What is
Cloud Security?

Cloud security is the protection of data, technologies, controls, policies, and services in cloud computing environments from cyber threats and cyber attacks. Cloud security is a form of cybersecurity.

Cloud adoption has enabled companies both large and small to build a more efficient, scalable, and available IT infrastructure. Instead of storing resources in an in-house data center, they can use a cloud provider to store their applications, files, and data in the cloud. This modernized development and software deployment comes with a distinct set of security concerns. Let’s look at the security challenges you will run into when you move to the cloud.

Top Cloud Security Challenges


Because resources that are hosted by a cloud provider are managed by a third party and can be accessed over the Internet, there are quite a few challenges regarding the security of your cloud environment.

Increased Attack Surface

In the public cloud, you can access all your resources via the Internet. This provides a very attractive attack surface for hackers to probe for vulnerabilities. You can reduce this attack surface and make a cloud platform just as secure as in-house data centers, but you have to configure it correctly to do so. You can no longer just hide everything behind a firewall.

Everything is Software Now

In the cloud, everything is delivered via software. Operating systems and whole servers are virtual. Cloud-native infrastructures can scale dynamically to workloads. Cloud security controls must be able to respond to these changes and protect sensitive data both at rest and in transit.

Lack of Visibility

In most cases, the cloud environment will have to be accessed via the Internet. This means that all the services run on hardware that your IT staff does not manage. Therefore, you need first-class visibility into what is going on in your infrastructure with advanced systems and traffic monitoring.

Granular Access Control

In a traditional in-house data center, protecting your network perimeter with a firewall could prevent a lot of threats and make up for loose network security. In the cloud, users can access data and applications over the Internet. This means ensuring that you correctly configured all access controls is even more important on a cloud platform.

Complex Environments

Even if a business chooses only one cloud-based solution, the platform can be complex. But most enterprises need a private cloud solution as well as a public cloud solution. They may also have multiple branches across the world that host on-premise deployments. These platforms must work well together to prevent bottlenecks and errors.

Cloud Compliance

Choosing a cloud platform can also add another dimension to regulatory compliance. A company may have to adhere to regulations such as HIPAA, PCI, and Sarbanes-Oxley, or certain contractual internal agreements. Compliance audits can be difficult unless the right tools are in place.

The Responsibility of Cloud Security Is Shared


Cloud providers work hard to provide a secure cloud environment for their customers. It is part of their business model to maintain public trust and prevent data breaches, and data theft. Cloud providers can provide the tools to create secure services, but they have no control over how their customers use and configure these services. Customers can weaken security through configuration errors and simple mistakes.

In each type of cloud service, there is what is called a Shared Responsibility model. Some security responsibilities fall on the provider, and some are the customer's responsibilities. Here are how the responsibilities are divided in each cloud service type:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): Here customers handle most of their security. They are responsible for keeping their data secure, controlling user access, the security of their applications, operating system security, and controlling their virtual network traffic.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): Here customers are responsible for keeping their data secure, controlling user access, and the security of their applications.
  • Software as a service (SaaS): Here customers are only responsible for their data protection and access control.

As you can see, if you choose to go with a SaaS provider like Salesforce or Microsoft Office 365, then your security responsibility is minimal. When you choose to go with an IaaS cloud provider, then you must have a more comprehensive security plan. The provider will give customers the tools they need for all types of security policies, but a cloud platform is as secure as the customer makes it. Do not forget that for compliance purposes you are still responsible for your data.

Cloud Security Priorities


Cloud providers will supply you with many features to secure the data and applications you have deployed to the cloud. But you can't rely on these to provide the security you need without configuring them correctly or the help of third-party solutions to prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, or data theft. Here are some points to focus on in your cloud security plan.

Real-time Threat Detection

Every cloud service generates logs, and these logs can give you insights into the health of your infrastructure with the right tools. Machine learning-based algorithms can analyze this data, find threats, and stop threats before they do any damage.

Advanced Data Protection

In the cloud, files and data needed to be encrypted wherever they exist. This means encrypting data while it is at rest and when it is in transit. Modern data encryption is a quick, cheap way to ensure that data remains secure.

Using Next-Generation Firewalls

Next-Generation firewalls are designed for the cloud environment. They granularly filter traffic that flows through servers and will automatically update WAF rules when traffic patterns change.

Granular Security

Cloud platforms come with very granular security controls, but it is up to the customer to use them correctly. Users should only have access to resources that they need to use, and roles and groups should be configured to segregate assets effectively. We look at this concept further in the next section.

Why Zero Trust Is Important for Cloud Security


In traditional network security, networks were protected by a perimeter security model. Firewalls and related security software work by preventing threats from getting into a network, but would automatically trust anyone or anything inside of the network. Once someone has access, they can run applications, access data, or download files located anywhere on the network.

Zero Trust changes the concept of trust when it comes to protecting networks, data, and applications. Perimeter security is not enough in a cloud environment where all your resources are accessible via the Internet. Implementing Zero Trust means always verify, which promotes a least privileged governance strategy. Users are only given access to the resources they need to get the job done.

In a Zero Trust environment, access to workloads and between workloads is controlled using micro-segmentation. Only identified and verified workloads can communicate and this is based on allow rules as defined by an organizations security policy. This secures high value applications and data by preventing unauthorized lateral movement.

Conclusion


Migrating your data and applications to the cloud can save you money and help you scale your business more efficiently, but using a cloud platform requires a different type of security solution than an in-house data center. As a customer, you are still responsible for most of your security. This means adopting a Zero Trust security policy for your cloud deployments.

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