Your Crash Course on Security in the Cloud

Crash Let’s take a look at the difference between the security of the cloud and security in it. Although they sound the same, there is a distinction. As Amazon Web Services (AWS) explains, security in the cloud is like security in your on-premise data center, but without the cost of maintaining facilities and hardware. It’s the applications and data an enterprise organization runs in a cloud. Its counterpart, security of the cloud, involves the safety of the hardware, software and other parts of the infrastructure that run services and applications.

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It’s important to remember that cloud security is only partly the responsibility of the cloud provider. It should be a team effort. Many organizations will shift some security responsibility to a cloud provider when they move their applications and data to the cloud. In the shared responsibility model utilized by Microsoft Azure and AWS, AWS handles infrastructure security, including the physical security of the data center itself, and the customer is responsible for the security of everything else. Either way, it’s essential to decide and document which party is responsible for all the components of cloud infrastructure.

Understanding Obstacles to Cloud Security

Although it helps to think of cloud security as analogous to on-premise cybersecurity, it is important to remember that the cloud brings its own set of security challenges. The main ones are data breaches and loss, distributed denial of services (DDos) attacks, and user authentication. Another source from the Ponemon Institute, The Insider Threat of Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC), lists the top security risks of cloud services as:

  • Loss or theft of intellectual property
  • Compliance violations and regulatory actions
  • Loss of control over end-user actions
  • Malware infections that unleash a targeted attack
  • Contractual breaches with customers or business partners
  • Diminished customer trust
  • Data breach requiring disclosure and notification to victims
  • Increased customer churn
  • Revenue losses

Enterprise-sized organizations that employ a multi-cloud solution may encounter additional security obstacles. For example, there is a higher risk of misconfiguration, and there are multiple sets of policies to manage. On the other hand, in addition to benefits like scalability, risk management, power of choice, and enhanced productivity, enterprise organizations using a multi-cloud strategy have the security of disaster recovery using automatic failover.

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Distinct Differences Between Conventional IT and Cloud Security

Though some elements of traditional IT and cloud security are similar, there are variations. The following list describes some of the differences:

Traditional IT Security Cloud Security
Controls access through a perimeter security model Comprised of a highly connected environment through which traffic can more easily diverge from typical perimeter defenses
Requires more of an infrastructure approach Requires a data-centric approach
Lets you control your own data security strategy and manage your own network Allows for easier management of data security 
Requires onsite installation and maintenance of IT devices Provides on-demand access to IT infrastructure 
Makes you responsible for detecting and responding to incoming IT threats  Enables you to invest in the services of a reliable cloud provider for your data security 
Puts more stress on in-house IT professionals due to time-consuming tasks Offers less risk for costly downtime

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Best Practices for Ensuring Data Security

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, there are some data security best practices that should be implemented (especially by a cloud hosting provider) to mitigate cloud computing security risks: multi-tiered security, awareness, tracking, and physical security. Following these guidelines can help you strategically safeguard mission-critical data.

  1. Multi-Tier Security – A multi-tiered approach signifies that multiple barriers and checkpoints are put in place in the event a compromise occurs. For example, the first tier of the architecture is implemented by redundant perimeter firewalls, which protect against malicious hacking and DDoS attempts. The second tier is implemented by the use of private, non-routable IP address spaces. In the unlikely event the firewall is breached, the servers behind the firewall can’t route traffic to the internet.
  2. Monitoring, Awareness, and Tracking – With security breaches posing a continuous threat to your data, being well versed and monitoring multiple channels of information is essential in staying atop the ever-changing security environment. In the event of a security notice, vigilant awareness measures must be implemented to swiftly review the notice and determine the severity of it. If the notice is deemed to present a serious threat, there should be patches or set workarounds in place to be applied immediately.
  3. Physical Security – All data centers are protected by layers of security, including multiple layers of electronic building and facility access secured by magnetic locks, 24/7 onsite personnel, monitored and recorded closed-circuit cameras, mantraps, and mandatory identity logging of all outside visitors. Hosting providers shouldn’t risk compromising your data by allowing companies with poor security practices to share data center resources. Demand a provider that performs background checks before allowing customers to host.