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Cloud Security Solutions

Cloud Security Best Practices: 7 Tips and Tricks

What are Cloud Security Best Practices?

Cloud security best practices help you monitor and secure cloud services and data. These practices are implemented by cloud service users to protect their assets and to ensure that vendor-operated protections are properly configured and enabled.

In particular, these practices are used to address the unique and additional risks that come from services that are often publicly connected to the Internet. Some of these practices include an implementation of cloud security solutions while others can be implemented natively.

In this article, you will learn:

Cloud Security Best Practices

When operating cloud services there are general best practices that apply to any cloud deployment and vendor or service specific practices. The following best practices are general, but many can be tailored to suit specific needs through native tooling or features.

Use Identity and Access Management (IAM) Solutions

IAM solutions enable you to define, track, and manage user and entity identities and permissions. Through these solutions, you can typically apply access controls and restrict the ability to modify, share, or delete data or settings.

Ideally, the solutions you implement should include features for single sign-on and multi-factor authentication. Solutions should also support the definition of role based permissions, which are easier to manage and apply in standardized ways.

Related content: read our guide to cloud security threats.

Set Up Backup and Recovery Solutions

Although many cloud services guarantee high-availability and durability, these features do not protect you from data loss or unwanted modification. To ensure that your data is always recoverable, you need to implement backup and recovery solutions. These solutions can protect you in cases of ransomware infection, accidental or malicious deletion of data, and location-wide hardware failures.

To maintain accessible and recoverable data, consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Backup—automate backups and lifecycle policies to ensure that you retain recoverable copies. If possible, use incremental backups to save storage resources and limit impacts on system performance during backup. Additionally, you should implement the 3-2-1 rule, with three backup copies in at least two locations, one of which is off-premises from where live data is stored.
  • Archives—you can archive data that is infrequently used, such as compliance data, in separate storage. Archives are useful for older backups and other recovery materials that are not commonly needed.
  • Recovery—you should have recovery procedures defined, including what data is restored first and who is responsible for managing recovery. Additionally, you should consider implementing failover systems for your mission-critical workloads and services.

Ensure Visibility

Maintaining visibility of your environments is key for keeping your services and data secure. Cloud services are dynamic and distributed which can make it easy to overlook suspicious events or abuse of resources. With centralized visibility of your systems, and continuous monitoring, you can ensure that all operating resources are known and that users are behaving as expected.

When configuring monitoring and visibility, make sure to implement solutions that can ingest data from a wide range of services and solutions. You should be able to correlate data and activity regardless of location. Additionally, solutions should include features for automatic service or device discovery. These features help you ensure that all assets are covered at all times.

Don’t Ignore Due Diligence

Due diligence is a method of auditing assets and systems to ensure you are aware of any shortcomings or benefits. Due diligence is typically used by investors looking to purchase technologies or organizations. You should be performing due diligence any time you are considering a cloud service, solution, or application.

By performing due diligence, you ensure that your IT and security teams are aware of an asset's capabilities and compatibility. You also ensure that any vulnerabilities are made apparent and can be patched or managed appropriately.

Ideally, you should test any cloud components you plan to integrate with the same care that you would test your own applications or code. If you cannot do so, you may want to hire a third-party evaluator to ensure that the component is reliable and suitable.

Secure Your Credentials

Compromised credentials are one of the most common threats to cloud services. These credentials can grant attackers access to services, data, and even administrative rights depending on the level of credentialing. To prevent credential theft and abuse you need to ensure that user IDs and passwords are kept secure and not shared.

Defining strict password policies requiring complexity minimums and prohibiting reuse are a place to start. You should also make sure to educate users about the dangers of phishing and other attempts to gain credential information.

Additionally, you should consider implementing solutions with features for behavior analytics. These features use AI to detect when user activity doesn’t match expectations. For example, if users sign in from an IP they’ve never used before. These features can help you detect any credentials that have been compromised and block malicious activity before damage is caused.

Keep Your Services Up to Date

Many cloud services are managed for you, meaning that software and hardware are automatically updated when new versions or patches are available. This is great but you probably also have services or applications that are not managed and that you are responsible for keeping updated.

To ensure that you are not leaving vulnerabilities exposed, you should update applications and solutions quickly and consistently. Keeping an inventory of your self-managed software can help you ensure that you know exactly which updates you’re responsible for.

Additionally, it's helpful to check for available updates frequently. The most effective way to do this is to automate version checking or the ingestion of release notification feeds. You should also monitor vulnerability databases and feeds to ensure that you know as soon as vulnerabilities are made public. This can help you implement alternative protections if patches are not yet available.

Audit and Optimize Configurations

Misconfigurations are a significant source of security breaches in cloud environments. The dynamic nature of cloud resources in combination with misunderstanding of what security aspects you are responsible for can lead to unrestricted access for attackers.

To prevent these vulnerabilities, you need to make sure to understand the implications of configurations clearly. You should also periodically audit configurations to ensure that they align with your vendor’s recommendations. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) also has a set of benchmarks that can help you evaluate your current security posture.

The most efficient way to audit configurations is to use automation tools. These tools can scan your resources and services to look for inconsistencies in settings and protections. Some tools can also evaluate your data to determine where higher priority protections may be needed. Many cloud providers offer services like this that can highlight vulnerabilities and provide recommendations for optimization.

Cloud Security Best Practices 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. This enables you to identify threats early on and stop them before damage is caused.

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