3 Impactful Steps for Creating a Security-First Cloud Strategy
- Cloud security investment is up, but organizations may not be spending wisely
- Lack of understanding of cloud technology and rushed cloud adoption can pose security risks for ill-prepared businesses
- A cross-platform security-first cloud strategy can prevent vulnerabilities and reduce problems like data sprawl and silos
In a June 17, 2020, press release, Gartner predicted that cloud security spending will grow by 33.3% throughout the rest of the year to $585 million, up from $439 million in 2019. This segment represents the largest growth in overall IT security spending for the year, which will see an increase of just 2.4% total.
While cloud security may represent a significant portion of IT budgets, it’s often not a priority from the start. Experts argue that security should be priority number one, not an afterthought, and that businesses will need to cultivate a security-first mindset when it comes to cloud adoption.
The trouble with lack of cloud security
In their white paper “Architecting ‘Security-First’ Into Cloud Strategy,” experts from Cloud Academy note that while many businesses are moving to the cloud, they are often doing so without proper security knowledge and precautions in place. “Concern about the security of public clouds in and of themselves is misplaced,” says Cloud Academy, because “the real concern lies with organizational, team, and individual security awareness, processes, and practices.”
The rush to adopt cloud technology is one of the biggest mistakes these businesses can make. According to a McAfee report cited in the Cloud Academy white paper, 36% of enterprises are moving forward with cloud adoption without the right security skills on their team. In other words, every one in three companies moving to the cloud is doing so without a solid security architecture in place.
Lacking a clear understanding of cloud technology, businesses open themselves up to security vulnerabilities resulting from misconfiguration of settings. Leadership may blame the cloud platform, even though the provider will ensure that the infrastructure itself is secure. “It’s not a failure of technology,” says Cloud Academy, “but a lack of understanding about the importance of security and lack of skills that put your business at risk.”
Businesses that fail to consider security first may experience data breaches and other security threats, leading to serious consequences further down the road. High-profile data breaches haven’t just lost companies revenue; they’ve also been a PR nightmare for some of the biggest names in the corporate world. Additionally, the effects that a data breach can have on customers mean losing buyers’ trust and seeing competitors win their business instead.
By considering security first and foremost, organizations can implement a more secure cloud architecture and reduce the risk of major security vulnerabilities.
What is a security-first cloud strategy?
A security-first strategy lays the foundation for a secure cloud architecture first and foremost before an organization migrates to the cloud. This method makes security central to a business’s operations rather than a detail to be discussed at a later date.
For a successful security-first cloud strategy, senior leadership should promote this strategy from the top down and invest in ongoing training and resources to align everyone around this mindset. “If a business moves too fast without an adequate training plan to support its employees,” Cloud Academy’s white paper explains, “best practices can be overlooked, mistakes can occur, shortcuts may be made, and vulnerabilities will be quietly designed into solutions.”
How can you develop your security-first cloud strategy?
Where can businesses begin with a security-first strategy, even if they have already begun their shift to the cloud? Earlier this year, the Forbes Technology Council made its predictions of cloud computing trends. Number six on the list was “Security-First Thinking”:
“Cloud adoption will be super-charged by security-first thinking. An integrated, cross-platform segmentation strategy will enable secure cloud migrations and avoid the legacy challenges of data sprawl, complexity and siloed solutions. Agile segmentation of assets, functions and apps will prevent opening up new areas of risk that didn’t exist before moving to the cloud’s expanded attack surface.”
A security-first strategy is not a “one-and-done” process. Businesses have several aspects of a security plan to consider before they begin migrating to the cloud.
Following these three steps will help you supercharge your security-first cloud strategy:
1. Enable secure cloud migrations through an integrated, cross-platform segmentation strategy
Organizations can enhance their cloud security by segmenting data across multiple cloud or data storage platforms rather than storing it all in one place. To do so, they need to implement a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategy.
A multi-cloud approach enables businesses to choose multiple cloud platforms or resources of the same type (public or private) to handle different aspects of their cloud journey. In many cases, businesses will spread assets across two or more public cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and others. If the organization is a government agency that needs to secure sensitive data, they may rely on the secret regions in one or more of those public cloud platforms.
A hybrid cloud strategy mixes public cloud services with on-premises and/or private cloud services. Building a hybrid cloud architecture can give an organization added agility when it comes to managing assets, as they can move workloads easily among these services. Hybrid cloud may also combine public cloud services with edge computing, storing the data at the “edge,” or the location from which employees will access this information.
In either situation, cloud administrators can set granular identity and access management (IAM) policies. Using microsegmentation, admins can securely isolate cloud environments into different compartments to enhance network protection. They can also deploy a cloud management service to routinely monitor and mitigate any security issues in real-time.
2. Avoid legacy challenges of data sprawl, complexity, and siloed solutions
Legacy data storage can include a vast network of servers across multiple locations. In some cases, businesses may have added this storage as a quick fix, without considerations for security and integration between data sources. This results in an overly complex infrastructure that can silo data, rendering certain assets inaccessible to teams, functions, or individuals within an organization. Naturally, this complexity also leaves room for gaps in information security and opportunities for hackers to access sensitive data.
Unfortunately, these problems can replicate in the cloud. Administrators need a solid cloud architecture that takes security into account in order to avoid unsecured data sprawl. By removing complexity and ensuring a best practice cloud design architecture, administrators can also avoid unnecessarily siloing their assets. By removing silos, administrators can better manage and interconnect data across a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud architecture.
3. Assess the risk of the cloud’s “expanded attack surface”
Public cloud platforms enable granular segmentation and greater integration among computing resources. Yet if best practices are ignored and misconfiguration issues are left unresolved, the security of the cloud environment can go unchecked and open businesses up to cyberattacks, data breaches, and other vulnerabilities. This sprawl turns the cloud into an “expanded attack surface” that opens up a backdoor to thieves and other bad actors.
Cloud administrators must routinely review their cloud environment. Manually monitoring for these threats can be nearly impossible for any organization. By using a cloud management platform that monitors for security and compliance, organizations can detect threats in real time and mitigate issues before they lead to catastrophic data losses.
Make cloud security job #1 with CloudCheckr
The best way to implement a security-first strategy is to think of security before you move to the cloud. CloudCheckr’s robust cloud management platform is designed to help your team put security first.
CloudCheckr CMx represents the next-generation in cloud management. The platform features a new experience for delivering total visibility into infrastructures and organizational management — by individuals, teams, and roles. CloudCheckr CMx High Security combines AI-based threat detection and daily automated internal vulnerability scans to bring the highest level of public cloud security and compliance for regulated industries.
Ready to make CloudCheckr part of your security-first cloud strategy?
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