Risk Aware Data Management in Cloud Environments

Donald Bren School of Computer Science

University of California, Irvine



As data management systems become more distributed, risk of data loss arises whenever data migrates from more secure environments to those that are less secure. One way to mitigate such risk is to identify components that are vulnerable, and fortify them with security solutions. Nonetheless, such actions cannot prevent attacks carried out by insiders. For example, a malicious database administrator would still have access to the sensitive data within the databases he or she manages. In other instances, performance overheads involved might prevent usage of strong security practices, such as encrypting all sensitive data in motion or at rest. Hence, new security solutions need to be developed as data management systems become more distributed and migrate to the cloud.



In this project, we take an alternate/complementary approach towards securing query processing for database workloads. We acknowledge the fact that different system components/environments through which data moves during query processing offer different security guarantees. Instead of attempting to prevent or thwart attacks, we design risk aware query processing techniques that control how data flows through different components (in particular from more secure to less secure ones) such that the risk of loss of data, while not entirely eliminated, is substantially reduced. The major intuition behind our approaches is that migration/motion of data during query processing is primarily guided by efficiency concerns (such as, how much data to cache, how to access the data, via index or table scan etc.). Therefore, varying the characteristics of data movement through these components exposes a tradeoff between risk and performance.

For instance, query processing on a typical database server requires that data be brought into memory and be kept in memory (cached) for as long as possible to prevent expensive disk I/Os. Indeed, given the large amounts of data involved, often the primary optimization that database servers support is minimizing the number of disk I/Os. However, longer the data resides in memory, larger the risk that it can be stolen through a variety of memory scraping attacks. Instead, an alternate strategy like toss-immediately after use may incur performance degradation, but significantly reduce risk of data loss. Likewise, consider an public-private hybrid cloud setup, where and organization utilizes the public cloud resources during peak demands to offload some of the work. Again, limiting the queries and data offloaded to the (less-trusted) public cloud can limit exposure risks.

Given the potential tradeoffs between performance and risks of data loss, we postulate the problem of risk aware query processing wherein the goal changes from purely attempting to minimize costs (and hence maximize performance) to that of achieving a balance between performance and exposure risks. Given the above postulation, multi-criteria optimization techniques can be employed to achieve a balance between performance and exposure risk. Two specific settings could be: (a) optimize for performance while ensuring that exposure risks are constrained, or alternatively, (b) constrain the additional overhead of query processing, while minimizing the risk of data loss.

The mechanisms we will design will address risk management at both the query optimization level, as well as, at the level of redesign of individual relational operators (such as joins, selections, etc.) so as to limit exposure risks. Additionally, we will explore data and workload partitioning methods for the hybrid cloud models that minimize exposure risks while ensuring performance goals.


Project Funding

This project is partially supported by grants from NSF and NEC Labs, USA.