Cloud computing has been one of the biggest paradigm shifts in technology this century. Referring to the use of networks of remote servers to process and store data, the cloud means lessening everyday requirements for on-premises infrastructure in the interests of tools which can be accessed over the internet. In the world of cloud, everything from storage to processing to access to applications requires nothing more than an online connection for end users. Simply put, it’s a game changer.
But while the cloud has been a major step forward in all kinds of ways, it’s also brought with it some serious challenges. Arguably the most notable of these are the unique security risks that accompany it. In a nutshell, the challenge is that the cloud can often appear as an unfamiliar, publicly-accessible environment with limited security visibility and control. That’s a serious problem – and a big reason why cloud native security is so essential.
Fresh attack vectors
As with many areas of computing, defending against cloud security vulnerabilities isn’t easy because attackers don’t use the same attack vectors every time. In fact, there are myriad paths they may take to attack – and potentially take over – cloud environments.
For example, one popular attack method involves finding weaknesses in public workloads and then using these to gain access to a cloud environment. In some cases, doing this could even allow an attacker to take over an entire environment by using privilege escalation to grant themselves free reign to move around in the cloud environment.
Another form of attack involves discovering cleartext credentials like identity and access management (IAM) access keys on a cloud workload, or taking advantage of incorrectly configured third party accounts that may be used by organizations to help monitor, support and – ironically enough – secure cloud environments. If attackers are able to exploit this – they may be able to gain access to cloud environments to cause problems.
No matter how attackers choose to target cloud environments, or which attack patterns they use, the results can be similarly serious. Results can include attackers gaining access to sensitive data stored in the cloud. This could result in reputational damage to organizations (customers typically aren’t best pleased when their trusted cloud environment seemingly spills their secrets), financial damage resulting from compensating customers or repairing damaged environments, and much, much more.
New methods of attack
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that cloud users can do to stop themselves being the target of a potential attack. The cloud opens up new attack surfaces for bad actors and, sadly, that means that attempted attacks are inevitable. However, with that said, would-be targets can nonetheless follow best practices to safeguard against these attacks.
One crucial area to focus on is to better understand the cloud environment, including building up a detailed inventory of all the historical as well as current assets that they have stored on the cloud. This includes noting how their assets are stored, who is responsible for them, and their level of present exposure – such as the user accounts who have access to each one.
They should also carry out periodic reviews of their cloud configurations, making sure that configuration changes have not occurred which may open them up to additional exposure. Because cloud misconfigurations are a continuing problem – being responsible for a huge number of cloud security breaches – this step is a must for any business relying on the cloud.
The right tools for the job
Ultimately, however, it may be difficult for organizations to exhibit the right level of expertise when it comes to the cloud. The cloud is a fast-moving environment and there’s a lot to keep tabs on. For example, APIs are constantly growing in volume and ever-changing in nature. Furthermore, traditional security tools may no longer prove to be effective in the same way that they were previously. Dealing effectively with the cloud is a constant process requiring education and re-education.
Luckily you don’t have to go it alone. Cloud deployments require cloud-native solutions that work in the cloud and protect against cloud security threats. Fortunately, such solutions not only exist, but can take away a lot of the challenges that organizations face micro-managing their cloud infrastructure. These DevOps solutions will protect the latest cloud-native technology, including everything from APIs to Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) infrastructure, using automated solutions. They will also do this in a way that provides comprehensive visibility for what’s happening at any given moment: providing a window into the tools you rely on a daily basis.
Investing in these solutions is a no-brainer. There’s plenty to love about the cloud, but no shortage of challenges it can pose. By investing in the right tools, you’ll gain all the good points of a cloud-first approach to business, minus the negatives. What’s not to love about that?