What is cloud security? Definition, types & benefits
In this article you will learn:
Most organizations have been taking advantage of cloud computing for quite some time. Added agility, flexibility, and scalability advantages are hard to pass up when it would be hard to keep up using only physical hardware.
Where it gets complicated is finding ways to secure work resources that are hosted outside of your premises. This paves the way to cloud security as the discipline for securing cloud data systems. Let's dig deeper into the subject to find all there is to know about cloud security solutions and how they work.
What is cloud security?
Cloud security is a set of procedures and technologies designed to protect the data and fend off external and internal threats. As the integration with the cloud increases, so do the potential risks, and businesses need solutions to protect their network infrastructure. Striking the right balance between productivity and security is paramount.
Cloud security solutions are deployed much like the tools used to protect physical hardware. The key difference is that they are also managed and deployed remotely. The responsibility for data protection is shared among the cloud provider and the customer. The former provider must ensure the security of their hardware setup and access rules, while the latter should take care of storage encryption and various security policies configurations.
This is one of the key reasons why cloud security is thought to be much harder to maintain than on-premises models. As there are more involved parties, this also means that something crucial could be overlooked. Not to mention that relying on external providers takes much visibility and control away from the client.
Why is cloud security important?
Organizations heavily rely on cloud computing for a lot of their day-to-day operations. The dynamic nature of cloud infrastructure provides many great opportunities for businesses aiming to reap benefits when pursuing their business goals. As the potential is great, businesses that find ways to tame cloud computing can overcome many IT challenges.
However, as cloud computing is still new territory for most businesses, the risks associated with keeping your data externally are more prominent. As the arrangement between a cloud provider entails, each client is responsible for the safety of its data. Therefore, each organization has to consider how to approach cloud security for its unique business case.
Cybersecurity always requires active input from an organization. Otherwise, they risk attracting unwanted attention from hackers specifically targeting cloud networks. Therefore, cloud computing is relevant regardless of your organization's size or industry.
Main benefits of cloud security
Cloud security benefits organizations in several ways:
- Helps to prevent cyber attacks. Cloud security can be a foundation to deter or stop incoming hacking attempts.
- Improves data security. Various technologies help to protect sensitive data helping to secure data so that it wouldn't fall into the wrong hands.
- Facilitates cloud maintenance. Most cloud services offer live monitoring and support, which helps to improve service reliability.
- Faster recovery. In a data breach, cloud security tools help organize a recovery process more easily.
- Regulatory compliance. Often, cloud security is a requirement for secure regulatory compliance accreditation.
How does cloud security work?
Cloud security helps organizations by providing various controls to protect against threats to data applications and cloud systems. As cloud computing platforms are a go-to solution for most businesses, the threats targeting businesses are frequently directed at the cloud.
Therefore cloud security solutions help businesses in several ways:
- Increase transparency. It's much easier to secure an organization when network administrators know what users are accessing.
- Monitoring network status. Knowledge about what activity is occurring in the cloud can help to stop various risks on their track.
- Increases layer of security. The most important resources can be better secured against unauthorized users accessing sensitive information.
- Enforces stronger identity management. Increasing the access requirements helps to protect user accounts from takeovers.
- Aligns security to compliance requirements. As most companies hold a lot of confidential information, cloud security helps them to align to defined security standards.
Types of cloud environments
Despite its umbrella term, cloud computing can be set up in multiple ways. It's also important to note that even the same cloud type can be organized differently from one another. Still, each cloud computing type has weaknesses and strengths that could significantly impact your business.
A public cloud is an environment distributed on-demand over the public internet by a service provider. Some public clouds are free for everyone, while others require a subscription or are priced under pay-per-usage models. The largest public cloud providers include Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud.
Such services help forward-thinking businesses move their workloads externally and easily scale up or down according to their needs. This frees up on-premise network administrators and helps to drive IT costs down. It's much cheaper to use a shared infrastructure managed by a third party than to have the same setup scale in-house.
A private cloud is a cloud environment in which all hardware and software resources are reserved and accessible to a single customer. Often, these environments are protected behind the group's firewall. This creates completely isolated access with no overlaps with other cloud users.
Most companies prefer private cloud setups as it's a much easier way to ensure security and meet compliance requirements. However, one major flaw of this setup is that it isn't as scalable as a public cloud. Private clouds usually are fixed size and can't be upscaled or downscaled at a moment's notice. Additional hardware and software licenses would be necessary to upscale a private cloud.
A hybrid cloud is an environment in which applications run from different sources: cloud and on-premises. This method is the most prominent cloud computing setup, as most businesses get the best of both worlds. Most businesses are using the infrastructure they have built for a long time and expanding it with cloud additions.
Connecting cloud and on-premises environments are usually done with local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), virtual private networks (VPNs), and other methods. The whole setup is managed from an integrated management and orchestration platform.
Multi clouds are combinations of different cloud types, public or private. This setup is created when different clouds (often from different service providers) are combined by some method of integration or orchestration. This helps to avoid vendor lock-in and create more flexible solutions adapted to specific business needs.
Frequently, such setups are created for one cloud to function as a backup in case of data loss prevention. If some accidents happen, the organization's data could be safely recovered from the backup.
Types of Cloud Service models
Cloud computing can be delivered as three distinct service models, each providing a unique set of benefits that could serve various business needs.
Infrastructure as a service virtually offers the typical components of data center infrastructure like hardware, computing power, storage space, or network resources. The resources are accessed via virtual or private networks and can be quickly put to use by the client. This method solves the problem of maintaining physical hardware for small, medium-sized, and large companies.
Software as a service is a license and sales model used to deliver software applications over the public internet. Usage is usually subscription-based. After paying the fee, you're allowed to use the service for a set duration of time. The vendor is the one controlling the entire computing stack. Meanwhile, the user gets to interact directly with software from its endpoint.
Platform as a service offers an entire suite of development environment tools. This heavily streamlines the software development process and is useful when creating new applications. This framework instantly provides design, testing, and delivery tools, allowing clients to start working on new projects quickly.
Types of cloud security solutions
Several cloud security solution types are available, each suited to a particular task.
Identity and access management (IAM)
Identity and access management (IAM) is a business processes framework that facilitates policies and technologies for digital identity management. IT managers can use IAM to control how an organization's resources are accessed. IAM creates digital identities for each user, which facilitates their monitoring and restrictions.
Data loss prevention (DLP)
Data loss prevention (DLP) is a set of tools and processes used to ensure the safety of business data. It uses various tools like encryption, preventative measures, and remediation alerts to protect the data in transit or at rest.
Security information and event management (SIEM)
Security information and event management (SIEM) is a security management approach to orchestrate an organization's IT security. It uses various information and event management tools to create a single dashboard using AI to correlate data across multiple platforms. This allows one to easily have a full panoramic view of the organization's security.
Business continuity and disaster recovery
Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) tools provide organizations with tools, services, and protocols to restore an organization after an accident. These services help organizations to reduce the risk of data loss and reputational harm and improve ongoing business operations.
Cloud security threats
Cloud systems are subject to the same risks that affect your on-premise infrastructure. However, additional parties' involvement makes the total amount of risks greater.
- Lack of complete control. As cloud services exist outside corporate networks, organizations don't fully control all areas of cybersecurity.
- Multitenancy. When multiple clients are renting services from the same provider, it's possible to be caught in an avalanche when one of your neighbors gets breached.
- Shadow IT. Cloud environments are notorious for shadow IT setups, especially when bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are active.
- Misconfigurations. One of the most frequent reasons for data breaches are misconfigurations. Insider accidents frequently result in leaked client information, which is frustrating even if the security setup is sound.
Read more about cloud security threats, risks & vulnerabilities
Cloud security tools
Here are some of the specific tools used for securing the cloud:
- Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPPs) — a security system designed to protect workloads
- Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs) — an intermediary between cloud customers and cloud service enforcing security policies
- Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) — a collection of security tools facilitating monitoring and misconfiguration detection
- Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) — a convergence of various security and networking tools, making network security management easier
Finally, numerous additions like IAM web services, DLP tools, and other security tools help cloud users.
How to secure the cloud
Here are some tips on how you could better secure your cloud information.
- Encryption. Encryption should be used for communication channels and permanent storage. That way, the data is inaccessible in transit and when your server is breached.
- Secure configurations. Following through with good hygiene of cybersecurity services management. This entails changing default passwords and learning more about the cloud provider's security controls.
- Use strong passwords. No security setup will help if your users reuse the same passwords. Strong passwords lift the organization's entry bar, making it harder to penetrate.
- Restrict permissions. They shouldn't be granted unless permissions aren't required to perform a specific job role. While this seems restrictive, this also helps to prevent a lot of cybersecurity risks.
Finally, for the users relying on third-party providers, it cannot be understated how crucial it is to analyze the terms of service conditions. A clear division of responsibilities will help to ensure that there are no grey zones that could be exploited. It's a crucial document helping to understand your current setup's weaknesses and what steps could be taken to make amends to its setup.