Cloud computing is a must-have for all organizations, no matter the size or industry. Many businesses are entrusting their data in hybrid cloud approaches for a more flexible, cost-saving, and secure solution. With this though, cloud security is still a big concern for IT professionals.
Cloud adoption is predicted to grow 45% by 2018, according to a recent IDC report. This significant growth can also attest for a large increase in cyber-attacks. With the changing atmosphere of technology, cyber-criminals are adapting their attack methods and finding new ways to target threats and vulnerabilities in the cloud.
When figuring out how to handle security challenges, it is important to consider how your threat landscape changes as you progress through on premise to the cloud. Also, don’t forget to consider the security resources that your managed service provider offers. Find out how they strengthen your cloud security approach in addition to your current solutions.
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Cloud Security as a Joint Responsibility
Cloud security should be seen as a shared responsibility, not just a singular activity. The managed service provider is usually responsible for ensuring physical security of the data center (building access to the securing of network and server hardware and hosting virtual machines). The customer is responsible for securing operating systems, applications and data running on the cloud accounts – unless other services are in place to be noted otherwise.
On that note, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have a shared interest in your data’s security and provide many services to help you easily secure your IT investments. They can help you implement security best practices from limiting network exposures to full security monitoring. Many MSPs have in place highly-technical platforms that can supply a level of visibility that most organizations cannot afford. They can see what actions are taking place by end-users and bad actors in your cloud environments. The security services can work in conjunction with your cloud-based security management tools by correlating all events to fully understand the security posture of your organization. Many traditional tools are still effective as you expand your perimeter, but adding in extra layers into your security measures can only help you better secure and monitor your full environment.
Common Attack Strategies in the Cloud
Cloud environments face many of the same security challenges as on-premises deployments do, including familiar strategies. Many of the attack strategies that exist in on-premises infrastructure persist in the cloud and can be dealt with using tradition tools like firewalls. However, attack strategies can manifest in the cloud somewhat differently than in on-premises due to the unique architecture and scalability.
Here are four types of well-known attacks and how managed service providers protect against them:
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
DDoS attacks have a simple strategy, flood a service with so much traffic until it crashes. Hackers will get a large amount of botnet hosts to send requests repeatedly to a target. Because the hosts are spread across so many different locations, traditional defense tactics aren’t effective for this type of attack. The DDoS attack strategy has the same pattern whether the attackee is hosted on prem or in the cloud. This is a numbers game though between the attacker’s resources and the victims networking and computing capabilities. In the cloud, your resources are elastic, so you can add more resources to meet a sudden spike in demand. This provides some resilience against these attacks but can cost more as you add additional resources. Another thought to consider is that cloud environments are sometimes shared. A DDoS attack against another user’s system can potentially drain resources from your workloads and cause your services to become slow or unavailable.
Attackers will discover vulnerabilities in an operating system or application and download malware to be able to gain control of the system. Once the attacker has a foothold inside the environment, he or she can find targeted data.
It is important to have a strong vulnerability management program in place to minimize the attack surface of your environment. By proactively identifying and fixing vulnerabilities you can reduce the likelihood of an attack. Staying up-to-date on patching is a good first start. Managed service providers can provide extra services that will manage your patching processes and make sure that you are securing your systems.
Going a step further, it is important to not only do patches, but continuously conduct vulnerability assessments and impact analysis on your assets in the cloud. This requires a comprehensive security management solution that can bring together the 5 security essentials: asset inventory, vulnerability scanning, security information and event management (SIEM), behavioral monitoring, and intrusion detection. In a unified view, you can understand your threat landscape and learn how to remediate issues.
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Brute Force Attacks
One of the most common security exploits are brute force attacks. The idea behind these is once again very simple: try all the possible combinations of passwords until an attacker finds the one that works. These attacks persist because there are many automated tools available with digests that help crack accounts. In addition, human error is often a weak link in the workforce.
Arguably, many cloud services will have multi-factor authentication that can improve defenses against password compromise. However, the only real defense is to have good enterprise password practices in place. Default account credentials, if not properly changed and managed, can be publicly accessible from the internet. You don’t want to give attackers the key to the kingdom that easily.
There are many ways that attacks can happen when you move from on-premises to the cloud. It is important that you partner with a managed service provider that will have your company’s best security interests in mind when migrating over. Explore your security options and don’t forget to ask important questions about the manage service providers security policies and services.