Article Security April 13, 2021

How to Solve the Top 5 Public Cloud Security Challenges

Cloud security should always be top of mind for administrators. However, if they don’t have total visibility into their cloud environments, they can’t identify and resolve vulnerabilities in real time.
A 2020 Cloud Security Alliance identity security report includes a survey of cloud security architects, designers, and operators from large organizations. As part of the survey, respondents named their top cloud security challenges they would face well into 2021.
Fortunately, all of the issues that these cloud professionals named as their pain points have clear solutions. Below are the respondents’ top five public cloud security challenges—and how cloud administrators can gain a foothold on these issues before they turn into costly vulnerabilities.
 

The Top 5 Public Cloud Security Challenges

Enterprises have always had security challenges. Moving your infrastructure to the cloud doesn’t eliminate that, but it can make things easier. The Shared Responsibility Model means your public cloud provider takes ownership of security of the cloud, including physical security of the data center, regions, availability zones, and edge locations. However, the responsibility to secure the applications and data in the cloud fall to the cloud customer. Let’s look at some of the foremost public cloud security challenges and what CloudCheckr can do to help:
 

Challenge #5: Compliance and regulations in the cloud

Enterprises of all kinds need a clear understanding of whether their cloud environment meets industry regulations and other data privacy laws. A hospital in the United States, for example, has to comply with HIPAA regulations regarding patient privacy. If they take credit card payments, then they also have to adhere to PCI DSS payment processing regulations. 
Cloud environments in all industries require continuous monitoring for compliance checks. Falling out of compliance with a standard for data privacy can lead to costly fines. Should a data breach occur, businesses can lose money and their customers’ trust when the knowledge of that data loss becomes public. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach for all organizations was $3.86 million as of 2020 and over $7 million in the healthcare industry alone. But the more data that’s compromised, the higher the cost of a data breach. IBM reports that the average cost of a “mega breach” with 50 million or more records stolen was $392 million in 2020. “Cloud misconfiguration” resulted in 19% of malicious data breaches — the largest share of causes alongside “compromised credentials.”
Tools that monitor compliance can help take the guesswork out of maintaining regulatory compliance. CloudCheckr CMx helps ensure Total Compliance across 35 major regulatory standards, leveraging hundreds of CloudCheckr’s security best practice checks.
 

Challenge #4: Cloud configuration management

Misconfigurations are some of the most common mistakes in cloud services. In a 2019 report, the Cloud Security Alliance named this issue as the second most “egregious” security issue that cloud administrators face. The worst part, however, is that these issues could have been avoided. Gartner predicts that through 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the result of customer error. 
Improper or disabled security configurations are a common source of user error in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and other public cloud platforms. While public cloud has vast capabilities, these platforms are not typically out-of-the-box solutions. It’s easy to improperly configure or accidentally disable certain settings. Overlooking password restrictions may leave an organization open to security vulnerabilities. An improper configuration of a tool like CloudTrail could result in incomplete or missing change logs, meaning that administrators won’t be able to catch when something has been changed and by whom. In the case of data transmission and storage, infrastructure should be configured for both Encryption In Transit and At Rest. 
Administrators need visibility into their public cloud configuration management to ensure that they have everything configured properly. CloudCheckr CMx provides visibility into public cloud and has alerts for critical changes to configurations, resources, and security groups, as well as automated log documentation and analytics to help administrators manage the security of their public cloud. Many of those misconfigurations can be corrected automatically thanks to Self-Healing automation.
 

Challenge #3: IAM procedures in public cloud

In public cloud environments like AWS, Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies allow administrators to add AWS users and groups and enable specific permissions for these accounts. IAM policies are some of the most important aspects of the cloud because they control who can access and modify specific data.
Organizations need to protect sensitive data by ensuring that only qualified individuals have access to it. Administrators may find it difficult to track accounts that sprawl across the organization. Putting all users into groups makes it easier to set permissions for multiple accounts. This will ensure that all users are associated with a user group.
Seeing who has access to what is a top priority for public cloud architects and operators. CloudCheckr CMx makes tracking IAM and permissions simple. The CloudCheckr CMx security tools can automatically map and group all user accesses, providing centralized control across multiple cloud accounts.
 

Challenge #2: Public cloud data privacy

In addition to setting their IAM policies, administrators need to know what resources are public when they shouldn’t be. Problems with resource privacy are a common cause of security vulnerabilities in the cloud. If unintentionally public resources aren’t quickly identified and remedied, they can lead to security breaches. Those, in turn, result in heavy regulatory fines, lost revenue, and a damaged reputation for the affected enterprise.
Administrators may overlook a number of data privacy mistakes they’ve made in their cloud environment. For instance, AWS users may misconfigure the following:

  • Misconfiguration of security groups: AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) security groups may allow inbound traffic from all IP addresses, rather than a specific range. Administrators should restrict access to a specific IP range, if applicable.
  • Unintentionally public resources: Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), which help launch EC2 instances, may contain proprietary or sensitive data. If administrators set them to public by accident, they could expose sensitive information. Therefore, information security teams should carefully review any public AMIs.
  • Overly permissive S3 buckets: Administrators might not realize that they’ve set the permissions to “everyone,” which could result in anonymous users accessing or making changes to sensitive data. A 2018 Symantec report found that S3 buckets “emerged as an Achilles heel for organizations” after poor configuration on the user’s end led to more than 70 million records stolen or leaked from this storage type.

A cloud management platform can help them with these tasks. CloudCheckr CMx performs a cloud perimeter assessment to scan the entire public cloud environment and find vulnerabilities within resources. The tool then identifies any publicly accessible resources, open ports, and protocols. From there, it gives administrators the ability to easily remedy the problem.
 

Challenge #1: Cloud visibility

It’s no surprise that this is the first of the top public cloud security challenges. After all, when it comes to the cloud, you can’t fix what you can’t see. Public cloud platforms have vast ecosystems with myriad features and functions. But because of their size, as well as the number of cloud resources an organization might deploy, it’s easy to overlook or misconfigure important security settings. Administrators need to find public resources that should be private, identify user accounts with the wrong permissions, and remediate their most urgent public cloud security challenges.
CloudCheckr CMx provides total visibility into a cloud environment, all in a single dashboard. CloudCheckr customers have access to more than 600 cloud best practice checks and can maintain Total Compliance with 35 major regulatory standards. For added security, CloudCheckr CMx High Security brings advanced cloud computing data security configuration to highly regulated industries, such as government, higher education, health care, and financial services.
 

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