Security

Welcome to Cloud-Link!

Cloud-Link is a collaborative effort between the IEEE Cloud Computing Initiative (IEEE CCI) and the IEEE Computer Society Cloud Computing Special Technical Community (IEEE CS CC STC). The aim of Cloud-Link is to provide a collection of recently published IEEE journal/magazine articles on a popular cloud computing topic (i.e., a themed website for selected articles). The first issue is on "Cloud Security", which is one of the most important areas in cloud computing. Tentatively, the next two issues will be: "Mobile Cloud Computing" (January/February 2014) and "Big Data" (March/April 2014).

Cloud-Link has several meanings in connection with its three "link" objectives:

  • Link articles together - it provides a single web interface to allow convenient access to some recent articles on popular topics in cloud computing
  • Link to IEEE Xplore - people can access the full articles in IEEE Xplore through the article links
  • Link people together - hopefully, people who are interested in the articles can meet through social media and discuss the articles, fostering collaboration

We hope that Cloud-Link can provide various contributions  to the technical community on cloud computing. Researchers can conveniently access recent articles on popular cloud computing topics. Students can obtain good references for starting research work. People in industry and commerce can get a general overview of recent research and development activities (e.g., for planning purposes).

Articles in each Cloud-Link issue are selected collectively by an editorial team, taking into account various considerations  (e.g., variety, relevance). Note that the list of articles is not meant to be exhaustive (because, unfortunately, we cannot list all articles). However, it is hoped that the selected articles will provide a general overview and useful references for you to further explore popular areas of cloud computing. There are many other good articles (including conference papers) in IEEE Xplore, and you are encouraged to search for these articles using IEEE Xplore as well.

Cloud-Link is supported by an editorial team with enthusiastic volunteers. We would like to thank the assistant editors for their efforts and contributions. We would also like to thank IEEE CCI, IEEE CS CC STC, and everyone involved for their help and support. In particular, we would like to thank Kathy Grise for making various arrangements, Christopher Franzino for designing and supporting the website, and Christine Miyachi and Chunming Rong for giving valuable advice.

Cloud-Link is still in its infant stage. We welcome any suggestions for improvement. If you have any suggestions/comments or if you would like the editorial team to consider some good articles for the next two issues, please feel free to contact Henry Chan, Editor of Cloud-Link, at

Enjoy Cloud-Link!

Henry Chan, Victor Leung, Jens Jensen and Tomasz Wiktor Wlodarczyk
Editor and Associate Editors

Articles in this issue

An Efficient and Secure Dynamic Auditing Protocol for Data Storage in Cloud Computing

By Kan Yang and Xiaohua Jia

Published in IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, September 2013

In cloud computing, data owners host their data on cloud servers and users (data consumers) can access the data from cloud servers. Due to the data outsourcing, however, this new paradigm of data hosting service also introduces new security challenges, which requires an independent auditing service to check the data integrity in the cloud. Some existing remote integrity checking methods can only serve for static archive data and, thus, cannot be applied to the auditing service since the data in the cloud can be dynamically updated. Thus, an efficient and secure dynamic auditing protocol is desired to convince data owners that the data are correctly stored in the cloud. In this paper, we first design an auditing framework for cloud storage systems and propose an efficient and privacy-preserving auditing protocol. Then, we extend our auditing protocol to support the data dynamic operations, which is efficient and provably secure in the random oracle model. We further extend our auditing protocol to support batch auditing for both multiple owners and multiple clouds, without using any trusted organizer. The analysis and simulation results show that our proposed auditing protocols are secure and efficient, especially it reduce the computation cost of the auditor.

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NICE: Network Intrusion Detection and Countermeasure Selection in Virtual Network Systems

By Chun-Jen Chung, P. Khatkar, Tianyi Xing, Jeongkeun Lee, and Dijiang Huang

Published in IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, July/August 2013

Cloud security is one of most important issues that has attracted a lot of research and development effort in past few years. Particularly, attackers can explore vulnerabilities of a cloud system and compromise virtual machines to deploy further large-scale Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS). DDoS attacks usually involve early stage actions such as multistep exploitation, low-frequency vulnerability scanning, and compromising identified vulnerable virtual machines as zombies, and finally DDoS attacks through the compromised zombies. Within the cloud system, especially the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) clouds, the detection of zombie exploration attacks is extremely difficult. This is because cloud users may install vulnerable applications on their virtual machines. To prevent vulnerable virtual machines from being compromised in the cloud, we propose a multiphase distributed vulnerability detection, measurement, and countermeasure selection mechanism called NICE, which is built on attack graph-based analytical models and reconfigurable virtual network-based countermeasures. The proposed framework leverages OpenFlow network programming APIs to build a monitor and control plane over distributed programmable virtual switches to significantly improve attack detection and mitigate attack consequences. The system and security evaluations demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of the proposed solution.

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Security and Privacy-Enhancing Multicloud Architectures

By Jens-Matthias Bohli, Nils Gruschka, Meiko Jensen, Luigi Lo Iacono, and Ninja Marnau

Published in IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, July-August 2013

Security challenges are still among the biggest obstacles when considering the adoption of cloud services. This triggered a lot of research activities, resulting in a quantity of proposals targeting the various cloud security threats. Alongside with these security issues, the cloud paradigm comes with a new set of unique features, which open the path toward novel security approaches, techniques, and architectures. This paper provides a survey on the achievable security merits by making use of multiple distinct clouds simultaneously. Various distinct architectures are introduced and discussed according to their security and privacy capabilities and prospects.

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Performance of Virtual Machines Under Networked Denial of Service Attacks: Experiments and Analysis

By R. Shea, and J. C. Liu

Published in IEEE Systems Journal, June 2013

The use of virtual machines (VMs) to provide computational infrastructure and services to organizations is increasingly prevalent in the modern IT industry. The growing use of this technology has been driven by a desire to increase utilization of resources through server consolidation. Virtualization has also made the dream of such utility computing platforms as cloud computing a reality. Today, virtualization technologies can be found in almost every data center. However, it remains unknown whether the VMs are more vulnerable on external malicious attacks. If so, to what extent their performance degrades, and which virtualization technique has the closest to native performance? To this end, we devised a representative set of experiments to examine the performance of most typical virtualization techniques under typical denial-of-service(DoS) attacks. We show that, on a DoS attack, the performance of a web server hosted in a VM can degrade by up to 23%, while that of a non virtualized server hosted on the same hardware degrades by only 8%. Even with relatively light attacks, the file system and memory access performance of hypervisor-based virtualization degrades at a much higher rate than their non virtualized counterparts. We further examine the root causes of such degradation and our results shed new lights in enhancing the robustness and security of modern virtualization systems.

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Secure Logging as a Service—Delegating Log Management to the Cloud

By Indrajit Ray, Kirill Belyaev, Mikhail Strizhov, Dieudonne Mulamba, and Mariappan Rajaram

Published in IEEE Systems Journal, June 2013

Securely maintaining log records over extended periods of time is very important to the proper functioning of any organization. Integrity of the log files and that of the logging process need to be ensured at all times. In addition, as log files often contain sensitive information, confidentiality and privacy of log records are equally important. However, deploying a secure logging infrastructure involves substantial capital expenses that many organizations may find overwhelming. Delegating log management to the cloud appears to be a viable cost saving measure. In this paper, we identify the challenges for a secure cloud-based log management service and propose a framework for doing the same.

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Security and Privacy in Cloud Computing

By Zhifeng Xiao and Yang Xiao

Published in IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials, Second Quarter 2013

Recent advances have given rise to the popularity and success of cloud computing. However, when outsourcing the data and business application to a third party causes the security and privacy issues to become a critical concern. Throughout the study at hand, the authors obtain a common goal to provide a comprehensive review of the existing security and privacy issues in cloud environments. We have identified five most representative security and privacy attributes (i.e., confidentiality, integrity, availability, accountability, and privacy-preservability). Beginning with these attributes, we present the relationships among them, the vulnerabilities that may be exploited by attackers, the threat models, as well as existing defense strategies in a cloud scenario. Future research directions are previously determined for each attribute.

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Dynamic Audit Services for Outsourced Storages in Clouds

By Yan Zhu, Gail-Joon Ahn, Hongxin Hu, Stephen S. Yau, Ho G. An, and Chang-Jun Hu

Published in IEEE Transactions on Services Computing, April-June 2013

In this paper, we propose a dynamic audit service for verifying the integrity of an untrusted and outsourced storage. Our audit service is constructed based on the techniques, fragment structure, random sampling, and index-hash table, supporting provable updates to outsourced data and timely anomaly detection. In addition, we propose a method based on probabilistic query and periodic verification for improving the performance of audit services. Our experimental results not only validate the effectiveness of our approaches, but also show our audit system verifies the integrity with lower computation overhead and requiring less extra storage for audit metadata.

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The Insecurity of Cloud Utility Models

By Joseph Idziorek, Mark F. Tannian, and Doug Jacobson

Published in IT Professional, March-April 2013

Cloud-based services are vulnerable to attacks that seek to exploit the pay-as-you-go pricing model. A botnet could perform fraudulent resource consumption (FRC) by consuming the bandwidth of Web-based services, thereby increasing the cloud consumer's financial burden.

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Security Challenges in Vehicular Cloud Computing

By Gongjun Yan, Ding Wen, S. Olariu, and M. C. Weigle

Published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, March 2013

In a series of recent papers, Prof. Olariu and his co-workers have promoted the vision of vehicular clouds (VCs), a nontrivial extension, along several dimensions, of conventional cloud computing. In a VC, underutilized vehicular resources including computing power, storage, and Internet connectivity can be shared between drivers or rented out over the Internet to various customers. Clearly, if the VC concept is to see a wide adoption and to have significant societal impact, security and privacy issues need to be addressed. The main contribution of this work is to identify and analyze a number of security challenges and potential privacy threats in VCs. Although security issues have received attention in cloud computing and vehicular networks, we identify security challenges that are specific to VCs, e.g., challenges of authentication of high-mobility vehicles, scalability and single interface, tangled identities and locations, and the complexity of establishing trust relationships among multiple players caused by intermittent short-range communications. Additionally, we provide a security scheme that addresses several of the challenges discussed.

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Visualization Framework for Inter-domain Access Control Policy Integration

By PAN Li, LIU Ning, and ZI Xiaochao

Published in China Communications, March 2013

The rapid increase in resource sharing across domains in the cloud computing environment makes the task of managing inter-domain access control policy integration difficult for the security administrators. Although a number of policy integration and security analysis mechanisms have been developed, few focus on enabling the average administrator by providing an intuitive cognitive sense about the integrated policies, which considerably undermines the usability factor. In this paper we propose a visualization framework for inter-domain access control policy integration, which integrates Role Based Access Control (RBAC) policies on the basis of role-mapping and then visualizes the integrated result. The role mapping algorithm in the framework considers the hybrid role hierarchy. It can not only satisfy the security constraints of non-cyclic inheritance and separation of duty but also make visualization easier. The framework uses role-permission trees and semantic substrates to visualize the integrated policies. Through the interactive policy query visualization, the average administrator can gain an intuitive understanding of the policy integration result.

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Collaboration in Multicloud Computing Environments: Framework and Security Issues

By Mukesh Singhal, Santosh Chandrasekhar, Tingjian Ge, Ravi Sandhu, Ram Krishnan, Gail-Joon Ahn, and Elisa Bertino

Published in Computer, February 2013

A proposed proxy-based multicloud computing framework allows dynamic, on-the-fly collaborations and resource sharing among cloud-based services, addressing trust, policy, and privacy issues without pre-established collaboration agreements or standardized interfaces.

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Privacy-Preserving Public Auditing for Secure Cloud Storage

By Cong Wang, Sherman S.M. Chow, Qian Wang, Kui Ren, and Wenjing Lou

Published in IEEE Transactions on Computers, February 2013

Using cloud storage, users can remotely store their data and enjoy the on-demand high-quality applications and services from a shared pool of configurable computing resources, without the burden of local data storage and maintenance. However, the fact that users no longer have physical possession of the outsourced data makes the data integrity protection in cloud computing a formidable task, especially for users with constrained computing resources. Moreover, users should be able to just use the cloud storage as if it is local, without worrying about the need to verify its integrity. Thus, enabling public auditability for cloud storage is of critical importance so that users can resort to a third-party auditor (TPA) to check the integrity of outsourced data and be worry free. To securely introduce an effective TPA, the auditing process should bring in no new vulnerabilities toward user data privacy, and introduce no additional online burden to user. In this paper, we propose a secure cloud storage system supporting privacy-preserving public auditing. We further extend our result to enable the TPA to perform audits for multiple users simultaneously and efficiently. Extensive security and performance analysis show the proposed schemes are provably secure and highly efficient. Our preliminary experiment conducted on Amazon EC2 instance further demonstrates the fast performance of the design.

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Using Cloud Computing to Implement a Security Overlay Network

By K. Salah, J. M. Alcaraz Calero, S. Zeadally, S. Al-Mulla, and M. Alzaabi

Published in IEEE Security and Privacy, January/February 2013

This article proposes and analyzes a general cloud-based security overlay network that can be used as a transparent overlay network to provide services such as intrusion detection systems, antivirus and antispam software, and distributed denial-of-service prevention. The authors analyze each of these in-cloud security services in terms of resiliency, effectiveness, performance, flexibility, control, and cost.

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Secure Overlay Cloud Storage with Access Control and Assured Deletion

By Yang Tang, P.P.C. Lee, J.C.S. Lui and R. Perlman

Published in IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, November/December 2012

We can now outsource data backups off-site to third-party cloud storage services so as to reduce data management costs. However, we must provide security guarantees for the outsourced data, which is now maintained by third parties. We design and implement FADE, a secure overlay cloud storage system that achieves fine-grained, policy-based access control and file assured deletion. It associates outsourced files with file access policies, and assuredly deletes files to make them unrecoverable to anyone upon revocations of file access policies. To achieve such security goals, FADE is built upon a set of cryptographic key operations that are self-maintained by a quorum of key managers that are independent of third-party clouds. In particular, FADE acts as an overlay system that works seamlessly atop today's cloud storage services. We implement a proof-of-concept prototype of FADE atop Amazon S3, one of today's cloud storage services. We conduct extensive empirical studies, and demonstrate that FADE provides security protection for outsourced data, while introducing only minimal performance and monetary cost overhead. Our work provides insights of how to incorporate value-added security features into today's cloud storage services.

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A Trusted Virtual Machine in an Untrusted Management Environment

By Chunxiao Li, Anand Raghunathan, and Niraj K. Jha

Published in IEEE Transactions on Services Computing, Fourth Quarter 2012

Virtualization is a rapidly evolving technology that can be used to provide a range of benefits to computing systems, including improved resource utilization, software portability, and reliability. Virtualization also has the potential to enhance security by providing isolated execution environments for different applications that require different levels of security. For security-critical applications, it is highly desirable to have a small trusted computing base (TCB), since it minimizes the surface of attacks that could jeopardize the security of the entire system. In traditional virtualization architectures, the TCB for an application includes not only the hardware and the virtual machine monitor (VMM), but also the whole management operating system (OS) that contains the device drivers and virtual machine (VM) management functionality. For many applications, it is not acceptable to trust this management OS, due to its large code base and abundance of vulnerabilities. For example, consider the "computing-as-a-service” scenario where remote users execute a guest OS and applications inside a VM on a remote computing platform. It would be preferable for many users to utilize such a computing service without being forced to trust the management OS on the remote platform. In this paper, we address the problem of providing a secure execution environment on a virtualized computing platform under the assumption of an untrusted management OS. We propose a secure virtualization architecture that provides a secure runtime environment, network interface, and secondary storage for a guest VM. The proposed architecture significantly reduces the TCB of security-critical guest VMs, leading to improved security in an untrusted management environment. We have implemented a prototype of the proposed approach using the Xen virtualization system, and demonstrated how it can be used to facilitate secure remote computing services. We evaluate the performance penalties incurred by the proposed architecture, and demonstrate that the penalties are minimal.

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