Storage Security Challenges

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As the storage industry grows, with both SAN and NAS architectures, the requirements for storage security will also grow. Storage security will need to accomplish a number of milestones and challenges to become mainstream in storage networks.

Unfortunately , a typical milestone that uncovers the need for security in a particular industry is often some type of successful and well-publicized attack. For example, wireless security technology, specifically 802.11b, would not have been viewed as such a severe security issue if hackers were not easily able to break Wireless Equivalency Protocol (WEP) encryption. Despite the weakness of 802.11b, many organizations did not invest in wireless security until well after the fact of the discovery of the security problem.

While a break-in might have encouraged organizations to invest in wireless security, to approach security after a breach costs an organization significantly more time, money, and resources. Unlike the wireless industry, the storage industry has more to protect than a possible credit card number going over the wireless network in semi-clear-text. The storage system has an entire organizations intellectual property, sensitive data, and possibly customer information to protect and maintain. Therefore, a successful storage security attack would be more severe than a typical network attack.

Another major challenge in storage security is industry acceptance. Many storage administrators and experts believe security issues in Fibre Channel, storage devices, and storage architectures are not important issues, for a variety of reasons. However, because storage security has significantly more to protect than other types of networks, the storage industry should be more aggressive in fixing and solving security issues.

For example, consider the security problems encountered in Cisco routers and switches in the early 1990s. These routing and switching devices were developed based on availability and functionality. However, due to the security weakness of IPv4 combined with IP device weaknesses, the devices were easy to subvert and/or compromise. The same argument can be made for storage products that focus on bandwidth or speed and not necessarily security. The weakness of IPv4 and Fibre Channel, combined with potential storage device weaknesses, may well lead to the same results that the IP industry faced.

Industry must face the following key storage security challenges:

  • Products and solutions

  • Encryption

  • Security standards and specifications

  • Bandwidth/functionality tradeoffs

Products and Solutions

The first and major storage security challenge is the lack of security product solutions and storage security features in current products. As described earlier, no pure security products are currently available for storage networks to permit or deny access to certain storage nodes. Furthermore, a firewall or similar device would have to support 2 Gbps throughput to hold any type of acceptance and success in the storage industry. Currently, only certain firewalls can support near gigabit throughput, and these are available only for IP networks. There is no such thing as a Fibre Channel firewall.

An additional storage security challenge is the lack of security features in storage products today and the quality of security features that are included in existing products. A good example to demonstrate this problem is the zoning and Logical Unit Number (LUN) masking capabilities in Fibre Channel networks. The zoning capabilities in Fibre Channel switches and LUN masking capabilities in storage nodes were originally developed for segmentation, not security. While the segmentation tools are good for secondary security, they are not adequate to use as primary security tools. In addition, using zoning and LUN masking as the only security tools does not support a best practice storage architecture. In fact, using zoning and LUN masking as security tools is similar to using virtual LANs (VLANs) as the only security tools in an IP network which would exclude the use of better security devices, such as firewalls, router ACLs, and VPN devices to protect the network. Cisco has stated many times that VLANs should not be viewed as security tools, but rather as segmentation tools. VLANs hopping ability (the ability to jump across one VLAN to another) has been demonstrated by security professionals in a variety of tests.

In addition, most storage products provide only Telnet and web (HTTP) capabilities for a management, both of which are clear-text protocols that can easily be sniffed. The use of encrypted management protocols, such as Secure Shell (SSH) or encrypted web (HTTPS), is still in the process of being adopted.


Encryption technology is another major challenge in the storage industry. Inline encryption in both IP and Fibre Channel mediums is difficult to implement without significant bandwidth penalties. IP networks that have bandwidth capabilities of Gbps are reduced to Mbps transfers once encryption technology is in place. Similarly, Fibre Channel networks with 1.0 to 2.0 Gbps capacities would also be reduced to probably less than half that amount. Considering the fact that Fibre Channel is often deployed specifically because of bandwidth capacities , the fact that encryption would directly negate those capabilities is a significant security problem for storage security engineers .

As mentioned, encryption of data at rest is another security challenge. The major challenge of data at rest is interoperability with different types of storage devices. In addition, interoperability of all types of storage appliances should be a requirement supported by standards bodies; unfortunately, competing vendors may not share this perspective.

Security Standards and Specifications

Lack of security standards and specifications is also a significant problem in the storage security industry. A good example is zoning definitions in Fibre Channel switches. The term hard zoning is defined one way for certain Fibre Channel switch organizations and another way for other organizations. Some switch vendors refer to hard zoning as the act of locking physical port numbers to a particular zone on a Fibre Channel switch. Other switch vendors refer to hard zoning as a routing tool in which routes will not be broadcasted to non- participants of the zone. This disparity between definitions is a standards problem. The lack of storage security standards, from encryption specifications to zone definitions, leads to technologies that do not coexist easily across various storage vendors. In addition, the lack of security standards and specifications will lead to competing vendors developing technology that will most likely not interoperate with one anothers products. This will make an end user s storage security architecture a frustrating process to design and implement.

Standards in storage security need to define terms and protocol specifications before storage vendors grow impatient. For storage security features, tools, and products to be successfully adopted by end users, a clear classification of any type of architecture needs to be in place. Standards need to be developed in the following areas:

  • Encryption standards

  • In-line and at-rest standards

  • Standardization of storage security terminology and definitions

  • Authentication standards

Bandwidth/Functionality Tradeoffs

Bandwidth and functionality tradeoffs are key challenges in creating storage security. Any type of functionality or bandwidth loss incurred to gain added security will not likely be successful in the storage industry, especially since many storage networks are deployed for the mere purpose of bandwidth and functionality offerings. Any type of solution must have a minimal affect on storage functionally while demonstrating clear interoperability with existing storage features.

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Storage Networks
Storage Networks: The Complete Reference
ISBN: 0072224762
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 192 © 2008-2017.
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