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Facing the New Cloud Security Challenges

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Read more about author Joseph Carson.

Based on the 2021 report “State of Cloud Security Concerns, Challenges and Incidents” from Cloud Security Alliance, 41% of participants didn’t know if they had a cloud security incident in the past year. That percentage has doubled since 2019.

There’s no shortage of cloud security threats. When organizations use several providers and public clouds to meet their needs, they’re putting a lot of sensitive business data and customer information, applications, and other important data in the hands of the cloud service providers.

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When organizations use a hybrid cloud, however, the security vulnerabilities and threats fall on their shoulders.

Challenges to Security with Multi-Cloud Environments

Antiquated Security Solutions

Cloud environments differ from traditional infrastructure in the way security tools and protocols can be used. The old ways may not be effective, and modern, non-traditional approaches are often needed.

Privileged access management (PAM) solutions combine the advantages of traditional tools for broad access control and time-sensitive capabilities.

When users have full access to the network, any vulnerability at an end point could compromise the network. PAM operates on the principle of least privilege, which gives each user the lowest levels of privilege. If they’re compromised, the malicious hacker can only access so much information using the compromised account.

If a user requires elevated privilege to perform their duties, privilege can be increased incrementally, and only for the length of time needed to complete their tasks. When they’re finished, the privileges are revoked. This is true no matter the system, user, or location.

Ongoing Data Protection and Privacy

Diverse, complex environments are difficult to manage with consistent privacy and data protection. Often, different clouds offer built-in security tools, and organizations struggle to address compliance with regulatory requirements across multiple cloud environments.

These disconnected environments have different tools and controls to maintain security, so trying to implement an across-the-board solution is difficult. Without that, there can be weak points and vulnerabilities that are left unaddressed.

Cloud management platforms (CMPs) offer a solution to cloud management and security. Administrators don’t need to juggle the requirements between different cloud environments, and they can use a central interface to manage them. IT teams can provide a widespread security layer in the multi-cloud environment and implement consistent identity and access management throughout.

Employee Skills Gaps

The capabilities of the employees limit the potential of the cloud. According to the PwC CEO Survey in 2020, 77% of CEOs struggle with low supply for key skills. Companies that focus on reskilling or upskilling employees gain the benefits of not only better capabilities, but consistent security.

Employees who lack cloud skills can be analyzed and upskilled or reskilled using a skills gap analysis. Once the necessary skills are identified, organizations can address them with training and development programs to future-proof their business.

The cloud continues to grow and evolve, however. Upskilling and reskilling employees takes time, and it will likely be an ongoing process to continue to adapt to the changes on the horizon. Organizations need to have systems in place to regularly assess and develop employees, not just for the cloud, but for overall business success.

Lack of Visibility and Control

Visibility and control are one of the biggest challenges of the cloud environment. Under the shared responsibility model, security is divided between the cloud provider and the customer. The cloud provider manages the security of the cloud, and the organization is responsible for the security in the cloud.

In multi-cloud environments, most organizations lack the visibility and control in the lower layers of the stack, and traditional solutions aren’t an option. They struggle with gaps in visibility and are limited to solutions to address them.

Here are some potential solutions:

  • Manage identity and access controls: Identity and access management (IAM) in the cloud is more challenging than in closed environments. Your provider may be able to provide managed services or best practices, but using them correctly and consistently is the responsibility of the company.
  • Enforce policies and data governance: Policies for cloud data ownership and responsibility falls on the organization. Data needs to be classified to ensure that the proper security protocols are in place.
  • Implement data security management tools: Data security management tools are vital to maintaining data security amid the growing adoption of the cloud. As organizations scale, the complexity creates greater challenges with visibility, but a data security management tool provides a streamlined, unified option to effectively manage data and users.

Address the Challenges of Cloud Adoption

The multi-cloud or hybrid cloud infrastructure offers more benefits to an organization than either option on its own. Some of these benefits include improved scalability, better flexibility, and assistance from the cloud provider. But as the cloud adoption increases, more vulnerabilities are exposed. Addressing the risks and threats with creative, flexible security protocols can help organizations develop stringent security and compliance in their growing multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments. 

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