Cloud security can mean different things to different organizations. At the highest level, cloud security is how an organization applies cybersecurity to the technology and business processes it runs through the cloud. From there, the subject quickly gets more complex.

When exploring cloud security, start by focusing on infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) from cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud (GCP), or Microsoft Azure.

All three include cybersecurity as part of their offering, but businesses using those cloud services are still responsible for developing their own cybersecurity strategies as well. When exploring cloud security, executives need to consider several issues, including:

  • Selecting the right cloud service vendor;
  • Understanding and shared responsibility models of cloud service providers;
  • Cloud vendor risk management;
  • Compliance in the cloud: a cloud vendor’s compliance does not guarantee your organization’s compliance;
  • Cloud computing and cloud security complexity;
  • Fundamental differences between on-premises data center security and cloud security;
  • Cloud security training and education requirements.

Understanding the above issues will help your organization reach the right cloud security solution, security standards, and information security program.

What Are the Types of Cloud Security?

Due to ever-increasing cyber risks, security in the cloud is a vital business requirement. Cloud use is accelerating, so one must understand the difference between public versus private cloud security.

Public Cloud Security

Third-party cloud service providers supply some security elements in a public cloud situation. That may not be enough, however, depending on your industry and the type of information stored in a public cloud.

Potential security deficiencies can mean that public cloud settings can expand the attack surface for potential hackers, especially when sophisticated malware is used.

Private Cloud Security

A private cloud provides maximum control over security settings because those settings can be customized for your requirements, either in-house or outsourced to a managed security company. In addition, greater degrees of authentication, API-enabled provisioning, more layers of automation, and scalability are among the private cloud security‘s capabilities.

How to Choose the Right Cloud Service Vendor

When selecting a cloud service vendor, the essential services each vendor offers will usually drive your selection process. Some organizations adopt a “multi-cloud” initiative when they find that one vendor supports a specific cloud infrastructure they need while another does not.

There are several cloud platform providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), IBM Cloud, Dell EMC, Salesforce Cloud, Oracle Cloud, and others.

According to the Synergy Research Group, AWS is the industry leader, with a market share of roughly 33 percent. That said, Microsoft Azure is not far behind and has the fastest growth rate. GCP is the newest participant, and it has swiftly established a strong position in the cloud sector.

Each platform has its own strengths and disadvantages, depending on your requirements. In addition, each cloud service has similar ways of securing IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services. Typically, organizations struggle to manage security controls across multiple vendors’ technical stacks.

The Shared Responsibility Model of Cloud Service Providers

A common misconception early in cloud security was that responsibility for security ultimately fell to the cloud vendor. As cloud computing has evolved, however, we’ve found that security must be the responsibility of the cloud consumer.

Data security, access management, and access controls are all required for a secure environment – and none of them are managed offerings of public cloud service vendors. The cloud service vendor will secure all aspects of what it takes to “run” the cloud, but securing IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS still falls on the end-user.

Cloud Security Challenges

Cloud security does have several benefits for the large enterprise, including centralized network protection, cost savings, and competitive advantage. On the other hand, cloud computing has its own set of issues, particularly around data protection and security. This rapidly evolving cloud technology is confronted with several technological hurdles in different elements of information management.

Reduced Visibility and Control

When adopting cloud-based technologies, the necessary servers work without management by the user. This is one of the key benefits of using cloud-based technologies, but it’s also a problem. There may be a lack of visibility and control when there is little or no intervention in the daily administration of the server, software, or platform.

The most significant cloud security concerns that entities face are a lack of visibility and control. The lack of visibility into the tools and data on the cloud server undermines an organization’s influence and ability to monitor the effectiveness of security safeguards. Furthermore, the business may be unable to design reaction strategies due to this lack of control.

As a result, when putting cloud-based technology on an organization’s system, an entity must design an action plan for how to track data and the security measures the cloud-based provider installs to prevent a data leak or data breach.

Data Breach and Data Privacy Concerns

A top cloud security concern is the threat of cloud data breaches and data privacy issues.

Before introducing modern technologies such as the cloud, an organization’s IT staff maintained complete control and ownership of the network structure and systems. But because controls are delegated to the vendor in cloud servers, that direct control goes away. So it’s critical to choose a provider with a good track record to avoid exposing sensitive data to theft.

Alerts in Data Breach Cases

Because of the lack of visibility features and event logs, it is more challenging to identify the customers whose data has been breached and what information has been compromised.

Vulnerable Points of Entry

One of the primary benefits of cloud computing is that it is freely accessible from any device and any location. Unfortunately, this also provides opportunities for hackers to identify and exploit flaws.

Best Practices for Cloud Vendor Risk Management

Threats lead to exploited vulnerabilities, which ultimately lead to incidents. Cloud vendor risk management assists the business in identifying threats, strengthening security measures, and responding to incidents.

While there are certain variations between cloud and traditional security, companies may attain a stronger position against cyber threats in the cloud by embracing the pillars of cloud security.

A disaster recovery plan is an essential part of vendor risk management, and disaster recovery on the cloud is more manageable than most on-premises solutions. In addition, cloud computing services, such as backup vaults, assist significantly in maintaining a robust backup solution.

Compliance in the Cloud: Vendor Compliance Doesn’t Guarantee Your Compliance

Being compliant in the cloud can be difficult. Some vendors help fulfill your compliance obligations in certain PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS areas; others don’t. Understand the specifics before selecting a vendor. Generally speaking, patch management, identity and access controls, and malware solutions are the customer’s responsibility.

Most cloud vendors see the importance of encrypting data in transit and storage. Data in use, however, can still be a vulnerability and may require additional services depending on the level of compliance needed.

Cloud Computing and Cloud Security Complexity

Maintaining cloud security involves several objectives, such as governing usage, securing data, and warding off outside threats. Chief information security officers (CISOs) need a proven, high-quality security framework and tools to achieve those objectives, such as the secure access service edge (SASE), a cloud access security broker (CASB), and the Cloud Security Alliance.

If compliance regulations call for activity monitoring, additional tools will need to be deployed to satisfy that demand.

The Difference Between ‘On-Prem’ Data Center Security and Cloud Security

The fundamental difference between on-premises and cloud security is that of control. Cloud security always requires you to relinquish a certain level of control simply because another organization manages your data storage.

Most cloud providers have highly secure facilities these days, but they remain an attractive target for hackers and other threats. Knowing how a cloud provider manages its stored data is essential, especially when comparing that to the regulatory demands for your organization.

Cloud Security Training and Education Requirements

Maintaining a team of certified cybersecurity professionals is common practice, especially within larger organizations that must meet compliance standards such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), or Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Many certifications are available to meet compliance and education regulations. Examples include CompTIA SEC+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP).

In addition, always maintain security hygiene within your organization. You should conduct periodic training to remind employees of these basic principles. You can have a certified cloud security professional audit your cloud network periodically.

Enhance Your Cloud Security with ZenGRC

As cyber risks in cloud environments increase, creating a scalable method to mitigate risk, achieve compliance, and respond to emerging threats is more critical than ever. Employing the help of a cloud security solution is essential for minimizing short-term threats while also creating risk management methods to deal with new issues as they emerge.

ZenGRC is a unified platform for monitoring and organizing data in your business. It assists with the automation of governance operations, the consolidation of security policies and compliance evidence, and the identification of security threats before they become liabilities.

ZenGRC supports ensuring that your business undertakes risk analysis and mitigation activities. It helps ensure that your cloud environment meets all compliance requirements, whether for HIPAA, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), or other responsibilities.

You may also undertake self-audits at any time with a simple click. Your audit-trail documentation is also gathered and kept in the “single source of truth” database for easy retrieval during audit time.

The ZenGRC platform offers a unified user experience that allows you to monitor your security measures and manage risk in real-time, regardless of where your data is stored.

Schedule a demo today to learn more about ZenGRC’s advanced cloud computing security and risk management approach.