CLARUS - Towards trust in cloud services

Cloudscape Brazil 2016 Position Paper - CLARUS: Towards trust in cloud services
The cloud is giving private users, businesses, organisations and the public sector access to highly sophisticated IT systems and applications that would otherwise be out of reach to them. But there is still some work to do for Europe in the Cloud for it to really take off. A key goal in this respect is having a common understanding of best practices in Europe – for example, on data protection and security. Such a common understanding will raise confidence and create trust, thereby boosting the uptake of cloud services and applications throughout all sectors of the economy. 
As part of the European Cloud Computing Strategy, Europe is continuing to invest in cloud technology to truly benefit all sectors of the European economy, especially in sectors where Europe has a major interest and leadership, such as health. The main objective of the CLARUS project (January 2015 – December 2017) is to enhance trust in cloud services by developing a secure framework for the storage and processing of data outsourced to the cloud. CLARUS will allow end users to monitor, audit and control the stored data without impairing the functionality and cost-saving benefits of cloud services.
Who benefits and how
The CLARUS framework will benefit both users and providers of cloud services and applications. On the one hand, the CLARUS solution will increase trust in the cloud by potential cloud customers like companies, public organisations and e-government administrations. These groups will be more motivated to embrace the benefits of trusted cloud services while retaining full control over any potentially sensitive data they outsource to the cloud. On the other hand, cloud service providers can benefit from a trust-enabling solution like CLARUS that broadens the spectrum of potential cloud users. This represents an important market opportunity for cloud providers. In the long term, initiatives like CLARUS can pave the way to developing more transparent, standardised, auditable and controllable cloud services, which will be beneficial for all stakeholders.
Cloud computing certainly provides great benefits to end users, but it has been built on the assumption that appropriate security and privacy-preserving techniques are implemented by cloud providers. However, recent security breaches of well-known cloud services (e.g., Sony Playstation Network outage, Apple iCloud celebrity photos leakage) have revealed the risks of uncontrolled data outsourcing. As a result, the trust of end users in cloud services has been seriously undermined and users with really sensitive data (e.g. healthcare data) are extremely reluctant to outsource their data.
As highlighted by the European Commission and several Cloud-related working parties, a model change is needed to tackle this serious issue. The new model should return to data owners the control over their data and should foster cloud services based on standards that can be certified as compliant with security and privacy.
The main goal of CLARUS is to improve privacy, security and trust of end users with respect to the cloud providers. To achieve this, the CLARUS solution is envisioned as a proxy located in a domain trusted by the end user (e.g., a server in her company’s intranet, a plug-in in the user’s device) that implements security and privacy-enabling features towards the cloud service provider.
Overcoming the barriers to cloud adoption by addressing challenges of privacy, security and trust.
To enhance privacy, CLARUS will implement a set of privacy-enabling mechanisms to ensure that the user’s sensitive data is properly protected before it is outsourced to the cloud. Protection will be provided in a way that cloud service functionalities are still preserved, even those that require performing operations (e.g., queries, transformations, calculations) on the protected data. 
To achieve that, CLARUS will rely on and innovate over the current state of the art on functionality-preserving cryptographic (e.g., (partially) homomorphic encryption, searchable encryption, etc.) and non-cryptographic data protection techniques (e.g., data anonymisation, document redaction, data splitting and merging, private information retrieval, etc.), with a special focus on preserving the benefits associated with cloud services (functionality, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, etc.).
To enhance trust, CLARUS will also implement a set of auditing services, so that users can directly supervise how data is being protected and outsourced to the cloud. To enhance security, CLARUS will also develop an attack-tolerant framework, so that potential security breaches within the cloud can be dynamically detected and appropriate mitigation measures can be activated on-line.
In this way, the user’s privacy, security and trust can be significantly enhanced with respect to current cloud security solutions both regarding honest-but-curious cloud providers and potential attackers (insiders as well as outsiders), while still preserving cloud functionalities, and within the Platform-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service models.
Interoperability and portability: existing and emerging standards that can foster trust in the cloud
The CLARUS project proposes to develop the above-described framework as a set of generic protocols that can be used by collaborative cloud service providers in order to build trusted cloud services that are standardised and, therefore, transparent with regard to data management, privacy and security.
To do so, within the CLARUS project, a set of communication interfaces and protocols will be designed: 
  • Between the end user and the CLARUS proxy.
  • Among different CLARUS instances running at different organisations.
  • Between the CLARUS proxy and the cloud service providers. 
The aim is that the interfaces and protocols should be generic and cover most of the spectrum of cloud services, so that they can be proposed as cloud standards. By means of standardisation, protocols and functions can be made homogenous for cloud providers and CLARUS proxies, so that: 
  • Interoperability can be achieved across otherwise heterogeneous cloud providers.
  • Collaborative services (e.g., edition of documents outsourced to the cloud by several users) can be implemented through several CLARUS proxies.
  • APIs based on standards can be made available to programmers for a seamless development of end-user cloud-based applications.
Authors: Josep Domingo-Ferrer (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, URV), Roberto Cascella and Stephanie Parker (Trust-IT)
Twitter: @CLARUSecure
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