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Security & Identity

Cloud CISO Perspectives: August 2022

August 30, 2022
Phil Venables

VP, TI Security & CISO, Google Cloud

Welcome to this month’s Cloud CISO Perspectives. This month, we're focusing on the importance of vulnerability reward programs, also known as bug bounties. These programs for rewarding independent security researchers for reporting zero-day vulnerabilities to the software vendor first started appearing around 1995, and have since evolved into an integral part of the security landscape. Today, they can help organizations build more secure products and services. As I explain below, vulnerability reward programs also play a key role in digital transformation. 

As with all Cloud CISO Perspectives, the contents of this newsletter will continue to be posted to the Google Cloud blog. If you’re reading this on the website and you’d like to receive the email version, you can subscribe here.

Why vulnerability rewards programs are vital to cloud services

I’d like to revisit a Google Cloud highlight from June that I believe sheds some light onto an important aspect of how organizations build secure products, and build security into their business systems. 

On June 3, we announced the winners of the 2021 Google Cloud Vulnerability Rewards Program prize. This is the third year that Google Cloud has participated in the VRP. The top six prize winners scored a combined $313,337 for the vulnerabilities they found. An integral part of the competition is for the competitors to publish a public write-up of their vulnerability reports, which we hope encourages even more people to participate in open research into cloud security. (You can learn more about Google’s Vulnerability Rewards Program here.)

Over the life of the program, we've increased the awards—a measure of the program’s success. And we’ve also increased the prize values in our companion Kubernetes Capture the Flag VRP. These increases benefit the research community, of course, and help us secure our products. But they also help develop a mature, resilient security ecosystem in which our internal security teams are indelibly connected to external, independent security researchers. 

This conclusion has been borne out by my own experience with VRPs, but also independent analysis. Researchers at the University of Houston and the Technical University of Munich concluded in a study of Chromium vulnerabilities published in 2021 that the diverse backgrounds and interests of external bug-hunters contributed to their ability to find different kinds of vulnerabilities. Specifically, they tracked down bugs in Chromium Stable releases and in user interface components. The researchers wrote that “external bug hunters provide security benefits by complementing internal security teams with diverse expertise and outside perspective, discovering different types of vulnerabilities.”

Although organizations have used VRPs since the 1990s to help fix their software, and their use continues to grow in popularity, they still require forethought and planning. At the very least, an organization should have a dedicated, publicly-available and internally-managed email address for researchers to submit their reports and claims. More than anything else, researchers want to be able to communicate their security concerns to somebody who will take them seriously.

That said, incoming vulnerability reports can set off klaxons if the preparations have not been put in place to properly manage them. A more mature VRP will triage incoming reports and have in place a more rigorous machinery which includes determining who will receive the reports, how the interactions with the researcher who filed the report will be handled, which engineering teams will be notified and involved, how the report will be verified as accurate and authentic, and how customers will be supported.

There’s an opportunity for boards and organization leaders to take a more active role in kickstarting and guiding this process if their organization doesn’t have a VRP in place yet. Part of what makes VRPs so important is that they bring benefits beyond the obvious. They can help teams learn more, they can strengthen ties to the researcher community, they can provide feedback on updating internal processes, and they can create pathways to improve security and development team structures.

Ultimately, the business case for a VRP program is simple. No matter how great you are at security, you still are going to have some vulnerabilities. You want those discovered as quickly as possible by people who will be incentivized to tell you. If you don't, you run increasing risks that adversaries will either discover those vulnerabilities or acquire them from an illicit marketplace. 

As more organizations undergo their digital transformations, the need for VRPs will only increase. The web of interconnectedness between a company’s systems and the systems of its suppliers, partners, and customers will force them to expand the scope of their security concerns, so the most responsible behavior is for organizations to encourage their suppliers to adopt VRP programs.

Google Cloud Security Talks

Security Talks is our ongoing program to bring together experts from the Google Cloud security team, including the Google Cybersecurity Action Team and Office of the CISO, and the industry at large to share information on our latest security products, innovations, and best practices. Our latest Security Talks, on Aug. 31, will focus on practitioner needs and how to use our products. Sign up here

Google Cybersecurity Action Team highlights

Here are the latest updates, products, services and resources from our security teams this month: 


  • How Google Cloud blocked the largest Layer 7 DDoS attack to date: On June 1, a Google Cloud Armor customer was targeted with a series of HTTPS DDoS attacks which peaked at 46 million requests per second. This is the largest Layer 7 DDoS reported to date—at least 76% larger than the previously reported record. Here's how we stopped it

  • “Deception at scale”—VirusTotal’s latest report: VirusTotal’s most recent report on the state of malware explores how malicious hackers change up their malware techniques to bypass defenses and make social engineering attacks more effective.  Read more.

  • First-to-market Virtual Machine Threat Detection now generally available: Our unique Virtual Machine Threat Detection (VMTD) in Security Command Center is now generally available for all Google Cloud customers. Launched six months ago in public preview, VMTD is invisible to adversaries and draws on expertise from Google's Threat Analysis Group and Google Cloud Threat Intelligence. Read more

  • How autonomic data security can help define cloud’s future: As data usage has undergone drastic expansion and changes in the past five years, so have your business needs for data. Google Cloud is positioned uniquely to define and lead the effort to adopt a modern approach to data security. We contend that the optimal way forward is with autonomic data security. Here's why.

  • How CISOs need to adapt their mental models for cloud security: Successful cloud security transformations can help better prepare CISOs for threats today, tomorrow, and beyond, but they require more than just a blueprint and a set of projects. CISOs and cybersecurity team leaders need to envision a new set of mental models for thinking about security, one that will require you to map your current security knowledge to cloud realities. Here's why

  • How to help ensure smooth shift handoffs in security operations: Without proper planning, SOC shift-handoffs can create knowledge gaps between team members. Fortunately, those gaps are not inevitable. Here’s three ways to avoid them

  • Five must-know security and compliance features in Cloud Logging: As enterprise and public sector cloud adoption continues to accelerate, having an accurate picture of who did what in your cloud environment is important for security and compliance purposes. Here are five must-know Cloud Logging security and compliance features (including three new ones launched this year) that can help customers improve their security audits. Read more.

  • Google Cloud Certificate Authority Service now supports on-premises Windows workloads: Organizations who have adopted cloud-based CAs increasingly want to extend the capabilities and value of their CA to their on-premises environments. They can now deploy a private CA through Google Cloud CAS along with a partner solution that simplifies, manages, and automates the digital certificate operations in on-prem use cases such as issuing certificates to routers, printers, and users. Read more

  • Easier de-identification of Cloud Storage data: Many organizations require effective processes and techniques for removing or obfuscating certain sensitive information in the data that they store, a process known as “de-identification.” We’ve now released a new action for Cloud Storage inspection jobs that makes this process easier. Read more

  • Introducing Google Cloud and Google Workspace support for multiple Identity providers with Single Sign-On: Google has long provided customers with a choice of digital identity providers. For more than a decade, we have supported SSO via the SAML protocol. Currently, Google Cloud customers can enable a single identity provider for their users with the SAML 2.0 protocol. This release significantly enhances our SSO capabilities by supporting multiple SAML-based identity providers instead of just one. Read more

  • Curated detections come to Chronicle SecOps Suite: A critical component of any security operations team’s job is to deliver high-fidelity detections of potential threats across the breadth of adversary tactics. Today, we are putting the power of Google’s intelligence in the hands of security operations teams with high quality, actionable, curated detections built by our Google Cloud Threat Intelligence team. Read more

  • Google Cloud’s Managed Microsoft Active Directory gets on-demand backup, schema extension support: We’ve added schema extension support and on-demand backups to our Managed Microsoft Active Directory to make it easier for customers to integrate with applications that rely on AD. Read more.

  • Securing apps using Anthos Service Mesh: Our Anthos Service Mesh can help maintain a high level of security across numerous apps and services with minimal operational overhead, all while providing service owners granular traffic control. Here's how it works

  • Our Security Voices blogging initiative highlights blogs from a diverse group of Google Cloud’s security professionals. Here, Jaffa Edwards explains how preventive security controls, also known as security “guardrails,” can help developers prevent misconfigurations before they can be exploited. Read more.

Industry updates

  • How Vulnerability Exploitability eXchanges can help healthcare prioritize cybersecurity risk: In our latest blog on healthcare and cybersecurity resiliency, we discuss how a VEX can help bolster SBOM and SLSA with vital information for making risk-assessment decisions in healthcare organizations—and beyond. Read more

  • MITRE and Google Cloud collaborate on cloud analytics: How can the cybersecurity industry improve its analysis of the already-tremendous and growing volumes of security data in order to better stop the dynamic threats we face? We’re excited to announce the release of the Cloud Analytics project by the MITRE Engenuity Center for Threat-Informed Defense, and sponsored by Google Cloud and several other industry collaborators. Read more

Compliance & Controls

  • Using data advocacy to close the consumer privacy trust gap: As consumer data privacy regulations tighten and the end of third-party cookies looms, organizations of all sizes may be looking to carve a path toward consent-positive, privacy-centric ways of working. Organizations must begin to treat consumer data privacy as a pillar of their business. One way to do this is by implementing a cross-functional data advocacy panel. Read more.

  • How to avoid cloud misconfigurations and move towards continuous compliance: Modern application security tools should be fully automated, largely invisible to developers, and minimize friction within the DevOps pipeline. Infrastructure continuous compliance can be achieved thanks to Google Cloud’s open and extensible architecture, which uses Security Command Center and open source solutions. Here’s how.

  • Helping European education providers navigate privacy assessments: Navigating complex DPIA requirements under GDPR can be challenging for many of our customers, and while only customers, as controllers, can complete DPIAs, we are here to help meet these compliance obligations with our Cloud DPIA Resource Center. Read more

Tips for security teams to share

As I noted in July’s newsletter, we published four helpful guides that month on Google Cloud’s security architecture. These explainers by our lead developer advocate Priyanka Vergadia are ready-made to share with IT colleagues, and come with colorful illustrations that break down how our security works. This month, we added two more. 

  • Make the most of your cloud deployment with Active Assist: This guide walks you through our Active Assist feature, which can help streamline information from your workloads' usage, logs, and resource configuration, and then uses machine learning and business logic to help optimize deployments in exactly those areas that make the cloud compelling: cost, sustainability, performance, reliability, manageability, and security. Read more

  • Zero Trust and BeyondCorp: In this primer, we focus on how the need to mitigate the security risks created by implicitly trusting any part of a system has led to the rise of the Zero Trust security model. Read more.

Google Cloud Security Podcasts

We launched in February 2021 a new weekly podcast focusing on Cloud Security. Hosts Anton Chuvakin and Timothy Peacock chat with cybersecurity experts about the most important and challenging topics facing the industry today. This month, they discussed:

  • Demystifying data sovereignty at Google Cloud: What is data sovereignty, why it matters, and how it will play a growing role in cloud technology, with Google’s C.J. Johnson. Listen here.

  • A CISO walks into a cloud: Frustrations, successes, lessons, and risk, with David Stone, staff consultant at our Office of the CISO. Listen here

  • How to modernize data security with the Autonomic Data Security approach, with John Stone, staff consultant at our Office of the CISO. Listen here.

  • What changes and what doesn’t when SOC meets cloud, with Gorka Sadowski, chief strategy officer at Exabeam. Listen here.

  • Explore the magic (and operational realities) of SOAR, with Cyrus Robinson, SOC Director and IR Team lead at Ingalls Information Security. Listen here.

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