Confidentiality and Security in the Cloud

Raluca Ada Popa, Catherine M. S. Redfield, Nickolai Zeldovich, Hari Balakrishnan, “CryptDB: Protecting Confidentiality with Encrypted Query Processing,” SOSP, 2011. [PDF]

Thomas Ristenpart, Eran Tromer, Hovav Shacham, Stefan Savage, “Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud: Exploring Information Leakage in Third-Party Compute Clouds,” CCS, 2009. [PDF]


With the increase in popularity of cloud computing as a scalable, elastic, and cost-effective infrastructure solution, concerns about the security, privacy, and confidentiality of user data hosted on public clouds are also increasing. Curious administrators might breach trust, malicious entities can try to restrict/deny services, and adversaries might gain access to confidential data.


CryptDB stores user data in an SQL-aware encrypted form with multi-layered encryption onions. Each layer provides different levels of security and restricts execution of  SQL queries to limited sets. Depending on user queries, layers are dynamically ripped off one after another. Eventually, the database reaches a steady-state that strikes a balance between confidentiality of data and usability of the database. Encryption keys are chained together with user passwords to survive security breaches of both database and application servers.

Hey You, Get Off of My Cloud!

This paper discusses the risks of shared public clouds by demonstrating how an attacker can find the network topology of a cloud provider (e.g., Amazon EC2) to get a VM that co-resides with a victim VM and extract information from the victim. The goal is more to show that these risks existed in 2009 (it is questionable how big of a risk they are, and how hard it is avoid them), than how to address them.


CryptDB is undoubtedly the more practical of the two papers with a usable solution to a real problem. However, it has its weaknesses: CryptDB should require N times more space for N layers of the onion, creation/update of new onions with the change of user passwords and corresponding encryption key chains will be expensive, and for databases with mostly long-running and persistent connections, information of most users will be exposed when database and application servers are compromised.

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