Cloud Security

Apr 28, 2021

What is Cloud Security?

Cloud security, also known as cloud computing security, refers to the practice of protecting cloud data, infrastructure, environments and applications through specialized services, policies, controls and technologies. Cloud security is a form of cybersecurity and its goal is to secure cloud environments against security threats including malware, hackers, unauthorized access, distributed denial of service (DDoS) and more. 

Cloud Environments

To understand cloud security, it is important to know what it is protecting. There are three distinct cloud environments to consider:

  • Public Cloud Services are hosted by public, third-party cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure and can be accessed through a browser.
  • Private Clouds are dedicated to the customer (usually a company or organization) and can only be accessed by that customer.
  • Hybrid Clouds are a combination of public and private clouds. This option offers some of the control and security found in private clouds while allowing organizations to enjoy a public cloud’s scalability and other benefits.

In general, public cloud environments are viewed as the hardest to secure while private clouds are the easiest, given that they are completely under the user’s control. But all cloud environments are vulnerable, which is why robust cloud security protocols are essential.

Cloud Computing Service Models

There are three types of cloud computing service models, each with unique features and properties designed to satisfy specific business requirements.

  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) offers pay-as-you-go services such as storage, networking and virtualization. With IaaS, businesses get the advantages of on-premise infrastructure without paying for expensive on-site resources.
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service) is primarily used by developers and DevOps teams. PaaS delivers hardware and software tools over the internet so internal teams can leverage them to develop web apps and services.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service) delivers software to users over the internet, usually for a monthly fee. SaaS eliminates the need to install and run software applications on a computer. Instead, it is all accessed by logging into the user’s account.

There are pros and cons to utilizing each of these cloud computing service models and it is important to consider them all when determining which option will best serve an organization.

Cloud Security Issues and Challenges

Cloud computing offers several advantages; flexibility, cost savings, scalability, and deployment speed, to name a few. However, cloud environments’ dynamic nature leaves them particularly vulnerable to security threats that can range from a mere nuisance to catastrophic. 

Shifting Workloads

Traditional security tools cannot keep up with the cloud’s dynamic environment, constantly changing workloads, and dynamically provisioned and decommissioned assets.

Misconfigurations

Misconfiguration occurs when computing assets are set up incorrectly, making them vulnerable to malicious activity. Misconfiguration is a leading cause of data breaches and can lead to resources being deleted or modified. 

Attractive Attack Surface

Public cloud environments are prime targets for hackers because the infrastructure is leveraged by multiple companies,  and companies often misconfigure their resources with weak security settings. This makes it attractive for hackers to exploit weaknesses in order to disrupt workloads or access data, often multiple times, without detection.

Visibility and Tracking

Visibility is an issue in all cloud computing models because cloud providers have full control over the infrastructure layer. Users must enforce strong use policies around authorization for and subscribing to new cloud services as well as creating new instances.

Privilege and Management Issues

Cloud user roles are often more permissive than they should be, leading to insider-related threats that may or may not be malicious. Improperly configured roles and keys, and granting unnecessary privileges to users can all lead to exposure.

Cloud Security Best Practices

In light of these and other challenges, it is critical to develop and maintain a strong cloud security posture. Tactics should include:

Eliminating Misconfigurations in Cloud Security

Misconfigured resources such as cloud storage buckets can lead to data leaks and unauthorized accesses. Security tools can assist with these issues, but it is the user’s responsibility to configure and secure resources as well as to enforce strong access controls and authentication.

Managing Access

Roles will likely shift over time, necessitating good IAM hygiene, ensuring privileges are role-based, establishing and enforcing stringent password policies, and monitoring and auditing privileged access.

Monitoring Vulnerabilities in Cloud Security

Cloud environments are dynamic and ever-changing so it is important to regularly run security audits and vulnerability scans to identify weaknesses and ward off potential breaches.

Protecting Data

Secure file shares, data encryption, ongoing compliance risk management and maintaining good storage resource hygiene all offer enhanced data protection. This is especially important when dealing with sensitive data that is subject to strict compliance regulations.

Onboarding Robust Threat Intelligence

Third-party solutions offer visibility into the threat landscape by intelligently scanning and cross-referencing internal and external data, enabling rapid response times and delivering real-time threat and violation alerts.

How Cloud Security is Evolving Today

With organizations leveraging the cloud with increasing frequency and regularity, it is imperative to have cloud security protocols in place that keep pace with this ever-changing environment. This is especially true as cloud usage in development processes grows. While security is ultimately the responsibility of the security team, modern organizations are embedding security controls into DevOps processes in order to deliver better security outcomes in tight development cycles.

Adopting Infrastructure as Code (IaC) improves the repeatability, consistency and speed of the provisioning process, and the Accurics platform helps you realize similar benefits in other parts of the cloud native lifecycle.  Codifying compliance policy (Policy as Code) enables you to identify violations programmatically during development; Drift as Code facilitates synchronization between IaC and runtime configuration by automatically identifying when they diverge; Security as Code helps you recognize the most important threats by exposing their blast radius and entire breach path. When problems are identified through any of these technologies, Accurics’ Remediation as Code (RaC) minimizes the time and effort required to fix problems by generating fixes as pull requests that developers can simply review and approve. These tools, combined with clear communication and stringent, proactive cloud security protocols, will protect organizations from risk while they continue to innovate at the speed and scale of the cloud.

Also See

Kubernetes Security

Policy as Code

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

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