The basic objective of a cloud security strategy is to provide a method to monitor and protect the flow of information to and from cloud hosted services. There has been and will continue to be a shift towards public and private cloud services as the age of digitisation is increasingly being embraced by organisations.
According to Cisco’s Annual Cyber Security report, one of the principle reasons why organisations are deciding to host corporate applications in the cloud is increased security.
On the other hand many small and medium organisations are adopting cloud technology without a clear strategy resulting in the blurring of edges of responsibility between the cloud provider and the organisation. In the eyes of cloud security providers, there are clear responsibilities and boundaries as illustrated in the graphic below.
Cyber attackers are increasingly taking advantage of this blurring of the boundaries to exploit systems. It is important to undertake a proper risk assessment before cloud services are adopted. This will enable a clear understanding of the risks and a consequent strategy to mitigate the risks.
The basic approach to cloud security will be based on the risk profile, it essentially needs to address the different phases of the cyber security threat, namely before, during and after an attack. It should be an extension of the organisations security approach to the on-premise information systems and data which generally address the question, who is allowed access to what information.
Some of the key features that need to be addressed with a cloud cyber security approach include;
- Visibility and Control
- Securing Cloud Applications
- Extended Protection
- Virtualise the Security Architecture
- Threat intelligence
Visibility and Control
Users will try to use whatever they can to get the job done. Organisations need visibility and control of what applications are being used in the cloud and remotely, especially with the growth of new SaaS applications. Visibility enables an understanding of what is being used in line with policy, what is out of policy and what is a threat. Visibility is the first step to controlling and securing the organisations environment based on what services should be provided.
Securing Cloud applications
As SaaS applications are increasingly being deployed in public clouds such as Amazon Web Services and Azure, it is vital to ensure that the cloud platform is secure. Even though the cloud providers will deploy their own security solutions, organisations also need to implement independent security systems to secure the user and the data as this is not the responsibility of the cloud provider. In it’s recent cyber security report, Cisco identified that a major growth area for cyber attacks was the misuse of legitimate cloud services to host malware. Hence the need to secure services in public clouds cannot be understated.
As remote connectivity and branch networking trends increase in popularity, the security solution should be adaptable to extend the necessary features such as firewalling, threat management and anti-malware capabilities to the edge of the network as opposed to the current centralised deployment model. This functionality should be provided on endpoints, remote connections and remote offices and vitally to devices working off site such as Internet Cafes.
Virtualise the Security Architecture
The need for security is now pervasive at the client, the branch, the HQ as well as public and private clouds where SaaS applications are located. This necessitates the capability for a virtualised security architecture where the panoply of security functionality can be deployed easily at any location. This approach also enables the organisation to scale security at speed which will meet business demands for rapid deployment of new services while avoiding security being an afterthought.
Most organisations deploy security components from multiple vendors. An intelligent approach to securing information and systems in the emerging environment must make use of threat intelligence to overcome any cross vendor incompatibilities. This is the ability to take intelligence feeds from other sources such as other security vendors feeds and make context based threat assessments relating to your organisation and what it means for you. This assessment can naturally feed into automated protection mechanisms.
In our next blogs in this series, we will cover off some best practices approaches to cloud security and discuss some of the technologies being used.