Which Data Security Pitfalls Lurk in the Hybrid Cloud?

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Click to learn more about author Bernard Brode.

After a period of unrivalled innovation when it comes to data storage and sharing, it seems that – for most companies, at least – hybrid models are about to reign supreme. In layman’s terms, a hybrid model is an efficient combination of existing IT systems and public clouds, which provides a cost-effective, performative, flexible, and scalable solution for businesses looking to gain a competitive edge.

Impressive stuff, for sure, but as with any new dawn of technological advancement, one question rings out louder than the rest: How do we ensure these new systems are fully secured and fit for use?

This question becomes all the more pertinent when one considers that over 90% of businesses, organizations, and even many individuals are preparing to take on hybrid infrastructure capabilities in the very near future.

The press surrounding hybrid systems has been overwhelmingly positive – and not without good reason, as hybrid cloud solutions were very much the hot tip of 2020. However, there are valid concerns regarding hybrid cloud security, compliance, and protection against cyberattacks and other criminal behavior.

We’ve identified four principal challenges to address when it comes to hybrid cloud security. Knowing how to tackle them is nothing short of essential. Let’s take a closer look.

The Irresistible Allure of the Hybrid Cloud

It isn’t hard to see why hybrid cloud systems and hybrid database architectures garner such excitement. They bring with them the promise of flexibility and greater autonomy, allowing users to store data in whatever environment suits it best. The opportunity to store sensitive data on-site while taking full advantage of clouds is the very definition of the “best of both worlds” idea, but moving into this arena of possibility calls for a long, hard look at your security practices, your business model in general, and your data security protocols across the board.

With a cautious and common-sense approach, hybrid infrastructures have the potential to improve your organization’s data security. As always, however, in order to ensure you benefit from the positives while mitigating the pitfalls, there are certain security issues that need to be carefully addressed.

Across-the-Board Control

In order to both ensure the security and see the full benefit of a hybrid cloud, organizations need to automate as much as possible. In other words, implement security as code just as you would create infrastructure as code too. Essentially, manual processes should be avoided at any instance when an automated process can take its place. The process of designing an efficient hybrid cloud is all about repeatability, the ability to verify and share data, and getting it up to speed for passing the security audits that will come your way.

You’ll also need to set up a certain amount of tooling. This provides a central management procedure and encourages visibility throughout the infrastructure. Open tools should keep your company from hitting a common wall encountered by many using hybrid systems, which tend to arise when infrastructure shifts and evolves, yet management tools don’t. Making use of tools based on open standards eases new staff members into the system and allows them to work from repeatable processes and shareable features.

Sticking to Compliance

Data security is – quite rightly – swamped with various regulations and legislation that were put in place to ensure that customer data and sensitive information is handled correctly, even in the aftermath of a data breach. One of the most significant challenges arises not from any one particular regulation, but rather from the fact that so many companies still manually check their compliance, going to great lengths to ensure that baseline security is met.

This is, by its very nature, a tedious process fraught with the potential for human error … and when you factor in a mix of heterogeneous systems, a blend of hybrid and multi-cloud architectures, and on-site systems too, there are even more opportunities for accidents to happen. If you want to survive security audits, all your processes need to be reproducible, shareable, and repeatable. Relying completely on manual processes simply won’t cut it.

This is yet another example of where automation should take center stage, and where companies should seek out ways to bring scanning and remediation of security (with open-source tooling) into the realm of automation. You want crystal-clear visibility as far as tasks are concerned. All tasks should be set up from the beginning with scalability in mind.

This way, compliance needs can be met and system procedures continue smoothly no matter what changes lay on the horizon.

Ensuring Data Security

Make no mistake, if you already find data security a challenge, then hybrid clouds aren’t going to be any sort of comfort. Due to the complexity and expansive nature of hybrid clouds, data can actually end up even more exposed to risk (both at rest and “in transit”) than before. In fact, because the same data can be at rest in a physical space and on the move in the cloud at the same time, mitigating the risk of attack is never completely foolproof.

Most data security experts would encourage companies to opt for full-disk or partition encryption, in order to protect data that is at rest. For data security protection across the entirety of the hybrid cloud system, you’ll need to keep an eye out for solutions that implement various protection measures as standard. Those that meet governmental computer security standards (and therefore use approved cryptographic modules for data protection) are perhaps the best place to start while we await new approaches tailor-made for hybrid clouds.

Secure and Transparent Supply Chains

Supply chain security is yet another sticking point that absolutely needs addressing when it comes to hybrid cloud systems. Many developers today are eager to download upstream code. This is just one example of when you need to check, double-check, and then check again that the code you’re getting your hands on has gone through a secure supply chain.

Organizations should execute both manual and automated inspections of source code as part of their data security protocol. Implementation guidelines must be followed to the letter.

It may sound like an obvious point, but understanding the origins of code – and accessing them via trusted and verified sources – is the foundation of data security for developers everywhere, no matter what architecture they choose to use.

Hybrid Cloud: Innovation Calls for Vigilance

No matter what thrilling innovations come our way, when it comes to data, security really is everything. We’ve seen how automation is an absolute necessity regarding hybrid cloud system security, and yet we also need to recognize that full automation isn’t something that can be achieved overnight.

As such, prioritizing your automation procedures is going to be essential as you begin to adopt hybrid cloud data systems, working your way through one layer at a time. With this approach, every day brings a bit more security, allowing you to rest easier as you enjoy the unquestionable benefits of this new approach to data.

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