Essential Cloud Security Tools: A Comprehensive Guide for IT Leaders

All companies maintain a presence in the cloud, whether using SaaS applications or deploying their own applications. Additionally, cloud storage is an essential part of their cloud footprint. As more sensitive information and critical functionality move to cloud environments, cloud security becomes an increasingly vital component of a corporate cybersecurity and regulatory compliance strategy.

Security policies and compliance strategies provide minimal value to the organization unless they are implemented and enforced. Choosing the right cloud security tools is essential to achieving the visibility and control needed to effectively monitor and secure cloud environments against security threats.

Understanding Your Cloud Environment

Corporate security teams can only protect the cloud assets that it knows exist. The first step toward implementing effective cloud security is performing a complete inventory of all cloud assets, applications, and data.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) tools can perform automated asset discovery. This provides the organization with visibility into all of its cloud resources, including unmanaged applications and shadow IT. It is also crucial for security teams to assess the criticality and sensitivity of its cloud assets and data to properly prioritize risk management actions.

Identify and Prioritize Cloud Security Risks

Based on a complete cloud inventory, the organization can then prioritize their assets according to its risk score. Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing can be used to identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other risks within the corporate cloud.

It’s also important to consider which risks and threats an organization is most likely to face. Using threat intelligence, the company can identify potential threats, take proactive measures to prevent pending attacks, and respond quickly and effectively to protect their resources. 

The objective is to build an understanding of likely attackers and the tools and techniques they will use. This information allows organizations to prioritize identified vulnerabilities based on their likelihood of exploitation and the potential impact.

After risk prioritization is complete, remediation efforts should be performed in order of highest to lowest risk. The security team should develop and implement risk mitigation plans for how they will eliminate or manage each risk and test the effectiveness of these remediation actions.

Implementing Essential Cloud Security Tools and Controls

Cloud security is an essential component of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy; however, it differs significantly from traditional, on-prem environments. When designing security policies and architectures for the cloud, it’s a good idea to base them on established frameworks, such as the Cloud Security Alliance’s (CSA’s) Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) or the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Controls. 

Some best practices to incorporate include:

  • Harden default configurations.
  • Encrypt data at rest and in transit.
  • Use tokenization to limit access to sensitive data.
  • Implement least privilege access controls.
  • Review the cloud shared responsibility model.

Organizations will also need to implement cloud security tools to provide visibility, protection, and threat detection and response capabilities. The core components of this include:

  • Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB): CASB acts as a policy enforcement point between users and cloud applications. Deploying CASB can help manage access to cloud resources and ensure adherence to regulatory requirements and corporate security policies.
  • Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP): CWPP protects cloud-based workloads — including containers, serverless architectures, and servers — against potential attack. CWPP manages the risk of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in corporate cloud applications.
  • Firewall as a Service (FWaaS): FWaaS offers next-generation firewall (NGFW) capabilities under a service-based model. FWaaS offers scalable and high performance traffic inspection and filtering for cloud resources.
  • Intrusion Detection/Prevention System (IDS/IPS): IDS and IPS monitor for malicious activities on corporate networks. These solutions can alert security personnel or block potential attacks before they reach vulnerable systems.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM solutions aggregate security data from multiple different sources. Centralized data collection and analytics enhance the detection of subtle or distributed attacks.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP): Cloud environments hold a growing volume of sensitive data protected by regulations. DLP solutions identify and block outbound data flows carrying sensitive data to unauthorized recipients.

Managing each of these capabilities as an independent point solution can be complex and introduce security gaps. Companies should consider adopting Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), which converges many of these functions and other, complementary features into a single cloud solution.

Ensuring Compliance with Industry Regulations

Corporate compliance requirements under GDPR, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and similar regulations also extend to cloud environments. When designing cloud security policies and selecting solutions to enforce them, organizations should consider the alignment of these tools to compliance requirements.

Some security solutions are specifically mandated by regulations and standards. For example, many regulations explicitly require an organization to use a firewall. In a cloud environment, FWaaS is the most effective way to fulfill this requirement. Other security solutions may be implicitly endorsed by a regulation. For example, data privacy laws require organizations to control access to sensitive data, making CASB a logical component of a cloud security architecture. Similarly, laws are increasingly recommending or requiring an explicit trust model, thereby endorsing security solutions that meet zero trust requirements — like zero trust network access (ZTNA).

Non-compliance with regulatory requirements can have significant implications for an organization, including financial penalties, reputational damage, and potential legal action. As more sensitive and protected data moves to the cloud, companies need to understand regulatory requirements and deploy solutions that manage the risks of non-compliance and potential cyberattacks.

Integrating Security into Cloud Development and Operations

Many companies have adopted cloud computing as a platform for developing highly scalable cloud-native applications. However, application development in the cloud introduces additional potential security risks.

Companies should incorporate security into the development process for cloud-native apps by implementing DevSecOps. To do so, organizations should:

  • Provide Developers with Security Training: To avoid common security mistakes, developers need to know what they are. Providing regular training on common vulnerabilities and secure coding best practices reduces the risk of vulnerabilities in cloud-native code.
  • Define Security-Focused Requirements: DevSecOps integrates security into every stage of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). This includes defining explicit requirements for security-related features and functions within an application.
  • Automate Security Testing: Automated security testing reduces friction in the development experience and the probability of vulnerabilities reaching production. Static, dynamic, and interactive application security testing (SAST, DAST, and IAST) should be deployed as part of automated CI/CD pipelines.
  • Use Infrastructure as Code (IaC): IaC uses code to define the deployment and configuration requirements for an application. Using IaC helps to standardize configurations and avoid errors that could leave applications vulnerable to exploitation.

DevSecOps is designed to minimize the risk that production applications will contain exploitable vulnerabilities. However, organizations also need security solutions that protect deployed applications against exploitation of any overlooked security risks.

The Right Tools Are Crucial

Complex, multi-cloud deployments packed with sensitive data and critical applications are a prime target for cybercriminals. Protecting corporate clouds against attack requires a comprehensive cloud security strategy backed by the right security tools.

Cloud security threats are constantly evolving, and the rapid pace of change in cloud environments means that new vulnerabilities may be introduced into cloud environments at any time. To manage these risks, organizations should perform continuous risk assessments and update their cloud security tool stacks with solutions that enable them to more quickly and easily identify and respond to cloud security incidents.

Cato SASE Cloud offers simplified cloud security through security convergence. Learn more about the benefits of SASE and how choosing the right tools pays dividends for cloud security.