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The Abridged Guide to Cloud Security Solutions

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cloud security
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Cloud security is becoming a priority at almost every IT organization as more critical workloads and datasets move to an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model. The complexity and dynamic nature of cloud environments require a new approach to security and a new set of security solutions and tools.

In this article, I'll cover some of these solutions, the challenges they address, and must-have features that will help you select the right solution for your organization.

What are Cloud Security Solutions?

Cloud security solutions help organizations protect workloads, applications, and data in the cloud. Cloud security tools can be used in public or private clouds and typically support hybrid or multi-cloud deployments.

Here are a few common types of cloud security solutions:

  • Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP)—a centralized solution for increasing the visibility of cloud resources, primarily to protect cloud workloads. CWPP allows you to centrally manage and enforce security policies across multiple cloud environments.
  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)—implements a continuous and automated security and compliance process, primarily to protect the infrastructure on which workloads are deployed. CSPM helps prevent software configuration vulnerabilities and compliance risks.
  • Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)—extends visibility from the on-premise data center into the cloud environment. CASB sits between on-premises and cloud infrastructure and may include security functions like firewalls, data loss prevention (DLP), and data encryption.

Cloud Security Challenges

Misconfiguration

Misconfigurations of any environment and compute resource can quickly turn into points of exploitation. This issue can become much more dangerous when the security processes designed to protect your cloud environment actually contain misconfigurations.

Many misconfigurations occur because the cloud is natively designed to be accessible and shareable. Often, the goal of setting up cloud environments is to ensure users can gain access from any location and device.

This accessible nature of the cloud can become a challenge for administrators trying to strike a balance between granting access and preventing unauthorized access. Further issues can arise due to the shared responsibility model many cloud providers operate under.

A cloud service provider (CSP) is typically responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure, while the cloud user is responsible for securing everything else. The CSP provides tools that enable cloud administrators to implement security, but these tools are often not granular enough. Additionally, human error can often lead to misconfigurations in the security settings.

When you add multi-cloud and hybrid cloud implementations to the mix, security can turn into a massive and challenging undertaking. Misconfigurations often follow, introducing highly exploitable vulnerabilities into the corporate network.

Malicious Insiders

The term insider threat refers to individuals who use their credentials to perform unauthorized actions, accidentally, intentionally, or due to manipulations. Malicious insiders perform unauthorized actions intentionally.

A malicious insider may use their credentials to access corporate data and sensitive information they are allowed to access and perform unauthorized actions. They may also try to use their credentials to gain access to confidential information and more through the network.

Malicious insiders are highly dangerous because they already have access to resources. This increases their chances of successfully stealing or deleting data or even causing outages. Since they are authorized users, it is also difficult to discover them.

Insecure Interfaces/APIs

Cloud platforms often rely on application programming interfaces (APIs) to deliver services, access, and information to cloud users. To ensure cloud users can truly leverage these APIs, cloud vendors provide comprehensive documentation. These details, when used by malicious actors, can turn APIs into a point of entry.

Must-Have Cloud Security Solution Features

Here are a few key features you should look for when selecting your suite of cloud security tools.

Intrusion Detection Systems with Event Logging

Numerous IT security compliance standards, including PCI DSS and HIPAA, require businesses to have a way to track and record intrusion attempts. In order to meet this requirement, you should have an introduction detection system (IDS) supporting event logging. Cloud-based IDS can monitor and update firewall security rules to handle suspected threats and traffic from malicious IP addresses.

XDR

XDR is a security capability that cuts across silos, enabling an organization to combine data from on-premises servers, networks, endpoints, and cloud workloads, in order to detect threats. XDR integrates with multiple security products to provide improved incident detection and response capabilities.

A key feature of XDR-based systems is that they use advanced analytics to tie together data points and provide a complete attack story, including in-depth forensic information that can help investigate the incident. They also enable an automated or manual response to an attack in a short period of time.

Threat Intelligence Feeds

Cloud environments are becoming increasingly complex. The more cloud services and vendors your environment contains, the more vulnerable it becomes. To properly protect your assets, you need to increase visibility.

You can increase visibility by using one tool to monitor and secure all of your cloud resources. Additionally, you can make use of threat intelligence feeds, which can collect and analyze deep data on security events occurring across all global and local deployments.

Native Integration Into Cloud Management and Security Systems

Gaining visibility into cloud environments is not a simple matter. Cloud vendors operate under a shared responsibility model, which means they are in charge of the underlying infrastructure. A cloud vendor provides you with tools and interfaces designed to leverage cloud resources. However, you do not get visibility into all components.

To gain visibility into your cloud environment, you need to integrate with tools. Cloud vendors may offer natively-built tools designed for this purpose, such as Amazon Inspector for Amazon Web Services (AWS), Stack Event and Flow Drivers for Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Security Center for Azure. You can also leverage third-party cloud access security broker (CASB) solutions, which are designed to mediate between cloud providers and users.

How to Choose the Right Cloud Security Solution

When selecting a cloud security solution for your organization, consider these evaluation criteria:

  • Assess your risks and vulnerabilities—before choosing a solution for your cloud environment. It's important to know what your biggest risks and vulnerabilities are. This will let you choose the solutions that can address and mitigate those threats. There are several types of cybersecurity assessments you can use, including asset audits, risk assessments, and vulnerability assessments.
  • Consider the regulatory requirements—identify which industry regulations apply to your cloud environment and whether a specific cybersecurity solution can help you meet them. Prefer tools that have built-in audits or reports you can use to meet your compliance obligations or tools that are certified to provide security capabilities required by compliance standards.
  • Re-evaluate existing security tools—ask yourself if you can use your existing security solutions for the cloud environment. If so, consider how they will work and what adjustments to configuration and process are necessary. Using existing solutions in the cloud can help security staff adapt to a cloud environment faster and reduce the learning curve.
  • Consider the user experience—it is vitally important how security teams and other users will work with cloud solutions in the cloud. Consider the full suite of solutions you plan to use. How easy to use is each of them, and how often will security staff need to jump between solutions and dashboards to perform day-to-day tasks? Ease of use directly impacts productivity and is extremely important given the security staff and skills shortage.

I hope these tips will help you make the right choices as you build a new security stack to secure your organization’s assets in the cloud.