13. Why is Cloud Security So Often Missing from Infosec Conferences?

A colleague of mine I worked with extensively over the past months told me that she attended a security conference this week, but left early. I asked why.

There was nothing there that was relevant to me.

This was not a new experience to me and I congratulated her that she passed a significant milestone. When you focus on cloud security, this is not unusual. The last few years I have found that the most relevant conferences were DevOps and cloud-native conferences, where security was only an aspect – be it an important one – of the conference scope or cloud security-specific gatherings, rather than the more typical cybersecurity conferences, where cloud is often absent. This goes for the big name conferences as well as smaller events.

Stuck in What We Know

I recently spoke at a two-day closed audience cybersecurity conference. It was filled with fascinating talks, but the only cloud security session was mine. This low representation is not unique to smaller events, but also the case for the big-name conferences like RSA, Defcon and Blackhat, CCC conferences, and others.

Malware, ransomware, phishing, appsec, data privacy, memory corruptions, data privacy, OSS-, software supply chain- and network security are all important topics, and conferences want to cater to a broad audience. But infosec/cybersecurity conferences seem to be stuck in familiar territory while around us the world is in the middle of a massive cloud transformation.

Cloud Security is Elsewhere

I yearly get my talk proposals rejected by the RSA selection committee – it's OK, the feeling is mutual ;) – but colleagues of mine and myself have presented repeatedly on cloud security at fwd:cloudsec, KubeCon, ChefConf, and elsewhere. The first is a cloud security specific conference, the other two are cloud-native and DevOps conferences where security is not the only topic.

Cloud security seems to be largely debated via blogs, podcasts and social media, and aside from a few exceptions, a “guest” at others' events. It reminds me a bit of drum & bass in dance music, largely happening via (initially) pirate radio, the internet, a small side room at multi-stage party, and the occasional club with a DnB-only night on a Monday or Tuesday.

Developer Autonomy and the Irrelevance of a Department of No

In a cloud landscape, the traditional gatekeepers are gone. Rather than network security teams or infrastructure provisioning teams providing some level of central control, developer teams through everything-as-code deploy entire landscapes independently from such gatekeepers, and have far greater autonomy. They may choose cloud-native platforms that your traditional security tooling doesn't know what to do with. Modern CI/CD pipelines with frequent deployments require security teams to respond far more quickly than they are used to, and pose whole new challenges they haven't seen before.

A Department of No that is not prepared for the threats and risks of the cloud as the organization around them rushes into cloud transformation is at risk to become irrelevant and likely to be ignored.

Cloud Security Must Have a Place in the Mainstream

Security teams are often slow to respond to our employers racing into the cloud . That goes for security standards as well, with ISO and NIST only slowly becoming aware of the cloud. Security certifications lag as well. Since cloud security is underrepresented in the usual cybersecurity information channels, it is not easily accessible.

Cloud providers and cloud security vendors have done good work, but how does someone new to the topic navigate this ever evolving market and know who to trust? Even if you select good vendors, how do you operationalize their solutions into your processes? Where do you learn from prior experience?

How would you know that the best cloud security practitioners network is on LinkedIn? How would you get to know the key contributors to follow to grow your network, and get into the stream of blogs, podcasts and events where cloud security approaches and practices are shared, based on actual experience? Even that is only, as far as I know.

It is high time that cloud security finds a place in the infosec mainstream, to establish more structured and stable fora to share practices broadly – to those coming into the cloud security community new – and deeply – for those already there.

cloud security posts without corporate approval @jaythvv@infosec.exchange