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What is cloud security?

Reasons to Extend Your Data Center to the Cloud

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Cloud security is the technology and best practices designed to protect data and information within a cloud architecture. It’s a critical component of any IT infrastructure strategy that uses the cloud. Cloud security ensures data privacy and compliance around data stored in the cloud.

More and more businesses are taking advantage of the cloud for at least part, if not all of their IT infrastructure. Private clouds, public clouds and hybrid cloud combinations of both private and public cloud platforms have all grown in popularity, as well as the use of multiple public clouds in a multi-cloud strategy. Because of cloud computing’s distributed and dynamic nature, there are unique considerations when it comes to securing data within the cloud. 

Why security in the cloud?

Cloud security includes controls and process improvements that strengthen the system, warn of potential attackers and detect incidents when they do occur. Cloud security considerations should also include a business continuity plan and data backup plan in case of a security breach or other catastrophe. There are various cloud security solutions for the public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud involving a wide range of tools.

In public cloud environments, cloud security takes a shared responsibility model, meaning that the cloud provider is responsible for the security of hardware and software, while the customer is responsible for the security of their own assets, including virtual machines, applications and data.

How cloud security works?

Cloud security encompasses a broad range of tools and practices, so there’s no single explanation for how it works. The most important function of cloud security is to ensure that only authorized users access data stored in the cloud. Enterprises use a number of tools and strategies to achieve this, including:

  • Micro-segmentation: This security technique divides the data center into distinct security segments down to the individual workload level. This allows IT to define flexible security policies and minimizes the damage attackers can cause.
  • Next-generation firewalls: Smarter and more effective than a traditional firewall, a next-generation firewall uses application-aware filtering to keep out advanced threats.
  • Data encryption: This process encodes data so that a key is needed to decipher it, preventing it from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Threat intelligence, monitoring and prevention: These capabilities scan all traffic to identify and block malware and other threats.

Three cloud security best practices

In addition to these technologies, there are a number of things that enterprises can do to ensure cloud security, starting with ensuring visibility in the cloud architecture across the organization. Here are three cloud security best practices enterprises should implement:

  1. Know who is responsible for each aspect of cloud security, rather than assuming that the cloud provider will handle everything.
  2. Understand how cloud architecture works to help avoid security holes due to misconfiguration.
  3. Disable unused ports and remove unnecessary processes and instances, since all of these can contribute to vulnerabilities.

Responsibility for cloud security is shared between cloud providers (which offer a number of security tools and services to customers) and the enterprise to which the data belongs. There are also many third-party solutions available to provide additional security and monitoring.

Why cloud security?

Cloud computing resources are distributed and highly interdependent, so a traditional approach to security (with an emphasis on traditional firewalls and securing the network perimeter) is no longer sufficient for modern security needs. 

Cloud security challenges and considerations

Cloud environments are increasingly interconnected, making it difficult to maintain a secure perimeter. While this less walled-off approach has many advantages, it can also lead to security risks by increasing the potential attack surface. The best cloud security plans allow companies to take advantage of cloud computing benefits while also minimizing the risks.

In addition to these concerns, cloud computing creates a number of other unique security issues. It is harder to identify users when addresses and ports are assigned dynamically and virtual machines are constantly being spun up. In addition, multitenant environments in public cloud environments mean that an organization’s data shares space with the data of other organizations. Thus, it is important for public cloud providers to keep tenants isolated.

What are the primary cloud computing security challenges?

There are three primary challenges in keeping cloud computing secure:

  1. Data that passes among data centers and clouds over a public network is vulnerable while en route, especially when there is a lack of clear responsibility for data security at different points in the journey. 
  2. Multiple tenants on shared public servers mean additional security risks. Tenants must be kept isolated to prevent unauthorized sharing of information.
  3. Security controls can differ in multi-cloud environments and hybrid cloud environments, leaving gaps or leading to configuration confusion.

Benefits of cloud security

Cloud security offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • Protection against attacks: A primary purpose of cloud security is to defend enterprises against hackers and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
  • Data security: Robust cloud security also protects sensitive data with precautions such as encryption to avoid information falling into the wrong hands.
  • Improved availability: Many cloud security services offer live monitoring and support, which improves availability in addition to addressing security concerns.
  • Increased reliability: A thoughtful cloud security approach includes built-in redundancy, leading to a more reliable experience.
  • Regulatory compliance: It can be tough to ensure that a complex cloud architecture meets industry regulatory requirements. Cloud providers help ensure compliance by providing security and support.

Why is the cloud more secure than legacy systems?

It’s a common misconception that the cloud isn’t as secure as a legacy, on-premises system. After all, enterprises that store data on-premises have control over its security. But most businesses don’t have the level of resources or expertise as big public cloud providers, and that can make the cloud more secure. The cloud is run by professionals, with all the advantages that implies:

  • Physical protection for data centers such as fences, guards and security cameras
  • Cutting-edge cloud security technology such as micro-segmentation and AI-driven detection and response
  • Technical expertise of entire teams dedicated to securing data

Data breaches in the cloud have made headlines in recent years, but in the vast majority of cases, these breaches were a result of human error. Thus, it’s important for enterprises to take a proactive approach to securing data, rather than assuming the cloud provider will handle everything. Cloud infrastructure is complex and dynamic, and therefore requires a robust cloud security approach.

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