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Bridging the Gap on Cloud-Native Security

Author: Pam Sornson, JD - Contributed Writer | Date: December 10, 2020
Read Time: 5 minutes
Bridging the Gap on Cloud-Native Security, access, data and identities l

While the cloud offers a plethora of benefits, it also has more than its share of vulnerabilities. Companies looking to improve overall corporate performance by accessing cloud assets (like services, identities, data) must also avoid the pitfalls that come with that territory. Developing a unified security strategy that encompasses all cloud-native assets as well as on-prem values reduces or eliminates many threats. Using Identity and Access Management systems (IAM) as the central theme of that strategy ensures that no one and nothing gets through the new perimeter.

Cloud & COVID: Partnering For Growth

Who would have guessed that the COVID-19 pandemic would drive so many companies to adopt cloud services? With so much of the global economy in tatters or in reverse because of the coronavirus, it's not expected that this aspect of the tech universe would be expanding during - or because of - a global health crisis

However, Gartner's research indicates that that is precisely what's happening, as companies worldwide pivot to embrace enhanced digital services to maintain what's left of their market share. While the researcher predicts that overall IT spending will drop by up to eight percent, spending on public cloud services is marked to grow by almost 20%, with an over 24% growth prediction just for online conferencing services. The technological needs of millions of newly-launched remote workers are driving organizations to improve their connectivity so that their workforce retains its performance level and their enterprise maintains its competitiveness.

Cloud Growth = Cloud Risk

With that growth comes risk. Right-minded companies aren't the only entities seeing opportunity in the increasingly crowded cloud; cyber thieves are also salivating over all those new 'attack vectors' that emerge as inexperienced users access more corporate assets through digital portals. In the cloud security industry, an 'attack vector' is the entry point through which cybercriminals enter enterprise databases, applications, and systems. Remote workforces are rife with attack vectors, not just because there are so many individual people involved but also because they all have differing computer capacities and understanding levels. Like a chain, corporate IT security is only as strong as its weakest participant; an entire enterprise can go down if just one employee doesn't yet use a double authentication process to log on

Cybercriminals know and exploit these new vulnerabilities.

  • One study suggests that the number of cyber breaches in the first quarter of 2020 was up by over 275% compared to Q1 2019.
  • Worse, a Poneman Institute study revealed that the 'average' cost attributed to a 2019 data breach was $3.92 million.

Considering the tensions already in existence in 2020's markets, just one breach would put many companies out of business completely should they be attacked or hacked.

Unfortunately, old-style firewalls and single authentication practices aren't capable of protecting against intrusions through these newly opened portals. Too many companies still rely on them, however, to protect their digital assets.

21st Century Cloud Requires 21st Century Security

It's now apparent that old-style security practices won't work against 21st Century cyber hackers, but those aren't the only barriers to achieving true 'cloud security.' How the cloud and its related 'security' systems evolved and were implemented over time have caused their own style of attack vector. These, too, must be addressed to optimize the cloud asset investment fully.

Prevent Catastrophic Data Loss in the Cloud

Facing the 'Shared Responsibility' Challenge

Cloud service providers are quite clear about their role in cloud-based security practices: they share that responsibility with their tenants. Cloud vendors absolutely provide technical defenses over the systems and assets they control, but it is their tenants who determine which data, apps, and procedures to upload to (or build in - 'native') the cloud and who and what has the opportunity to access them. And it is precisely this split of control that cybercriminals bank on when searching for their next victim

Most often, according to Gartner, it is the client's failure to adequately protect their proprietary cloud-native information systems that result in disastrous breaches and losses:

A misconfigured infrastructure is one of the leading causes of breaches and cyber attacks in the cloud-native environment. In today's complex cloud constellations, where there is often more than one cloud vendor providing services, ensuring both correct and efficient connections across the workload is critical for both proper function and security. When those connections are misconfigured, or there are too many solutions or supporting systems in place for a single security program to manage, losses are going to happen.

Misconfigured ports also lie at the heart of many of today's worst data breaches. For example, a recent attack campaign aimed at Docker APIs in a crypto mining program allowed command executions without requiring prior authentication. The vulnerability permitted the instantiation of a Ubuntu Linux container that released code to shut down security and highjack the mining operation.

Last year, the Graboid worm also attacked the Docker hosts. The unsophisticated worm took advantage of misconfigured permissions to run cryptojacking programming as a malicious container. The vulnerability wasn't a gap in the software but a user failure to properly program the security settings.

Each of these instances occurred because cloud tenants lost sight of the scope and complexity of their cloud, multi-cloud, and on-prem environments and failed to adequately line up their security strategy with all relevant assets in mind. There's nothing a cloud provider can do when its tenants don't pursue their internal security processes to include cloud-native programming, or worse - don't even set up a cloud-forward security strategy at all.

IAM = The New Cloud (+ Everything Else) Security Perimeter

Regardless of the nature or style of a cyberattack, the crime's ultimate cause is an inadvertent or intentional opening that allows an inappropriate person, machine, or program to access proprietary information. Traditional data and information security systems built literal walls (a physical perimeter) around aggregated data stores that permitted access only to those entities that had proper permissions. However, anyone with permission could access all the data for whatever purpose, appropriate or not, which is the cause of so much insider cybercrime.

Consequently, (finally!) digital security practices have evolved to build walls around the information itself and to facilitate access permissions only to appropriate users. Those users must first demonstrate that they have the proper identity; the data security system then ensures their access is limited only to their specific project and not to the database as a whole.

Like most cloud-centered concepts, however, the IAM opportunity is also complex, especially for larger firms with multiple groups of users and resources that all regularly access corporate data stores and programs. Managing access qualities and limitations for each individual and machine can overwhelm even a sophisticated in-house IT team.

That's why more organizations are turning to Sonrai Security to govern their identities and data in the cloud. Sonrai Dig continuously monitors and identifies every entity and relationship that accesses systems located in the cloud, including cloud-native apps and services and those of 3rd-party vendors. It automatically limits access by following the principle of least privilege, ensuring that only appropriate entities can access data and only for appropriate reasons.

Most companies have yet to explore how their diverse interactions and relationships may threaten their fundamental digital environments and be shocked by how vulnerable they truly are. The cloud-native security experts at Sonrai Security can help them firm their IAM perimeter and fully secure their digital assets, regardless of where they originated or where they now live.

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