Using the cloud can bring many advantages for companies: It accelerates the provision of IT applications, improves productivity, offers financial incentives, and increases the company’s overall agility. However, new attack surfaces are also emerging, exposing the entire organization to security threats.
Public and private cloud services pose challenges, especially for the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). He must always keep up with new technology and integrate different vendors to meet the diverse needs of each department – all while considering the associated security risks for the company. IT security managers understand that achieving business goals depends on adhering to security policies across all IT layers, including the cloud. It is important to follow generally accepted best practices.
While most companies are already using private, public cloud or hybrid network technologies, one of the biggest challenges for CISOs is the dynamics of cloud environments with limited visibility. This lack of transparency and clarity is also due to the often unclear responsibilities for the virtual infrastructure in enterprise public cloud services, which are usually managed by different IT teams. Through public clouds, networks are becoming ever larger, more complex and subject to permanent change. Therefore, security policies are required that do not stop at platform and technology boundaries.
For IT security professionals, cloud security is a continuous process. Many organizations find it rather difficult to get the same level of visibility into cloud-based workloads that they are accustomed to from traditional networks. Good data management is key: CISOs should know where information is shared and stored and the company’s cloud services. Because while one department uses Dropbox, for example, the other could use collaborative tools like Slack to share files. Regardless of who collects the data or where it is stored, services such as file storage and file sharing must be well documented and protected because of the requirements and penalties of non-compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR).
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Organizations often choose to migrate their on-premises systems to the cloud over time—a kind of “toe-dipping” approach to adopting a public cloud platform—or they decide to migrate to a private cloud (or a hybrid network) to maintain a supposedly higher degree of control. Regardless of the choice of the cloud provider, one problem is that cloud migration increases the complexity of enterprise networks. Network visibility and control are further complicated by increased east-west traffic. To seamlessly map and unify the management of these platforms, avoid disruption to business-critical applications, and facilitate the management of disparate tools,
Without accurate insight, CISOs cannot enforce consistent actions to mitigate risk. Traditional security controls such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems work effectively within an organization’s own four walls. Still, ongoing management becomes difficult when additional tools are added for cloud use. With visibility and control across the entire network from one console, organizations can overcome the lack of transparency and visibility often associated with cloud adoption. In addition, they can simplify the management of security policies across multiple tools to reduce risk and ensure compliance with corporate policies.
Visibility can also be improved by carrying out a risk assessment of the cloud services. This should include evaluating whether a particular service has recently been affected by a data security incident, whether data is being transmitted in encrypted form, and whether the system is being patched or configured to counter advanced threats.
As part of the process of moving data from an organization’s internal systems to the cloud, organizations must carefully consider how the data is retained to comply with laws and industry regulations. This raises a whole host of questions for security professionals: Where is the data stored? Who is responsible for that? Who has access to it, and can this be controlled? How secure is the cloud platform? Has this been configured effectively and securely?
The type of data organizations use varies – intellectual property, payment information, personal data – and every kind of data must meet specific regulatory requirements. For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is a proprietary security standard for companies handling card data. Especially about the EU General Data Protection Regulation, data must be classified, and organizations must understand what data is in the cloud and what storage requirements there are. Organizations also need to know how and where information is protected and secured and who can access it.
The complex IT environments that CISOs deal with today include many different endpoints, i.e., mobile devices, smartphones, tablets, and desktops. End-users choose various cloud providers, but many of the features that make cloud-based applications so attractive, such as synchronization, sharing and ease of collaboration, also put companies at risk when adopting the cloud.
CISOs should gain control over cloud security configurations to secure these hybrid environments. The best practice revolves around developing a unified security policy, taking a detailed snapshot of the entire network, defining the type of data, and specifying the appropriate controls for each. Because when organizations can quickly and appropriately implement policies—regardless of the environment—they gain power and agility.
Organizations and businesses should control who has access to specific records. If an employee leaves the company, it must be ensured that their access authorizations are revoked because there is a risk that former employees still have access to information that is in the cloud.
Organizations need an uncomplicated way to bring infrastructure, people and processes together. A single interface that can manage security policies and configurations across the entire network is the solution. As cloud adoption grows, organizations need to follow best practices to make the cloud experience as secure and enjoyable as possible. The uncomfortable alternative is to leave infrastructures vulnerable to security threats.
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