PhD Oral Exam - Taous Madi, CIISE
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Cloud service providers typically adopt the multi-tenancy model to optimize resources usage and achieve the promised cost-effectiveness. However, multi-tenancy in the cloud is a double-edged sword. While it enables cost-effective resource sharing, it increases security risks for the hosted applications. Indeed, multiplexing virtual resources belonging to different tenants on the same physical substrate may lead to critical security concerns such as cross-tenant data leakage and denial of service. Therefore, there is an increased necessity and a pressing need to foster transparency and accountability in multi-tenant clouds. In this regard, auditing security compliance of the cloud provider’s infrastructure against standards, regulations and customers’ policies on one side, and evaluating the multi-tenancy threat on the other side, take on an increasing importance to boost the trust between the cloud stakeholders.
However, auditing virtual infrastructures isolation is challenging due to the dynamic and layered nature of the cloud. Particularly, inconsistencies in network isolation mechanisms across the cloud stack layers (e.g., the infrastructure management layer and the implementation layer), may lead to virtual network isolation breaches that might be undetectable at a single layer. Additionally, evaluating multi-tenancy threats in the cloud requires systematic ways and effective metrics, which are largely missing in the literature. This thesis work addresses the aforementioned challenges and limitations and articulates around two main topics, namely, security compliance auditing and multi-tenancy threat evaluation in the cloud.
Our objective in the first topic is to propose an automated framework that allows auditing the cloud infrastructure from the structural point of view, while focusing on virtualization-related security properties and consistency between multiple control layers. To this end, we devise a multi-layered model related to each cloud stack layer’s view in order to capture the semantics of the audited data and its relation to consistent isolation requirements. Furthermore, we integrate our auditing system into OpenStack, and present our experimental results on assessing several properties related to virtual network isolation and consistency. Our results show that our approach can be successfully used to detect virtual network isolation breaches for large OpenStack-based data centers in a reasonable time.
The objective of the second topic is to derive security metrics for evaluating the multitenancy threats in public clouds. To this end, we propose security metrics to quantify the proximity between tenants’ virtual resources inside the cloud. Those metrics are defined based on the configuration and deployment of a cloud, such that a cloud provider may apply them to evaluate and mitigate co-residency threats. To demonstrate the effectiveness of our metrics and show their usefulness, we conduct case studies based on both real and synthetic cloud data. We further perform extensive simulations using CloudSim and well-known VM placement policies. The results show that our metrics effectively capture the impact of potential attacks, and the abnormal degrees of co-residency between a victim and potential attackers, which paves the way for the design of effective mitigation solutions against co-residency attacks.