The 6 pillars of strong cloud security

By this point, you’ve explored how securing your cloud systems and infrastructure is going to take more than whatever default security options you get from your third-party hosts, whether you’re using Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) or others. 

A larger and more thought-out security plan is the best way to protect your business’s cloud networks, and when done properly, even SMBs like yours will be able to achieve enterprise-level protection. But you can only get there by utilizing an integrated security stack. 

Keep the following six pillars in mind as you’re building your stack.

Pillar 1: Keep your Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies and authentication controls granular across your cloud infrastructures

To make it easier to manage updates for IAM definitions throughout your business’s growth, try to work with groups and roles instead of dealing with definitions at the individual level.

When granting privileges to assets and APIs that are necessary for a group or role to carry out tasks, do so minimally to mitigate potential disruptions that result from errors or breaches. And don’t forget to enforce strong password policies, session/permission time-outs, etc. 

Pillar 2: Enforce Zero Trust network security across logically isolated networks, micro-segments, and maintain least privilege access

When deploying your apps and essential business resources, make sure to do so in logically isolated sections of your provider’s network. 

For AWS and Google, you would go with Virtual private Clouds. For Microsoft Azure, you would use vNet. You should also utilize subnets as a way of micro-segmenting your workloads and employ granular security protocols at their gateways for more secure communication. 

Pillar 3: Enforce virtual server protection protocols when handling change management, software updates, and patches

When considering a vendor for your company’s cloud security, be sure that they provide a robust option for Cloud Security Posture Management. 

Their option should consistently apply governance and compliance rules and regulations, as well as templates to help with virtual server provisioning, configuration audits, and automated remediation. 

Pillar 4: Utilize a next-generation web application firewall to protect all business applications, especially those that are cloud-native

Next-generation web application firewalls are essentially for properly monitoring and validating inbound and outbound traffic from your cloud servers. Whichever firewall you decide to go with should come with automated updates. 

Pillar 5: Utilize enhanced data protection

All transport layers, file shares, and communications should be encrypted where possible. Make it a point to continually monitor compliance risks and maintain good data storage hygiene so that it doesn’t become a pain to locate critical files when you need them. 

Pillar 6: Real-time threat intelligence

When your cloud systems encounter a threat, time is of the essence. Look for solid cloud security vendors that offer all the tools you need to visualize and understand the threat landscape and isolate any attacks. 

Any alerts and intrusions should come in real-time so that you can respond to threats as quickly as possible—some of the best cloud security tools will even have automated remediation-workflows that begin dealing with issues before you’ve even become aware of them.

Considerations when seeking cloud security solutions

Choosing to move to the cloud is not an easy decision for most companies, not least because you have more than a few cloud providers and cloud security solutions to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. 

You’ll no doubt find yourself asking your IT team/MSP questions such as: Who’s going to be using the cloud data and exactly what data will be stored there? Who will be assigned which permissions? Who will we share our data with? How will our solution fit into all this?

Those are all good and important questions to ask, but to help guide you during your search for your ideal cloud security solutions, keep your eye out for options that can handle: 

  • Collaboration controls — Make sure the right people are granted permissions for different documents and files. Your solution should help you manage collaboration controls so that you can add, remove, revoke, or downgrade user permissions.
  • Data classification — Data needs labels to be properly understood. Whichever solution you go with should be able to classify data at multiple levels (i.e., regulated, sensitive, public, etc.). 
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) — Stop unwanted parties and entities from gaining access to your data. A good security solution will implement a cloud DLP that does this and actively monitors suspicious activity. 
  • Malicious behavior identification — Catch thieves in the act by choosing a solution with this feature. It should be able to identify accounts that have been compromised and even detect insider threats with user behavior analytics (UBA). 
  • Encryption — In the unfortunate scenario where your data is breached, unwanted eyes shouldn’t be able to read or understand the data. Cloud encryption makes this so. 
  • User access control — Make sure the right users are authorized to access critical cloud data and applications—an essential feature for maintaining compliance. Using a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) can help enforce this.
  • Device access control — Only qualified devices should be allowed to access your cloud data. Whichever solution you choose must not give access to unknown or nefarious devices requesting to get in. 
  • Malware prevention — Application whitelisting, machine learning-based malware detection, and file-scanning are all techniques that should be implemented to protect against malware. It should also monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic for suspicious activity. 
  • Compliance Assessments — Stay within and up-to-date with compliance with a security solution that reviews your databases and systems for PCI, HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and other regulatory requirements.
  • Risk assessment — It’s easier to focus on problematic factors in your cloud services when your security solution can conduct risk assessments. 

It’s been reported that 70% of organizations that utilize public cloud services have suffered through attacks by cybercriminals. With the increasing amount of companies flooding to the cloud, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your company’s private data is secure. 

To achieve solid cloud security, companies like yours must evaluate their cloud security options and be deliberate in their choice, lest they become another victim of cybercrime. 

In summary: 

  • What is cloud security? — The security of your cloud infrastructure and its resources, data, and accessibility of your systems. 
  • Why cloud security matters — Lacking cloud security, there’s little guarantee that the data of your business and your customers will not be seen by unwanted eyes or exfiltrated altogether. This can lead to obvious problems for your business and can leave your company on the bad side of compliance regulations. 
  • Challenges of cloud security — There are many cloud security challenges to contend with, including the complexities of limiting access to your cloud systems, cloud data, the complex nature of cloud breaches, scaling workloads, insider threats, limiting access to authorized parties and entities, the increase in cloud attacks, and the lack of control your business has over third-party actions. 
  • Cloud security responsibilities by type — In a Saas model, your business is responsible only for the data of your company, customers, and who has access to this data. In a Paas model, you have the same responsibilities as in the Saas model, in addition to the data of your applications. Iaas models give your business even more responsibilities, like securing operating systems and any virtual network traffic. 
  • Zero Trust — This refers to the networking idea that your business shouldn’t automatically trust any person or entity within or outside your cloud network. All inbound communications should be inspected, verified, and secured. 
  • 6 pillars of cloud security — These are things your business should seriously consider when trying to secure your cloud systems and infrastructure: 
    • 1. Keep your Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies and authentication controls granular across your cloud infrastructures.
    • 2. Enforce Zero Trust network security across logically isolated networks, micro-segments, and maintain least privilege access.
    • 3. Enforce virtual server protection protocols when handling change management, software updates, and patches.
    • 4. Utilize a next-generation web application firewall to protect all business applications, especially those that are cloud-native.
    • 5. Utilize enhanced data protection.
    • 6. Use real-time threat intelligence. 
  • Additional considerations — Some topics your business should consider when choosing a cloud security solution include collaboration controls, data classification, data loss prevention, malicious behavior identification, encryption, user and device access controls, malware prevention, and compliance and risk assessments. 

When should you assess your business’s data and systems security?

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.