If a single solution to cloud security management existed, we would not need an article like this nor would a company ever need to make the weighty decision of choosing between one service or another. Much like there is no single marketing or business strategy that works for all companies, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cloud security management policies and procedures.
However, more so than any single technology or service choice, the best approach to cloud security resides in fundamentals that can then be espoused across an organization. Imagine hiring several independent vendors to develop a suite of applications; without a clearly defined set of principles and standards—rules of thumb to guide developers—it is easy to envision a disastrous outcome with respect to security. Who has not worked at companies, from startups to large organizations, where every application, team, and department have a different set of tools to accomplish the same security needs. So, in an effort to guide our community toward a standardized, holistic set of principles and to navigate cloud security management the right way, here are six policies and procedures to consider to deal with the most prevalent threats.
Risks to Guard Against in Cloud Computing
While cloud computing has ushered in an age of innovation, it has come at the cost of the new and emerging security risks. The CIOs most commonly cite, without fail, these six challenges when tackling cloud security management:
Insufficient access management
|Managing the necessary privacy regulations in a cloud environment is often a challenge. Organizations may have limited control over their infrastructure, and they may also have customers covered under different laws, which leads to a multitude of different requirements.||The loss or exposure of customer data can be catastrophic. Organizations also stand to lose valuable trade secrets and intellectual property. The average overall cost of a data breach to a company is $8.9 million, along with the invaluable currency of trust between an organization and its clients.||Access is vital for workers, but it’s also an area of opportunity for bad actors. It’s easy for access management to get out of hand when accounting for all the different parties needing to interact with a system; vendors, clients, and workers all have different needs, which all require sensible management|
|APIs are an essential tool, but they’re also fraught with hazards. Improper design can put a system’s integrity at risk. On top of that, poor API integration could lead to access delays, information silos, and productivity killers that are as damaging as malicious acts.||Shadow—or employees ignoring standards to use their own applications and services—is nothing new. It is, however, growing because of the transition to remote work, which frequently requires staff to supply their own devices. While it can also drive innovation, it’s a clear risk to security, reliability, and monitoring.||Misconfiguration is one of the biggest problems for cloud migration and use. In 2019, it was responsible for the loss of more than 1 billion records. It is the primary cause of data breaches and a slew of other problems. A lack of experience and a poorly defined culture of security are to be blamed, in most cases.|
These aren’t the only prevalent risks, but they’re the most common. While the sheer number and diversity can appear overwhelming, standardized cloud security and management—through policy and procedure—can mitigate these issues and establish a more resilient foundation.
6 Cloud Security Policies and Procedures to Mitigate Risk
In our experience, the best solution starts with a paradigm shift for most businesses we work with. Security, often treated as something added on to a tech stack after the fact, must be the top priority; companies that build applications with security front and center from the code level upward are able to adapt to the dynamic security needs that are inherent in a connected world. Here are six methods to get started.
1. Embrace Security as Code
Security as Code seems obvious, but it is so often overlooked because of the mischaracterization of what security actually is. DevOps professionals use it as a building block for compliance automation. Testing, validation, and gating are all part of the application. One might not think that API validation or integration and unit testing as security, but they absolutely are. Through automation, a company can radically reduce the high risk of an oversight—e.g., in a rush to release a hot fix to a recently released feature, a developer decides not to run integration tests to save time. Business rules should be written at the code level and updated as needs change.
2. Implement automated policy enforcement
While establishing a security-first culture is a significant step, it’s not enough to assume all workers will follow requirements. Any live system should ensure automated policy enforcement restricts individuals from making unauthorized changes. This starts by establishing a central policy store that holds all organizational protocols related to audits, regulations, frameworks, standards, and requirements. The central policy store fuels an engine that uses this information to parse the system and ensure compliance. One of the greatest tools we have is the awareness that we, as humans, are inherently unreliable when compared to computers in the context of tedious tasks like policy enforcement. Automating this is both essential and powerful.
3. Use multifactor authentication
Despite all the warnings from security officers over the years, “password” remains on the top ten list of most-used passwords. Hackers load popular options—123456, qwerty, 11111, etc.—into programs that relentlessly attempt to gain access to a system until they inevitably do. While security experts can set password standards, it only takes one weak secret to jeopardize an entire organization. Multifactor authentication, however, eliminates this; adding another checkpoint before individuals can access a program is as extraordinarily effective as it is simple. From the unsophisticated security question to more advanced strategies that use biometric data, adding a second layer of authentication is powerful and necessary.
4. Leverage API management
An API management program incorporates vulnerability intelligence, threat detection, access control, and analytics to monitor an API and increase its resilience. Extra attention at gateways is ideal, as the best opportunities to catch bad actors occur when they enter the system—and there is always an entrance. Administrators have a second chance to see issues as users exit, so a client registry is a useful component for tracing the root causes of problems. Seeing someone that does not belong somewhere is much harder in a room filled with people than when they go for the exit; the same is true of an API. All this can be incorporated into a single streamlined program of which there are many solid options.
5. Follow a zero-trust model
All users should have the minimum level of access needed to complete their necessary tasks. If you were to have someone come to your home to repair the dishwasher, would you also give them the keys to your safe? Strict control of those with privileged access—whether a repairman in your home or a developer at your company is not personal; it is simple commonsense. A zero-trust model cuts weak links in the security chain by requiring users to prove their need and their identities before access.
6. Deploy centralized cloud management
Incorporating management, services, and infrastructure in a single place is necessary for monitoring a network of any size. The cloud management platform (CMP) is the command center for the business to enhance efficiency and control security across assets. Going back to our example of a home, imagine if every light had its own circuit breaker that needed to be connected manually whenever someone wanted to turn it on. Adding new lights and debugging problems would not only be inefficient but also extraordinarily costly to scale. Additionally, standardizing how a light was connected would be impossible; one would need an intimate familiarity with the wiring of each light to be able to use it. The same is true for cloud infrastructure. Centralizing the management and deployment of your infrastructure is one of the easiest and most often overlooked places to vastly improve security due to its relative nascency as a technology.
Working with an Expert Partner to Customize Your Cloud Security Management
Lastly, your organization might not have the human resources to implement one or more of these steps, and, much like when submitting code for review, it is always paramount to have a second set of eyes on a project. A partnership with a third-party—both in the development and assessment of cloud security management policies and procedures—is a final step that can ensure success. As every organization will require a customized solution built on these fundamentals, choosing an experienced consultant —like those at New Context with decades of experience—is both preeminent and consequential. A good third party can integrate security at every level of the system and ensure consistent results in an ever-changing environment.