In the new normal of work from anywhere (WFA) and the hybrid multi-cloud era, businesses face a multitude of cloud security challenges. However, the awareness of enterprise risk has heightened with the recent spate of ransomware attacks such as the Colonial Pipeline attack in the US Cloud security is becoming a top priority as businesses explore ways to ensure the security underpinnings for hybrid clouds, which are necessary for the successful management of work environments and a distributed workforce. Setting up remote work regimes took on unexpected urgency last year as companies looked at WFA to manage business continuity. This may have to a rushed rollout by some businesses who deployed heterogeneous tools, software, and technologies, undertaking a rapid transition to cloud environments in an ad-hoc and disconnected manner.
The shifting of core business verticals to the cloud with a surge in data volumes owing to a remote workforce may make the cloud ecosystem a target-rich environment, underscoring the urgent need to strengthen cloud security. The dispersed IT resources have a two-fold impact – besides aggravating the complexity levels of the IT environment, they can become a chink in the armour for companies as they potentially expose the security vulnerabilities.
Rising security risks
An analysis revealed that cloud-based applications continue to be soft targets for adverse security incidents with 45 per cent of data violations being attributable to remote exploitation of cloud applications. It has been observed that most security risks that seep into cloud networks are due to human oversight and lack of centralised visibility to detect and failure to take real-time remedial action that can contain the damage. Other concern areas are delays in the establishment of a cloud-compatible integrated security strategy, lack of necessary technical skills and know-how, loopholes in existing compliance protocols, inadequate threat management practices, exaggerated use of multiple new tools with poor control and limited coordination in security policies across clouds.
A crucial consideration in a smooth upgrade to the cloud is the adoption of the right architecture encompassing storage, databases, platforms, and security models. A scalable hybrid cloud extension should support orchestration across tools and technologies, efficiently manage resources, data, and workflows to securely handle applications. The recent SolarWinds attack, for instance, serves as an eye-opener on the inherent dangers of adopting a disparate supply chain of technology vendors. As an added layer of security, it would be prudent for businesses to leverage Confidential Computing to eliminate the risk of possible data misuse by cloud service providers.
Cloud governance imperatives
Companies can mitigate security risks by undertaking a few key steps such as implementing a robust compliance policy; expanding enhancements in cloud security to include remediation DevSecOps (development, security, and operations) functionalities; undertaking active infrastructure monitoring and integrating predictive AI-driven tools to manage security exceptions. What businesses need is an automated threat control mechanism that identifies and resolves security incidents in an agile manner across devices with clearly defined network segmentation.
Moreover, in today’s matrix structure companies, it is critical that security tooling needs to be singularly aligned with a unified control point that covers within its ambit the complete infrastructure tiers including application developers, IT, and security teams. To close any security gaps, it is vital to evaluate the viability of cloud-native controls, inbuilt in the cloud platforms. Weaving a strong governance safeguard anchored in the DevSecOps methodology can mitigate risks. A healthy collaboration between the three critical functions – development, security, and operations, can facilitate a stable responsive system, rapid build of quality applications and adherence to compliance requirements; the feedback loop supports higher autonomy of work practices.
Further, Intelligent Automation consisting of AI-powered tools is becoming a game-changer in cloud integration, augmenting speed, reliability, and accuracy of processes with faster response times. Simultaneously, it is important to benchmark cloud security posture with globally accepted standards (such as CIS by the Center for Internet Security) to continuously harden security levels and detect cloud anomalies. Above all, companies must consider using open technologies and standards for greater interoperability and to reduce complexity.
The pandemic-induced virtual workplace dynamics are shaping the next frontier of cloud-enabled environments. Businesses seeking to pivot and make the shift towards an adaptable, flexible, and resilient technology schema, are accelerating the journey to the cloud. It is vital that they also successfully navigate the battery of cloud security threats amid growing complexities. To achieve this, they need to redefine cloud security from the right prism – one that encompasses agility, performance, and collaboration.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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