You’ve heard it once; you’ve heard it a hundred times – “secure the cloud.” But what does that phrase mean? On the surface, it’s easy to assume this phrase means using cloud-enabled security products. However, it’s much more than that. Cloud security is about securing the cloud itself through a combination of procedures, policies, and technologies that work together to protect the cloud—from the endpoint to the data to the environment itself. A cloud security strategy must be all-encompassing, based on how data is monitored and managed across the environment. So, let’s examine how IT security teams can address common cloud challenges head-on, while at the same time establishing the right internal processes and adopting the necessary solutions in order to properly secure the cloud.
Cloud Security’s Top Challenges
As we enter a post-shadow IT world, security teams are now tasked with understanding and addressing a new set of challenges—those that can stem from a complex, modern-day cloud architecture. As the use of cloud services grows, it is critical to understand how much data now lives in the cloud. In fact, the amount of sensitive data stored in cloud-based files is only growing, currently standing at 21% after having increased 17% over the past two years. So it’s no wonder that threats targeting the cloud are growing, too: The average organization experiences 31.3 cloud-related security incidents each month, a 27.7% increase over the same period last year.
Frequently impacted by data breaches and DDoS attacks, cloud technology is no stranger to cyberthreats. However, the technology is also impacted by challenges unique to its makeup—such as system vulnerabilities and insecure user interfaces (UIs) and application programming interfaces (APIs), which can all lead to data loss. Insecure UIs and APIs are top challenges for the cloud, as the security and availability of general cloud services depends on the security of these UIs and APIs. If they’re insecure, functionalities such as provisioning, management, and monitoring can be impacted as a result. There are also bugs within cloud programs that can be used to infiltrate and take control of the system, disrupt service operations, and steal data, mind you. The challenge we see with data and workloads moving to the cloud is insufficient knowledge of developers on the evolution of cloud capabilities. We are finding misconfigurations to be one of the major contributors of data leaks and data breaches as well, meaning cloud configuration assessment is another best practice that IT should own. Another major source of cloud data loss? Improper identity, credential, and access management, which can enable unauthorized access to information via unprotected default installations.
The good news? To combat these threats, there are a few standard best practices IT teams can focus on to secure the modern-day cloud. First and foremost, IT should focus on controls and data management.
Security Starts with Process: Controls and Data Management
To start a cloud security strategy off on the right foot, the right controls for cloud architecture need to be in place. Cloud security controls provide protection against vulnerabilities and alleviate the impact of a malicious attack. By implementing the right set of controls, IT teams can establish a necessary baseline of measures, practices, and guidelines for an environment. These controls can range from deterrent and corrective to preventative and protective.
In tandem with controls, IT teams need to establish a process or system for continually monitoring the flow of data, since insight into data and how it is managed is vital to the success of any cloud security strategy. A solution such as McAfee Data Loss Prevention (DLP) can help organizations monitor data through the use of a management console or dashboard. This tool can help secure data by extending on-premises data loss prevention policies to the cloud for consistent DLP, protecting sensitive data wherever it lives, tracking user behavior, and more.
Solving for Visibility, Compliance, and Data Protection
When it comes to securing data in the cloud, visibility and compliance must be top of mind for IT teams as well. Teams need to gain visibility into the entirety of applications and services in use, as well as have proper insight into user activity to have a holistic view of an organization’s existing security posture. They also need to be able to identify sensitive data in the cloud in order to ensure data residency and compliance requirements are met.
That’s precisely why IT teams need to adopt an effective cloud access security broker (CASB) solution that can help address visibility and compliance issues head-on. What’s more, this type of solution will also help with data security and threat protection by enforcing encryption, tokenization, and access control, as well as detecting and responding to all types of cyberthreats impacting the cloud.
Bringing It All Together
By combining the right controls and data management processes with a CASB solution, security teams can protect the cloud on all levels. A CASB solution like McAfee MVISION Cloud protects data where it lives today, in the cloud. This CASB solution is a cloud-hosted software that sits between cloud service customers and cloud service providers to enforce security, compliance, and policies uniformly across all cloud assets, from SaaS to IaaS/PaaS. Plus, McAfee MVISION Cloud can help organizations extend security controls of their on-premises infrastructure to the cloud and beyond. To extend these controls, this solution detects, protects, and corrects. During detection, IT security teams gain complete visibility into data, context, and user behavior across all cloud services, users, and devices. When data leaves the cloud, McAfee MVISION Cloud applies persistent protection wherever it goes: in or outside the cloud. And when an error does occur, the solution takes real-time action deep within cloud services to correct policy violations due to human error and stops security threats. While McAfee MVISION Cloud protects the cloud itself, it’s also important to protect access to the cloud at the start, or the endpoint. An endpoint security solution, such as McAfee Endpoint Security, is also integral for safeguarding the cloud, since endpoints are a target for credential theft that leads to greater risk in the cloud environment.
In an ever-changing threat landscape, implementation of the proper controls and data management, with the addition of effective cloud security solutions, are the keys to a strong cloud security strategy. By taking into account and working to proactively protect the multitude of endpoints connected to the cloud, the amount of data stored in the cloud, and the cloud environment itself, IT security teams can help ensure the cloud is secure.
Shailaja Shankar - 22 October 2019
Partner Executive Blog
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Senior Vice President, Consumer and Mobile Engineering at McAfee