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Is your organization ready to secure in the cloud?

The cloud brings numerous benefits to organizations of all sizes and types in terms of scalability, potential resource savings, and innovation. As more mid-sized organizations move workloads to the cloud, one might ask, is the cloud secure?

The real danger of cloud computing is the perceived loss of control, including issues with visibility in the provider’s environment, possible incompatibility of security tools and controls in the cloud.

Cloud security issues include:

  • lack of visibility and control over processes in the clouds;
  • shadow IT;
  • the probability of accidentally publishing data;
  • malicious data leakage;
  • corruption or loss of critical data;
  • non-compliance with the requirements of regulators;
  • the presence of cloud-based malware;
  • the likelihood of malware spreading to the entire network of the organization.

Fortunately, cloud security tools are also evolving, and there are many cloud security best practices and services that organizations can use.

Shared Responsibility

In the era of cloud computing, more companies are using shared responsibility for data security in IT. This means that the cloud service provider is responsible for some of the security elements, while the organization is responsible for the controls. Therefore, before signing the contract, it is important to agree on who is responsible for what.

The nature of the shared responsibility model will differ depending on the model used, which can be either SaaS, PaaS or IaaS.

For example, in SaaS models, the consumer is only responsible for the data, while the provider is responsible for the operating system, application, and infrastructure. In PaaS models, the consumer is responsible for the data, that is, for the data, and probably for some application components.

In contrast, in the IaaS model, the consumer is responsible for all layers of security in the cloud (also called deployed assets), while the cloud service provider is only responsible for the underlying infrastructure.

Thus, no single cloud provider will take full responsibility for all cybersecurity measures and requirements. Some security concerns will be borne by organizations themselves, and they will be required to know what they can and cannot control in various cloud environments.

Compliance, data control and liability

All organizations using the cloud face compliance issues. This means that the cloud provider’s services must comply with national and international requirements.

It is also important to know what types of data are sent to the cloud and to be able to carefully control this flow. This can be especially difficult when users may subscribe to cloud services without the knowledge of the organization’s management, and DLP systems may not notice the use of cloud services from individual laptops or computers outside the organization. In these cases, it makes sense to use the services of cloud access security brokers (CASB).

CASB systems first controlled access to SaaS services such as CRM, ERP, Microsoft Office 365 applications, and Service desks. Today, their scope also includes PaaS and IaaS services.

CASB systems help organizations control cloud applications and services, both officially allowed by the company’s information security policies for use, and not allowed.

Such systems provide:

  • Visibility . CASBs allow you to search and discover all used authorized and non-authorized cloud services and visualize them: which cloud applications or services employees have access to and who uses them, from what devices and from what location.
  • Data protection. CASB allows you to manage access rights to clouds to prevent access to unauthorized services and applications, control access to resources from various devices, as well as policies for delimiting data access rights.
  • Threat protection. CASBs allow you to detect and neutralize malware in cloud platforms. According to research by Netskope and the Ponemon Institute, 31% of organizations have experienced negative impacts on their critical data caused by cloud-based malware.
  • Conformity. CASB helps you comply with established internal information security policies and demonstrate compliance with the regulatory requirements of external regulators.

Client and endpoint protection

Clients running in the cloud need the same level of protection as clients inside an organization’s network. This protection includes software patches, configuration management, and malware protection. To scale in cloud environments, these processes need to be automated and ideally match those within the organization’s network. For example, if an organization uses one vendor’s antivirus software within the organization’s network, then the antivirus in the cloud must be from the same vendor or type. It’s also important to make sure that anti-malware programs don’t slow down performance both within the enterprise network and in the cloud.

Identity and Access Management

The primary purpose of identity management is to control access to computer resources, applications, data, and services. This task is solved by IdM or IAM systems ((Identity and Access Management).

Cloud systems can use forms authentication to identify users. The organization can independently provide user authentication in the cloud service or use the services of identity management service providers. Techniques for doing this are called variously, for example, “identity authentication”, “identity federation” and include a number of protocols (eg, SAML, SAML-P, WS-Federation, OAuth). These techniques depend on the systems an organization wants to use to authenticate users:

  • AML/WS-Fed is commonly used for enterprises (eg using Microsoft Active Directory).
  • OAuth is mainly used by consumer-facing systems (like Facebook, Google, etc.).

Ideally, identity should support multi-factor authentication for those products that company users are familiar with, and before implementing an IAM/IdM system, you need to make sure that the system supports all types of user devices.

Application Level Control

Cloud applications are exposed to many threats. The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) divides application security into different areas, including protecting the software development lifecycle in the cloud; authentication, authorization, identity management, application authorization management, application monitoring, application penetration testing; and risk management.

If an organization is developing a cloud application, then it is important that these aspects are taken into account during implementation. Implementation should include code revision, testing, and the operation of such an application should be accompanied by regular checking of accounts, data access control, and application traffic should be encrypted.

Network control

If an organization uses a hybrid cloud, then the internal data center that interacts with the cloud system has little ability to manage network security. You can use firewalls, IDS / IDP systems and other security systems. In addition, if software-defined networking is used, you need to make sure that there is no excessive distribution of rights.

For assets in public clouds, you must establish a secure dedicated connection using IPSec or a separate cloud provider channel such as ExpressRoute and implement any network access control or IDS/IPS system using compatible products. Ideally, organizations can use the same products and technologies that are used within the organization’s network, but additional resources may be required to develop and implement cloud service monitoring and network access control.

Unfortunately, there are many scenarios where SaaS providers and other cloud services will support insecure network connections. Such scenarios typically do not use technologies such as malware detection sandboxes and DLP systems that detect data leaks when interacting with the cloud.

In such cases, cloud services brokers (CSBs) come to the rescue. Such brokers allow you to manage infrastructure and services hosted by various cloud service providers using a single interface. Partially, CSB functions are combined with CASB functions, but CSB is more focused on external service management, monitoring, analytics and cost optimization.

Typically, such solutions are implemented using just two approaches: proxy and API. In the first case, the traffic passes through the hardware and software system provided by the broker. One part of which is installed on the customer’s side, and the other – in the broker’s cloud. Additional software may also be installed on end devices.

The software and hardware complex integrates with the client’s security systems and allows you to manage the entire data flow. You can receive reports, configure policies and access rights to cloud resources, and receive notifications of policy violations.

In the second case, that is, working through the API, all access control functions are located in the broker’s cloud. Usually both options are used, and one or the other approach or a combination of them is used for different end devices.

To get a positive answer to the question “is your organization ready to secure in the cloud”, you need to:

  • ensure secure data transfer;
  • provide control and monitoring of user activity;
  • Compatibility with trusted security products or managed security service providers.

These requirements apply equally to SMBs that want to start a cloud project or make a full transition to the cloud.

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