What is the security of a cloud network?
Cloud network security is a branch of cybersecurity aimed at reducing the odds of bad actors gaining access to, altering, or destroying data on a public or private cloud network. Although the concepts for securing cloud networks are similar to those for securing on-premises networks, cloud environments have distinct characteristics that necessitate alternative strategies. What is the significance of cloud network security?
More sensitive data is being kept in the cloud as organisations of all kinds migrate from on-premises networks to cloud networks. This data must be safeguarded, but the cloud poses new challenges that might make security difficult.
What are the security challenges that cloud networks face?
The same characteristics that make the cloud so powerful also make it difficult to secure. To begin with, adding new assets to a cloud network is simple. All-new infrastructure in an on-premises network is overseen by the IT and security departments. This means that network expansion is slow and difficult, but it also means that security professionals configure all new infrastructure. In a cloud network, additional infrastructure can be added instantaneously by any person or system with the appropriate credentials, without the need for IT or security staff to intervene. This makes it much easier to grow the network, but it also raises the likelihood that additional infrastructure will not be set up securely, leaving it open to attack.
The rapidity of change in cloud environments is another unique problem of safeguarding cloud networks. Assets in a cloud network appear and disappear all the time thanks to technologies like autoscaling and serverless computing. Traditional security techniques such as vulnerability scanning are no longer sufficient since a vulnerable asset may only exist for a few minutes—enough time for a hostile actor to discover and exploit it, but not nearly enough time for a weekly or even daily scan to detect it.
Because of the ease of deployment and rapid rate of change, security teams find it challenging to keep a clear view of their cloud environment. This is exacerbated in hybrid environments (IT setups that comprise both on-premises and cloud networks), where data is held in several systems and secured by multiple security measures. To manage their security efforts in these environments, the security team must bounce back and forth between numerous systems. Because there is no consistent data, it is difficult (if not impossible) to acquire an accurate picture of an organization’s overall security posture or trace a hostile actor moving between cloud and on-premises networks.
Finally, when dealing with a network hosted by a public cloud service provider such as AWS or Azure, the network’s owner shares responsibility for its security with the provider. Although the specifics of this shared responsibility model differ by provider, in general, they are in charge of safeguarding the cloud, including the physical security of data centres, hardware maintenance and updates, and so on. The network owner, on the other hand, is in charge of safeguarding everything they upload to the cloud. Many people are concerned about relinquishing control over hardware and data centres, yet established public cloud service providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google can commit greater resources to physical security. The actual danger of the shared responsibility model is the ambiguity it can cause within a company. People mistakenly felt they didn’t have to bother about cloud security because it was in the cloud and their cloud provider would take care of everything. This has resulted in several security issues.
Risk-mitigation strategies for cloud network security
Beyond adopting DevSecOps and training staff on how to use a cloud network safely, the most effective way for a company to reduce risk in its cloud network is to establish a security baseline for the cloud environment. This baseline should ideally be set before a company begins to use a cloud network, but it’s never too late to start.
From a security standpoint, the baseline spells out how the cloud network should look. The goal is to ensure that everyone—security, IT, engineering, DevOps, and so on—is on the same page about what has to be done to maintain the network security continuously. A well-defined baseline can aid in addressing a variety of issues in cloud network security, such as ease of deployment, speed of change, and shared accountability.
To achieve this baseline, businesses can use basic cloud network security best practices. To begin, the baseline should define the cloud environment’s architecture, as well as how each type of asset should be set up and who should have read and write access to each aspect of the environment. To help determine the baseline, tools like the CIS Benchmarks and the AWS Well-Architected Framework should be used.
Ascertain that the baseline applies to both pre-production and test settings. These environments have been utilised as an entrance point for attacks on numerous occasions. Establish testing procedures and restrictions, such as which (if any) production databases can be used or duplicated for testing in the baseline.
In addition, the baseline should outline incident response procedures and explicitly specify who in the business is responsible for certain parts of cloud security continuously. It should also be reviewed and updated regularly to keep up with new threats and best practices.
The baseline must be given to everyone who will interact with the cloud network once it has been created or updated. In addition, the security team must collaborate with DevOps to develop methods for enforcing the baseline. This entails establishing cloud infrastructure templates with everything properly set up (using infrastructure as code solution from the cloud provider or a vendor like Terraform). It also entails putting in place ongoing monitoring to determine when anything has become obsolete or has been altered after deployment and no longer adheres to the baseline. To allow for continuous monitoring and vulnerability detection from the minute something is delivered, virtual machine templates should include an embedded agent.
When it comes to the problems of cloud network visibility, security teams should start by ensuring that they have (at the very least) read-only access to all of the organization’s cloud accounts. Organizations attempting to protect and retain visibility into a hybrid or multi-cloud environment should ensure that all aspects of the IT footprint are secured by a single team. Having one team responsible for on-premises security, another for cloud security, and yet another for cloud security frequently results in silos, blind spots, and trouble following a hostile actor who moves between networks.
Teams tasked with ensuring the security of hybrid or multi-cloud settings should reevaluate their tools. Many traditional security solutions aren’t designed to work in cloud environments. As a result, different tools are used by teams to secure their on-premises and cloud environments. Instead, the team should search for tools that allow them to manage security for the full IT footprint of the company from a single location.
Most teams will benefit from the following tools:
A vulnerability management system for cloud networks, on-premises networks, containers, and remote endpoints that can continually monitor and discover vulnerabilities. The solution should also be able to detect misconfigured cloud assets in real-time.
A modern SIEM, or threat detection and response solution, that can gather data from all of the company’s cloud and on-premises networks and systems. With capabilities like a visual event timeline and automatic quarantining of possibly compromised accounts/assets, the system should also automatically detect risks and assist the security team in responding to an issue quickly.
To assist secure cloud networks, security teams should consider using a security automation solution. Automation can help the team keep up with the fast rate of change in cloud networks, improve visibility by sharing data between systems, work more efficiently by eliminating busy work, and reduce incident damage by responding quickly to detected hazards.
Using a program like a Chef or a Puppet to automate the deployment of cloud infrastructure templates (from your security baseline) is one method to leverage automation. This can make complex architecture easier to create while also reducing the likelihood of human error. Using a security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) system is another option to take advantage of automation. The team might use such a tool to quickly share data between systems without needing to spend time integrating them using APIs. Even better, a SOAR system can automate many of the manual tasks that typically bog down a security analyst’s day or cause an investigation to drag on. For example, the security team can utilise the SOAR tool to create processes that automatically review suspected phishing emails, contain malware when it’s discovered, provide and de-provision users, and expedite patching, among other things.
There are a few extra best practices for enterprises wishing to build and deploy web apps on their cloud network, in addition to all that has been covered so far. These companies should try to “shift left” and include security as early as practicable in the software development process (SDLC). To put it another way, security vulnerabilities should be assessed as part of the code’s pre-deployment testing and treated as any other bug. Not only does this ensure that deployed code is free of security flaws, but it also allows developers to learn about the vulnerabilities in their code and how to prevent them in the future by reporting security issues during testing. Because the types of modern web apps being deployed on cloud networks are often quite complicated, businesses seeking a way to test these apps should make sure that whichever SAST, DAST, or IAST solution they’re contemplating can handle their codebase.
The easiest way to confirm this is to use a free trial to put the tool to the test. Although not unique to cloud networks, any organisation deploying web apps should seriously consider additional protections such as a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to prevent malicious actors from gaining access to the app and a Runtime Application Security Protection (RASP) solution to respond to a live attack that gets past the WAF.