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Cloud adoption is accelerating for businesses of all sizes and across all industries. The Cloud provides unmatched scalability, agility, and accessibility, enabling developers with a competitive edge. However, in the rush to the cloud, security is often an afterthought. While this is certainly not a new phenomenon, the lack of a secure Cloud security framework has created very costly byproducts – data breaches. If you take a look back over 2020 this is quite evident.
While it makes for great headlines, most modern data breaches are not some sophisticated hack straight out of the movies. Rather they are the result of misconfigurations involving poorly managed Identities and data stores. Developers and Operations staff without the right expertise are accidentally exposing their cloud environments to malicious actions across the entire span of the development lifecycle.
While data breaches are severe issues that cost companies millions and sully their reputations, enterprises have the power to prevent them by implementing the proper security guardrails. With adequate measures, DevOps teams can continue to tap on the Cloud as a source of innovation, growth, and expansion without risking compromised data.
Self-Sabotaging Cloud Hygiene
Misconfigurations often result from two user oversights. First, DevOps staff may stick to practices found in traditional/on-site data environments, unaware of the broader implications of the Cloud’s remote accessibility. Secondly, others will become overly comfortable with the freedom of Cloud-use, neglecting, or underestimating security precautions while interacting with the Cloud’s dynamic features. The lack of good Cloud hygiene may lead to a series of opportunistic threats that result in full-on data breaches.
DevOps may opt for open-access to sensitive data in databases and storage containers during a project, with intentions of subsequently scoping privileges. This is the “get it working now, fix it later” mentality. The reality is that it if it keeps on working it rarely gets fixed later, thus leaving sensitive data open to unauthorized identities. This behavior is reinforced project after project and becomes the modus operandi. Oftentimes, when a fix is implemented something breaks, and instead of taking the opportunity to learn and make things better, teams are often pushed to “get it working now” and revert to the insecure configuration.
Remote Work Oversights
Many enterprises have taken their operations remote, leading to potential data breaches due to the careless handling of Cloud data. DevOps may temporarily disable firewalls and set up remote access to privileged data and leave them vulnerable after use.
Miscommunications Among Co-workers
Employees experimenting with a Cloud system may share data access with co-workers without informing them about sensitive data. As a result, the second employee may un-deliberately enable public access (to perpetuate a cycle of sharing), severely compromising the security of precious Cloud resources.
Poorly managed Cloud use will cause many devastating problems for enterprises, including the loss of customer trust, damage to brand reputation, and the bombardment of lawsuits resulting from the violation of data privacy rulings like the GDPR and CCPA.
For example, Marriott recently experienced a severe data breach with over 5.2 million confidential guest records stolen. The hotel chain faces a potential maximum fine of $915 million for breaching GDPR guidelines. Total fines may amount to billions if considering the impositions of other regulations. A similar data breach episode occurred with MGM.
Established security guardrails will help enterprises avoid a preventable crisis that threatens large-scale cloud adoption by promoting optimal identity security from the beginning.
Understanding and Applying Guardrail Policies
While the implications of the Cloud may seem dangerous, the truth is that that are many ways to leverage its power to make it extremely secure and resilient. The Cloud remains a powerful platform for developers to stay ahead of the curve, enabling them to spin and distribute new software with unmatched ease.
The establishment and enforcement of Guardrail policies will help enterprises ensure that developers take the utmost precautions to safeguard privileged accounts and improve data governance practices by optimizing innovation, security, and compliance.
These policies may include:
- Never experiment with live data
- Always start from a principle of least privilege
- Always keep data encrypted to provide an extra layer of security
- Use isolated cloud accounts for testing
- Never reuse Identities
- Prioritize advanced IAM controls as perimeters, which closely monitors user identity, a significant factor in the modern Cloud attack surface.
- Embed security into your Q&A processes to ensure that the proper precautions are taken for Cloud use. The key artifact would be a Q&A list to mark off the checklists for crucial compliance and security issues to optimize identity security.
The Path Toward Automation
The most robust security guardrails may fail to provide ideal results due to human error and oversights. Hence, enterprises should consider implementing automated Cloud security and compliance solutions on top of established guardrail policies.
Automated processes will keep a continuous watch over every Cloud identity, to keep precious data safe at all times while developers focus on the tasks at hand. These solutions will offer real-time insights on the slightest signs of misconfiguration and other insidious data threats to provide swift and accurate remediation.
Organizations will thrive with a Cloud-based approach that empowers their employees to innovate while ensuring proper security via identity and data security. They need to move from a “command and control” method to one that values “trust but verify” procedures. The best data governance strategy involves informing employees of the rules while providing them with a reliable system that they can trust to zoom in and fix an otherwise complex issue.
Human error may remain inevitable, and data may become vulnerable from time to time, but the ability to remedy a situation before malicious exploitation will ultimately determine an enterprise’s success.
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