To understand the most important pillars of cloud security, we must first understand what cloud computing is and its fundamental properties.

Cloud computing refers to the provision of hosted services, via the internet, as an alternative to hosting your computing infrastructure in an on-premises data center or server environment. Cloud computing encompasses not only the offsite hardware that hosts your services, but can also include software and storage as well.

There are many benefits to cloud computing for organizations of all sizes, including:

  • quick start deployment
  • easy scalability
  • reduced up-front and long-term costs

For those organizations with heavy compliance and privacy requirements, hybrid cloud infrastructure is also an option, where the organization incorporates both an on-premises and a cloud ecosystem.

Since cloud computing varies significantly from on-site hosting methods, the field of “cloud security” has emerged in recent years. It seeks to combat the unique privacy and cybersecurity risks present in the cloud. 

Cloud security refers to the techniques, methods, controls, and procedures that safeguard sensitive data within the cloud and protect cloud applications and infrastructure from unauthorized access or abuse. 

And while much of cloud computing is delivered as a done-for-you service, certain aspects of cloud security do require more than just what cloud services providers can offer. This is especially true in a zero-trust cloud architecture.

What Are the Major Security Risks in the Cloud?

Cloud security is important because as more organizations embrace cloud adoption, they will face a  range of new and different security challenges beyond what they might have experienced in the past. Theses challenges include the following:

A Broader Threat Landscape

As the use of a public cloud environment has grown significantly in recent years, that environment has also become a bigger target for data breaches and other security incidents. 

Those organizations that have failed to do their due diligence to protect themselves are quickly identified by cybercriminals and exploited — in many cases, without even knowing they have been breached. 

Lack of Control Over Cloud Host’s Security Services

One of the greatest attractors for cloud adoption is that maintenance, upgrades, and even security are done for you by the service provider. While this is a strong benefit, it also limits an organization’s ability to supervise and exercise control in how security is orchestrated and monitored. 

Automation in DevOps

Along with the convenience of cloud hosting comes the ability to automate much of the DevOps and CI/CD processes that development organizations employ to streamline their operations. 

Weak Access Management

Organizations that rush into cloud adoption, without first setting up a framework for access control, often end up with a free-for-all arrangement where most or all users have access far beyond what they need to do their job. 

That increases the severity of internal security risks, certainly; and also external risks, in the event that a user’s access privileges are obtained by a cybercriminal.

Inconsistent Security in Complex Environments

Many larger organizations use a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environment that can employ any combination of public cloud providers, private cloud providers, and on-premise solutions. This can lead to inconsistent application of security protocols which open an organization up to cyber-attacks. 

Compliance Requirements

While most of the leading cloud providers have made strides to achieve certification with widely used cybersecurity frameworks such as PCI, NIST, and GDPR, organizations are still responsible for verifying that their processes and systems are compliant. 

Often, technology like ZenGRC is required to ensure that there are no missed checks or misconfigurations in your compliance stance.

Six Pillars of Cloud Security

While there may be several differences between cloud and traditional security, organizations can achieve the most robust stance against cyber threats in the cloud if they adopt a similar approach to due diligence as they would for their on-premises environment. 

The following is a breakdown of the six pillars of cloud security, which you can use to achieve robust security in the cloud.

1. Secure Access Controls

A good security framework starts by implementing secure Identity Access Management (IAM) protocols. Assure that team members have the minimal amount of access necessary to systems, assets, and APIs that they need to do their job. 

As privileges increase, so should the level of authentication required to gain access. Employees should take ownership as well through enforced password policies. 

2. Zero-Trust Network Security Controls

Keep your mission-critical assets and applications in strategically isolated portions of your cloud network. For example, in a virtual private cloud through AWS or vNET through Microsoft Azure. 

Segregate secure workloads from those that don’t require data security protocols and enforce these micro-segments with strict security policies. 

3. Change Management

Use change management protocols offered by your cloud security provider to govern change and enforce compliance controls any time a change is requested, a new server is provisioned, or sensitive assets are moved or changed. 

Change management applications will provide auditing functionality that can monitor for unusual behavior and deviation from protocol so that you can investigate, or can trigger automatic mitigation to correct the issue.

4. Web Application Firewall

A web application firewall (WAF) will scrutinize traffic into and out of your web application and servers to monitor and alert the administrator of any unusual behavior to prevent breaches and strengthen endpoint security.

5. Data Protection

To provide enhanced data security, your organization should encrypt data at every transport layer. Additionally, there should be security protocols applied to any file sharing, communication applications, and any other area within your environment where data might be held, used, or transmitted.

6. Continuous Monitoring

Many cloud security providers can offer insight into your cloud-native logs by comparing them against internal logs from your other security tools such as asset management, change management, vulnerability scanners as well as external threat intelligence insight. 

This can encourage more rapid incident response and implementation of remediation workflows.

Cloud Computing Made Easy with ZenGRC

As cybersecurity threats in cloud computing environments continue to increase, it has never been more important to find a scalable way to manage risk, achieve compliance, and take action as new threats emerge and requirements evolve.

Enlisting the assistance of a cloud computing security solution is important to help you manage your short-term threats while applying risk management protocols to address emerging threats over time. 

ZenGRC is a governance, risk management, and compliance solution that can support your cloud security program and automate your documentation workflows to eliminate repetitive tasks and the follow-up required to ensure enforced activities are being done.

ZenGRC can also trace your compliance stance across multiple frameworks such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, FedRAMP, and more, in real-time, showing you where your gaps are and what’s needed to fill them, and improving your overall cloud security stance in the process.

Not only will this alleviate some of the burdens for your CISO; it will also make risk management best practices throughout the organization far simpler. 

To see how ZenGRC can improve your risk management and continuous monitoring strategies, schedule a free demo today.