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Cloud Security

What is Cloud Security?

The Backbone of Effective Digital Transformation

In order to achieve greater scalability and meet the challenges of the digital transformation, organizations have been shifting their digital footprint to the cloud. The move to the cloud allows organizations to enhance agility, improve application release timelines, and leverage additional computing resources on demand. But with every advancement, there are drawbacks. And for the cloud, it's the new set of security challenges that are introduced, requiring new technologies, techniques, and often, talent. In this article, we'll offer an overview of the cloud, cloud security, the shared responsibility model, different types of cloud security solutions, and questions to consider when choosing a vendor.

What is the Cloud?

The cloud refers to a collection of different services accessed remotely via the Internet, anywhere, at any time, whose servers are hosted by the organizations offering those services. Moving workloads to the cloud and the use of cloud services provide several benefits, including lower cost, increased speed and scale, and greatly enhanced agility. But the scale of the attack surface presented by the cloud, as well as the ever-changing nature of that attack surface—where developers spin workloads up and down with a mouse click—can put organizations at significant risk, leading to the need for robust cloud security.

What is Cloud Security?

Cloud security refers to the set of policies, technologies, and practices implemented to protect data, applications, and infrastructure hosted in cloud environments. It encompasses various measures to safeguard against unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyber threats. For effective cloud security, it is important to understand that it's not as simple as applying on-premises security frameworks and policies to the cloud. Cloud security requires cloud-specific approaches in order to tackle the specific challenges of this dynamic realm.

Key components of cloud security include encryption, access control, identity management, threat detection, and compliance management. By implementing robust cloud security measures, organizations can ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their resources in the cloud.

Organizations have been moving to the cloud for many years now, often resulting in a hybrid-cloud model of operation where the organization hosts some services in an on-premises environment and some in the cloud. In addition, many organizations have adopted a multi-cloud model where they spread workloads across several cloud vendors for redundancy. Increasing the cloud footprint in this way increases the complexity of securing that environment, yet it's critical to have visibility into the risks to all cloud services.

Why is Cloud Security Important?

Given the increasing adoption of the cloud by businesses and the dynamic nature of cloud services, cloud security is increasingly important as a discipline. With attackers continuously devising sophisticated methods to exploit risks in cloud environments, leveraging misconfigurations, malicious insiders, poor access controls, and other weaknesses to infiltrate sensitive data and systems, cloud computing presents cybersecurity leaders and practitioners with unique challenges.

The foremost risk to cloud security is the misconfiguration of cloud controls, which can expose sensitive data or resources to the public and lead to a data breach. To counteract misconfigurations and other threats, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) enlist the collaboration of user organizations with the Shared Responsibility Model.

The Shared Responsibility Model

The Shared Responsibility Model prescribes a division of responsibilities for security. The CSPs are responsible for the underlying architecture of the computational services, such as the physical buildings, hardware used for hosting, networking equipment, and virtualization technology. Meanwhile, the organizations are responsible for their data, applications, and configuration of the services offered. When stakeholders fall short, “cracks” appear in the shared model, which often enables vulnerabilities.

This model of shared responsibility is true across all three cloud service models:

What is it? Vendor is responsible for: Customer is responsible for:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) The CSP provides the infrastructure that customers can access remotely. Examples: AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure. The CSP is responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure. The customer is responsible for securing their data, user access, and overall IaaS environment.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) The CSP provides developers with a platform that they can access remotely. Examples: AWS Lambda, Heroku, Google App Engine. The CSP is responsible for securing the underlying platform. The customer is responsible for securing their data, user access, and overall PaaS environment.
Software as a Service (SaaS) The CSP provides a software application with services that customers can access remotely or download from a remote location. Examples: Zoom, Slack, Office 365, Dropbox. SaaS vendors are responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure and application code. Organizations bear the responsibility for securing their data, user access, and overall SaaS environment.

What are the Benefits of Cloud Security?

Cloud security offers several benefits that are essential for protecting data and ensuring the smooth operation of cloud-based services.

  • Threat protection: Cloud security detects security threats like misconfigurations, non-standard deployments, and unauthorized or overly permissive access before they can become an entry point for attackers.
  • Enhanced visibility: Given the different cloud services, the number of vendors within each of those services, and the number of services offered by each vendor—the scope of a cloud attack surface can be vast. A robust cloud security program offers visibility into workloads across a multi-cloud environment for a 360-degree view of your cloud footprint.
  • Centralized Management: Cloud security enables centralized management and monitoring of security controls across diverse cloud environments, simplifying administration and reducing operational overhead.
  • Compliance: It helps organizations achieve regulatory compliance by implementing controls and procedures that align with industry standards and legal requirements.
  • Time and resource savings: A robust cloud security program can save an organization time and resources by simplifying the measurement, communication, and elimination of malware, misconfigurations and other risks so that security and dev team members can focus on more impactful tasks.

Overall, investing in cloud security not only mitigates risks but also fosters trust with customers and stakeholders, ultimately contributing to the long-term success and resilience of the organization.

What are the Types of Cloud Security Solutions?

Cloud security providers are companies that offer specialized services and solutions to help organizations protect their data, applications, and infrastructure in cloud environments. These providers offer a range of security offerings tailored to the unique challenges of cloud computing, including:

  • Cloud Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP): CNAPP platforms apply multiple aspects of vulnerability management, compliance management, and endpoint detection to the cloud environment. A robust CNAPP platform should include:
    • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM): CSPM solutions help organizations assess and manage their security posture in cloud environments. They identify misconfigurations, non-standard deployments, compliance violations, and security risks, enabling organizations to remediate issues and strengthen their security posture.
    • Infrastructure as Code (IaC): IaC solutions detect and remediate security problems within IaC templates, helping organizations address potential security threats to the cloud infrastructure.
    • Cloud Workload Protection (CWP), also known as Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPPs): CWPPs focus on securing cloud environments, virtual machines, containers, and serverless workloads. They provide capabilities such as vulnerability management, runtime protection, and workload integrity monitoring to defend against threats targeting cloud-based assets.
    • SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM): SSPM solutions automate the management of SaaS apps, offering visibility into SaaS applications and enabling organizations to manage their security and compliance posture.
    • Cloud Detection and Response (CDR): CDR solutions offer real-time threat detection and response to known and unknown threats.
    • Kubernetes and Container Security (KSC): KCS solutions empower organizations to discover, track, and secure Kubernetes and containers.
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM) Solutions: IAM solutions help organizations manage user identities and access rights in cloud environments. They enforce authentication and authorization policies, manage user privileges, and facilitate single sign-on (SSO) to streamline access management across cloud services.
  • Encryption and Key Management Services: Encryption and key management services protect data stored in cloud environments by encrypting sensitive information and managing encryption keys. These services help organizations maintain control over their data and ensure confidentiality, even in the event of a security breach.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Solutions: SIEM solutions aggregate and analyze security event data from cloud-based logs and resources. They help organizations detect and respond to security incidents in real time, providing visibility into threats and enabling rapid incident response.
  • Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs): CASBs help organizations enforce security policies and controls for cloud-based applications and services. They provide visibility into cloud usage, control access to cloud resources, and detect and respond to security threats.

Overall, different cloud security solutions play distinct and crucial roles in helping organizations navigate the complex landscape of cloud security and mitigate risks associated with cloud adoption. From security posture to workloads to detection and response, a cloud environment presents many challenges for security professionals. By partnering with trusted providers that offer solutions across a spectrum of these different areas, organizations can leverage specialized technologies in a uniform view to enhance their security posture and protect their assets in the cloud.

What is important when looking for a cloud security provider?

When searching for a cloud security provider (CSP), several key factors are essential to consider to ensure that you find a trustworthy and effective partner in safeguarding your cloud assets:

  1. Diverse scanning methods: A cloud security solution should offer different scanning methods to provide frequent and full coverage for vulnerability and misconfiguration detection across all workloads. Using a combination of these scanning methods allows you to achieve a holistic and dynamic approach to vulnerability and misconfiguration detection.
  2. Accurate scanning: Accurate scanning results help in two ways. Low false positives help security and IT teams avoid alert fatigue and wasting time and resources chasing vulnerabilities that do not exist. Low false negatives avoid leaving your organization exposed to potential attacks and data breaches.
  3. Protection for SaaS applications: As organizations increasingly adopt a multitude of SaaS applications, managing their security settings and configurations becomes complex and decentralized. This lack of a centralized security posture can lead to inconsistent protection across different SaaS applications, making it challenging to comply with various data protection regulations.
  4. Use of AI to detect active threats: Most cloud vulnerability management tools are passive - they only detect risks inherent in misconfigurations or vulnerable code. But there’s a huge need to also detect and fix risks that are actively exploiting your hybrid cloud environment. Detecting active exploits, malware, and unknown threats in real time requires an AI-powered Cloud Detection and Response (CDR) solution.
  5. Robust risk prioritization: Security practitioners spend a huge chunk of time responding to cybersecurity threats and finding ways to reduce risk from unknown threats. Prioritization is the way to make teams more effective by focusing first on what matters most.

By considering these important factors, you can select a cloud security provider that aligns with your organization's needs and security requirements, helping you effectively mitigate risks and protect your cloud-based assets.

In today's digital world, where organizations are increasingly moving workloads to the cloud, it's imperative to implement a robust cloud security program, including all elements that affect your organization.

Learn more about Qualys TotalCloud with TruRisk Insights.