Cloud Security Best Practices: A Strategic Framework for IT Leaders

Cloud computing environments enable companies to meet both employee and customer needs, offering highly available and scalable resources that are accessible from anywhere. However, it also introduces significant security challenges for companies, including the difficulty of managing access and security configurations in complex cloud environments.

Managing cloud security risks requires a comprehensive security strategy that addresses the main cloud security threats that companies face, such as data breaches, ransomware attacks, and unauthorized access. The following 8 best practices highlight essential components of any corporate cloud security strategy.

#1. Manage Access to Corporate Data

Strong identity and access management (IAM) is critical to maintaining confidentiality, integrity, and availability in the cloud. However, many IAM solutions are undermined by granting excessive permissions or allowing the use of weak credentials, enabling account takeover (ATO) attacks.

A cloud IAM solution should be built around the principle of least privilege, which restricts access to the minimum required for a role. After minimizing the access assigned to users, organizations should also implement strong authentication, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO).

Companies should also regularly audit and monitor IAM permissions to ensure that they continue to comply with least privilege requirements. For example, an organization may audit permissions in its cloud environment when an employee leaves the company or changes roles. Audits should also occur when SaaS applications or cloud services are added or removed from an account. It’s also wise to perform audits periodically in case any changes have occurred or if you suspect unauthorized access to your cloud accounts.

#2. Encrypt and Protect Sensitive Information

Encryption is the most effective means of protecting data against unauthorized access so organizations should take steps to ensure this data is consistently encrypted in-transit using TLS, and at-rest. Additionally, they should have policies and security controls in place to ensure that only authorized users can access encrypted data.

In addition to data encryption, companies should also enact Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions to protect against potential data theft. Additionally, these organizations must implement policies and security controls that meet the data access, deletion, and retention requirements of laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

#3. Segment Corporate Networks

Network isolation is crucial to protecting corporate data and applications against unauthorized access. Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) offer many of the benefits of private clouds in a public cloud environment.

Network segmentation and micro-segmentation help to reduce the probability and impact of data breaches by breaking the network into multiple, isolated compartments. Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)  solutions can help to implement network segmentation at scale, providing organizations with greater visibility into and control over the usage of their cloud-based resources.

#4. Manage Vulnerabilities and Security Incidents

Cloud environments commonly contain vulnerabilities, which makes monitoring and incident response capabilities essential to managing security threats. Organizations should perform regular vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to help identify and correct these issues before they are exploited or trigger security events and alerts.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions enhance cloud visibility by collecting and analyzing multi-source security data in a single location. Companies can also leverage threat detection tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to provide deeper analysis of this security data at scale and identify anomalies and trends that point to potential security incidents.

When an attack occurs, it’s vital to be prepared, and this requires proper planning. Developing and testing an incident response plan in advance of any security incidents increases the probability of an accurate, rapid response that minimizes the cost and impact of a cloud security incident.

#5. Implement DevSecOps Best Practices

The cloud’s flexibility enables rapid development cycles as resources can be spun up and down as needed. However, this also increases the risk of vulnerabilities slipping through the cracks into production applications.

Managing cloud application security risk requires integrating security into DevOps practices (DevSecOps). This includes enforcing secure coding best practices, and integrating automated application security testing (AST) tools into automated CI/CD pipelines to ensure that vulnerability scanning occurs without delaying releases.

#6. Leverage Effective Cloud Security Tools

89% of companies have multi-cloud environments, which creates a complex security environment. Cloud environments face various security threats, and organizations need to address these in each provider’s environment.

The most efficient means of managing cloud security is at the network level, which is constant across cloud providers’ environments. SASE converges key security functions into a cloud-native solution, enabling manageable, scalable protection for cloud environments.

#7. Create a Governance and Risk Management Framework

Compliance and risk management are complex activities, especially in cloud computing environments. Organizations are subject to various laws and regulations, and cloud environments, with their limited visibility, sprawling attack surface, and global footprint, exacerbate this issue.

When designing a cloud compliance management program, having a strong governance framework is essential for success. This helps to ensure that the organization is aware of applicable regulations and requirements, has properly configured cloud services, and performs regular security audits. Imposing structure early in the process reduces the complexity of achieving or maintaining compliance as an organization’s cloud footprint expands.

#8. Understand The Shared Responsibility Model

The cloud-shared responsibility model defines the breakdown of security duties between the cloud provider and the cloud customer. The exact division depends on the cloud service model in use — Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS). Understanding the cloud-shared responsibility model is essential to the success of a cloud security program. Without this understanding, an organization may inadvertently leave security gaps where they assume that certain security tasks are the responsibility of the provider.

Streamline Your Organization’s Cloud Security with Cato Networks

Cloud environments face various security threats, making a comprehensive cloud security strategy essential for success. If an organization overlooks IAM, vulnerability management, or other security best practices, they may be leaving their cloud infrastructure open to attack.

With complex cloud environments, convergence is the key to scalable and sustainable security. SASE offers the ability to deploy consistent, comprehensive security across diverse multi-cloud environments. Learn more about the benefits of SASE and how it can streamline and strengthen your organization’s cloud security protection scheme.