The Cost of Cloud Security: You Need it, But Can You Afford it?

With cloud security as a hot topic, our guest blogger David Maayan provides a number of reasons why it's required and how even a small number of security measures can help.

Written by Gilad David Maayan • Last Updated: • Cloud •

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What is Cloud Security?

Cloud security refers to the various procedures and technologies that help secure cloud computing environments against external and internal security threats. As organizations increasingly adopt cloud computing to improve collaboration and innovation, cloud security has become a necessary measure to protect cloud-based data.

There are various forms of cloud security suitable for different use cases. Understanding your cloud security needs helps design the most appropriate strategy. It requires assessing several factors, including the cloud's location and service.

Why is Cloud Security Important?

Modern enterprises increasingly transition to cloud environments, employing various cloud computing delivery models like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). 

In-house infrastructure management tasks like scaling can pose significant challenges to enterprises resourcing their departments. “as a Service” models enable organizations to offload many of these time-consuming IT tasks.

The shared responsibility model
As part of their services, cloud vendors secure the underlying infrastructure. Most cloud vendors follow security best practices by default, taking active steps to protect their servers. However, cloud vendors operate on a shared responsibility model, which means you, as a cloud customer, are responsible for securing your data, applications, and workloads.

The ever-increasing threats landscape
As the digital landscape evolves, security threats are becoming more sophisticated and advanced. These threats often target cloud computing vendors, taking advantage of organizations' overall lack of visibility in cloud environments. Organizations that do not take active measures to improve their cloud security posture face critical data governance and compliance risks.

The reliance on cloud services
Cloud infrastructure can service almost all modern computing needs across multiple verticals in all industries. Organizations of all sizes have adopted cloud assets, becoming increasingly reliant on cloud vendors to provision their operations. However, successful cloud adoption relies on placing adequate security measures to protect against cyberattacks. 

Whether you operate in a private, public, or hybrid cloud, you must set up cloud security solutions and implement best practices to ensure business continuity.

Cloud security solutions
Security vendors are providing a range of advanced security solutions with prohibitive price tags. These include:

  • eXtended Detection and Response (XDR) — AI-powered solution that combines data from cloud systems, endpoints, and networks.
  • Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) — a solution focused on workloads such as cloud-based applications and containers.
  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) — a solution that automatically detects cloud misconfigurations and helps you remediate them.
  • SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) — a solution that integrates with hundreds of SaaS applications, identifies improperly set permissions and security settings and remediates them.

Cloud cost optimization is a major focus for many organizations, as cloud costs become a large percentage of IT budgets. Security solutions add to the already prohibitive cost of cloud services. 

Enterprise solutions like those listed above are out of the ballpark of many small organizations, both in terms of price and the complexity of deploying and using these solutions. However, this does not mean you can’t protect your organization. There are simple best practices you can implement which will give you a good level of security without busting your budget.

Low-Cost Cloud Security Practices With Big Payoffs

You can achieve better security by embedding the most suitable controls and technologies for your use case. You can start with the basics and then layer in the controls most relevant to your environment. Define security hygiene practices and train employees to ensure these practices become second nature.

Security hygiene practices 
Here are several cloud security practices and controls you can implement at an affordable cost: 

  • Limited privilege access — the principle of least privileges can help secure your cloud environment. It ensures only users that need to use specific cloud resources to perform their job are allowed access. 
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) — MFA helps mitigate threats like weak and default passwords, adding another layer of protection by requesting another factor for authentication in addition to passwords.
  • Roles for integrations — use roles for any integrations connected with your cloud environment. It helps ensure no one can access resources they are not supposed to access.
  • Secure everything — properly configure security group layers as well as public and private subnets. Make sure your cloud assets are secured and that you cover all basic controls like encryption, backup, and recovery.

As in any solution, you can find various prices for access control, MFA, and the various basic security controls. However, you do not necessarily need the most expensive option. There are many affordable offerings you can use and free tiers provided by cloud vendors. 

Securing the infrastructure
Here are key practices to help you secure your infrastructure:

  • Destroy human-touched instances — if anyone manually edited or reconfigured one of the instances, you should burn it. There is no reason to keep instances after humans touch them. You are better off starting with a new one.
  • Build new instances — always prefer to build new instances as part of your continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. A new instance is more secure than a patched one.
  • Curate base images — curating base images for all system updates is critical to maintaining security. You should do this as frequently as possible.
  • Stay current — you must stay updated on all long-term supported or similar operating system distributions. If you are coming to end-of-life in a distribution, get your upgrade plan together and don’t kick the can down the road.

Securing users and workloads
Here are key practices to help secure your workloads and users:

  • Review accounts — you must regularly review all human and service accounts. You should retire any accounts that are no longer in use. This practice is critical to ensure your environment remains secure.
  • Isolate service accounts — never reuse or share accounts, and always apply the least privilege principle for these accounts.
  • Review log-ins — you need to be careful of anything logging in from the WAN, keeping an eye on what is logged in and where the session originates. This practice can help you minimize the possibility of exposing internal-only services to the Internet.

The above practices are affordable and can serve as the foundation of your security strategy. There is no need to overly focus on complex risks like advanced persistent threats (APTs). You can achieve a good level of cloud security by implementing the most suitable controls for your use case, adding only the necessary tools, and ensuring your stack is constantly up to date.

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Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

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