Hi, I’m Ram, your friendly Netskope data scientist. You’ll hear from me from time to time on things like our Cloud Confidence IndexTM and SkopeSightsTM, our cloud usage insights. Please contact me with questions and topics you’d like to see covered in my blog.
First off, I am a believer that nothing speaks louder than data. I have worked with data for years, am passionate about analysis, and see data as the key enabler for all aspects of business including marketing, sales, and security. In today’s competitive environment (especially in cloud security software), a strong data science team is critical to success.
Using Data to Say “Yes” to Cloud Apps
Whether they are aware of it or not, most tech-savvy people use several cloud services daily, including collaboration, backup, or email . The cloud is so seamlessly ingrained in our lives that we forget we are even using these services.
Similarly, cloud services have penetrated enterprise ecosystems. The main drivers for this are ease-of-use, service accessibility, and a zero-footprint (hardware, software) on the enterprise. Organizations use cloud apps to do everything from measure employee performance, enable payroll, automate marketing, and track sales to manage software development, test the security of websites, and back up data. Looking across all of these activities, it’s easy to see how organizations’ IP and confidential information can now be found in the cloud.
With all of the benefits of using cloud services, enterprises should be happy to take advantage of them to increase employee productivity and overall business profitability. However, enter BYOD and personal cloud services. This completely changes the equation. It drives enterprises from being happy to being paranoid, from feeling safe to feeling helpless in protecting their company secrets, and from being conscious to being unaware of what is traversing the company pipes.
Let me explain why. There are several reasons for this.
The solution for this dilemma does not lie in eliminating cloud services from the enterprise ecosystem. In fact, the solution lies in gaining incisive understanding about the cloud services and their behavior. Such an understanding can help enterprises to enable cloud services while still be able to identify problems such as malicious content downloads and data leaks. In other words, enterprises can be open to cloud services while not being fearful of the contents that are exchanged between the enterprise and cloud. The enterprise IT should be completely aware of the impact of using cloud services and hence make informed decisions.
One of the first enablers toward the goal of “gaining incisive understanding” is to comprehend the impact of using a cloud app on a company’s overall goal of security and data integrity. At Netskope, we call this the Cloud Confidence Index (or CCI for short) of a given cloud app. The CCI score is a quantitative measure that indicates the enterprise readiness of a cloud app.
CCI computation involves two steps:
The most significant effort involved in CCI computation is the collection of data for all the cloud apps that exist today. The data that we collect fall into seven different functional categories, including identity and access control, file sharing, data classification; encryption, audit and alert; certifications and compliance; and disaster recovery and business continuity. These categories are adapted by the Cloud Security Alliance’s (CSA) Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM), version 1.4. CSA’s goal is to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within cloud computing. Our data collection team at Netskope has worked tirelessly to gather data on cloud apps and to ensure that the collected data are accurate. On top of this, the team keeps track of new app features and keeping our data updated accordingly.
The first step in the CCI computation algorithm is to understand the data collected for various apps. The data Netskope has collected can be answers to different types of questions including yes/no questions, multiple choice questions, and free-form questions.
As a pre-processing step, we convert all of the questions/answers into attributes – some questions/answers result in just one attribute while others result in multiple attributes. There are several challenges here:
We address the above challenges to create attributes that have the following two properties:
The second step in our algorithm is to use these attributes to compute a CCI score. Note that irrespective of whether an attribute corresponds to compliance certification or audit logging, we give it the same value. In other words, the attributes by themselves are all weighted equally – a value of 1 for “good” and a value of -1 for “bad.” Hence we need a technique to apply weights to these attributes so that we can extract meaningful values for every aspect of the app characteristic. To do this we follow the classical approach of rewards and penalties – reward an attribute that has a positive impact on the app behavior and penalize the attribute that has a negative impact on the app behavior. In our system, the rewards and penalties are in the range [0,5] and only take integer values.
It is worth noting that rewards and penalties for different cloud apps will be different. For instance, in a cloud storage app that deals with sensitive documents, it is very important to have the data-at-rest encryption capability, while it is not as important in an app that only deals with non-sensitive data. Hence, in our system, we assign different rewards and penalties for different categories of applications. Using the rewards and penalties, and a weighted averaging approach we compute a normalized CCI value for each app in the range [0,100]. Our initial findings from the CCI computation can be found in the Netskope Cloud Report.