With many organizations leaning towards cloud solutions, cloud security is becoming a pressing concern. It’s important to be aware of top cloud security challenges and concerns to prepare best for them.
Cloud computing is easily accessible and easy to access, which makes it a target for cybercriminals. Cloud security involves technologies and procedures that secure a cloud computing environment from both internal and external threats. It’s designed to prevent unauthorized access to cloud data, applications, and other resources.
In this article, we will discuss:
- What is cloud security?
- Cloud computing categories
- Who is responsible for security in the cloud?
- Top cloud security challenges and concerns
What is Cloud Security?
Cloud security is the protection of online data stored via a cloud platform. Cloud security protects data against theft, deletion, and leakage. In a cloud model, security is a shared responsibility between the user and the cloud service provider.
A few methods to provide cloud security include:
- Penetration testing
- VPN (Virtual Private Networks)
- Avoiding public/open internet connections
Pillars of Cloud Security
Nearly all cloud vendors have their own particular Cloud Security framework. They’re all valid, but a good cybersecurity framework supports cloud strategies while increasing cloud security and its ability to evolve.
The five pillars of cloud security are identity access management (IAM), detection control, network security, data protection, and incident response.
Identity Access Management (IAM)
Sans cloud is not an on-premise solution, securing access is naturally more complex. Traditionally, access is assigned based on users. They’re categorized into groups, subgroups, and roles with varying levels of access privileges.
In a cloud infrastructure, IAM decides who can take action on a specific resource. Various services have their own IAM policies.
Users must ensure the following to actionable IAM:
- Enable single sign-on
- Multi-factor authentication
- Role-based access control
- Reduced exposure to the privileged accounts
Detection controls in the cloud are commonly known as Intrusion Detection System (IDS) and focus on intrusion. These automated intrusion detection systems are designed to monitor and analyze the network for anomalies and malicious activity. It relies on determining who is allowed access to what.
Security in a cloud infrastructure is different from on-premise servers. That’s why you do not start the cloud security framework discussions around NetSec. The shared responsibility model of the cloud ecosystem ensures the security of a network, but cannot guarantee security when you access it.
It simply you need to put security measures in place to make sure that you are not the source of threats and compromise. This is where web applications and firewalls in the cloud offer security at various levels. Finally, endpoint security is an important consideration in an actionable NetSec pillar.
In the cloud, the very notion of data-at-rest and data-in-motion is blurred. As data is more valuable when it’s moving from one place to another, its security becomes a more difficult task.
Encryption is the best way to protect data in both transit and rest. NetSec controls add one layer of protection, and data policies add another. We can have specific policies applied to data that is more vulnerable when its accessed or moved.
Incident response is the ability to quickly identify, locate, eliminate, and prevent future occurrences of malicious activity. Organizations without an actionable security framework in place, go a month before even identifying a threat.
In a good IR framework, security incidents are usually non-compliance issues or security periods. They can be easily identified and rectified before any damage has been done.
Incident response can take numerous forms. From simple identification and rectification/ prevention to changes in policies to avoid comparable incidents in the future.
Cloud Computing Categories
Cloud security is different in various cloud computing categories. There are four main categories of cloud computing:
- Public cloud
- Private cloud
- Hybrid cloud
There are three public cloud service models:
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): cloud providers deliver instant computing infrastructure over the internet, on-demand. An example of an IaaS cloud is Microsoft Azure.
- PaaS (Platform as a Service): it provides a platform to the users who can develop, run, and manage applications without having to build infrastructure first. Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure, Apache Stratos are some examples of PaaS.
- SaaS ( Software as a Service): it’s a software licensing or subscription model, which is centrally hosted and can be accessed anywhere. Examples of SaaS include Google Apps, Slack, Dropbox, etc.
Examples of public cloud include Amazon Web Server (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). All three of these companies provide both services and infrastructure. They have massive storage space, which translates to easy scalability. The pay-as-you-go model is the best feature of the public cloud.
Private cloud services are an evolution of internal data centers. In this case, the data centers are not necessarily on-premise but are managed controlled by internal staff.
Hybrid Cloud Services
A hybrid cloud combines public and private cloud computing configuration. It can either be operated by a public cloud provider or internal staff.
In a PaaS model, you upload your application data to the cloud and store it. The cloud service provider is responsible for securing the data.
Who is Responsible for Security in The Cloud?
In a cloud computing environment, security is the combined responsibility of the user and service provider.
Cloud service providers try to provide a safe environment for users. However, they cannot control how users access their services. Customers can threaten cloud security with their configuration, access policies, and data.
There are three cloud service models, and in each one, customers and services providers share varying levels of responsibility for security.
- SaaS: users are responsible for keeping their data and user access security.
- PaaS: users are responsible for securing their application, data, and user access.
- Iaas: users are responsible for securing their application, data, user access, operating system, and virtual network traffic.
Whichever cloud services they’re using, users are responsible for their data and access. Companies that are using SaaS cloud solutions like Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, etc must plan how to keep their data secure in a shared environment. In IaaS cloud services, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, businesses must ensure that they have a security plan that covers application security, OS, and virtual network traffic along with the data.
Top Cloud Security Concerns and Challenges
Visibility in the cloud is a huge challenge. The problem arises when the organization does not analyze whether the cloud services usage is malicious or safe. The visibility challenge is broken down into unsanctioned app misuse and sanctioned app misuse.
When your data is stored online, and not on-premise, then the threat of data breach increases. There are multiple network security approaches you can take to protect your organization against data breaches.
Outcomes of a data breach include:
- Impact on the integrity of the cloud service provider and the brand
- Loss of data (intellectual property) to the competitors
- Monetary loss and contractual liabilities
Cloud gained popularity mainly because it can be accessed anywhere. Especially, SaaS services are extremely helpful when you need to access a service from a remote place. But what if the APIs and interfaces are not secure? In addition to that, privileged access by cloud providers can also bypass your security controls.
Limited Control over Data
Users, by default, are provided with limited information in a cloud environment. Limited information means limited control. It means that the cloud provider has more access to your application and data than you do.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks
Cloud service providers are becoming a target for malicious attacks. DDoS attacks are designed to overwhelm a web server by repeated requests, to the point that it’s unable to respond to legitimate user requests. A successful DDoS attack renders the server useless for hours or days.
If a website is unavailable, users stop putting their faith in the business and it loses revenue, brand authority, and customer trust. DDoS protection is not just important but absolutely vital for any business.
Insider threats are one of the most common issues in any business. The insider already has credentials to access the organization’s data, network, and other sensitive resources.
Outside attackers are usually spotted while they’re trying to gain access to the network. When they don’t even have to try, it’s very difficult to spot malicious intent. The fact that cloud services can be accessed via public internet connections makes the cloud even more prone to malicious attacks.