What is cloud security?

Cloud security is a series of steps taken to guard a cloud environment, whether private or public, against internal and external security threats.

Cloud computing is a method of storing data, infrastructure, and applications over the internet. Cloud security is a means of safeguarding the cloud against attacks, both external and internal. It is typically governed by a series of controls, procedures, and policies that work in tandem to protect all assets within the cloud--these protocols, when implemented, can also assist in regulatory compliance and reduced administrative overhead.

Cloud security is fundamentally IT security, but located somewhere centralized. The measures and protection are the same, but cloud security is hosted in software. Cloud computing software is easily scalable, portable, and dynamic, which allows it to respond to an environment and accompany associated workflows. This also exponentially reduces the risk of data loss or corruption.

Zero trust and why you should embrace it

As a default, security professionals should automatically not trust anything inside or outside of the network. Zero trust policies enforce principles of least privilege where users are only given the least possible amount of access and resources they need to perform their role. Microsegmentation is also utilized, which breaks down cloud security by creating secure zones that segments workloads from each other.

  • Internal private cloud: utilized by internal staff that operate the virtual environment.
  • Public cloud provider private cloud: A third party provides the computing environment with one environment serving a customer.
  • Public cloud: Software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (Paas).
  • Hybrid cloud: Private and public cloud systems are shared by both public and private providers, divided up by based on cost, overhead, and workloads.

Centralized security

Cloud security centralizes security measures in the same manner that cloud computing centralizes data. Traffic analysis, monitoring network events, and web filtering can be centrally managed require fewer policy and software updates, which can streamline the IT process and free up time for more technical work rather than monitoring multiple systems.

Redirected costs

Cloud security reduces the need for dedicated hardware, which can drastically reduce costs, including administrative overhead. IT teams were also working reactively to security threats, which can eat up more time than the proactive security measures of cloud security that offer constant monitoring and almost no human interaction.

Reduced administration

Cloud security reduces the need for human interaction and intervention. There aren’t manual security configurations and updates that can eat up time and other valuable resources. All security administration is managed automatically and in a central location.

Reliability

The right cloud computing measures can allow users to safely access assets from multiple locations with very little issue.

There are a few ways how, where, and why vulnerabilities emerge:

Increased attack surface

Cloud environments are increasingly the targets of attacks from hackers who are looking to exploit poorly secured vulnerabilities, which gives them the ability to access data and disrupt processes. Common attacks include malware, zero-day attacks, and account takeover.

Lack of visibility and control

It can be difficult for cloud customers to quantify their assets or visualize their environments when cloud providers have full control and do not expose the infrastructure to their customers.

Ever-changing workloads

There can be a struggle with traditional security tools, as they are typically not capable of enforcing policies in dynamic cloud environments. Cloud assets are altered rapidly and dynamically, which can contribute to this issue.

DevOps, DevSecOps, and automation

DevOps and DevSecOps are gradually being adopted by organizations as part of their culture. Both systems are automated and work to embed security controls and protocols along each step of the development process, which means that security changes after the development of the product can undermine the cycle and increase time to market.

What is DevOps?

Granular privilege and key management

Sessions can be exposed to security risks when there are improperly configured keys. Cloud programs can, be default, also offer too many permissions to an account, which violates the principle of least privilege.

Complex environments

Companies tend to favor hybrid and multicloud environments. These methods tend to require tools that can work across all types of cloud models, including public and private, and the tools are not always easily deployed or configured.

Cloud compliance and governance

Organizations are in charge of ensuring that their processes are aligned with accreditation programs like HIPAA, FDPR, PCI 3.2, and NIST 800-53. This can be difficult, as there is not always great visibility into cloud environments. Specialized tools are usually required for audits and ensuring continuous compliances.

Public clouds, while generally secure, don’t have the same isolation factor as private clouds. They are multi tenancy, meaning that a company can rent server space from a system that also houses other tenants with their own server space. The hosting company usually oversees security measures and ensures that each company has the appropriate amount of privacy.

But the multi tenancy factor can pose its own threat. If another tenant lets in something harmful or acts carelessly, attacks like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks can spread.

Encryption and security are applied to different workloads at different levels according to different demands. Hybrid clouds provide the ability to better mitigate risk—the combination of two cloud environments allows for diversification and the choice to place workloads in certain places depending on different requirements. For example, more sensitive workloads and data can be stored in a private cloud, and more standard workloads can be placed in a public cloud. While there are difficulties like a larger attack surface and data migration, diversifying with a hybrid cloud is a great way to mitigate security risks.

Granular, policy-based IAM and authentication controls across complex infrastructures
It’s advisable to work within groups and roles rather than working at an individual identity and access management level. Groups and roles can make it easier to update business requirements and rules—the principles of least privilege are ideally applied to each group or role. Good identity and access management hygiene has strong password policies and permission time-outs.

Zero-trust cloud network security controls across logically isolated networks and micro-segments
Logically isolate resources within a cloud’s network, and micro-segment resources using subnets to set a security policy at a subnet level. Use static user-defined configurations and a dedicated WAN to customize access for users.

Enforcement of virtual server protection policies and processes such as change management and software updates
Cloud vendors consistently apply compliance rules when setting up a virtual server.

Safeguarding all applications (and especially cloud-native distributed apps) with a next-generation web application firewall
Granular inspection and traffic control of servers, automatic updates of WAF rules, and microservices that run workloads.

Enhanced data protection
Encryption at all transport layers, continuous risk management, secure communications, and maintaining data storage hygiene.

Threat intelligence that detects and remediates known and unknown threats in real-time
Cloud vendors cross-reference aggregated log data with internal data and external data to add context to diverse streams of native logs. There are also AI anomaly detection systems that can catch threats for forensic analyses to determine the level of threat. Real-time alerts can visualize a threat landscape for quicker response times.

  • SaaS: Customers are meant to secure their own data and user access.
  • PaaS: Customers secure their own data, user access, and applications.
  • IaaS: Customers secure their data, user access, operation systems, virtual network traffic, and applications.

Use trusted software

Only use software from known and trusted sources. It’s important to understand what is being deployed in the cloud, where it came from, and whether or not there is potential for malicious code.

Understand compliance

There are strict compliance laws that regulate how data is used, including personal and financial information. Check necessary regulations and form an understanding of whether or not the cloud environment can help you stay compliant.

Manage lifecycles

Lifecycle management can help avoid neglected instances. Outdated instances can post a security risk, as there are no security patches deployed.

Consider portability

There should always be the ability to migrate workloads to another cloud, even if there isn’t a plan to do so.

Utilize continuous monitoring

Constantly monitoring workspaces can help in the prevention of security breaches.

Choose the right people

Staff should be trustworthy and highly qualified. It’s essential that all staff understand the intricacies of cloud security. If there is a choice to move to a third party provider, ensure that their team is well equipped and knowledgeable.

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