Cloud computing has emerged as the go-to organizational workload choice because of its innate scalability and flexibility. However, cloud computing still comes with some security risks. Examining cloud security is an important part of adopting this new technology.
Presently, cloud-native security is experiencing changes and innovations that help address security threat vectors. These areas are of significant importance for security professionals, software developers, and information technology specialists.
Secret Credential Management
Cloud-based applications use many application tools, micro-services, and privileged accounts to function. In many cases, each area requires keys and passwords necessary for application-to-application and application-to-database communication. However, without a strong secret credential management strategy, administrators and developers can find themselves unprepared in the case of a security incident. Secret credentials can include the usual, often mundane password rules, all the way up to security keys, tokens, access codes, and even physical secrets. While a general business plan is essential to forming and growing a business, a security plan that also includes the security of technical information (such as key and password management) is an effective way to reduce risk.
It’s important that the management of secret credentials is automated, rather than manual. Manually generating secrets can lead to human error and leave gaps in your security that cybercriminals can exploit. An administrator may create keys or passwords that are easy to remember, but this also makes it easy for criminals to guess them too.
When managing secrets, it’s important to keep in mind that third party software may need access to these secrets in order to integrate correctly into your workflow. Even if all of your internal tools are secure, insecure third-party tools can represent a huge hole in your security.
DevOps tools may have access to several resources and orchestration software, which can also pose a huge problem. If an attacker can gain access to DevOps tools, they will easily be able to access sensitive information. It is important to note that at least one business password manager has been compromised, so it’s important to find the most secure option available.
All of your teams should undergo training about best practices for dealing with keys and passwords. Secrets management can be complex, but it is vital that all levels of your organization understand its importance. All businesses should leverage tools to manage their secrets and provide security to their cloud-based workloads.
Identity and Access Management
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is required for today’s information technology world. Firewalls are no longer the sole bastion protection for an organization, and organizations must implement a zero trust security model. IAM helps ensure that your developers, customers, suppliers, and other partners can access services and data efficiently and securely.
Using an IAM system, your IT team can store both individual and device identities for data management. By creating identities for people and their devices, you can easily manage and track each, and grant only the relevant permissions to get their work done.
Using multifactor authentication and behavior analysis, such as expected login times and locations, can help your organization identify suspicious activity among individuals and devices with IAM. One possibility is to leverage AI and automated IAM to help identify these problems faster.
These automated solutions can be especially helpful today as organizations are being put under greater regulatory pressure. Additionally, devices increasingly communicate with each other, whether it’s via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Devices without IAM implementation can easily be compromised, resulting in stolen data, undermining your organization’s image, or leading to compliance violations.
Supply Chain Security
Related to IAM and third-party access is supply chain security. Just because your system is secured does not mean that third-party partners are secured as well. One of the key problems with supply chain security is that supply chains have a large attack surface. This means that security needs to be built into the supply chain to protect them.
This problem is further exacerbated because modern supply chains are increasingly complex and integrated. Often, supply chains are made up of many suppliers and third parties. Supply chain vulnerabilities continue to make the news.
When an attacker breaks into a supply chain, they may have access to data across the entire chain. This means they can inject malicious code or tamper with hardware and access private data. Granting suppliers access to your systems doesn’t make sense if their systems aren’t secure.
One of the easiest ways to resolve this issue is to remove suppliers’ access to data. Most suppliers probably do not need access to your data. By eliminating this attack vector, you eliminate the ability of attackers to use a supplier system to gain access to your data. All of this circles back to zero-trust security thinking. Enforcing a standardized baseline security model across all of your suppliers will help your organization stay more secure in a cloud-based landscape.
API security is closely related to supply chain security. Often, suppliers may utilize an API to integrate with your applications. APIs are essential to modern cloud applications. Micro-services rely on APIs to interact with each other and perform work. Some workloads can have thousands of APIs, but many are not inherently secure, and they can become a liability.
Teams should work to integrate API security into the development of web and cloud-based applications. APIs are a particularly rich target because their vulnerabilities are usually well-documented and publicly accessible. Attackers can then use open documentation to reverse engineer the APIs to work their way into your systems and steal data without detection. Increasing API security is a growing trend in cloud security.
API security should also be automated. Automating your API security reduces human error and minimizes your workload. There are many tools available that will integrate with your organization’s CI/CD pipelines and enhance visibility and security during the software development lifecycle.
Cloud Security Posture Management
Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is a useful tool for ensuring that your cloud is properly configured. Cloud misconfigurations are one of the leading causes of data breaches. CSPM will scan your configuration and application components and highlight any misconfigurations that can cause data breaches.
By ensuring that your services and resources in the cloud are configured properly, you can avoid the pitfall of attackers entering your systems. Because it is difficult to identify misconfigurations manually, criminals can break in before you realize there’s a problem. CSPM automates this process and helps protect your system.
Social Engineering Security
An often overlooked aspect of security is social engineering. In a social engineering scenario, attackers manipulate their targets into giving up information that can lead to a data breach. This information doesn’t have to just come in the form of a password or key either. Cybercriminals can target your systems’ engineers or software developers personally and find out about what security protocols are in place. Then, once they have this information, they can use it to find holes in your security.
To avoid this scenario, consider adopting social media policies for your staff. A social media policy clearly states that company information should never be posted on personal social media accounts. Create information and training programs for all levels of your organization so they understand the risks of sharing information, both inside and outside of the company. Segregating and classifying information between your teams can help you to identify where security vulnerabilities may originate. Remember, you may utilize any number of automated protective and preventive tools, but if someone reveals their password, the task of detecting the masquerading imposter can be quite difficult.
Cloud security is constantly evolving, and newer technologies will further enhance security. However, your organization can be more secure by addressing security best practices today and creating an integrated security strategy. Continue to monitor trends and implement some of the strategies mentioned above, and you’ll be able to address many of the modern threats facing cloud-based organizations.
About the Author: Isla Sibanda is an ethical hacker and cybersecurity specialist based out of Pretoria. For over twelve years, she’s worked as a cybersecurity analyst and penetration testing specialist for several reputable companies – including Standard Bank Group, CipherWave, and Axxess.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.