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5 Cloud Security Compliance Basics to Prevent Data Breaches

Copado DevSecOps - Blog Series

Originally published on the New Context site.

Cloud security compliance leads the list of issues facing most enterprises today. Amid the mass migration due to COVID-19 and new work from home policies, cloud-based attacks jumped 630%. Many of these attacks occurred because companies weren’t ready to make the transition and accelerated their digital transformation efforts to the point where security became unsustainable. The best possible solution to this problem is to find a way to integrate proper cloud security compliance and protocols into the total cloud ecosystem. 

Despite its challenges, the cloud is worth the effort for most companies—it provides a level of flexibility other infrastructures can’t. By understanding its limitations and benefits, enterprises will be better prepared to establish the right controls, even as they expedite their transition in the face of a worldwide pandemic.  

Risks and Benefits of the Cloud

Cloud adoption is no longer an outlier—it’s the norm. Ninety-four percent of firms already use it, and with the coronavirus, that number is likely to edge towards 100%. Here are a few reasons why the benefits outweigh the risks in the cloud. Risks and Benefits of the Cloud - CopadoThe pros of cloud storage make it appealing, and the cons are not insurmountable. Certain security strategies can close any gaps that cloud environments create.

5 Cloud Security Compliance Basics

Cloud security compliance centers on layering in infosec at a fundamental level. Automation and orchestration ensure a program that’s manageable and safe. Here are five ways to enhance cloud security compliance. 

1. Establish “zero trust” access control 

Zero trust is a standard security concept that deters organizations from establishing confidence without credentials. It means firms should be working towards verifying every access attempt, even if the system is reasonably sure it comes from an authorized source. This isn’t a process that will happen overnight as many organizations have a mix of on-premises and legacy programs.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a standard method of establishing authorization in a zero-trust environment. Aside from entering a password, the individual attempting entry must produce additional evidence of their identity, either by possession, inherence, or knowledge.  This is often explained as something the user has, knows, or is: 

  • Possession may indicate a keycode sent to an email or smartphone—something you have. 
  • Inherence is something only the user possesses, like a fingerprint or facial scan—something you are. 
  • Knowledge would include correctly responding to a question with information only available to the user—something you know. 

Using one of these methods of validation, in conjunction with a password, improves access control exponentially. 

In addition, HTTPS can be used to encrypt internal traffic. This prevents the viewing of raw data passed between the web server and program during a given session.  Finally, using an enterprise-specific certification authority can limit the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks.Data Security - Copado

2. Ensure full-cloud observability

Transparency is perhaps one of the most challenging cloud security management methods due to disparate systems. Needs for one program may not be identical to the next. The ability to combine and monitor them is essential. 

Controlling various service level agreements (SLAs), virtual machine monitoring programs, and other methods in a single security information and event management (SIEM) system makes the most sense. A customized solution will allow companies to maintain security protocols while providing end-to-end transparency.

Essentially, the data must feed into common logging systems in real-time. The accessibility of this information is vital to manage uptime and ensure appropriate incident responses. It’s also necessary for tracing issues back to their origins. If an environment is built to capture and report observables, all of this is possible.

This is also an area where zero trust applies. In this instance, it’s about forcing the authentication and authorization of connections. This ensures network integrity through continuously verified access. 

3. Identify misconfigurations through testing 

Switching to the cloud is a significant paradigm shift that may create implementation

issues. Organizations may not have the necessary skillsets in employees to effectively make the migration. Misconfigurations are among the most avoidable cloud security risks. 

Security and testing protocols require a base setting configuration. Automating these tools will eliminate misconfigurations and issues caused by outdated or unpatched applications. Leveraging Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings from a provider can also minimize issues with misconfigurations, as the programs are designed specifically for that environment.

A big part of modern infrastructure is ephemeral systems. This may seem counterintuitive, but it ties into the pet versus cattle theory. Most systems are cattle, in that if they’re damaged, they should be replaced, and not carefully corrected—like one would for a pet. These ephemeral, cattle-like systems are scalable and fault-tolerant, as damaged instances will fail and exit while others seamlessly pick up their burden.

This process is accomplished by embracing Infrastructure as Code (IaC), where the system is built on repeatable codes which can be updated as required. The administrator can re-run the IaC to rebuild the framework and then add data through backups. Most prefer to use an open source program for this, like Terraform, though Copado builds on this by offering Kitchen-Terraform which verifies the infrastructure through testing.  

State of Cloud Report - Copado

4. Clearly communicate policies and automate enforcement

Both clients and staff should have clear access to all infosec policies and protocols to prevent unauthorized use. Also, files should be tagged when there are specific regulatory compliance requirements to follow to ensure adherence. However, it’s not enough to simply require these protocols. They must be enforced. 

In Infrastructure as Code (IaS), scripts can deploy enforced security instances. This strategy can automate compliance, so tagged records follow the right regulatory guidance. It can also establish the required steps that keep employees from improperly using resources. 

Open Policy Agent (OPA) is also a valuable resource here. It’s a policy engine that can enforce enterprise-specific protocols across all systems and services. The software communicates with OPA when a change is needed. OPA then compares that input to automate decision making. 

5: Independently verify cloud security compliance 

When establishing systems quickly, it’s easy to miss important parts of the process. This is especially true in rapid cloud migration. Misconfiguration overlooked tools and lost opportunities to automate and orchestrate security abound. 

A third-party audit of the total system helps an enterprise identify areas of opportunity in its cloud environment. As the third party is unbiased, they come into the review with a fresh perspective. Security is their specialty, so they can offer solutions the enterprise didn’t even know were options. 

Establishing Cloud Security Compliance in Your Organization

The basics of cloud security compliance allow enterprises to migrate without many of the gaps in protection that lead to data breaches. These fundamentals establish a foundation of security that’s buildable and flexible, just like the cloud. The cloud provides a lot of opportunity for enterprises, and with the right integrated security, they can enjoy these benefits without the downsides.