Cloud computing has revolutionized the way enterprises deploy and manage critical applications. It ensures unparalleled agility in terms of hosting and scaling an IT infrastructure. With its distributed nature and unlimited on-demand compute power, the cloud enables frictionless real-time access to organizational resources for employees and customers regardless of location and device. The flip side of this flexibility, however, is that it comes with its spectrum of security challenges.
As cloud adoption gains momentum, the average company’s attack surface expands dramatically. It comprises a dynamically growing number of applications, container-based microservices, IoT devices, APIs, user account controls, virtual networks, and mobile access instances. Each one is a potential entry point for threat actors.
To take up these challenges, companies must embrace a holistic approach to security, whereby the protection mechanisms are as resilient as the cloud environment itself, and uniform security standards are in place across all aspects of the infrastructure. This article sheds light on the fundamental components of a robust security posture in a world where cloud computing plays an increasingly important role.
Shift security left
To reap the benefits of a tamper-proof cloud architecture, organizations should build their strategy with security in mind from the start. It’s important to identify and assess potential risks and requirements specific to the company’s data, applications, and regulatory standards. From the initial planning stages, develop a comprehensive framework that covers areas such as identity and access management (IAM), data encryption at rest and in transit, and compliance monitoring.
Audit the current stack of security solutions to keep the ones that will work consistently across the cloud territory and to sift out legacy tools that can't fully adapt to the new environment and might become a source of vulnerabilities down the road. Specially crafted cloud migration solutions can smooth the compatibility edges during the transition and make the process hassle-free overall.
To respond to incidents in real time, opt for services for security information and event management (SIEM) and set up alerts for suspicious activities. Implement firewalls, an intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS), and network segmentation to isolate resources and reduce the attack surface. Cloud-centric security training is another prerequisite for a successful migration.
Wise cloud-native security integration
With the availability of firmly established cloud computing platforms, adding the security piece of the puzzle doesn’t have to be daunting. If you resort to one of these turnkey services from big-name providers like Google, AWS, or Microsoft Azure, there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to hardening the protections. Each one comes with a competitive set of security mechanisms, from data encryption and threat intelligence feeds to AI-powered web application layer defenses and centralized infrastructure visibility.
While these controls suffice to foil most cybersecurity threats out there, organizations often neglect to get maximum mileage out of them. It takes a good deal of knowledge and effort to bridge that gap.
As an illustration, one of the leading providers – Google Cloud Platform (GCP) – offers a decent collection of cloud-native security instruments out of the box. These include web application and API protection, intrusion detection, data loss prevention (DLP), event logging, data encryption at rest and in transit, binary authorization for safe container deployment, and virtual private cloud (VPC) for smooth network segmentation. Yet, breaches aren’t uncommon in this arena.
The main roadblock to harnessing these defenses is not about a scarce range of built-in security features. It’s about misconfigurations and other slip-ups that stem from a lack of end-users’ awareness of the provider’s security potential and their role in safeguarding the infrastructure.
If you familiarize yourself with Google Cloud security best practices, you’ll know how to implement the principle of least privilege, maintain visibility across all cloud assets, use centralized logging and monitoring, apply robust encryption, limit external exposure, and automate security workflows – from policy enforcement to anomaly detection. Another crucial thing is to grasp the gist of the “shared responsibility” model that splits the security chores between the customer and the provider.
Diversify your cloud infrastructure for business continuity
Putting all your eggs in one basket is a slippery slope. Go for a multi-cloud strategy to avoid a “single point of failure” scenario and reduce the risk of vendor lock-in. This strategy boils down to the fact that relying solely on one cloud provider or region can leave your business susceptible to various forms of downtime, including outages, technical failures, and data breaches.
By diversifying your cloud infrastructure, you can ensure uninterrupted operations, maintain data availability, and improve disaster recovery capabilities. Furthermore, branching out the environment across different geographical regions can help protect against natural disasters or geopolitical events that could affect data centers in a specific area.
However, diversification requires careful planning and management. It involves selecting the right combination of cloud service providers and regions, establishing connectivity and data synchronization mechanisms, as well as implementing load balancing and failover strategies. Additionally, organizations must consider factors like compliance, cost, and complexity.
Add cloud security posture management to the mix
The idea of cloud security posture management (CSPM) is to provide real-time visibility, continuous monitoring, threat detection, and proactive remediation of misconfigurations and vulnerabilities within cloud environments. One of its key advantages is the clear-cut focus on addressing the unique challenges posed by the dynamic and decentralized essence of cloud computing.
CSPM solutions automate the assessment of cloud configurations, comparing them against best practices and compliance standards. This ensures that security controls are uniformly applied across all resources. This tactic also underlies proactive risk mitigation, which minimizes the window of opportunity for attackers, fortifies the organization’s data security posture, and helps maintain compliance with industry regulations.
The other things on the plus side of CSPM include risk visualization, detection of insecure APIs, as well as protection against unauthorized access, account hijacking, external data sharing, and denial of service (DoS) attacks.
A fresh perspective on cybersecurity
Traditional enterprise security models that rely on dedicated equipment at network gateways to monitor traffic and devices are no longer adequate in today’s quickly evolving threat landscape. In a cloud computing world, the right protection strategies and solutions must span the entire digital infrastructure, dynamically scale as the snowball of application resources grows, and automatically adapt to new infrastructure requirements.
The cloud is a transformative force that will undoubtedly define the future of networking. The fundamental security principles above can help harness its potential to the fullest by safeguarding the most precious organizational assets – data, applications, and customer trust.
David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 17 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. He runs the MacSecurity.net and Privacy-PC.com projects.