Mudassar Aslam will defend his doctoral thesis on Sept 5th

25 August, 2014 - 10:52

Thesis: Bringing visibility in the Clouds using Security, Transparency and Assurance services

The public defense of Mudassar Aslams doctoral thesis in Computer Science and Engineering will take place at Mälardalen university Västerås Campus, room Kappa, at 10.00 on September 5, 2014. Everybody welcome!

The faculty examiner is Professor Chris Mitchell, Royal Holloway University of London; and the examining committee consists of Professor Simone Fischer-Hübner, Karlstad University; Associate Professor Andrew Martin, University of Oxford; Reader Martin Hell; Lund University Faculty of Engineering. Reserve; Professor Mikael Sjödin, MDH.


This thesis focuses on improving the transparency services (through proving platform security) for public infrastructure clouds to make them trustworthy for many potential cloud users, thereby bringing visibility in the clouds.

The evolution of cloud computing allows the provisioning of IT resources over the Internet and promises many benefits for both - the service users and providers. Despite various benefits offered by cloud based services, many users hesitate in moving their IT systems to the cloud mainly due to many new security problems introduced by cloud environments. In fact, the characteristics of cloud computing become basis of new problems, for example, support of third party hosting introduces loss of user control on the  hardware; similarly, on-demand availability requires reliance on complex and possibly insecure API interfaces; seamless scalability relies on the use of sub-providers; global access over public Internet exposes to broader attack surface; and use of shared resources for better resource utilization introduces isolation problems in a multi-tenant environment. These new security issues in addition to existing security challenges (that exist in today's classic IT environments) become major reasons for the lack of user trust in cloud based services categorized in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

The focus of this thesis is on IaaS model which allows users to lease IT resources (e.g. computing power, memory, storage, etc.) from a public cloud to create Virtual Machine (VM) instances. The public cloud deployment model considered in this thesis exhibits most elasticity (i.e. degree of freedom to lease/release IT resources according to user demand) but is least secure as compared to private or hybrid models. As a result, public clouds are not trusted for many use cases which involve processing of security critical data such as health records, financial data, government data, etc. However, public IaaS clouds can also be made trustworthy and viable for these use cases by providing better transparency and security assurance services for the user. In this thesis, we consider such assurance services and identify security aspects which are important for making public clouds trustworthy. Based upon our findings, we propose solutions which promise to improve cloud transparency thereby realizing trustworthy clouds.

The solutions presented in this thesis mainly deal with the secure life cycle management of the user VM which include protocols and their implementation for secure VM launch and migration. The VM launch and migration solutions ensure that the user VM is always hosted on correct cloud platforms which are setup according to a profile that fulfills the use case relevant security requirements. This is done by using an automated platform security audit and certification mechanism which uses trusted computing and security automation techniques in an integrated solution. In addition to provide the assurance about the cloud platforms, we also propose a solution which provides assurance about the placement of user data in correct and approved geographical locations which is critical from many legal aspects and usually an important requirement of the user. Finally, the assurance solutions provided in this thesis increase cloud transparency which is important for user trust and to realize trustworthy clouds.

Link to Mudassar Aslams thesis: "Bringing visibility in the Clouds using Security, Transparency and Assurance":