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Top Risk Factors Associated With Modern Cloud Security Frameworks

Modern Cloud security trends reveal a serious gap between current IT security postures and cyber threat assessment across various organizations. The lack of enough security staff, IT risk auditors, and the rapid migration to Cloud Computing platforms have put immense pressure on existing Cloud Security frameworks. More often than not, these frameworks have been found to be inadequate and ineffective in thwarting (predictive) or reporting (diagnostic) the ever-mutating threats that continue to cost billions as revenue loss around the globe. 

In this article, we point out the top Modern Cloud Security frameworks for CISOs and CIOs who are entrusted to guide their organization in embracing the most modern cybersecurity practices.

What is Modern Cloud Security in the Context of Cyberthreat Intelligence

Cloud Security is a set of regulations, controls, and tools that work together to secure cloud-based applications, records, and networks. These protocols secure data, promote regulatory enforcement, protect consumers’ privacy, set authentication rules for specific users and computers. Managed from a single location, these protocols reduce administration and IT teams’ overload. As a result, they are free to concentrate on other important business areas.

Moar Goldberg, Founder, and CEO at Apolicy defines Cloud Security as “Collecting significant amounts of data and using this data to make smarter decisions.” He also says that ML and AI are significant for the security industry and will continue to be in many years, including cloud security. 

Cloud Security depends on two major entities; the Cloud Vendor or the Cloud Security solution provider. However, it should be the shared obligation between the company owner and the solution vendor to enforce the cloud protection procedures.

Read More: Here Are The Top IT Security Threats Prevalent In Africa, Warns Kaspersky

The Necessity for Cloud Security 

As people are working remotely in the pandemic and businesses are shifting towards the Cloud, having robust Cloud Security solutions is imperative. According to the Cloud Security Alliance’s Cloud Adoption, Practices, and Priorities Survey Report:

  • Cybersecurity professionals perceive the top security issues to be the proliferation of malware at 63 percent
  • Advanced persistent threats at 53 percent
  • Compromised accounts at 43 percent
  • Insider threats at 42 percent

Additionally, the Ponemon Institute and IBM’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report reveals that $3.92 Million is the average total cost of a data breach.

Cloud computing has become the next buzzword in the industry. It enables businesses to work on a level that is lower than the costs of infrastructure. It also uses agile processes that give them a strategic advantage. However, organizations must have absolute trust in their Cloud protection providers, which in turn, would protect them from information theft, misuse, corruption, and deletion of data or applications.

With the increasing reliance on digital services, digital threats are evolving and becoming more sophisticated. McAfee’s Cloud Adoption and Risk Report of 2019 revealed that among all the files hosted in the Cloud, around 21 percent constitute sensitive data. Consequently, it is best to collaborate with a Cloud provider that delivers state-of-the-art security for relevant business infrastructure. 

Of course, IT departments are vigilant about transferring mission-critical systems to the Cloud. Nevertheless, it is still important to have the right security provisions, whether you operate native cloud, hybrid cloud, or on-site environments. Cloud Security provides the total functionalities of conventional IT security and enables companies to take advantage of the benefits of Cloud storage.

Mr. Goldberg further shares his opinion on the importance of Cloud Security citing, “The cloud-native stack is complex and will continue to get more complex over time. Organizations of all sizes will find that, without proper tools and processes, manually controlling the cloud-native stack with policies that are distributed and fragmented is a very difficult task.”

What are the Benefits of Cloud Security?

Some benefits that come from Cloud Security are:

1. Consolidated Security

Similar to how cloud computing brings all applications and data to a single place, Cloud Security centralizes asset protection. Cloud-based security comprises several devices and endpoints that can be difficult to manage. Centralizing all the entities streamline the network events with fewer software and policy changes. Alongside, it also enables teams to prepare for disaster recovery.

2. Controlled Expenses

Investing directly in Cloud Security eliminates the need to invest in dedicated hardware. Consequently, this reduces capital expenditure and administrative overload. While the IT teams proactively tackle the issue, Cloud Security provides all-around protection with no human intervention. 

3. Reduced Administration

The deployment of a Cloud Security platform enables users to deal minimally with manual security configurations and on-the-go security updates. It frees up resources as all security administration happens in one place.

4. Dependability

Cloud Security services offer the pinnacle of reliability. Users can access information and apps remotely from the Cloud, irrespective of the location or device used, with the necessary cloud protection controls.

What’s the Difference?

When compared, Cloud Security feels like a giant evolution to traditional IT security. Although Cloud models make access more efficient, new considerations are required constantly to keep it secure. 

Cloud Security stands out from conventional IT models in several ways as a modernized cybersecurity approach.

1. Data Storage

The key difference lies in the heavy dependence of older IT models on data storage. Organizations have long found it expensive and rigid to build in-house IT systems with comprehensive custom security measures. Cloud-based systems also help to control expenses on system developments and maintenance while removing some user controls.

2. The Pace of Scaling 

Cloud Security needs special caution in scaling the IT structures of an organization. Infrastructure and applications based on the Cloud are scalable and mobilizable. While this willingness maintains processes in step with corporate shifts, it raises questions where the need for progress and ease of an entity is beyond their ability to retain protection.

3. A Conjunction of Multiple Interfaces 

Cloud applications are often connected with a range of other systems and facilities that need to be protected for enterprises and individuals alike. It must hold approvals at the program and even network level from the end-user computer level. In addition, vendors and consumers need to be vigilant of vulnerabilities created by insecure installation and device access behavior.

4. Connectivity with other Systems

Cloud networks are in constant communication between Cloud services and their customers. So this substantial network can also undermine the provider. Attackers can use a single vulnerable unit or a part for infecting the rest of the networking landscape. Cloud vendors are vulnerable to attacks from multiple end-users for whatever data storage facilities they offer.

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Some Definitions and Technologies in Cloud Security

A robust Cloud Security framework would include:

1. Identity and Access Management

IAM products log what is permitted for the user and allow them to contact unauthorized users. In cloud computing, IAM is highly relevant, since the identity and access rights of the customer decide whether they can access the data, computer, or the location of their users.

IAM aims to minimize the risk of unauthorized users accessing internal properties and permitted users to exceed their rights. The approach helps to mitigate several violations such as account takeover and insider attacks.

The management can include multiple services or it can be a single service incorporating; Identity providers (IdP) authenticate user identity; Single sign-on (SSO) services support user identities with a range of applications to authenticate so that users need only sign in once to access all their Cloud services; Services for multifactor authentication (MFA) improve the user authentication process and limit user access.

2. Firewall 

A Cloud firewall offers cloud asset protection by blocking unwanted network traffic. Cloud firewalls are in the cloud and form a virtual protection shield for Cloud networks. These are not conventional firewalls that are installed on the premises and protect the network perimeter. This group covers several mobile server firewalls. Cloud firewalls block attacks from DDoS, malicious bot behavior, and vulnerability endpoints. This eliminates the risk of a cyberattack that paralyzes the cloud resources of an enterprise.

3. Encryption 

Encryption provides a means for data transmission that can only be interpreted by approved parties. Where attackers enter the cloud of a business and discover unencrypted information, they may carry out a range of malicious activities against the data; leak, sell, use it for further attack, and so on. However, if the data is encrypted, the intruder can not use scrambled data until the decryption key is found. This prevents data loss and disclosure even in situations of lack of other security measures. 

Data must be encrypted, whether it is in the state of rest or transit/transfer. At rest and in transit, cloud data can be secured to discourage attackers from interception and reading it. Encrypting data can cover both cloud-user travel and server-to-cloud data as well as cloud-to-cloud travel. In addition, data must be encrypted whether it is stored in a database or through a cloud storage service.

Segmentation in Cloud Computing

As per relevant requirements, organizations use different models of cloud computing for their business. Cloud infrastructure provides separate IT facilities including hosting, storage, and processing data over the internet. It encourages teamwork in real-time, including remote or separated teams. This makes cloud computing a common alternative for organizations and individual users alike. 

1. Public Cloud 

A public cloud, such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services, is hosted and operated by providers of public cloud services. We need a browser to access a public cloud.

2. Private cloud

A private cloud (like an enterprise or an organization) is dedicated to a company. That specific customer has private cloud connectivity.

3. Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud blends both public and private cloud characteristics. The user has greater ownership of its data and infrastructure than in a distributed cloud system but also profits from a public cloud service.

Cloud services can be further categorized into three service models:

– Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 

This model offers cloud-based infrastructure (such as network, storage, and operating systems) services by virtualization. Without physical management, the customer manages the facilities. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), are examples of IaaS.

– Platform as a Service (PaaS)

This model offers an online platform where developers can design and run custom applications. Google App Engine and OpenShift are examples of PaaS.

– Software as a Service (SaaS)

This model offers software resources to the provider. In exchange, the client can use a browser to navigate the facilities. Microsoft Office 365 and Dropbox are examples of popular SaaS offerings.

Some Emerging Trends in Cloud Security

According to Gartner, some of the emerging trends for Cloud Security include:

1. Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

XDR technologies automatically capture and link data from various protection products to enhance the detection of threats. They also provide incident response capabilities. The primary objectives of the XDR solution are to enhance the precision of identification, boost the reliability, and effectiveness of protection operations. For example, an intrusion that triggered email, endpoint, and network warnings may be grouped into a single event.

2. The Role of AI and ML

AI and Machine Learning (ML) are constantly automating and improving human decisions in a vast range of business applications. However, the three main challenges of this technology involve:

  • Securing AI-operated automated business applications,
  • Leverage AI with security products to boost security protection, and
  • Predicting attackers to use AI in a disruptive manner.
3. Increased Discipline in Privacy

With the influx of data from all ends, privacy needs to be more integrated throughout the organization. In particular, privacy co-directs the corporate strategy, which includes strong coordination with protection, IT/OT/IoT, Acquisition, HR, Legal, Governance, and more.

4. ZTNA to Replace VPN

Enterprises can monitor remotes access to specific applications through evolving Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA). This is a better choice as it hides the whole app from the internet. ZTNA only interacts through the ZTNA service provider which can only be reached by the ZTNA cloud service provider. This decreases the likelihood that a piggyback intruder can target other applications utilizing the VPN connection.

5. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)

SASE technology helps companies to help protect mobile staff and cloud devices by directing traffic via a cloud-based protection stack. Removing the standard form of data traffic, the data moves via a physical security system in a data center.

Top Security Risks

As data is saved by a third-party in the public cloud and accessible over the internet, a variety of problems can emerge in maintaining reliable cloud infrastructure. The foremost thing with Cloud Security is the absence of any perimeter. Traditional cybersecurity focuses on perimeter defense, but dynamically linked cloud systems will cause serious problems for unsecured APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and account hijacks. Collaborators need to turn to a data-centric approach when dealing with cloud computing security threats.

Connectivity also raises network issues. Malicious parties are also breaching networks by damaging or using defective credentials. When a hacker manages to compromise, it is easy to extend and use cloud interfaces that are loosely secured to find data on multiple databases or nodes. They can also use your own cloud storage to export and preserve all stolen records. Protection must be in the Cloud and not just in securing the cloud access.

Overall, we can link four key concerns to cloud safety risks: human error, miscommunication between shared responsibility concept, Shadow IT, and the lack of security policies.

Surface Attacks

The public cloud ecosystem has become a wide and enticing attack field for hackers. They use poorly-protected cloud ports to access and interrupt workloads and cloud data. Malware, Zero-day, account takeover, and many other harmful challenges have become an every day reality.

Compared to the on-site networks of an enterprise, their cloud-based activities are beyond the network, even easily available via the public internet. While this is an asset for staff and clients, it makes the access simple for an intruder. 

RedLock’s Cloud Security Trends Report revealed that 51 percent of companies exposed at least one cloud storage service to the public, and 84 percent said that conventional safety solutions could not operate in cloud environments. Inadequately structured measures or weakened credentials will allow an attacker to enter directly, likely without the knowledge of an organization.

Inadequate Visibility and Tracking

Often, cloud applications can be viewed from non-IT computers outside the company network. Instead of conventional approaches to monitoring network traffic, the IT team must be able to access data in the cloud service itself.

In the IaaS model, cloud vendors are fully regulated and do not report to their customers about the infrastructure layer. In the PaaS and SaaS cloud models, visibility and control are missing. Cloud consumers also do not get to define, measure, or visualize their cloud environments effectively.

For instance, in data invisibility, Equifax, an American multinational consumer credit reporting agency, lost the data of over 148 million Americans to the attackers who took advantage of an expired digital certificate. The anomaly went on for 76 days. 

Ever-Changing Cloud Environment

Cloud assets are dynamically supplied and decommissioned at scale and time. In such a fluid and complex world with its ever-changing and ephemeral workload, traditional defense tools clearly do not implement safety policies.

Users will access cloud software and data through the internet, making access restrictions no longer successful based on the conventional data center network perimeter. A user control can be accessed from any location or computer, including BYOD technologies. Furthermore, the cloud providers’ privileged access will circumvent the customer’s own security protocols.

Last year, a software engineer in Seattle hacked into a server containing Capital One customer details and collected over 100 million people’s personal data.

Not to mention, security management in hybrid and multi-cloud-favored by businesses these days demand approaches and tools that function across private cloud providers, local implementations, and separated organizations. 

Cloud-native violations

Cloud Data breaches are not like on-site infringements, since attackers mostly do data manipulation using cloud-native features. A Cloud-native violation is a sequence of acts by unauthorized users in which they attack by leveraging bugs or vulnerabilities in a cloud-based implementation with no malware, expand their access to valuable data by weakly designed or secured interfaces and extract the information to their own storage sites.

McAfee’s IaaS Service Adoption and Risk report highlight that in enterprise IaaS settings, 99% of the misconfigurations go unnoticed. Companies assume that every month they have 37 misconfigurations, but they actually encounter closer to 3,500.

Misconfiguration 

Cloud breaches are often the responsibility of the cloud customer for the security that includes the cloud service configuration. Research shows that only 26 percent of companies can check the configuration errors in their IaaS environments. Misconfiguration of IaaS is also the front door to a cloud-born infringement, which enables the perpetrator to land and then extend and funnel data out. The study also reveals that cloud clients are inadequate in noticing 99% of the misconfigurations in IaaS.

A perfect example here would of a misconfigured Amazon Web Services server operated by the U.S. Army’s intelligence and Security Command where top-secret documents were available for the public. Additionally, as per reports, a merger 7% of businesses have a complete overview of essential cloud data. In contrast, only 58% recognize that their organizations’ cloud data are only marginally controlled.

Cloud Compliance and Governance

All the top cloud firms are in line with most of the esteemed accreditation schemes, including PCI 3.2, NIST 800-53, HIPAA, and GDPR. Customers are however responsible for ensuring consistency with their workload and data systems. In the absence of software to perform constant conformity tests and render in-time warnings about configuration, the audit of compliance is unlikely for its low visibility and cloud environment dynamics. 

Michael Sentonas, CTO at CrowdStrike asserts, “Crisis management and incident response plans must also be executable through remote policies already in place. These, along with an increase in using nimble Cloud technology, configuring and patching devices, and continued security awareness training are critical strategies during COVID-19. Training and testing are essential pieces of a response strategy as employees are often the front lines of defense and key in thwarting cyberattacks.”

Insider Threats

Insider threats are a big safety concern for any corporation. A rogue employee already has access to the network of an enterprise and some sensitive tools. The cloud makes it even harder to spot a malicious insider. Unusual practices suggesting an inside hazard in 85% of organizations have been identified in a recent McAfee Cloud Adopt and Risk report. Gartner has further predicted that by 2025, 99% of failures in Cloud Security will be because of customers’ fault. 

Companies lack oversight over their basic networks for cloud implementations, which makes various conventional security solutions less successful. Along with the fact that cloud-based technology is directly open from the public internet and is frequently influenced by security misconfigurations, it further makes it harder to detect malicious insiders. 

Cloud technology has evolved to become a game-changer for industries. However, it made them invulnerable to invisible threats. It has created a whole new series of cloud technology threats and created many Cloud Security problems.

The transition to cloud technologies has helped businesses to stay competitive and innovative in an ever-evolving market world with scalability and versatility. Simultaneously, it has left company data vulnerable to different causes, caused by leaks and losses.

The vulnerabilities can come in the form of surface attacks, challenges with visibility and tracking, the ever-evolving cloud environments, misconfigurations, cloud compliance and governance, and insider threats. 

These top Cloud Security risks can be mitigated by having Data Compliance and Protection Policies, Cross-Platform Management, Cloud Automation Tools, Data Redundancy and Disaster Recover Programs, and Managing Permissions and Access.

Read More: How Organizations Can Do Their Part And Be CyberSmart Beyond National Cyber Security Awareness Month 

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