Cloud Security Architecture: 5 Best Practices

Emily Heaslip
June 8, 2021
Cloud Security Architecture: 5 Best PracticesCloud Security Architecture: 5 Best Practices
Emily Heaslip
June 8, 2021
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Cloud programs like Slack and Google Drive allow businesses to work collaboratively and efficiently, often at a low cost. However, these cloud platforms open a business up to new levels of risk: sharing information via cloud programs can put customer data at risk. 

Cloud security architecture provides a way to recognize and remedy vulnerabilities that result from using cloud service providers (CSPs). These five best practices enable IT teams to gain visibility into an IT ecosystem and protect information effectively.

What is cloud security architecture?

Cloud security architecture is an approach to securing an organization’s data shared and used in the cloud by layering security in collaboration with the native protections provided by cloud providers. 

As more organizations rely on the cloud to work remotely and share information with global partners, security concerns are also on the rise. Many cloud services are used without proper vetting, putting data and valuable information at risk. 

Cloud security architecture aims to bring visibility and control to data used and shared in an organization’s cloud services. This approach will protect company (and customer) information while also streamlining security protocols to capture operational efficiency and save time and resources. Organizations that implement cloud security architecture can patch vulnerabilities while avoiding redundancies. 

To build a robust cloud security architecture strategy, first teams must realize the risks of cloud computing. 

What are the security risks of cloud computing? 

Cloud environments face the same threats as traditional data environments. Insider threat, malware, and other vulnerabilities can impact cloud programs just like any other traditional computing environment. 

[Read more: 4 Emerging SaaS Security Risks to Consider in 2021]  

Experts at Carnegie Mellon also identified five risks that are unique to cloud computing. These risks include: 

  1. Reduced visibility and control on the consumer side; 
  2. Self-service on-demand opens the threat of unauthorized use; 
  3. The opportunity to compromise internet-accessible management APIs; 
  4. Multi-tenancy increases risk if separation fails; 
  5. Incomplete data deletion. 

Why are these risks unique to cloud computing? Unlike traditional IT systems, the responsibility for protecting information against threats is shared between the CSP and the consumer. Typically, in practice cloud providers will offer security measures related to infrastructure and physical storage — e.g., servers —  while the customer is responsible for user access control and network security. And, as a result, there are certain best practices that consumers must know when designing cloud security architecture. 

Cloud security architecture best practices 

Here are five best practices for implementing cloud security architecture. 

  1. Audit your cloud programs

Start by gaining visibility into your cloud ecosystem. Make sure you know what cloud programs are being used at your organization — including those you may not even realize are impacting your security. 

“Most people do not ask their IT team before signing up for a cloud storage account or converting a PDF online. Use your web proxy, firewall, or SIEM logs to discover what cloud services are being used that you don’t know about, then run an assessment of their risk profile,” wrote the experts at McAfee.

Performing this audit will also help you get a handle on your cloud shared responsibility model — e.g., what security measures your cloud programs provide, versus what your security team needs to implement. 

  1. Encrypt data in the cloud

Check with your cloud providers to see if they encrypt data. Many will offer encryption within a cloud service — but note that the CSP will still have access to your encryption keys. Instead, use your own encryption service so you have full control. 

  1. Enforce access control policies

User access control and device control are key to maintaining security within cloud programs. Make sure you’re actively managing user permissions as well as limiting access from unmanaged devices.  

[Read more: Identity and Access Management vs Password Managers] 

  1. Regularly scan for threats

In addition to implementing access controls and layering security with CSPs, organizations should regularly and automatically scan for vulnerabilities. Nightfall AI provides cloud-native data loss prevention (DLP) which specifically helps companies deal with sensitive data exposure and exfiltration risks in SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS systems like Slack, Google Drive, GitHub, and Atlassian.  Nightfall’s machine learning works in the background to discover, classify, and protect data based on its surrounding context. This provides a vital failsafe if a CSP’s security features just aren’t enough. 

  1. Perform regular pen testing

Finally, regularly verify your security measures by regularly performing penetration testing. Many CSPs will give you permission to perform pen testing to search for security gaps — others offer this service themselves. Find out whether your CSP will test for gaps or if it is incumbent on your organization to make sure that security stays airtight. 

To get started with Nightfall, schedule a demo at the link below.

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