July 16, 2024

Managing Security Risks in the Cloud

Managing Security Risks in the Cloud

There is no doubt that cloud computing has driven a dynamic shift in the way businesses implement and access enterprise resources. The cloud quickly became an essential tool during the global Covid-19 pandemic providing businesses with the required services and capacity to allow employees to connect to the workplace from home and for creating an environment as close to business-as-usual as possible.

However, there is growing concern that the mass uptake in cloud computing is creating serious headaches over the cloud-native security of businesses, especially those that rapidly transitioned to the cloud. Many are now scrambling to reduce the attack vector of their front-line services and harden all layers of security to best practice standards.

Managing security risks is always high on the agenda at the boardroom, even more so today than ever before. It’s vital to understand the top security concerns that businesses face and how to protect essential cloud systems against today’s threats. 

What are the Top Cloud Security Concerns?

Cloud Security is an ever-changing dynamic and there is rarely a day go by when we are not bombarded with news stories about the latest data breach or a well-known business becoming a victim of ransomware. Recent research has suggested that the top cloud security concerns relate to the risks associated with storing business data in the cloud. 

Cloud computing has moved the perimeter of control from the local data center to global-scale cloud providers. It requires careful planning and a deep understanding of the provider’s security-defined infrastructure to architect a secure solution and to reduce risk. Data is everywhere, it’s stored in cloud storage buckets, databases, ML services, and directly on instances, containers, and clusters to name just a few.

Protecting cloud data is a major undertaking and it is the responsibility of everyone to protect against unauthorized access to cloud resources. Restricting public access to private resources is achievable by the isolation of network resources, the use of direct access interconnects for employees, and the removal of public elastic IP’s as a standard practice. 

Managing security is challenging and complex, cloud data should be encrypted, be protected by KMS key rotation, and feature stringent user access controls. It is so easy for engineers and developers to incorrectly configure a cloud resource either via the cloud console or by code. This may be caused by unfamiliarity with the cloud platform itself or a lack of expertise in the security toolsets available. 

In nearly all circumstances, misconfiguration is a genuine mistake but the impact of the mistake can be catastrophic. The chance of falling victim to the insider threat is small but it is an obvious challenge to data integrity nevertheless.

Regular security audits are essential in cloud environments to understand the current threat landscape. Ensuring that any remediation is handled by those responsible for the platform will help to foster a deeper understanding of all aspects of cybersecurity, this re-enforces the required security policies in-house as well as helps to prevent data breaches from outside attacks.

A major concern of business leaders is the challenges of performing accurate risk assessments on existing cloud resources. A business that is heavily interwoven with one or many public cloud providers can make understanding the holistic view of the security setup difficult. Every business application is secured to differing standards, even if bound by regulation and compliance. 

Risk Assessment is often outsourced to a third party because of these challenges and this approach can reduce the complexity of managing cloud security. It also reduces the workload on internal security teams leaving time to focus, develop and enforce structured security policies, define logging standards, test and onboard new security software and work with management teams throughout the business to help enforce standards.

The threat of data loss and the challenges to data privacy and confidentiality are increased within cloud-based environments. The ability to easily share data is a great benefit for improved collaboration but a serious concern for security experts. Sharing data into the public realm is easy with cloud storage and enables data to leave the control of the network perimeter making it very difficult to track.

As more cloud-based businesses embrace infrastructure-as-code as the most productive way to manage cloud resources at scale it is advisable to adopt controls and measures to limit the chance of credentials being lost or accidentally published online. The use of linting tools, secret managers, parameter stores, and password encryption tools will reduce the risk, as will using private code repositories, but this is always a significant concern because mistakes do happen.

Mitigating Cloud Security Concerns with Cloud-Native Protection

Managing and monitoring the entire security stack of the leading public cloud providers has until recently been very difficult to achieve. This is because the tools supplied by the provider are oversimplified and often lack any significant depth for detailed analysis. Gathering useful security insights will usually require skills in structured query languages to harvest anything worthwhile.  This problem is exacerbated because you have to manage each cloud provider with their cloud security tools, making security management overly complicated for front-line teams.

Investing in cloud-native security tools tackle this problem head-on because they provide a single pane of glass for all security monitoring giving each user control over the application, edge, and data security. The controls are created to prevent DDoS, detect configuration errors, improve visibility, and control access management to cloud resources.

The first line of defense should be a certified Web Application Firewall (WAF) that scans all inbound and outbound traffic looking for hidden bots and any known exploit or 0-day emerging threat from the WAF database. The recent Log4J exploit is a great example to demonstrate the power of WAF, it would have only taken a small update to the WAF to protect any client-attached servers, giving users the time needed to roll out security updates to any affected server.

Cloud technology is built upon the power of the API, an interface that enables completely different applications to interact and send and receive data. Anyone can write an API, but securing an API is hard.  Cloud-native API security controls can detect all APIs in your project and provide granular controls to sensitive data as it moves around the network. 

The API security tools should protect against all of the top threats identified by the OWASP foundation including out-of-the-box security rules to defend against injection, mass assignment, security misconfiguration, and so on to provide continuous API endpoint protection. Let your DevOps teams control security by enabling the upload of OpenAPI specification files to create an automated positive security model enabling protection as soon as the API is enabled.

Another required cloud-native feature is the protection against serverless workloads. cloud-native Serverless Protection runs directly inside AWS Lambda functions providing direct protection to code running in a function also to the standards of the OWASP foundation. Any threats that are identified are listed in the attack visibility section of the dashboard, here you will find details of the attack classification,  and details over the network, application, and operating system interactions. 

Your chosen cloud-native security tools should protect databases such as those hosted in AWS and Azure. The protection of data is always the responsibility of the customer in the public cloud and having dashboards and visual insights will provide the maximum visibility of exactly what is happening with the database; learn insight into current activity and incidents and any vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.

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Carmel Isaac

Student. Coffee ninja. Devoted web advocate. Subtly charming writer. Travel fan. Hardcore bacon lover.

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