How to Protect Cloud Environments Against Cyberattacks?
Cloud computing makes it possible to access files and applications over the internet without them being on local computers. This concept became popular in 2008 but refers to the solutions envisioned in the 1960s.
Being currently widely used, especially due to remote work – which has intensified with the covid-19 pandemic, cloud environments bring several advantages to users but require specific security measures to avoid cybersecurity problems, such as unauthorized access to data and the action of malicious agents.
For this reason, we prepared an article to explore what should be done to protect cloud services from major risks. To facilitate your understanding, we divided our text into the following topics:
- What is a Cloud Environment?
- Why Have Companies Opted for Cloud Solutions?
- Main Risks Faced by Cloud Environments
- 14 Tips for Keeping Secure in Cloud Environments
- Learn the History of Cloud Environments
- About senhasegura
Enjoy your reading!
What is a Cloud Environment?
Cloud environments are the virtual space that can be shared between people who are physically distant through an infrastructure that enables the communication between devices and data centers across the globe.
Because of its ability to store these files, the cloud environment allows one to reduce hardware costs while expanding access to memory and processing resources. Moreover, it ensures more dynamism and productivity in the daily life of organizations and can make their operations fully digital.
There are some existing deployment models, which we will explain below:
- Private clouds: In this cloud deployment model, hosting occurs privately, through a company’s own resources, and without sharing with other organizations.
In practice, companies use tools to have exclusivity in the operation of server infrastructure, which generates benefits such as flexibility and security. On the other hand, it is a service that can have a high cost.
- Public clouds: Public clouds are those that users share, such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure, which are the services most used by companies around the world. Their main advantage is that they are services with more affordable prices or even free-to-use. However, they do not offer the same security, flexibility, and possibility of customization as is the case with private clouds.
- Hybrid clouds: In turn, hybrid clouds consist of the combination of public and private clouds to meet the demands of a company. With this, organizations must choose which data to direct to each available cloud environment. This integration allows taking advantage of both models.
- Multi-clouds: The multi-cloud environment depends on the performance of several cloud providers to be considered. This can be very useful for companies since it allows them to take advantage of what each service offers best and avoid downtime — since all services may fail at some point.
It also allows them to reduce latency, enabling companies to choose the clouds located near their customers to ensure a better experience.
When we talk about cloud environments, it is also important to think about service models, which are complementary. These are:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
The great purpose of IaaS is to design an on-demand, multi-tooled, and easy-to-use cloud environment. This cloud layer is often used to create operating systems, as well as machines and virtual memories, among others.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS is composed of hardware that is virtualized and offered by providers as a specialized service. It allows one to perform tests and analysis of data and develop operations, and they are very useful to developers who need to integrate tests and applications, in addition to inserting frameworks.
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is widely used by the end-user when they access emails or applications such as CRM and ERP. Therefore, it is considered an external layer of cloud environments.
Why Have Companies Opted for Cloud Solutions?
Many organizations have already adopted cloud environments in their daily routine due to the numerous advantages this feature offers. Below, we explain some of its benefits.
- Cloud Environments Enable Data Loss Reduction
Several factors can cause data loss, including natural disasters, power outages, and infrastructure problems. However, with cloud environments, it is possible to easily recover this data even remotely.
Thus, it is not necessary to interrupt your company’s activities for a long period, which could impact revenue.
- Working with Cloud Resources Promotes More Security
Cloud environments have features that provide more security to data, such as encryption, which can make it difficult for malicious agents to operate, as it prevents unauthorized users from viewing documents.
- Business Expansion Can Be Facilitated by This Solution
A company may need more space to run systems and store data as it expands. Cloud environments enable this expansion without the need to invest in many resources.
- It Is Possible to Reduce Costs with Cloud Environments
By using cloud environments, your company can reduce the number of costs, including the remuneration of professionals who make up a robust technology support team. In addition, it is possible to eliminate expenses with licenses and software and hardware updates.
- Cloud Environments Provide More Agility to Work
With files stored in the cloud, their sharing is more dynamic, which provides agility to operations. Moreover, it ensures flexibility: your employees can access the data even if they are working remotely or traveling.
- IT Teams Have More Time to Devote to the Company’s Core Business
Several services are provided by cloud providers, exempting internal IT teams from worrying about these activities. As a result, they have more time to devote to the technology strategies associated with the organization’s core business.
- Technology Upgrades Become Easier and Less Costly
Approximately every three years, it is necessary to upgrade the storage systems and migrate the data. This process is time-consuming and can be quite costly for those who do not use cloud environments.
However, with data stored in the cloud, this upgrade becomes easier and has a more affordable cost. Simply add new nodes to the system, which reduces downtime.
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Main Risks Faced by Cloud Environments
Cloud environments must have the necessary support to provide security to the end-user. This is because this infrastructure is not immune to risks. The following are some challenges for those who deal with cloud resources:
- With the covid-19 pandemic, many companies started using cloud services in most of their activities due to the significant number of professionals who started working remotely.
Therefore, the tendency is for support services to be overwhelmed, as traffic on the networks that connect these professionals to cloud resources increases.
Therefore, it is necessary to rely on a cloud provider capable of managing this load increase and offering uninterrupted service to the customer.
- When supporting cloud environments, providers should consider online events instead of face-to-face meetings, which have also increased with the covid-19 pandemic. It is possible, for example, to partner with telecommunications providers, increasing cloud support for these services.
- It is also necessary that cloud providers are efficient enough to compensate for the cuts made throughout the pandemic with IT services.
- Another important challenge is to understand how cloud services are used by organizations to establish policies that ensure their protection while providing ease of use and flexibility.
- It is essential to keep in mind that cloud services and local area networks present different demands when it comes to security. In the case of cloud environments, the risks are more complex. Therefore, assessing these risks is part of the best security practices.
- Working with cloud solutions makes operations more dynamic and faster, but IT departments must have visibility into the activities performed using the cloud to protect the interactions that occur in that environment.
- One of the most common problems of companies using the cloud environment is incorrect configuration, which generates security vulnerability. These mistakes or important settings being ignored can be discovered by malicious users, causing financial losses and numerous other inconveniences.
- These attacks include Cryptojacking, which involves unauthorized operations with cryptocurrencies; E-skimming, which allows attackers to have access to data from visitors of the company’s website, damaging their reputation; and unauthorized access, which can result in theft of data for various purposes, such as selling it to other cybercriminals.
- It is important to take the opportunity to design cloud code when addressing your requirements, protecting each relevant area in order to avoid the risks we have mentioned.
- It is also critical to inspect network traffic and ensure security through virtual patching to combat vulnerabilities.
14 Tips for Keeping Secure in Cloud Environments
Here are some tips to ensure cybersecurity in cloud environments:
- Adopt the Hybrid Cloud Model
One of the possibilities for those who do not want to migrate all the data from the organization to the cloud environments is to opt for the hybrid cloud model, widely used by IT managers.
This makes it possible to strategically direct some files to internal servers and others to the contracted cloud service, benefiting from the availability of the cloud while storing sensitive data locally.
- Manage Credentials in the Environment
It is essential to have an IT professional capable of managing credentials and monitoring access to sensitive data, both in the on-premises data center and in the cloud. After all, having full control of the environment is what guarantees security in these two contexts.
- Invest in Encryption
When hiring a cloud service provider, make sure encryption is included, with verification protocols, coding rules, and algorithm strength.
You can also leverage cloud security with an extra layer of encryption and techniques associated with multifactor authentication (MFA).
Some cloud providers provide encryption services, as well as traditional and third-party cloud software companies.
- Identify Sensitive Data and Understand How It Is Being Accessed
It is only possible to maintain the security of sensitive data in the cloud by identifying it and understanding how it is accessed. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to assess the protection of applications and folders in cloud environments, classifying data and understanding the context of user access to avoid risks.
So, invest in user behavior analysis (UBA) to monitor abnormalities and reduce data loss.
- Understand What the Shared Responsibility Model Is
In a private data center, all security issues are the responsibility of the company. But when it comes to a public cloud, the responsibility is shared between the customer and the provider. However, according to Gartner, 99% of data leaks occurring in cloud environments are the responsibility of the customer.
So, each party must understand its role in this context, avoiding communication failures that put security at risk.
- Train Your Employees
The protection of cloud environments depends both on the tools used by IT professionals and on the awareness of all company employees about security practices.
After all, most of the vulnerabilities of IT solutions are associated with human actions, such as failures and misuse, and, in the case of cloud services, it is no different.
Therefore, create a security culture and rely on IT professionals to disseminate it, with clear guidelines on who can access cloud environments, how this can be done, and what data to store.
In addition to training the team as a whole, it is essential to invest in the constant training of the IT team. This is because new threats appear every day, and it is necessary to anticipate them.
- Invest in IDPS
Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) are among the security features in today’s most efficient cloud environments. Its role is to monitor, analyze, and respond to network traffic in both on-premises and public cloud environments.
If they encounter risks associated with signatures and protocols, these solutions alert about the abnormalities and promote the blocking of these threats, providing time for administrators to solve the problem.
These features are important for real-time alerts and 24-hour monitoring. Without them, evaluating network traffic for signals that indicate a sophisticated attack may become unfeasible.
- Monitor The Use of Unauthorized Applications
The use of unauthorized applications to access the organization’s systems, a practice known as Shadow IT, also poses a risk to security in cloud environments.
Moreover, remote work and the use of smartphones favor this type of interaction, which should be monitored by the IT department.
- Ensure the Security of Your Endpoints
With the use of cloud services, it is necessary to strengthen endpoint security. Therefore, analyze your strategies and ensure the protections used deal with current threats.
Your endpoint defense plan should include: intrusion detection, firewalls, antimalware, and access control. But keep in mind that the use of automation features such as endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools and endpoint protection (EPP) platforms can be very helpful.
These solutions bring together continuous monitoring and automated response with traditional features, meeting security criteria such as internal threat prevention, endpoint encryption, patch management, and VPNs.
- Count on Efficient and Reliable Providers
It is much easier to ensure the security of cloud services when you have efficient and reliable cloud providers.
Therefore, research the reliability of these services and invest in a company that provides support to prevent crises and is able to act immediately when they occur.
That’s because these systems are not immune to failure. However, with planning and adjustments, it is possible to have security in cloud services.
- Be Up-to-Date with Compliance Criteria
Companies that have access to their customers’ personal information, such as health organizations, need to comply with strict privacy and data security policies, including the LGPD.
Depending on your location or where this data is stored, additional criteria may be added.
So, organizations must review their compliance criteria and hire a service provider capable of meeting their demands in this regard.
- Count on External Help
Nowadays, many companies offer services that have the function of enhancing security in the cloud. Therefore, if the internal security team has no expertise in this matter or if security features are not suitable for cloud environments, you should consider relying on the support of an external team.
- Run Penetration Testing and Audits
Do you want to know if the procedures your company has are enough to protect its data in cloud environments? So, run penetration tests, regardless of whether you rely on the support of an external cybersecurity company or an internal team.
Another essential measure is security audits, which allow analyzing the performance and resources of cloud service providers to know if security procedures are being followed.
- Enable Security Logs
Enable security logs for your cloud services. This has helped system administrators track who makes changes to cloud environments, which is virtually unfeasible to do manually.
If a malicious agent is able to access and make changes, the logs will show their actions so that they are corrected and avoided in the future.
This record also allows the detection of users who have more access than necessary to perform their activities, favoring the adoption of the principle of least privilege.
Learn the History of Cloud Environments
In the 1960s, computer scientist John McCarthy, known for creating the expression “Artificial Intelligence,” stated that it would be more useful to use computing in two ways: through time-sharing and utility computing.
Time-sharing refers to the sharing of a computer, with more than one person using it, in order to reduce costs and expand tasks. Utility Computing is characterized by the payment of the internet that was used, similarly to the charges for electricity.
In 1962, Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider created the Arpanet network, which enabled global data sharing, originating cloud computing.
Currently, the cloud is part of the routine of individuals and legal entities, as it makes it possible to edit files, watch online series, store documents, send emails, among other capabilities.
But there are different types of cloud, such as public, private, and hybrid, covered in this article.
- About senhasegura
senhasegura guarantees the digital sovereignty of organizations. This is because it acts by avoiding traceability of actions and loss of information on devices, networks, servers, databases, and cloud environments.
Our services are also useful to bring our customers into compliance with audit criteria and strict standards such as PCI DSS, Sarbanes-Oxley, ISO 27001, and HIPAA.
By reading this article, you saw that:
- Cloud environments are virtual spaces where files are shared between people who are physically distant through a server that enables the communication between data centers and devices.
- There are different types of clouds, such as private, public, and hybrid clouds.
- Cloud environments also refer to service models: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS).
- Cloud solutions ensure several advantages for businesses, such as reducing file losses, more security and lower costs with IT teams, as well as scalability for the business.
- Users of cloud environments need adequate support to ensure the security of data stored in the cloud, which increases more and more with remote work.
- Working with cloud solutions ensures more dynamism for operations, but it is essential that IT departments have visibility of the activities performed in this environment to ensure security.
- When a company uses a public cloud, the security responsibility is shared between the organization and the provider, so each one must understand their role to ensure data protection.
- It is essential to train employees to access cloud environments without creating risks for organizations.
- Similarly, IT teams must undergo frequent training to anticipate new threats that constantly arise.
- It will often be necessary to rely on the external help of trusted vendors and conduct audits that enable an analysis to know if cloud service providers are performing the necessary security procedures.
- We also covered the history of the cloud, which began in the 1960s.
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