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Cloud Architecture 101: Eight robust strategies to overcome cloud security issues

HomeCloud ComputingArchitecturesCloud Architecture 101: Eight robust strategies to overcome cloud security issues

While cloud services are empowering businesses worldwide to accomplish more in less time, these advancements also necessitate cloud architects and cybersecurity professionals to tackle emerging challenges. It is imperative to have specific protocols and practices in place to guarantee robust cloud security, safeguarding both the business operations and the company’s integrity. A cloud security strategy is your organization’s roadmap to securing its data, applications, and infrastructure in the cloud environment. It’s a combination of policies, processes, technologies, and best practices that work together to mitigate risks, prevent data breaches, and ensure regulatory compliance.

Before we discuss 8 important cloud security strategies, lets see what are the Cloud security issues we are facing today. Every day, businesses encounter security risks, threats, and challenges. While these terms may seem synonymous, they each carry distinct implications. Grasping these nuanced differences can enhance your ability to safeguard your cloud resources effectively.

  • Cloud Security RISK – a potential for loss of data or a weak spot.
  • Cloud Security THREAT – a type of attack or adversary.
  • Cloud Security CHALLENGE – It is an organization’s hurdles in implementing practical cloud security.

Consider this scenario: A cloud-hosted API endpoint or an web application that is publicly accessible represents a RISK. The THREAT is an attacker attempting to exploit this API to access sensitive data, using various potential techniques. The CHALLENGE for your organization lies in securing these public APIs effectively, while ensuring their availability for authorized users or customers who require them.

Different types of Cloud Security Issues:

Cloud Security RISKS
Risk is an inherent part of any environment and cannot be entirely eradicated; it can only be managed. Being aware of common risks beforehand equips you to handle them effectively within your environment. Cloud security risks can be classified into 4 types.

  1. Unmanaged Attack Surface
  2. Human Error
  3. Misconfiguration
  4. Data Breach

Follow these tips to manage risk in the cloud:

  • Carry out routine risk evaluations to uncover new threats.
  • Prioritize the identified risks and put into action security measures to alleviate them.
  • Record and periodically review any risks that you decide to tolerate.

Read: What is Information Security ?

Cloud Security THREATS
A threat is an attack against your cloud assets that tries to exploit a risk. Below are the four common threats faced by cloud security.

  1. Zero-Day Exploits
  2. Advanced Persistent Threats
  3. Insider Threats
  4. Cyberattacks

The multitude of specific attacks present a formidable challenge to guard against. However, here are three principles to adhere to when safeguarding your cloud assets from these and other potential threats.

  • Follow secure coding standards when building applications and microservices that are exposed to public internet.
  • Review or audit your cloud configuration in regular intervals and fix the gaps.
  • Having established a strong security posture, proactively identify and address potential threats through threat hunting.

 

Cloud Security CHALLENGES
Challenges often emerge from the divide between theory and practice. While recognizing the need for a cloud security strategy is commendable, practical implementation can be daunting. But where do you start? How do you address cultural change? What are the daily practical steps to make it happen?. Below are the four cloud security challenges every company faces when embracing the cloud.

  1. Lack of Cloud Security and Skills
  2. Identity and Access Management
  3. Shadow IT
  4. Cloud Compliance

Every challenge is distinct and thus calls for tailored solutions. Prior to utilizing any cloud services, allocate time for strategic planning. A well-devised strategy contemplates prevalent cloud-related challenges.

Read: Security Threats and Security Controls Overview

An effective cloud security strategy should consider all the above three dimensions, ensuring a robust foundation. Each can be seen as a unique perspective to examine cloud security. A comprehensive strategy should reduce risk through security controls, guard against threats via secure coding and deployment, and tackle challenges by implementing both cultural and technical solutions. This allows your business to leverage the cloud for growth in a secure manner.

Creating a robust Cloud Security Strategy:

A Complete Cloud security strategy should address these above Cloud security Issues (RISK, ISSUES and CHALLENGES). By following these below steps and best practices, you can create a robust cloud security strategy that protects your organization’s valuable data and resources in the cloud.

Read: Cloud Security Basics and Fundamentals

1. Understanding Your Cloud Environment:

This is the foundation of any cloud security strategy. Imagine your cloud environment as a sprawling city. An effective security plan requires a detailed map.

  • Identify your data and applications: What kind of data do you store in the cloud? (Example: Financial records, customer information, intellectual property) What applications are running there? (Example: Web applications, databases, content management systems) Cataloging everything helps prioritize security measures.
  • Location: Where is your data and applications physically stored? Different regions may have varying compliance requirements. Understanding location helps ensure adherence to regulations. (Example: Certain healthcare data may have residency requirements that dictate where it can be stored.)
  • Access control checkpoints: How are your cloud resources accessed? Identifying access points allows you to implement security controls like firewalls and access control lists (ACLs). (Example: Public APIs, remote desktop access points, web interfaces).

2. Shared Responsibility Model:

Cloud security is a team effort. Here’s how the roles are divided:

  • Cloud Service Provider (CSP): The CSP is responsible for the security of the underlying infrastructure – the physical data centers, network, and virtualization layer. They constantly patch vulnerabilities in this core infrastructure. (Example: A cloud provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS) is responsible for the physical security of their data centers and patching vulnerabilities in the underlying hypervisor that virtualizes your resources.)
  • Your Organization: You are responsible for securing your data, applications, and configurations within the cloud environment. This includes user access controls, encryption, and proper security settings for your cloud resources. (Example: You are responsible for encrypting your data at rest within S3 storage buckets and configuring IAM roles for your application to access resources securely.)

3. Identity and Access Management (IAM):

IAM is like a high-security gatekeeper for your cloud resources. Here’s what strong IAM practices involve:

  • Defining User Roles: Create user roles that define the specific permissions each user has within the cloud environment. The janitor doesn’t need the same access as the CEO. (Example: Create an IAM role for your marketing team that allows them to access and publish content to a specific web application, but restrict their access to financial data storage.)
  • Least Privilege: Grant users only the minimum level of access required to perform their jobs. This reduces the potential damage if a hacker compromises an account. (Example: A data analyst might only need read-only access to a data warehouse, instead of full read/write access.)
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second factor (like a code from your phone) to log in, making it much harder for unauthorized users to gain access. (Example: Require MFA for all users accessing the cloud environment through a web console or API.)

4. Data Encryption:

Encryption scrambles your data, making it unreadable without a decryption key. Think of it like a secret code protecting your valuables:

  • Data at Rest: Encrypt your data when it’s stored in the cloud (data at rest). This ensures even if a hacker breaches your cloud storage, they can’t access the information. (Example: Use AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to encrypt your data at rest in S3 storage buckets.)
  • Data in Transit: Encrypt data while it’s being transferred between your environment and the cloud (data in transit). This protects it from interception during transmission. (Example: Configure your web application to use HTTPS to encrypt all communication with the cloud.)

5. Security Monitoring and Logging:

Constant vigilance is key to spotting security threats. Security monitoring involves:

  • Continuously monitoring your cloud environment: Use tools provided by your CSP or third-party security vendors to track activity logs and identify any suspicious behavior that might indicate a potential attack. (Example: Monitor for unusual login attempts from unexpected locations or failed access attempts to critical resources.)
  • Logging all access attempts: Maintain a detailed record of all attempts to access your cloud resources. This helps with forensic analysis in case of a security incident. (Example: Enable CloudTrail in AWS to log all API calls made to your cloud resources.)

6. Incident Response Plan:

Having a plan in place helps you react quickly and effectively if a security breach occurs. An incident response plan should outline:

  • Steps to contain the breach: The goal is to stop the attackers from spreading or gaining further access. (Example: If you detect a suspicious login attempt from an unauthorized location, you can immediately disable that account and lock down access to critical resources like databases.)
  • Procedures for eradication: This involves removing the attackers from your system and eliminating any malware they may have deployed. (Example: After containing the breach, you would scan your systems for malware using security software and remove any malicious files or programs. You might also need to reset passwords for compromised accounts.)
  • Recovery steps: The plan should detail how to restore your systems and data to a safe state after an attack. (Example: Depending on the severity of the breach, you might need to restore data from backups or rebuild affected systems entirely. The plan should also outline communication procedures to keep stakeholders informed throughout the incident.)

7. People Are Part of the Solution:

Your employees are a critical line of defense. Security awareness training educates them about:

  • Cyber threats: Employees should understand the different types of cyberattacks and how to identify them. (Example: Train employees to recognize phishing emails that attempt to trick them into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links.)
  • Best practices: Train them on secure coding practices, password hygiene, and how to avoid phishing scams. (Example: Teach developers secure coding principles to avoid common vulnerabilities in web applications. Train all employees on creating strong passwords and not reusing them across different accounts.)

8. Automation is Your Friend:

Cloud security automation is a powerful tool:

  • Streamline security tasks: Automate repetitive tasks like security configuration checks and vulnerability scans. This frees up your security team to focus on more strategic initiatives. (Example: Automate security scans to regularly check your cloud resources for misconfigurations or outdated software that could introduce vulnerabilities.)
  • Faster response times: Automation can trigger alerts and initiate incident response procedures in real-time, minimizing damage from security breaches. (Example: Configure automated alerts to notify your security team whenever suspicious activity is detected, allowing them to swiftly investigate and respond to potential threats.)

 

By implementing these best practices, you can create a robust cloud security posture that protects your organization’s valuable data and resources. Remember, your cloud security strategy should be a living document that evolves as your cloud environment and threats change. Regularly review and update your strategy to ensure it continues to meet your organization’s security needs.

 

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Anil K Y Ommi
Anil K Y Ommihttps://mycloudwiki.com
Cloud Solutions Architect with more than 15 years of experience in designing & deploying application in multiple cloud platforms.

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