Businesses are quickly realizing the value of the cloud, and how the powerful tool can save time, space, and money. As businesses have mass shifted operations to the cloud, they’ve unknowingly scaled their attack surface as well. This leaves many cloud environments—ones that probably house important data—vulnerable to breaches.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Cloud security tends to be an afterthought, but as cybersecurity attacks are becoming more advanced, this is no longer an option. Cloud security needs to be a consideration in every step of a business’s cloud journey, whether it’s the initial architecting, or adding a new workload. But what exactly is cloud security and why is it so important?
What is Cloud Security?
Cloud Security is a practice for safeguarding cloud computing systems from internal and external cybersecurity threats. This practice incorporates a range of technologies, services, policies, and procedures that keep a business’s cloud-based data, applications, and infrastructure secure. Cloud security aims to prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, malware infections, and other attacks that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of cloud resources.
Why is Cloud Security Important?
In recent years, hybrid and multi-cloud environments have become commonplace. With the abundance of cloud services and applications available, the possibilities for building out a cloud environment are endless. And many businesses are realizing this. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t consider security as they scale the cloud.
In recent years, security threats have also become more sophisticated. Attackers are aware that security isn’t always at the forefront of cloud architecture. Therefore, attackers see the cloud as a space with plenty of vulnerable points-of-entry.
As cloud environments expand in size and capabilities, and as cybersecurity threats continue to become more advanced, cloud security needs to be a top priority for any businesses running cloud computing systems to ensure their data and applications remain secure. Cloud security can’t remain an after-thought, it’s a new necessity.
What are the Challenges of Cloud Security?
There are security challenges that remain constant whether you are working with traditional on-premises infrastructure or the cloud. This includes data breaches, phishing attacks, malware, and more. However, the cloud can create extra security challenges for businesses.
There are 5 common security challenges companies face when they migrate to the cloud, and even scale existing cloud environments:
Lack of Visibility
Most businesses build their cloud environments without consideration for security. Most of the time cloud resources are accessed outside of the corporate network, and instead through a third-party. Some businesses even use more than one cloud provider. Without set processes for management and monitoring gaps in security, businesses can end up with blind spots—end points, workloads, etc.—and difficulties tracking how cloud resources are accessed and who can access them.
The cloud is accessible anywhere with internet access, from any device. This poses a challenge for businesses to create policies such as bring-your-own device policies to prevent unauthorized devices from accessing a cloud network. IT administrators also need to consider who has access to what points of the cloud environment to prevent any internal breaches. If an entry level employee’s account is compromised and there are no access controls in place, a hacker can easily gain access to your most valuable data.
The cloud can create some confusion around regulatory and compliance requirements. Businesses sometimes think they relieve themselves of their responsibilities to follow data compliance and regulations, but that responsibility still rests with the business. This misunderstanding can lead to costly fines.
Misconfigured security settings account for a large portion of data breaches in cloud environments. These misconfigurations can include leaving default passwords in place, creating loose permission controls and privacy settings, and failing to activate data encryption. While the cloud does allow for the ease of data sharing and access to cloud computing resources, it leaves common gaps in cloud security that attackers will be looking for.
Cloud resources are dynamic and can be scaled up and down as needed. Unfortunately, many traditional security tools aren’t capable of keeping up with a rapidly changing environment. Businesses need to think about the flexibility of their security tools to ensure that their workloads and cloud computing resources are covered as they scale.
How to Approach Cloud Security?
The cloud and where responsibility for the security of the platform lies can be confusing for many businesses when they use a third-party to host their data and applications. Cloud providers—such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure—typically follow a shared responsibility model. As you can probably guess, this means that cloud security is a responsibility shared between your business and your chosen cloud provider.
Within the framework of the shared responsibility model, there are certain security tasks that will always fall on the vendor while others fall on the business. Responsibilities that fall on the cloud provider are for the security of the actual cloud infrastructure. This means configuring the physical network and hosts and providing patches to ensure that the cloud computing instances running in the cloud are secure.
The security of the cloud computing instances a business runs in the cloud, falls on the business using the cloud. This includes things like managing user access, data encryption, and configuring security policies.
Types of Cloud Security Solutions
There are countless solutions available to cloud users to keep their environment secure. Too many to go over on this page, but there are a few solution types that you want to consider covering in your cloud security plan.
Identity and Access Management
Identity and access management (IAM) allows cloud administrators to control the access and permissions of users, whether it be for on-premises or cloud-based resources. IAM services and tools provide IT admins with the ability to enforce access-policies across the entire cloud environment and monitor user activity.
Data Loss and Prevention
Data loss and prevention (DLP) services are meant to maintain the security of your data and in turn prevent the loss or unauthorized use of data in the cloud. DLP solutions can include data encryption, alerting systems, and more.
Security Information and Event Management
Security information and event management (SIEM) is a comprehensive security solution that provides automated monitoring, detection, and response. SIEM solutions pull data from across a cloud environment into a centralized place and can use the acquired data to detect cloud security threats, alert about these threats, and in certain cases take initial remedial actions.
Even the strongest cloud security strategies cannot guarantee that you won’t be hit by a cybersecurity attack. It’s important to be proactive in the case of a breach, which means businesses should have tools and protocols in place to get business back up and running as quickly as possible and to ensure a timely recovery of lost data.
Cloud Security Benefits
Cloud security is a necessity for security reasons, of course. But it also provides added benefits to your business!
Cloud security tools provide you greater insight into your business’s cloud resources and data. Having a comprehensive view of the cloud is key in preventing and detecting cyber-attacks. An integrated approach to cloud security relies on multiple technologies, tools, and processes to identify security threats and vulnerabilities so you can respond effectively.
A strong approach to cloud security includes consolidating security measures to better protect cloud assets and data. A centralized security system allows you to monitor multiple endpoints, devices, and systems in the cloud all from one place. From this same centralized platform, you can update any software hosted on the cloud, and have a disaster recovery plan in place.
Since the cloud is a web-based platform, it eliminates the need for money- and space-consuming hardware. When you want to upgrade your security approach, you don’t have to purchase or configure expensive hardware to do so. Rather, cloud security solutions and tools are hosted in the cloud and can be scaled up and down as needed so you are only paying for what you need.
Advanced Threat Detection
A key advantage of cloud security is the access to advanced threat detection and response capabilities. Cloud security platforms have knowledge of the latest in threat intelligence technologies and can use this knowledge and access to expertise to quickly identify and respond to threats as they arise. The web-based nature of the cloud also makes updates to security software and tools simple. Cloud security keeps your security approach accurate and up to date.
Cloud security includes a variety of tools and techniques to ensure your data is protected. This includes access control, data encryption, and data loss prevention (DLP). This means your business can control who has access to data in the cloud and how users can engage with it; your business can keep data secured when it is stored or transferred; and your business is able to prevent your data from being leaked or deleted.
Cloud compliance can be a difficult space to navigate, but cloud security can help. There are various frameworks your business can follow to ensure you’re in compliance with industry regulations and standards. Additionally, working with a cloud services provider for your cloud security needs can provide you with the guidance you need to ensure your cloud security and data storage is compliant.
Cloud Security Best Practices
Getting started with cloud security can be a daunting task, as can getting your company ready to adopt new tools, policies, and frameworks. There are a few best practices to keep in mind as you implement a cloud security strategy.
Train Your People
With an abundance of security breaches coming from within, training your people is more important than ever. Your staff should be trained on how to identify threats, recognize phishing attacks, and on topics like risk management. You can even take security training a step farther with simulated email attacks to get real insights into user behavior.
Establish Cloud Security Policies
Cloud security policies define how your organization will use the cloud, specifically how users will engage with data and resources in the cloud in a secure way. Cloud security policies should cover things like access regulations, data storage, incident response, and more in a way that is easy for users to understand and follow. If your users aren’t aware of the cloud security measures you have in place, how can you expect them to use the tools correctly?
Enforce a Zero Trust Approach
Zero trust should be a pillar of any cloud security strategy. A zero-trust approach does not trust anything outside of or within your network, and emphasizes the importance of authorizing, inspecting, and securing all cloud data, resources, and communications. This approach also includes only giving users access to the resources and data necessary to do their jobs. Zero trust secures your cloud environment at a granular level, and prevents hackers from accessing the entirety of your cloud network if they do find a way in.
Monitor and Mitigate Misconfigurations
We’ve already covered how misconfigurations lead to a high rate of security breaches, so it’s important to be looking for misconfigurations and mitigating them. Use best-practice frameworks that are already available to you when configuring your cloud network and monitor for misconfigurations as you work within your cloud environment.
Encrypt your Data
Data encryption is key to any cloud security strategy. All your data should be encrypted when it’s stored in the cloud and especially in transit where it is more vulnerable to attacks. Many CSPs offer data encryption services to make sure your data is secure in the cloud and when it’s shared outside of the cloud.
Use Log Monitoring and Management
Log monitoring gives you visibility across your cloud environment, so you know what is happening and when. When thinking about log monitoring and management, you should consider a security information and event management (SIEM) system, which takes the data collected from log monitoring and provides alerts for suspicious activity and allows for a quick response. Log monitoring is also important because it allows you to track changes and see when and where new security vulnerabilities pop up in your network.
Check your Compliance Regulations
Make sure you are aware of your industry regulations and laws when you’re selecting your cloud security services and tools, and creating your policies and processes. Compliance requirements are in place for a reason, and making sure you remain compliant should be a top priority.
Leverage Cloud Security Resources
There are so many cloud security solutions and services available that it can be difficult to know what you need. Then, it can be difficult to manage and enforce a cloud security strategy if your IT department lacks advanced knowledge of the cloud. One of the most valuable cloud resources is a Cloud Service Provider with expertise in security to help you plan, implement, and manage your cloud security strategy.
Get Started with Cloud Security
There is a lot that goes into cloud security. It can be overwhelming to think about, but it’s necessary for businesses operating in the cloud. Cybersecurity attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and the cloud is a common target because of its many endpoints. Businesses can no longer put security on the backburner, but instead they need to revisit their cloud security strategy to ensure their full cloud network is protected.
We know cloud security can feel like an overwhelming task for many businesses, and we are here to help! PEI is a Managed IT Services Provider with advanced cloud knowledge, and we can help you with all your cloud security needs. If you’re looking to leverage PEI as a cloud security resource, contact us today!
Anna Ross, PEI