Cloud security involves the procedures and technology that secure cloud computing environments against both external and insider cybersecurity threats. Cloud computing, which is the delivery of information technology services over the internet, has become a must for businesses and governments seeking to accelerate innovation and collaboration. Cloud security and security management best practices designed to prevent unauthorized access are required to keep data and applications in the cloud secure from current and emerging cybersecurity threats.
Cloud security categories
Cloud security differs based on the category of cloud computing being used. There are four main categories of cloud computing:
• Public cloud services, operated by a public cloud provider — These include software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS).
• Private cloud services, operated by a public cloud provider — These services provide a computing environment dedicated to one customer, operated by a third party.
• Private cloud services, operated by internal staff — These services are an evolution of the traditional data center, where internal staff operates a virtual environment they control.
• Hybrid cloud services — Private and public cloud computing configurations can be combined, hosting workloads and data based on optimizing factors such as cost, security, operations and access. Operation will involve internal staff, and optionally the public cloud provider.
Importance of cloud security
For businesses making the transition to the cloud, robust cloud security is imperative. Security threats are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated, and cloud computing is no less at risk than an on-premise environment. For this reason, it is essential to work with a cloud provider that offers best-in-class security that has been customized for your infrastructure.
Cloud security offers many benefits, including:
Centralized security. Just as cloud computing centralizes applications and data, cloud security centralizes protection. Cloud-based business networks consist of numerous devices and endpoints that can be difficult to manage when dealing with shadow IT or BYOD. Disaster recovery plans can also be implemented and actioned easily when they are managed in one place.
Reduced costs: One of the benefits of utilizing cloud storage and security is that it eliminates the need to invest in dedicated hardware. Not only does this reduce capital expenditure, but it also reduces administrative overheads. Reduced Administration: When you choose a reputable cloud services provider or cloud security platform, you can kiss goodbye to manual security configurations and almost constant security updates. These tasks can have a massive drain on resources, but when you move them to the cloud, all security administration happens in one place and is fully managed on your behalf.
Reliability: Cloud computing services offer the ultimate in dependability. With the right cloud security measures in place, users can safely access data and applications within the cloud no matter where they are or what device they are using.
All cloud models are susceptible to threats. IT departments are naturally cautious about moving mission-critical systems to the cloud and it is essential the right security provisions are in place, whether you are running a native cloud, hybrid or on-premise environment. Cloud security offers all the functionality of traditional IT security, and allows businesses to harness the many advantages of cloud computing while remaining secure and also ensure that data privacy and compliance requirements are met.
Cloud security challenges
Since data in the public cloud is being stored by a third party and accessed over the internet, several challenges arise in the ability to maintain a secure cloud. These are:
• Visibility into cloud data — In many cases, cloud services are accessed outside of the corporate network and from devices not managed by IT. This means that the IT team needs the ability to see into the cloud service itself to have full visibility over data, as opposed to traditional means of monitoring network traffic.
• Control over cloud data — In a third-party cloud service provider’s environment, IT teams have less access to data than when they controlled servers and applications on their own premises. Cloud customers are given limited control by default, and access to underlying physical infrastructure is unavailable.
• Access to cloud data and applications —Users may access cloud applications and data over the internet, making access controls based on the traditional data center network perimeter no longer effective. User access can be from any location or device, including bring-your-own-device (BYOD) technology. In addition, privileged access by cloud provider personnel could bypass your own security controls.
• Compliance — Use of cloud computing services adds another dimension to regulatory and internal compliance. Your cloud environment may need to adhere to regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI and Sarbanes-Oxley, as well as requirements from internal teams, partners and customers. Cloud provider infrastructure, as well as interfaces between in-house systems and the cloud are also included in compliance and risk management processes.
• Cloud-native breaches – Data breaches in the cloud are unlike on-premises breaches, in that data theft often occurs using native functions of the cloud. A Cloud-native breach is a series of actions by an adversarial actor in which they “land” their attack by exploiting errors or vulnerabilities in a cloud deployment without using malware, “expand” their access through weakly configured or protected interfaces to locate valuable data, and “exfiltrate” that data to their own storage location.
• Misconfiguration – Cloud-native breaches often fall to a cloud customer’s responsibility for security, which includes the configuration of the cloud service. Research shows that just 26% of companies can currently audit their IaaS environments for configuration errors. Misconfiguration of IaaS often acts as the front door to a Cloud-native breach, allowing the attacker to successfully land and then move on to expand and exfiltrate data. Research also shows 99% of misconfigurations go unnoticed in IaaS by cloud customers. Here’s an excerpt from this study showing this level of misconfiguration disconnect: