Cloud Security Solutions: Managing the Risks of Cloud Environments

As companies increasingly invest in cloud computing, they expose themselves to additional cybersecurity risks. Cloud environments have their advantages, but their unique design and use cases mean that they struggle with security challenges that don’t exist in on-prem environments.

Managing the security risks of cloud environments requires cloud security solutions designed to protect cloud-hosted data and applications. This article explores some of the most significant threats to cloud security and the security solutions that companies can use to manage them. 

Critical Threats to Cloud Security

Cloud environments face many of the same security risks as on-prem environments but also have several unique security challenges. Critical threats to cloud security include, but aren’t limited to:

Data Breaches

Data breaches are one of the top security threats to cloud security. Often, cloud environments contain security misconfigurations that make sensitive cloud resources publicly accessible. Alternatively, vulnerable cloud systems can be exploited to extract sensitive corporate and customer data.

Unauthorized Access

Many organizations struggle to properly manage permissions, granting users and applications excessive access to cloud resources. This increases the probability that attackers who compromise user accounts or exploit vulnerable applications can gain unauthorized access to cloud-based data and other resources.

Insecure APIs

Application programming interfaces (APIs) play a critical role in cloud environments, enabling programs to communicate with other applications both inside and outside the organization. However, these APIs commonly suffer from vulnerabilities and access control issues, which may be exploited for data breaches or other cyberattacks.

Insider Threats

Trusted employees and contractors can place the organization at risk of data breaches intentionally and by accident. Malicious insiders will steal data from the organization, while some employees fall for phishing attacks and other scams, opening the door to ransomware and other malware variants. In both cases, company data can be lost or stolen.

DDoS Attacks

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are designed to overload target systems, preventing legitimate access. While cloud providers often have DDoS protections in place, attackers can still overwhelm these defenses and affect the availability of cloud-based applications.

Cloud Security Solutions

As cloud environments become a central part of organizations’ security infrastructure, the security of these systems is crucial to corporate cybersecurity. Organizations require different cloud security solutions to protect against the significant risks to their cloud environments.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) act as a policy enforcement point between an organization’s cloud infrastructure and the outside world. CASB ensures that access and use of cloud and SaaS applications complies with corporate security policies, and appropriate security measures are taken when these policies are violated. 

Data Protection and Threat Prevention

CASB solutions allow companies to enforce various security policies to protect their data against potential exposure. These include:

  • Encryption: Encrypting data in transit protects against eavesdropping and enforces access controls.
  • Tokenization: Tokenization replaces sensitive data with non-sensitive tokens when access to the actual data isn’t required or authorized.
  • Malware Detection: Identifying attempted malware infections helps to prevent them from accessing and stealing sensitive company data.

Identity and Visibility Management

Access management is vital in cloud environments that are accessible from the public Internet and host critical applications and data. CASBs can help enforce authentication and access management policies and provide visibility into the use of cloud-based applications. With insight into cloud usage, an organization can identify potential unauthorized use, assess risk factors, and take action to manage potential abuse.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

Security misconfigurations are a common challenge in cloud environments. Each cloud provider has unique settings and features, making managing multi-cloud environments incredibly complex. Additionally, cloud users may also take actions that undermine their security, such as using link-based file sharing, which makes files publicly accessible.

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions continuously monitor an organization’s cloud security posture. CSPM solutions can identify security misconfigurations, unpatched vulnerabilities, access control issues, and similar threats to corporate cybersecurity and regulatory compliance.  

Software Vulnerabilities Prevention

In addition to managing the configuration of cloud systems, CSPM can inspect cloud applications for potential vulnerabilities. The solution can look for unpatched, known vulnerabilities and identify failures to adequately protect secrets and similar issues.

Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP)

Cloud workload protection platforms (CWPPs) are designed to protect workloads hosted in the cloud. They enhance the security and visibility of cloud workloads, providing consistent protection across different cloud environments.

Workload Security and Threat Detection

CWPP solutions enhance the security and compliance of workloads in cloud environments. This includes the ability to identify potential vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, detect tampering with cloud workloads, secure network access to workloads, and support incident detection and response.

Visibility and Security Across Environments

Most companies have multi-cloud environments designed to take advantage of each environment’s unique benefits. CWPPs help manage the security challenges of workloads across these environments, including enhancing visibility into how users and applications access cloud-based solutions and detecting shadow IT and other security threats.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) converges network, access, and network security capabilities into a cloud-native service. This combination improves network security efficiency while enabling identity-driven zero-trust access management.

WAN Edge and Cloud Security

As corporate networks evolve to include cloud infrastructure, the traditional network perimeter is dissolving. SASE solutions incorporate cloud security functionality — such as CASB and SWG — to address the security risks of these environments. By moving security capabilities to the cloud edge, SASE allows enterprises to extend enterprise security policies to their cloud infrastructure without compromising performance and reliability.

Security Service Edge (SSE)

Security Service Edge (SSE) is the security component of SASE, providing:

  • Cloud-Native Security: Cloud-native security incorporates CASB and secure web gateway (SWG) and lives in the cloud, taking advantage of its flexibility and scalability.
  • Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA): ZTNA enforces zero-trust principles — such as least privilege access — for users, applications, and devices attempting to access corporate applications or data.
  • Direct-to-Internet Access: SSE enables users to access the Internet directly and securely regardless of location without compromising security or backhaul traffic through the corporate LAN.

Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

Extended detection and response (XDR) solutions enhance companies’ threat detection and response capabilities. XDR leverages AI and ML to more efficiently analyze security data to identify potential threats and accelerate responses to security incidents.

Advanced Threat Detection Capabilities

XDR ingests security data from multiple sources, including logs, network data, and alerts to accelerate threat detection.  Advanced AI/ML algorithms train on this data to identify potential trends and anomalies and detect sophisticated cyber threats.

Threat Detection and Response Automation

In addition to identifying advanced cyber threats, XDR can expedite the remediation process through response automation. By automating the process of containing or eliminating a cyber threat, an organization can reduce the impact that it has on the business and the resulting costs and damage.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

Cybersecurity teams are often overwhelmed with more alert data than they can handle. Security information and event management (SIEM) solutions help to address this issue by collecting and analyzing alert data in a central location. SIEMs provide curated alerts, reducing overload and enabling security analysts to identify, investigate, and respond to potential threats more efficiently.

Log Management and Analysis

Security teams receive data and alerts from various sources, including endpoints, applications, security tools, and network traffic. SIEM solutions correlates this information in a centralized location for analysis.

This centralized analysis can reduce alert volume and increase accuracy by using context and advanced analytics. With information from multiple sources, a SIEM solution can better differentiate between a benign anomaly and a genuine threat, enabling security analysts to focus their efforts where they would be most valuable to the business.

Threat Intelligence Integration

In addition to collecting security data from local sources, SIEM solutions can also ingests threat intelligence feeds. With data on the latest malware variants and attack campaigns, these solutions can more quickly and accurately identify and alert on the presence of these threats within an organization’s network.

Best Practices for Implementing Cloud Security Solutions

Cloud security is a vital piece of an organization’s overall cybersecurity strategy. Some best practices for selecting and implementing cloud security solutions include the following:

Implement a Network Security Platform

An array of point network security products is difficult to manage, can have security gaps, and may be inefficient and redundant. An organization can improve operational efficiency by implementing a network security platform instead. This platform converges multiple security functions into a single solution with centralized management. By doing so, they can more effectively detect and respond to potential cloud security threats.

Shared Responsibility Model

The cloud-shared responsibility model delineates the breakdown of responsibilities between a cloud service provider and its customers. Understanding this model is critical for cloud security because it specifies which aspects of cloud security a customer is responsible for.

Implement Zero Trust

The zero-trust security model is designed to enhance corporate cybersecurity by eliminating the implicit trust for all users accessing the network. Instead, every request is evaluated independently against least privilege access controls and corporate policies to determine the level of access an individual user and their request should have. Implementing zero trust in the cloud helps manage the potential risks that unauthorized access poses to an organization’s cloud-based data and applications.

Secure the Cloud

Cloud infrastructure is outside the traditional corporate network perimeter and is directly accessible from the public Internet. An organization should deploy security controls to enforce access permissions, encryption, and other corporate policies to secure their cloud-based resources from potential exploitation.

Conduct Penetration Testing

Cloud environments evolve rapidly, meaning new vulnerabilities can be introduced anytime. Performing regular penetration testing helps companies manage this risk by identifying security weaknesses, allowing the organization to address them before an attacker can exploit them.

Building Robust Cloud Security with Cato Networks

As corporate cloud footprints expand, optimizing and strengthening cloud security is a vital next step. Cloud environments are scalable and dynamic, making traditional security solutions less effective at managing security risks.

Cato SASE Cloud implements converged, cloud-native protection for cloud environments. By combining network security and networking into a single software stack, SASE enables consistent security, policy enforcement, and compliance across the entire corporate WAN. Learn more about the benefits of SASE for the corporate cloud.