Dark clouds on the horizon: How to close the gaps in cloud security
Article by Gigamon A/NZ general manager George Tsoukas.
These days cloud security is more trusted than ever. According to a recent study in a survey of 2,000 IT leaders from around the globe, nearly 85% of respondents said that they trust cloud security practices as much as, or more than, those associated with their on-premises data infrastructures.
Counterintuitive though it may seem, the reality is that in most cases, data is actually more secure when it is maintained offsite. Cloud computing eliminates the dangers associated with on-site threats (disgruntled employees, break-ins, disasters and regional emergencies, and so on).
At the same time, cloud vendors tend to take a more proactive approach to keep security measures fully patched and up to date, often well beyond standards maintained by individual organisations.
As such, cloud computing is enjoying a golden age of trust and capability. This is why it's all the more important to recognise that cloud security isn't infallible. There are still gaps in cloud security, and the first step to closing those gaps is identifying them.
What are the major problems of cloud security? A solid cloud infrastructure brings with it a number of advantages.
In addition to the obvious benefits associated with unrestricted availability (authorised users can access their cloud solutions at any time, from anywhere in the world) and improved collaboration (having a single, centralised set of cloud-based tools empowers team members to connect easily and share information), cloud computing is also capable of improving data capture and analysis, reporting, business continuity and resilience, and scalability.
Given the current business environment, these are essential factors in retaining a competitive edge. But let's not discuss the strengths of the cloud. Instead, let's focus on some of its potential weaknesses.
Modern problems in cloud security, though not as obvious as the fears when the cloud first began to gain prominence, can still represent a clear danger to businesses and their customers.
Taking a closer look at several gaps in cloud security and considering how these dark clouds may be casting a shadow on organisations can help understanding.
The inability to replicate on-prem security and compliance models is a serious issue. When people operate within the cloud, they play on someone else's field and have to abide by their rules.
While cloud vendors implement effective security solutions, these are seldom the same as those in which organisations have already invested significant time and energy in creating. So what happens to those security investments when a business switches to the cloud? In many cases, they risk being lost, along with essential data visibility.
This issue also extends to concerns with compliance models. Data compliance is a major issue, with new and upcoming legislation taking an ever-more-aggressive approach to ensuring safe and ethical data practices.
Non-compliance with regulatory measures may result in serious consequences, including fines, jail time for company executives, or even the forced dissolution of the offending company.
Unfortunately, issues related to data compliance in the cloud can be difficult to define fully, but even when data is managed entirely by cloud vendors, the business assumes at least a portion of the liability.
And when the organisation has almost no say in what compliance models are being implemented, it also has little control over the outcome.
Modifying cloud apps to meet security controls is a difficult process. The gaps in cloud security extend into cloud applications, and cloud apps may not be designed to meet the security standards of the organisations that depend on them.
While it may be possible to modify or extend some applications for improved security, doing so is generally a time-consuming, expensive and highly complex task.
If a business does not have access to the available resources, expertise or funding to modify cloud apps to meet security controls, then organisations may find themselves looking for other options.
All the previous points come together to create this final gap in cloud security. Because many organisations recognise all the issues, full cloud adoption may be slowed, lessened, or even completely halted. This can result in a less effective cloud security posture.
Security and compliance solutions
In many (or possibly most) cases, a company's data and reputation are still safer in the cloud than they would be if they were confined strictly to on-premises solutions.
That said, those gaps in cloud security should not be overlooked. To help ensure optimal data protection in the cloud, organisations need optimal cloud visibility.
Selected technology can provide unfiltered visibility into any private or hybrid cloud infrastructure, giving more control over everything that happens to assets in the cloud.
It enables users to eliminate many blind spots that stand in the way of optimal cloud security and experience. Organisations can see exactly how their data is being handled.
With visibility-as-code, essential monitoring can be embedded directly into cloud automation, easily scaling up or down to match users' needs.
With improved visibility comes increased control. Organisations are able to migrate their entire existing security posture directly to the cloud and ensure that investment in on-premises solutions and essential compliance frameworks becomes part of a complete cloud security plan.
Visibility also extends to cloud applications, delivering a reliable, easy and inexpensive way to connect cloud apps with your proven security controls.
In other words, advanced solutions are closing the most prominent cloud security gaps, enabling users to blow away the dark clouds blocking the view of their data.