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Cloud Security Solutions

Understanding Cloud Security Challenges

December 2, 2020

Topics: Cloud Insights Elementary7 minute read

What are Cloud Security Challenges?

Cloud computing security is a priority for any organization using the cloud. The shared resources and Internet accessibility of the cloud make services and environments vulnerable in a way that on-premises systems are not. To ensure the privacy and reliability of cloud services, organizations need to adopt cloud security solutions that address unique challenges.

To successfully prevent and protect against cloud risks, organizations need to be aware of what challenges they face and how those challenges make them vulnerable. Once challenges are acknowledged and understood, you start securing your system effectively.

In this article, you will learn:

Major Cloud Security Risks

There are many smaller risks for cloud environments, including individual vulnerabilities in applications or interfaces. To understand these risks you need to have an in-depth understanding of your systems and the time to address each issue. However, if you have not already addressed your major risks, fully securing your system is impossible. Below are the major risks to address.

Complex and Dynamic Deployments

Cloud deployments often involve intricate architectures made of a wide variety of services, integrations, and network connections. Components can come from a range of vendors and resources can be located in a range of environments and locations. Managing all of these components and being aware of data storage regulations across environments requires significant time and visibility.

Additionally, many cloud deployments are constantly changing. New devices are connecting and disconnecting and resources are frequently taken down or added. Lack of sufficient monitoring can lead to unchecked cloud sprawl. This is particularly true when DevOps teams use the cloud.

The use of infrastructure as code (IaC) and automation enables teams to deploy resources easily and with minimal approval. If these processes are not accounted for, you may have a significant number of unprotected and unmonitored resources without your knowledge.

Confusion About Shared Responsibility

In traditional environments, it is very clear who is responsible for securing and maintaining your infrastructure. Your resources are on-premises and owned by you so your IT and security teams need to manage them. In cloud environments, however, infrastructure is owned and managed by your vendor. You are not responsible for securing much of your infrastructure nor are you able to control it.

The issue comes when organizations don’t understand where their responsibility starts and the provider’s ends. The shared responsibility models defined by providers are not always clear, especially when you start customizing services and resources.

Depending on the type of cloud service you are using, your responsibility shifts. For example, if you are using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) your responsibilities are much greater than if you’re using Software as a Service (SaaS).

Related content: read our guide to cloud security threats.

Endless Updates and Services

Cloud development, and particularly microservices, allow for significantly easier updates and faster releases. This is ideal from a business perspective since you can get high-value products to users faster. On the operations and security side, however, the large number of services and resources required present a larger threat landscape.

Each new connection and container need to be monitored and secured. If processes are not strictly controlled, the chance of compromised components, container images, or unsecured instances can create significant risk.

Data Breaches

The volume of data stored in the cloud and the relative ease of accessibility make cloud environments a prime target for attackers. The distributed design of the cloud and the Internet connections it requires to access data make it possible to intercept connections and data transfers. This is difficult or impossible with on-premises resources.

Preventing breaches requires not only securing resources and endpoints but restricting what data is stored in the cloud to begin with. With cloud services, you need to be fully aware of what data you have available and where it is stored.

You also need to monitor and control how it is accessed and shared. For example, if a user is allowed to share access links with outsiders they may inadvertently grant access to your entire storage volume instead of a single file.

3 Cloud Security Challenges and Solutions

In addition to the above sources of risk, there are several challenges most cloud users face when working to secure their environments. Below, you’ll learn about three of these challenges and how to address them.

Insecure APIs

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are used to enable communication between cloud components. These interfaces are used both internally and externally to access, modify, or create data.

The most common risks associated with insecure APIs include:

  • Lack of authentication, which enables anonymous users
  • Lack of request or call monitoring
  • Use of weak or reusable passwords or tokens
  • Lack of privacy during authentication (i.e. displaying passwords)
  • Lack of restrictions on what calls can be used or data accessed

Managing insecure APIs
Start securing APIs by defining your authentication and authorization policies. You should not allow unauthenticated users to access the API and you should implement methods to reduce the risk of compromised credentials, such as multi-factor authentication.

You should also make sure that all API communications are encrypted. Using transport layer security (TLS) or secure socket layer (SSL) encrypted channels reduces the chance that requests are intercepted or modified.

Misconfigured Cloud Storage

Misconfigurations are one of the biggest threats to cloud security. In particular, misconfigurations providing unrestricted or public access to data.

The most frequent misconfigurations include:

  • Leaving security settings as the default, including credentials
  • Lack of or insufficient access controls
  • Oversight in monitoring all resources or user events

Managing misconfigured storage
Periodically auditing your security configurations is the most reliable way to identify issues or opportunities for improvement. Auditing can occur on an individual basis, such as double-checking resources immediately after deployment or system-wide at specific intervals.

Ideally, you should be routinely auditing your configurations with automation tools. This helps ensure that all resources are evaluated and provide results significantly faster than manual audits. Many cloud providers offer tools for auditing or third party options, such as Aqua’s CloudSploit, are available.

Compliance Violations

Compliance regulations in the cloud are often less clear than on-premises. Differences in where data is stored or accessed may mean different regulations apply. Additionally, not all regulations have provisions in place to address changing cloud technologies.

Managing compliance violations
When using the cloud, you need to understand exactly which regulations apply and how. You should also be aware of whether your cloud providers are compliance certified and what that means. You should also create a full inventory of your cloud data, who is accessing that data, and what protections you have in place.

Implementing encryption is a major key to preventing violations. If your data is encrypted, both in-transit and at-rest, breaches affect data sovereignty but may not undermine privacy.

If you cannot or are not sure that you are meeting compliance in the cloud, you should consider segregating your data with hybrid resources. Hybrid resources enable you to retain regulated data on-site while non-regulated data and workloads are stored in the cloud. This architecture enables you to benefit from cloud resources without risking compliance violations.

Cloud Security Challenges with NetApp Cloud Insights

NetApp Cloud Insights is an infrastructure monitoring tool that gives you visibility into your complete infrastructure. With Cloud Insights, you can monitor, troubleshoot, and optimize all your resources including your public clouds and your private data centers.

Cloud Insights helps you find problems fast before they impact your business. Optimize usage so you can defer spend, do more with your limited budgets, detect ransomware attacks before it’s too late, and easily report on data access for security compliance auditing.

In particular, NetApp Cloud Insights protects organizational data from being misused by malicious or compromised users, through advanced machine learning and anomaly detection.

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