Multi-Cloud Security: Protecting Your Assets Across Multiple Cloud Platforms

In 2023, 89% of companies stated that they had adopted multi-cloud environments. This popularity can be explained by the numerous benefits that they can provide, such as cost savings and infrastructure optimized for a particular use case. However, these complex environments also have their downsides. One of the most significant is that they are more difficult to monitor and secure than a single cloud platform due to the need to manage multiple vendor environments and cross-cloud interactions.

Multi-cloud security solutions are designed to offer consistent, integrated cloud security across multiple provider environments. By doing so, they reduce the cost and complexity of managing cloud security and eliminate visibility and security gaps that could place the organization at risk.

The Need for a Multi-Cloud Security Framework 

Companies commonly struggle with cloud security due to its fundamental differences from on-prem environments. In the cloud, an organization shares security responsibility with its cloud service provider, has limited control over its underlying infrastructure, and must secure its cloud environments. A failure to properly configure and secure its cloud environment exposes an organization to the risks of unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyberattacks.

Multi-cloud environments exacerbate these issues by forcing the organization to overcome these challenges in multiple provider environments. Additionally, an organization must manage and secure cross-cloud interactions and data flows.

A multi-cloud security security framework aids an organization in implementing strong, consistent security across its multi-cloud environment. Some key considerations for this framework include:

  • Risk Assessment: A multi-cloud security framework should manage an organization’s exposure to cloud security risks. The process should begin with an assessment of existing risk exposure and identifying the risks that the organization wishes to manage, such as configuration errors, policy violations, and unauthorized access.
  • Secure Architecture Design: Based on a clear understanding of the security risks, the company can select and implement security solutions to manage them. For example, an organization may select a cloud security posture management (CSPM), cloud access security broker (CASB), and zero trust network access (ZTNA) to manage the three aforementioned risks.
  • Incident Response: Cloud environments differ significantly from on-prem ones where an organization has full visibility into and control over its infrastructure. Incident response strategies should be expanded and updated to address the security risks of the cloud.
  • Governance and Compliance: In addition to security controls, an organization also needs policies, procedures, and oversight for its cloud security. These should be compliant both with corporate security policies and regulatory requirements.

Leveraging SASE to Enhance Multi-Cloud Security

As organizations adopt multi-cloud environments, they take on significant security challenges. With the task of protecting multiple cloud environments, it is logical to assume they must independently monitor and secure each of them. However, this approach does not scale well and introduces visibility and security gaps.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) offers the ability to simplify and streamline security management in the cloud. SASE converges multiple cloud security features — including FWaaS, CASB, ZTNA, SWG, and more — into a single cloud-native solution. Since SASE is a cloud-delivered solution, it offers consistent protection across multi-cloud infrastructures.

SASE also leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to improve multi-cloud security. Some potential use cases include:

  • Automated Threat Detection:  AI/ML analyzes security data to identify trends or anomalies that identify a potential security incident. By automating threat detection, AI/ML enables threat prevention and accelerates incident response.
  • Improved Incident Response: AI speeds up remediation of cyberattacks through automated incident response via predefined playbooks or ones written by the AI based on its understanding of the attack. Accelerating incident response reduces the risk to the organization.
  • Simplified Compliance: Compliance reporting requires collecting data from various sources. AI helps collect this information, simplifying compliance management.

SASE offers a straightforward method for organizations to secure multi-cloud, multi-site corporate WANs. SASE can be used to secure remote workers’ access to SaaS applications across multiple cloud platforms, support M&A integration, comply with data sovereignty requirements (such as GDPR), and anymulti-cloud  use case.

Integrating Security into DevOps in a Multi-Cloud Environment

Multi-cloud environments include a wide array of applications, including traditional and cloud-native apps. All of these programs can contain vulnerabilities that leave the organization and its data at risk of possible attacks.

The number of new software vulnerabilities is continually on the rise. One of the best ways to combat this trend is to embed security best practices into the software development process by adopting DevSecOps. This builds automated security testing into automated DevOps CI/CD pipelines and integrates security throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC) by defining security-focused requirements, integrating them into the software design, and validating them before software release.

Some best practices for implementing DevSecOps and shifting security left include:

  • Security Automation: DevOps practices involve automating manual processes to streamline the testing and deployment processes. Prioritizing security during development requires taking advantage of security automation to reduce friction and enable more security testing without sacrificing release timelines.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Friction in the development process can cause delayed release deadlines or result in security being deprioritized to keep a project on track. Continuously monitoring CI/CD pipelines for issues or inefficiencies helps to reduce the impact of security testing on established DevOps processes.
  • Leverage Feedback: While DevSecOps tries to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities before release, some may be overlooked. An organization can identify and fix these via regular vulnerability scans. Information on detected vulnerabilities should also be fed back to the development team so that it can implement secure coding best practices, security testing, and other measures to prevent these issues from recurring.

Addressing the Skills Gap in Multi-Cloud Security

The cybersecurity industry suffers from a significant talent gap. While many roles are available, there is a shortage of personnel with the skills and experience necessary to fill them.

Multi-cloud security is an area where this talent gap is especially problematic. Cloud security in general is a highly skilled role due to the need to understand both security best practices and the details of a particular cloud platform. With multi-cloud environments, a cloud security professional needs to be an expert in multiple cloud platforms and their interactions.

Access to cloud security talent is essential for protecting cloud environments. Some best practices for attracting, retaining, and upskilling cloud security talent include:

  • Targeted Recruiting: Multi-cloud security requires specialized skills. Specifically target security personnel with relevant experience and certifications.
  • Career Development: Provide employees with a clear career path into cloud security roles. For example, map career progression from a general SOC analyst to a more specialized role.
  • Training and Certification: Many employees have the skills needed for cloud security. Providing opportunities to attend training and earn certifications helps them advance their careers and transition into cloud security roles.
  • Mentorship Programs: Formal mentorship programs help junior personnel learn from their seniors and develop the knowledge and skills that they need.

Governance and Compliance Best Practices in Multi-Cloud Security

Companies are subject to various data protection regulations and standards, such as GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and more. The confusing regulatory landscape — where many regulations have their own unique security and reporting requirements — makes it difficult for companies to achieve, maintain, and demonstrate compliance.

Multi-cloud infrastructures complicate compliance by forcing organizations to implement compliance requirements in several different environments. Any cloud environment containing data protected by regulations must have the required security controls, processes, and defenses in place. Additionally, the organization needs to maintain continuous visibility and control over these environments to identify, prevent, and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

Maintaining regulatory compliance in multi-cloud environments requires a robust governance framework to address each of these challenges. Some of the key elements of such a framework include:

  • Data Classification: Data discovery and classification is essential for effective protection of sensitive data. In multi-cloud environments, organizations should implement automated, continuous data discovery and classification to ensure that protected data is appropriately secured at all times.
  • Access Control: Data security and regulatory compliance boil down to properly controlling access to sensitive data and IT environments. Ideally, organizations will implement zero-trust security policies in which all access requests are explicitly validated based on least-privilege access controls.
  • Auditing and Monitoring: Cloud platforms commonly offer their own logging and monitoring tools, but this can adversely impact visibility, especially for cross-cloud interactions. Implementing logging, monitoring, and auditing at the network level provides consistent visibility across multiple cloud environments and simplifies regulatory reporting.

Exploring the Financial Implications of Multi-Cloud Security

Companies adopt multi-cloud environments for various reasons, and some of the most common include the following:

  • Cost Optimization: The various cloud providers have different specialties, discounts, and price points. Multi-cloud environments enable an organization to maximize return on investment (ROI) for its cloud spend.
  • Risk Management: If a cloud provider has an outage, it could have significant financial implications for an organization. A multi-cloud infrastructure reduces this risk by eliminating potential single points of failure.

Investment in multi-cloud infrastructure makes good business sense in many cases. However, it can also introduce additional security risks and complexity.  Companies looking to move to the cloud — either single-cloud or multi-cloud — can benefit from investing in multi-cloud security for a few different reasons, including:

  • Greater Flexibility: Vendor lock-in is a serious concern in the cloud if an organization becomes too dependent on a particular vendor’s infrastructure. Investing in multi-cloud security ensures that a company won’t have to rebuild its cloud security infrastructure from scratch if they move or expand their cloud deployment to a new provider.
  • Reduced Risk: Multi-cloud security provides extended visibility and security management across an organization’s entire cloud environment. This reduces the threat that attackers will identify and exploit a security gap or move laterally from a less protected cloud deployment to the rest of an organization’s IT environment.
  • Enhanced Compliance: Regulatory compliance requires both implementing required security controls and demonstrating this to regulators. Multi-cloud security enables a consistent approach to security across the corporate cloud and provides the visibility needed to prove compliance to regulators.

Next Steps for IT Leaders

Multi-cloud security is the most efficient and effective method for companies to protect their cloud assets, whether on one provider’s platform or several. By proactively implementing a multi-cloud security strategy, an organization can enhance cloud visibility, improve cloud security, and simplify regulatory compliance.

The vast majority of companies have multi-cloud deployments and need multi-cloud security. Assess your current multi-cloud security posture and develop a comprehensive strategy to protect your assets and drive business growth.

Cato SASE Cloud can help IT leaders achieve the visibility and security that they need for their multi-cloud environments. With converged network security, organizations can reduce the complexity of cloud monitoring and management while enhancing their multi-cloud security.