Hosting your company’s data and systems in on-premise servers comes with its fair share of challenges, and despite its convenience and flexibility, cloud servers have their own problems as well.
This is partly due to the fact that public clouds don’t have the clearest security parameters, and the risks/responsibilities you have to deal with vary depending on your cloud type.
Below is a list of some of the standard challenges your business will likely face when trying to keep your cloud systems and data secure:
- Limiting access to your cloud systems — You don’t want just anyone going through your data and systems. We’re not just talking about external cybercriminals but also internal team members. For instance, if your organization does any work with the healthcare industry, you probably have to maintain HIPPA compliance, which requires that only designated personnel be able to access electronic personal health information (ePHI). Cloud user roles tend to be configured fairly loosely, which can make it difficult to grant users privileges to some information and not others. Misconfiguring is, in fact, what led to the data breach highlighted at the start of this article.
- Limiting control over your cloud data — The convenience that comes with having a third-party provider like AWS host your cloud servers requires them to have a certain amount of access to your private business data since they’re the ones who control the servers your data and systems are hosted on.
- The shifting landscape of compliance — Utilizing the cloud adds another dimension to compliance. Every major cloud provider adheres to PCI, HIPAA, NIST, and GDPR compliance regulations, but you, as a customer of their cloud services, still have to make sure that your business practices are compliant with whatever regulations related to your business. Due to visibility issues, you may have to rely on a third-party to help accomplish continued compliance checks that provide real-time alerts about any issues.
- The complexity of cloud breaches — Unlike on-premise breaches, cloud-native breaches often occur when cybercriminals take advantage of the native functions of your third-party hosted cloud platform. They do this by exploiting any vulnerabilities they can find without tripping any alarms using malware, and once they “safely” breach weakly configured/protected interfaces, they move on to exfiltrating any data they want. Misconfigurations lay the ground-work for cybercriminals breaches like this.
- Changing workloads — When you upgrade your servers to an environment as flexible as the cloud, it’s a good idea to make sure that your security tools are just as flexible. The cloud makes it easy to increase and decrease resources as needed, but not all security tools are designed to handle such changes.
- Insider security threats – Though this isn’t a problem limited to cloud security, it’s still important to keep in mind. Employees who aren’t authorized to access certain data may maneuver their way into the private systems in the event they go rogue.
- Increased attacks — Because of its popularity, the public cloud environment has attracted a lot of bad apples. Many malicious threats such as Zero-Day, Malware, and Account Takeover are becoming more common problems that cloud users have to deal with. These hackers often take advantage of poorly secured cloud ingress ports, which can give them access to your systems where they wreak havoc.
- Lack of control over third-party actions — When hosting your data infrastructure on the cloud, your third-party host technically has access to that data. You have to trust that there won’t be a nefarious party in their ranks that might try to breach your privacy.
Cloud security responsibilities based on cloud service type
Regardless of which type of cloud service your business decides to adopt, your company will in some way have to take responsibility for your cloud security, even if the service type takes care of much of it for you.
Below are three of the most popular types of cloud services and their associated security responsibilities:
- Software-as-a-service (SaaS) — Eg Google Drive or Microsoft Office 365, SaaS is a type of cloud service where computing and networking resources are managed by the service provider, allowing your company to simply use the software as if it was a locally installed program. With SaaS, your business is responsible for securing the company and customer data you enter into the software, as well as who has access to that software and the data inside it.
- Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) — Eg Microsoft Azure App Service and AWS Lambda, PaaS is the type of cloud service where lower level resources up to the Operating System is managed by your provider, while you’re company is in control of the applications and their associated data running on the cloud platform, allowing you to install whatever applications you’d like and manage them as you prefer. With PaaS, your business is responsible for correctly configuring and maintaining the applications you deploy, in addition to securing the associated data and access as with SaaS.
- Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) — Eg Microsoft Azure IaaS and Amazon Web Services, with IaaS your provider manages the storage, server, and virtualization resources that then enable your company to install, operate, and customize everything from the operating system to individual applications. This layers the responsibility of securing your chosen operating system (through proper configuration, maintenance, and access) on top of the requirements of PaaS.
What is Zero Trust and why it matters
Zero Trust, first coined by John Kindervag in 2010, refers to the networking idea that businesses shouldn’t automatically trust any person or entity within our outside of your cloud network—all incoming communication should be inspected, verified, and secured.
This is in contrast to businesses that fail to properly vet incoming and outgoing information from their networks. As a policy, it helps to promote a least privileged governance strategy where users are only given access to specific resources they need to fulfill their duties.
For instance, if you were to hire a freelancer to edit some of your articles, you would only give them access to specific documents they need to edit, not your entire G-suite account.
In addition to this, Zero Trust networks take advantage of micro-segmentation, which is a method of dealing with your cloud network security in a more granular way. The more detailed a view you have into your cloud network security, the easier it is to accurately secure traffic.
Once your business is set up with a solid cloud security solution, you might be tempted to just kick back and let it do its continuous work.
This is inadvisable as even the best security systems should be monitored to make sure they’re functioning properly. In fact, doing these types of checks should be part of the processes that build up your solid security stack.
We recommend that you regularly make an assessment of your data and systems every 6 months to a year. These assessments can take a serious amount of time and effort, especially for larger companies dealing with unwieldy amounts of data.
Luckily, Commprise can relieve you of that burden with our Managed Security Services. We deliver the technology, insight, and oversight your organizations’ IT requires for top-notch security, and we tailor our strategy and solutions to your unique needs.