Every day, more applications, data, IT systems, and even team meetings migrate to the cloud.
After all, cloud computing makes a lot of sense when collaborating teams are spread across different states and countries, with departments and offices seeking access to the same data at the same time. It’s also one way that smaller companies can use highly efficient software solutions without the huge upfront cost of developing software; they simply use a pay-as-you-go model and start going.
When a business moves into cloud environments, however, that creates a new list of cybersecurity and compliance risks. Cloud computing happens in real time, which is great for transaction speed – but it also creates the opportunity for attacks on the cloud service servers; attacks that can travel via your IP address to your local network.
This is one reason why it’s especially important to isolate your on-site IT systems from the cloud computing environments they are connected to. A strong Access Control Manager (ACM) must be used to help protect your on-site IT from anything unwanted that might jump from the cloud environment to your stored data.
Cloud service providers already do take steps along these lines. Cloud providers use virtualization to create virtual machines (VMs) as a way to separate clients, operating systems and platforms. (Think of a VM as a fully functioning computer that has no hardware.) Virtualization can also be used to create multiple operating systems that run in isolation on the same computer.
Virtualized cloud structures are often created using open-source software such as KVM and operated by Linux, which is an open-source operating system (IOS). Most open-source programs work well together, with few compatibility issues. Still, sometimes they do conflict, and in a cloud environment that can mean one program may try to monopolize all the computer power during its runtime. That, in turn, will slow down other VMs and may lead to a general system slow down, because all cloud environments share resources across platforms.
All clouds are not created equally
There are different types of cloud environments, so let’s have a quick cloud infrastructure refresher. The most common cloud environments are:
- A private cloud is a cloud environment owned by the corporation that uses it, and only accessible by cloud users from that business.
- A public cloud is a cloud environment managed by one service provider, where many unrelated users create individual accounts. Examples are Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud.
- Hybrid clouds combine several cloud environments, each of a different structure. From a user’s perspective, this cloud environment looks and performs like a single application, but it uses local area networks (LAN) and virtual private networks (VPN) to connect the different clouds.
- Multiclouds are made of two or more different clouds. Sometimes this cloud solution is chosen to improve access control and optimization.
Cloud service providers offer many different types of platforms (that is, cloud applications) to clients seeking cloud services. It’s important to pick the right cloud environment for your project. The most common services offered by cloud computing providers include:
- SaaS (software as a service) can be a mobile app accessed through a web browser. Customer relationship management systems (CRM systems) such as Salesforce are a good example of a SaaS service.
- PaaS (platform as a service) is a system where a third-party provider supplies both the hardware and software needed for a specific application development. Windows Azure and Google App Engine are good examples of PaaS.
- IaaS (infrastructure as a service) is more of a turnkey model, where customers buy access to computing resources, data storage, operating systems, and data processing in a real-time, pay-as-you-go manner. DigitalOcean and Google Computer Engine are good examples of IaaS.
As convenient and common as cloud computing has become, it’s important to be aware that it comes with a whole new set of cyber vulnerabilities and risks. Most are associated with shared resources inside the cloud, access control (ACMs) and authentication requirements.
What is isolation in cloud computing and why is it important?
In the summer of 2021, Amazon Web Services (AWS) experienced an outage that also hurt sites such as Hulu, HBO and Shopify. AWS is a cloud computing platform that uses a mix of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS cloud offerings to serve its clients. Together with Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, AWS is one of the three biggest cloud platform providers in the world.
The main reason why one outage (such as the one at the AWS server farm) can have such a huge impact across many platforms, is because all cloud environments share resources across their data centers.
The question then becomes: what can you do to protect your stored and sensitive data?
Isolation in cloud computing platforms
In a multi-tenant cloud or a public cloud, you must be certain that the cloud service provider handles its provisioning and virtualization in such a manner that there is plenty of CPU power when you need it.
The IaaS solution (the turnkey model of cloud hosting) often offers the best cloud computing isolation, including the use of “container services,” which severely reduce the risk of side-channel attacks, should a hacker get into the cloud.
As you develop a cloud computing strategy, make sure you update your security policies and data security requirements, to match this new work environment.
What are the advantages of cloud isolation?
A solid cloud computing isolation strategy returns some control over your sensitive data to you. If the cloud data center suffers a major breach, but you’ve already implemented a strong isolation strategy, then you have better control of the data you have stored in the cloud environment.
Best strategies for isolation in cloud computing
As mentioned above, cloud computing services share resources. Even if they use virtualization, you may end up creating direct lines of communication among different, cloud-based applications, hosted in the same cloud environment.
Specifically, what are some things you can do to protect your sensitive data in the cloud?
- Select the best cloud hosting service for your needs.
- Isolate applications on your on-campus network from the cloud.
- Use virtualization and virtual machines to isolate and run individual processes and algorithms.
- Keep an eye on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). API is a facilitator through which two applications can communicate. APIs come with load balancers, entities that make adjustments to how data is shared by virtual machines (VM). This type of allocation is crucial to assure high performance of your cloud computing system.
- Use encryption and sophisticated access management technology.
How to Improve Your Cloud Security with ZenGRC Today
Automation can greatly simplify the task of risk management associated with cloud computing. Let us help you keep a competitive edge in today’s global business world. ZenGRC can help you keep an eye on the cloud and alert you to risks before they become costly disasters. Schedule a demo today.