Cloud Security

Cloud security is a matter that cannot be neglected since it is directly related to a cloud’s integrity. From sensitive data to a company’s reputation, cloud security affects how an organization grows and should be placed as a top priority.

Follow these 5 steps to ensure your cloud infrastructure is safe and sound.

STEP 1: Study the Basics of Cloud Security

Cloud service providers offer their customers several tools to help manage their cloud security. However, these tools are only designed to provide a foundation for an organization’s cloud security deployment. Securing cloud-based infrastructure requires deploying many of the same types of security solutions as an organization would use in an on-premises data center. These required solutions and capabilities include:

  • Identity and Access Management: Cloud-based infrastructure is directly accessible from the public Internet, making it an easy target for cybercriminals. Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions are essential to restrict this access to authorized users.
  • Cloud Network Security: Cloud services are not a monolith, and applications communicate within the cloud. Cloud network security solutions are necessary for segmenting cloud assets to reduce the effect of any cloud breach, monitor traffic, and protect the data plane against exploitation and lateral movement.
  • Cloud Security Posture Management: These solutions automatically and continuously check for misconfigurations that can lead to data breaches and leaks. This continuous and automated detection allows organizations to make necessary changes on a constant, ongoing basis.
  • Cloud Workload Protection: Cloud workloads are applications like any other. They must be protected against exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities, configuration errors, and other weaknesses.
  • Data Protection: Organizations are increasingly storing sensitive data in the cloud. This data must be protected against breach (including encryption in transit and at rest) and by applicable laws and regulations.
  • Threat Intelligence: The cyber threat landscape evolves rapidly, and threats to the cloud are no exception. Cloud security solutions need access to threat intelligence to identify and protect against the latest cyber threats.

STEP 2: Be Aware of the Most Common Cloud Risks

As with any other emerging technology solution, cloud computing has inherent security risks. Therefore, enterprises should be cautious and take necessary precautions to mitigate potential risks.

  • Data Protection: Data security is critical for any company. Storing necessary and secure data with a third-party cloud provider can be unsettling. Ensuring that data is at rest and in transit is very important. Cryptography and encryption methods must be employed to protect your data.
  • Data Loss/Disruption: Cloud providers usually have a backup and recovery process to recover data and software in case of a breakdown. Still, there could be chances of unforeseen disruption or loss from a natural calamity or some unexpected technical failures, which can cause the data to be irretrievable. So, the customer needs to have a contingency plan and keep another data backup with another provider or in a non-cloud space.
  • Unauthorized Access: Cloud environments are incredibly alluring to hackers. Make sure your data at rest is secure, set up stringent user authentication methods, and review access logs and audit trails regularly to restrict any unauthorized access to your systems and data.

STEP 3: Agree that Cloud Security is a Shared Responsibility

Cloud security is a shared responsibility between the cloud provider and the customer. There are three categories of duties in the Shared Responsibility Model: responsibilities that are always the provider’s, responsibilities that are always the customer’s, and obligations that vary depending on the service model: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS), such as cloud email.

The security responsibilities that are always the providers are related to the safeguarding of the infrastructure itself, as well as access to, patching, and configuration of the physical hosts and the physical network on which the compute instances run and the storage and other resources reside.

The security responsibilities that are always the customers include managing users and their access privileges (identity and access management), safeguarding cloud accounts from unauthorized access, encryption and protecting cloud-based data assets, and managing its security posture (compliance).

Why Do Clients Want ‘Zero Trust’?

The term Zero Trust was first introduced in 2010 by John Kindervag, who, at that time, was a senior Forrester Research analyst. The basic principle of Zero Trust in cloud security is not to automatically trust anyone or anything within or outside of the network—and verify (i.e., authorize, inspect and secure) everything.

Zero Trust, for example, promotes a least-privilege governance strategy whereby users are only given access to the resources they need to perform their duties. Similarly, it calls upon developers to ensure that web-facing applications are adequately secured. For example, suppose the developer has not blocked ports consistently or has not implemented permissions on an “as needed” basis. In that case, a hacker who takes over the application will have privileges to retrieve and modify data from the database.

In addition, Zero Trust networks utilize micro-segmentation to make cloud network security far more granular. Micro-segmentation creates secure zones in data centers and cloud deployments, thereby segmenting workloads from each other, securing everything inside the zone, and applying policies to ensure traffic between zones.

STEP 4: Be Ready for The Top 7 Cloud Security Challenges

Because the public cloud does not have clear perimeters, it presents a fundamentally different security reality. This becomes even more challenging when adopting modern cloud approaches such as automated Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) methods, distributed serverless architectures, and ephemeral assets like Functions as a Service and containers.

Some of the advanced cloud-native security challenges and the multiple layers of risk faced by today’s cloud-oriented organizations include:

  1. Increased Attack Surface
    The public cloud environment has become a large and beautiful attack surface for hackers who exploit poorly secured cloud ingress ports to access and disrupt workloads and data in the cloud. As a result, Malware, Zero-Day, Account Takeover, and many other malicious threats have become day-to-day reality.
  2. Lack of Visibility and Tracking
    In the IaaS model, the cloud providers have complete control over the infrastructure layer and do not expose it to their customers. The lack of visibility and control is further extended in the PaaS and SaaS cloud models. As a result, cloud customers often cannot effectively identify and quantify their cloud assets or visualize their cloud environments.
  3. Ever-Changing Workloads
    Cloud assets are provisioned and decommissioned dynamically—at scale and velocity. Unfortunately, traditional security tools cannot enforce protection policies in such a flexible and dynamic environment with its ever-changing and ephemeral workloads.
  4. DevOps, DevSecOps, and Automation
    Organizations that have embraced the highly automated DevOps CI/CD culture must ensure that appropriate security controls are identified and embedded in code and templates early in the development cycle. Security-related changes implemented after a workload has been deployed in production can undermine the organization’s security posture and lengthen the time to market.
  5. Granular Privilege and Key Management
    Often cloud user roles are configured very loosely, granting extensive privileges beyond what is intended or required. One typical example is giving database delete or write permissions to untrained users or users who have no business need to delete or add database assets. At the application level, improperly configured keys and privileges expose sessions to security risks.
  6. Complex Environments
    Managing security consistently in the hybrid and multi-cloud environments favored by enterprises these days requires methods and tools that work seamlessly across public cloud providers, private cloud providers, and on-premise deployments—including branch office edge protection for geographically distributed organizations.
  7. Cloud Compliance and Governance
    All the leading cloud providers have aligned themselves with the most well-known accreditation programs, such as PCI 3.2, NIST 800-53, HIPAA, and GDPR. However, customers are responsible for ensuring that their workload and data processes comply. Given the poor visibility and dynamics of the cloud environment, the compliance audit process becomes close to mission impossible unless tools are used to achieve continuous compliance checks and issue real-time alerts about misconfigurations.

STEP 5: Respect The 6 Pillars of Cloud Security

While cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure (Azure), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offer many cloud-native security features and services, supplementary third-party solutions are essential to achieve enterprise-grade cloud workload protection from breaches, data leaks, and targeted attacks in the cloud environment.

Only an integrated cloud-native/third-party security stack provides the centralized visibility and policy-based granular control necessary to deliver the following industry best practices:

  1. Granular, policy-based IAM and authentication controls across complex infrastructures
    Work with groups and roles rather than at the individual IAM level to make it easier to update IAM definitions as business requirements change. Grant only the minimal access privileges to assets and APIs essential for a group or role to carry out its tasks. The more extensive benefits, the higher the levels of authentication. And don’t neglect good IAM hygiene, enforcing strong password policies, permission time-outs, and so on.
  2. Zero-trust cloud network security controls across logically isolated networks and micro-segments
    Deploy business-critical resources and apps in logically isolated sections of the provider’s cloud network, such as Virtual Private Clouds (AWS and Google) or vNET (Azure). Use subnets to micro-segment workloads from each other, with granular security policies at subnet gateways. Use dedicated WAN links in hybrid architectures, and use static user-defined routing configurations to customize access to virtual devices, virtual networks and their gateways, and public IP addresses.
  3. Enforcement of virtual server protection policies and processes such as change management and software updates. Cloud security vendors provide robust Cloud Security Posture Management, consistently applying governance and compliance rules and templates when provisioning virtual servers, auditing for configuration deviations, and remediating automatically where possible.
  4. It safeguards all applications (especially cloud-native distributed apps) with a next-generation web application firewall. This will granularly inspect and control traffic to and from web application servers, automatically update WAF rules in response to traffic behavior changes, and be deployed closer to microservices running workloads.
  5. Enhanced data protection:
    Enhanced data protection with encryption at all transport layers, secure file shares and communications, continuous compliance risk management, and good data storage resource hygiene, such as detecting misconfigured buckets and terminating orphan resources.
  6. Threat intelligence that detects and remediates known and unknown threats in real-time
    Third-party cloud security vendors add context to the large and diverse streams of cloud-native logs by intelligently cross-referencing aggregated log data with internal data such as asset and configuration management systems, vulnerability scanners, etc., and external data such as public threat intelligence feeds, geolocation databases, etc. They also provide tools that help visualize and query the threat landscape and promote quicker incident response times. AI-based anomaly detection algorithms are applied to catch unknown threats, which then undergo forensics analysis to determine their risk profile. Real-time alerts on intrusions and policy violations shorten times to remediation, sometimes even triggering auto-remediation workflows.

Do you want to Understand the Business Operating Model ? This article will help you to learn more.

Updated on June 27, 2023

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