White Paper

How the Growing Importance of Cloud Security Affects Organizations

New tools are essential to help organizations protect critical cloud data and workloads.
by: Paul Shelton |
September 08, 2020

The role that cloud computing plays in IT has changed over the years for most organizations. But one thing has remained the same: IT leaders view cloud services as essential to their overall operations. 

Cloud computing has played a significant role in the technology stacks of many businesses for more than a decade. Many organizations began their cloud deployments with the rollout of cloud-based email services 10 or 15 years ago and have continued to adopt a variety of cloud solutions that meet their business needs. In recent years, these adoption patterns have evolved from opportunistic shifts to Software as a Service solutions that meet a specific need to larger-scale deployments of custom-built Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service solutions that serve the majority of an organization’s computing needs.

These shifting adoption patterns have broad implications for cybersecurity. Organizations operating in multiple cloud and on-premises environments now manage significantly more complex computing environments than they did a decade ago. That complexity is amplified when enterprises adopt multicloud or hybrid solutions that attempt to seamlessly shift workloads among providers on demand. Cybersecurity professionals, charged with protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive information and resources, find themselves attempting to meet similar goals as they did a decade ago but in a far more technically complex environment that requires coordination with both cloud service providers and security vendors. This complexity extends beyond direct cybersecurity objectives and increases the burden of maintaining and documenting regulatory compliance.

While many organizations were already moving rapidly down the path of cloud adoption at the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic played a major role in accelerating those implementations. As organizations struggled with their inability to maintain on-premises data centers and their need to support hastily designed remote work and digital collaboration solutions, they turned to the cloud for the agility and flexibility it provides. However, this push caused some organizations to adopt cloud solutions more rapidly than they had planned, and without the rigorous preparation they might conduct under normal circumstances. This rapid shift to the cloud places organizations in a precarious security position. Worse yet, these organizations may not even be aware of how the shift to the cloud has affected their security posture. Cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions are among the broad set of tools that organizations are deploying to bolster their defenses. 

67%

The percentage of security professionals who cited a lack of visibility into cloud infrastructure security and compliance among their leading operational cloud security headaches

Source: Check Point, “2019 Cloud Security Report,” July 2019

Cloud Security Technologies

Fortunately, cybersecurity teams don’t need to navigate these waters on their own. Cloud security vendors offer an array of solutions designed to improve the way that organizations manage their cloud implementations and to help identify cloud security issues. Typically, these products directly integrate with other elements of an organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure, providing streamlined alerting, tracking and remediation capabilities. In an era when organizations are increasingly turning to automation to improve the agility and efficiency of their IT teams, this integrated approach is crucial to security in general, and cloud security in particular.

Cloud access security broker solutions often top the list for security professionals seeking to bring their cloud security posture under control. CASBs are policy enforcement tools that integrate with a wide variety of cloud service providers, allowing cybersecurity teams to specify security policies in a centralized location using a single interface and then automatically enforce those policies across the range of cloud services that the organization uses. CASBs play an increasingly important role in the modern Software as a Service–based organization, where teams might overlook the nuances of product-specific security solutions. Through direct integrations with service providers, the CASB intercepts and blocks user requests that would violate security policies.

Multifactor authentication is already an important component of the cybersecurity programs at most organizations. MFA has come into widespread use over the past five years, as phishing, password spraying and credential stuffing attacks rendered simple password-based security mechanisms ineffective. By supplementing passwords with a “something you have” or “something you are” factor, MFA solutions strengthen authentication and provide strong protection against all types of credential theft. Organizations should work with their cloud service providers to ensure that their solutions incorporate MFA and, preferably, allow a direct integration with the organization’s own identity and access management infrastructure to provide additional security and control over user accounts.

Information is the lifeblood of a cybersecurity program. Security information and event management solutions depend on a steady flow of timely, relevant security information to detect and react to unusual activity. Cybersecurity teams are generally familiar with the process of configuring on-premises solutions to report security events to the SIEM for correlation and analysis, but they often run into stumbling blocks when attempting to achieve the same level of visibility into cloud solutions. As organizations evaluate prospective cloud service providers, they should consider the level of visibility they will have into security information to be a key purchase criterion.

Every cybersecurity professional understands the importance of promptly applying new security patches and maintaining secure system and application configurations. Unpatched and misconfigured systems are the root cause of many security incidents, and seemingly minor oversights can have disastrous results. Patch and configuration management is just as important in the cloud as it is in on-premises environments. Organizations can meet many of their cloud patching and configuration management requirements using the same technology they use on-premises. For example, they might use their standard server management tools to maintain servers both onsite and in an Infrastructure as a Service environment. However, some cloud configuration tasks are beyond the reach of these tools and require the use of specialized CSPM solutions.

The cloud brings tremendous advantages to enterprise IT teams, including significant flexibility and agility, along with economies of scale. However, as organizations move to the cloud, it’s important that they understand the impact of that move on their cybersecurity posture and continue to develop a cybersecurity program with the tools, technologies and processes required to support secure cloud implementations.

Want to learn more about how CDW can help you improve your cloud security? Read the white paper “Manage Your Cloud Security Posture Effectively” from CDW.

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