If you asked digital security experts what the biggest threat to our online infrastructure would be 10 years ago, they might not have predicted our deep reliance on cloud security because it simply wasn’t an issue back then. But now, with most major companies relying on multiple cloud computing services to source the majority, if not all of their workloads and critical data, legitimate concerns are at the forefront of cloud application security.
Understanding Cloud Application Security
Cloud application security is a digital preventative practice used by enterprises in hopes of protecting multiple collaborative clouds along with their data and applications through a system of policies, processes, and controls. Most large-scale companies today operate in collaborative cloud-sourced environments, including SaaS companies like Google and Microsoft 365. These expansive, highly intricate networks have also allowed new risks to present themselves.
Just because a cloud computing service provides its own security measures doesn’t mean they’re equipped to partner with other platforms, and because a recent survey stated more than 80% of enterprises use multiple cloud providers, security solutions that deliver end-to-end protection have become the focus to ensure a business can carry on without fear of a breach. Account fraud, DoS attacks, and phishing scams are just some of the ways perpetrators can infiltrate an integrated cloud computing network.
Key Considerations for Cloud Application Security
When dealing with cloud security, it’s not just up to the service providers alone to lock down data. Whether your cloud service provider (CSP) is just handling the infrastructure, providing a platform for you to develop and manage applications, or securing the entire application stack, a customer has the responsibility to keep would-be attackers out as well. They must deploy their own preventative measures to make sure applications, data, and operating systems remain protected before being uploaded to the cloud or that appropriate access controls are in place.
In order to secure cloud applications, you’re going to want to employ preventative measures that encompass the network perimeter. The easiest for businesses to implement are access controls, which only allow people with certain permissions to operate role and attribute-based functions specific to their duties. Mult-factor authentication, as well as data encryption, are other useful methods to guarantee only the right users are able to access data and information, even if personal credentials are compromised.
You won’t want to wait until it’s too late to implement security and regulatory oversight, so issuing scheduled assessments is a way of double-checking your own systems to test their vulnerability. Exploring penetrations from multiple angles is crucial, because everything from security and software patches to updating libraries can cut down active attacks before they even happen. Even when they do, having a well-thought-out plan to mitigate circumstances and deploy preventative measures is essential. Practicing these scenarios in simulations is even better.
Best Practices for Cloud Application Security
If you want to establish vigorous security measures for your cloud computing infrastructure, there are many ways to achieve individualized protections to cover all your bases. As we noted earlier, requiring multi-factor authentication and offering single sign-on capabilities will give independent access to users you trust, but even these must be backed up with safety elements.
An example of additional defense includes encryption abilities, which can halt invaders from accessing anything of importance without access to an encryption key. These should be employed in both the at-rest phase in case physical hardware is stolen and the in-transit phase to protect its journey to and from the cloud service network. It’s also helpful if firewalls and other intrusion detection systems are used to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic on the cloud, as these will detect unauthorized access attempts in real time.
It’s also imperative that you perform routine maintenance and ensure patches and other security implementations are up to date. Not having updated applications can make you prone to breaches, and performing routine vulnerability assessments can help you stay ahead of problems to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Performing security audits on your cloud application environment can look different for every enterprise, but they all revolve around similar methods. These include assessing data architecture, access codes, and application configurations to ensure all points of entry are accounted for. It’s a best practice for any business to educate and train their employees on the importance of cloud application security, so they realize the severity of their responsibility. It’s also helpful to alert them when there is an attack or threat so they can remain aware of the risk.
Compliance and Regulatory Considerations
Just because cloud computing applications and their networks are operating under the supervision of their organization doesn’t mean they don’t have to meet compliance standards. These can be strictly regional, such as in the case of GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation is a European law protecting individual citizen’s personal information, ensuring all privacy and collection policies are both clear and optional.
It also applies to health information according to HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Cloud computing applications must manage protected health information with secure access controls, encryption, and other personalized guards to keep patients’ data safe. PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is another service regulated in cloud networks because, obviously, nobody wants their personal financial information stolen.
Data sovereignty is a critical concept because, internationally, every country is handling personal data in different ways. To ensure cloud application networks are handling your private information securely, legal measures are enacted to provide safeguards, such as methods like firewalls. These can legally bind data storage to one localized region or require specific contractual permissions in order to transfer it across borders.
Cloud Application Security Tools and Technologies
There are numerous strategies for combatting attacks on cloud-based web applications, which all center their focus on overseeing and controlling security measures at access points. For example, firewalls are proactive at blocking cross-site scripting and forgery attacks but can also prevent legitimate traffic from accessing a platform if the configuration is too overbearing.
When it comes to something as complex as millions of peoples’ data, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions are needed to constantly keep an eye on the transfer of information both inside and outside the cloud environment. And while catching sensitive data patterns can be complex and also produce false positives or negatives, you must monitor it in order to be able to identify irregularities.
Implementing Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Systems can help your organization track all of your issues in real-time, organize a calculated timeline, and dictate the required response necessary for the situation. Pair this with your respective Intrusion Detection or Protection System (IDS/IPS), and you’ll be able to monitor and prevent nefarious activity on your cloud-based network.
Benefits and Considerations of Security Tools
While many of these cloud application security measures will prove beneficial when securing your network infrastructure, there are some additional considerations you must factor in.
Enhanced Security — Automated security measures and increased awareness for your users allows for more proactive protections that do more of the grunt work while customers focus on individual responsibility while able to identify threats.
Oversight & Compliance — Cloud security measures can be helpful, but must be in regulation with the standards set in each region or by governing laws and bodies.
Staying Ahead — Utilizing these security measures allows companies to stay one step in front of potential oncoming attacks.
Professional Architecture — Security systems on cloud computing networks are detailed, verbose programs that require both savvy management, as well as talented data architects.
Ease of Use —While these preventative tools are put in place to the benefit of all who work in a system, they do possess a learning curve, and employees should be trained on not just the operations of a system, but also on why the cloud network must be secured.
If you are interested in the art of cloud application security and need services for your own enterprise or business, reach out to Flager Technologies, which offers a variety of multi-cloud management solutions.