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How a Breach and Attack Simulation Platform Can Improve Your Cloud Security

Chris Foster, Director of Solutions Architecture, XM Cyber, explains how breach and attack simulation can improve cloud security

You don’t need a sophisticated understanding of cloud computing to appreciate the extraordinary growth in the space. According to Gartner, the public cloud services market reached nearly $215 billion in value in 2019, growing at roughly 17.5-percent year-over-year. This represents just one point on an overall growth trajectory that has cloud services pacing to become a $330 billion market by 2022.

In a market growing with such rapid speed, it’s imperative to make security a key strategic objective. Today’s organizations must maintain robust security in a variety of different contexts and environments, whether public, private or hybrid cloud. They must safely manage cloud migration and understand the unique challenges of operating within a hybrid environment.

Just as importantly, they need the right mix of cutting-edge tools to protect their critical assets in all their environments.

Understanding the Specific Risks Associated with Cloud Security

There is considerable overlap between traditional on-premises security and cloud security. In both cases, organizations must guard against the prospect of data breaches, the presence of poor access controls and the specter of painful downtime disruptions.

Yet despite these many commonalities, cloud environments present additional challenges. Why? Because they are both dynamic and complex. Cloud environments are ever-changing, and the threats posed by malicious actors are ever evolving. This doesn’t mean, however, that cloud must be less secure. The key is to understand the unique nature of each environment and take steps to maintain strong security.

One example: The connected nature of cloud environments makes them more susceptible to a breach due to an insecure API or poorly managed credentials. Understanding this risk — and deploying advanced encryption and strong password management with two-factor authentication — can greatly lower the odds of a breach occurring.

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Other common cloud security concerns include:

  • Malware leveraged by threat actors
  • Insider threats, both malicious and unintentional
  • Third party risk – an organization does not control the infrastructure or applications used by their cloud services provider
  • API risk – cloud application integrations must be protected from the threat of actors attempting to intercept or redirect such data transfer.
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The Challenges of Operating Safely in a Hybrid Environment

Another security concern that is often overlooked is incompatibility within hybrid cloud environments. On-premises tools, for example, are sometimes incompatible with certain cloud environments. This can create serious vulnerabilities, whether through misconfigurations, access controls or other issues. Organizations must understand not only the specific risks of cloud and on-premises environments, but additional risks created by the interplay of both.

This is important, as hybrid environments offer significant benefits in terms of flexibility — you can choose where to locate workloads or data based on policy, compliance or security requirements. Not all company information is critical or requires an equal level of protection. By operating in a public/private hybrid cloud environment, organizations can reap performance benefits and added flexibility while still locking down their “crown jewels.”

Security, however, must always be top of mind.

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How to Improve Security Within Hybrid Cloud Environments

Now that we’ve detailed some of the most common challenges associated with cloud/hybrid security, let’s take a moment to address some tips or best practices organizations can follow to mitigate these risks.

To effectively manage the risks associated with cloud (complexity, larger attack surface, data migration etc.), it’s important to follow an overarching framework that emphasizes smart security strategies, policies and comprehensive identity and access management (IAM). As mentioned above, password control and encryption should also be top priorities, along with appropriate network segmentation.

In addition to these basics, organizations need the most powerful cyber security solutions to deal with the risks posed by sophisticated threat actors leveraging attacks against cloud environments. A breach and attack simulation (BAS) platform — which performs a highly advanced form of cyber threat modeling for cloud environments — is the most effective way to confirm attack paths, mitigate risk and manage your security posture.

It’s imperative to know how to choose a breach and attack simulation solution. A BAS solution works by launching non-stop, simulated attacks against a security environment — much in the manner of conventional “red teaming.” During manual exercises, skilled teams of security professionals attempt to breach an environment in a controlled fashion, helping to uncover any existing vulnerabilities.

A BAS solution does the same thing, yet in an automated and continuous fashion. This means that organizations can go on the offense to adopt the mindset of an attacker and continuously probe their defenses for weaknesses.

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