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What is Cloud Security?

As more and more enterprise workloads run in the cloud, and new companies adopt cloud-first IT infrastructures, security of the many cloud pieces and services become paramount.

Cloud security is a broad term for anything that helps protect cloud infrastructure and applications. It includes best practices, policies, governance and approaches. Cloud security can also refer to the tools that secure numerous aspects of cloud computing—from end user applications to data, cloud provider infrastructure and internal IT infrastructure—that interact with the cloud.

Cloud security blocks and remediates internal and external threats and protects data through strong encryption, privilege management, authentication and disaster recovery, while providing access management to keep data out of cybercriminals’ hands.

As we outlined in our Cloud Security 101 post, cloud security solutions reinforce your organization’s security strategy by implementing required processes and controls to secure and protect cloud-based applications and databases. As a result, cloud security can minimize security risks.

Why is Cloud Security Important? The Shared Responsibility Model

Cloud providers must protect key portions of their offerings, such as physical and host security as well as certain application controls. But large security swaths remain the purview of IT, including configuration, security monitoring, securing personal information and devices, blocking data leakage and preventing insider hacks. This is the whole idea behind the shared responsibility model.



Misconfiguration: A Key Cloud Cybersecurity Issue

IT professionals often underestimate the threat posed by misconfiguration. A recent (ISC)2 Cloud Security Report found that cybersecurity experts see misconfigured cloud environments, unauthorized access, service hijacking and insecure APIs as among the biggest threats to cloud security.

However, cloud security is a complicated task. As we discuss in our Cloud Security 101 blog, it’s challenging for teams to continuously oversee infrastructure security, leaving customers to rely on third-party services. It’s a common practice to use multiple cloud-based environments within the same organization, but each will be configured and managed separately. As a result, there’s limited visibility into the infrastructure's security posture, leaving it vulnerable to external threats.

Cloud security factors include:

  • Lack of visibility across cloud infrastructure
  • Data breaches
  • Lack of access control or unauthorized access
  • Unsecured APIs and services
  • Cloud misconfigurations
  • Security and compliance auditing failures

What to Look for in Cloud Security?

Your cloud security toolset should:

  • Help with creating and implementing compliance policies
  • Measure security and compliance postures
  • Identify issues and guide remediation
  • Mitigate misconfigurations
  • Run regular audit scans across your cloud infrastructure, including containers
  • Facilitate compliance for cloud assets
  • Support key security benchmarks and controls such as SOC2 and PCI DSS
  • Track metric and KPIs via trend and historical views

An effective approach is to adopt and enforce your Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM). This is an area Progress Chef excels at.

Think Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

Having a high-level approach to cloud security makes all the difference, and Chef can help. IT teams can be empowered to meet regulations by enabling continuous cloud monitoring and double-check to locate security misconfigurations. This topic is further explained in the Chef Cloud Security 101: Understanding Cloud Security Solutions blog post.

How do Cloud Services Provide Help with Privacy and Security Concerns?

Cloud services come with areas of security that are handled by the provider. These include, of course, physical security and security of the host infrastructure, as well as all the network pieces controlled by the provider. In addition, main applications and services may include some application-level controls, client and endpoint protection as well as identity and access management—all of which can be shared between the cloud provider and the IT customer.

Cloud security services are a completely different animal and are designed to provide protection for cloud applications and infrastructure. In some cases, these services consist of cloud security applications that can also protect on-premises assets.

There is no one-size-fits-all cloud security solution. Managing the cloud can be a massive and complex undertaking with many components, applications and services. In addition, security itself is a complicated area with multiple, distinct products aimed at specific types.

Cloud security solutions come with many benefits, including:

Lower cost of ownership: Having your security tools as cloud services can offer huge savings. Like any cloud application, these services don’t require the enterprise to have infrastructure and related networking pieces to support the software as you do with on-premises applications. This means you don’t need to maintain and upgrade your whole IT infrastructure. Perhaps more importantly, you don't have to manage this IT infrastructure either. These cloud applications tend to be the most modern of today's security solutions and can include automation and integration with other cloud-based tools.

Visibility into cloud infrastructure: Certain cloud security solutions offer insight into your cloud performance, operations and activities. Through monitoring, your IT team can be alerted to problems that it is their responsibility to fix, and often do so within the tools themselves.

Strong encryption: While there are specific cloud-based data encryption applications, often data encryption is part of specific cloud security solutions and even applications. This way your data is encrypted while in transit and at rest. Even if hackers gain access to the data stream they likely can't get to the actual data.

Types of Cloud Security Solutions

There are countless types of cloud security solutions. Here are a handful:

Incident detection, response and remediation: Incident detection and response applications hosted in the cloud bring greater security to today's enterprises. Because they are in the cloud, all stakeholders including IT admins and security professionals can access the solution and view what is happening across the environment and what is being monitored. Today's incident detection and response applications are boasting deeper analytics, including historical repositories that allow your IT teams go back and spot key trends, as well as new AI techniques that sharpen the team’s view into system anomalies.

Cloud-based backup and recovery: Managing on-premises storage has long been the bane of IT's existence. The hardware, software and networking components are immensely complex and struggle to keep up with data storage demands that literally multiply over the years. Keeping all this data safe is yet another burden. Cloud backup, recovery, disaster recovery and business continuity all work without IT having to worry about disk arrays, storage area networks and all the software to keep it running.

Many shops have all their storage needs handled by the cloud. Others have on-premises storage infrastructure backed up by the cloud. Having cloud backups for your on-premises data systems helps secure the data, especially in ransomware attacks where data may be encrypted and unavailable.

Cloud security audits: Solutions such as Chef can audit cloud accounts to discover and track security risks, including misconfigurations among hundreds or more configuration settings.

Continuous compliance: Compliance is not a one-shot deal, but an ongoing process. By supporting continuous compliance, Chef helps close the loop between audit and remediation. This way, IT knows that infrastructure assets consistently comply with CIS benchmarks and other security frameworks.

Top Cloud Security Risks, Issues and Threats

Old security challenges never seem to go away, and with the ever-changing world of the cloud, new threats are constantly emerging. Here are some of the current top threats and issues:

Lack of cloud security expertise: The cloud is a more dynamic environment than on-premises infrastructures, and the rate of cloud changes makes it difficult for IT and security professionals to keep pace. That’s where automation comes in. “Cloud lends itself to automation and speed, hence native cloud security tooling becomes an important requirement. These tools require upskilling the current cybersecurity teams; otherwise, CISOs will find themselves with environments their teams are not equipped to defend! It is essential to implement tools that are optimized for cloud environments and to invest in the proper training of the cloud security teams,” according to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) list of Top Cloud Security Challenges in 2023.

Ineffective cloud visibility: Gaining insight into hardware and software that IT can physically visit has long been a priority. While no solutions are perfect, they can do a pretty good job of tracking these on-premises assets. The cloud, and now the move to having multiple clouds or multi-cloud, presents a whole different challenge.

“Most companies adopting the cloud have hybrid environments with workloads split between on-premises and two or more cloud providers. While this provides flexibility and options, it also becomes a nightmare for CISOs to control and secure due to its scattered nature. Each cloud environment is different in how it functions, and it is important to have a cloud security solution put in place that can provide centralized view of the risk posture of each environment,” the CSA argued.

Account takeovers: Identity hacks, which can often turn into effective escalation of privilege attacks, are a major cloud security risk. Keep in mind that, by definition, the cloud is outside of the network perimeter that surrounds on-premises infrastructure.

“Cloud control planes are the ‘keys to the kingdom’ in most cloud environments and attackers can target cloud administrators via phishing attacks, malware etc. to compromise their credentials and gain access. This is especially easy to do if multi-factor authentication (MFA) has not been configured or the password itself is weak and susceptible to brute-forcing attacks,” the CSA said. “Even if MFA is enabled, attackers can still compromise the cloud control plane if the administrator’s machine has been compromised.”

Cloud vulnerabilities: Cloud software is vulnerable for many of the same reasons as its on-premises counterparts. This includes misconfigured or out-of-date software, which may be missing patches or important updates. Out of date and misconfigured software are just two ways cyber criminals can compromise networks and applications. “Cloud workloads can be vulnerable to the same weaknesses that are present in any software unless controls are set up within the pipeline. Missing patches, insecure coding, weak communication protocols, excessive permissions etc. are all weaknesses that can be taken advantage of by attackers and used to gain a foothold within a cloud environment. Cloud workload protection mechanisms help to assess the security posture of workloads throughout the lifecycle and can mitigate risks arising in real time,” the CSA advised.

Some additional areas of cloud vulnerability include:

  • Misconfiguration
  • Compliance risks and policy violations
  • Adhering to compliance and regulation
  • Poor alerting and notification of issues
  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks
  • Data loss and leakage from hacks
  • Vulnerable access control points

What Does a Robust Cloud Security Toolset Include?

We mentioned that no one cloud security solution does everything. Just as layered security and defense is key to on-premises protection, having a portfolio of cloud security solutions is critical to achieve the required protection. When you're looking at your cloud security portfolio, think about including these key functions:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Strong encryption
  • Auditing and logging
  • Visibility through dashboards and reports
  • Role-based access control (RBAC)
  • Configuration tracking
  • Anomaly detection
  • Threat detection
  • Support for DevOps, secure coding and application delivery

Learn More About Chef’s Cloud Security Solutions 

Progress Chef®Cloud Security™makes it possible for you to scan, monitor and remediate configuration issues in your multi-cloud accounts, across on-premises and cloud native environments. Your team is better equipped to maintain and enforce compliance with standards-based auditing. You can tune baselines to adapt to the organization’s requirements and maintain better visibility and control across hybrid environments.

Here are four key benefits of Chef Cloud Security:

Gain Visibility Through Streamlined Audits

Chef Cloud Security audits your cloud accounts for security risks and misconfigurations across hundreds of configuration settings and enables more consistent, unified multi-cloud security.

Maintain Continuous Compliance

Close the loop between audit and remediation so assets maintain compliance with CIS benchmarks.

CSPM and Cloud-Native Security

Chef Cloud Security can help you scan systems across multiple environments (Dev, Pre-Prod, Prod), systems (Cloud, Kubernetes, VMs, Containers, Windows, Linux) and clouds (Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google, Alibaba and many others).

Coded Approach

Code is at the center of all our solutions. Chef is a leader in the evolution from “Infrastructure as Code” to “Policy as Code” which merges infrastructure, security and compliance concerns into a single framework.

Find out more on the Chef Cloud Security solution page.