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Actian Blog / Hybrid Cloud Security

Hybrid Cloud Security

Hybrid Cloud Security

One of the biggest fears of cloud adoption is the security of organizational data and information.  IT security has always been an issue for all organizations, but the thought of not having total control over corporate data is frightening.  One of the factors for organizations not moving everything to the cloud and adopting a hybrid cloud approach is security concerns.  Hybrid cloud security architectures still have the security risks related to a public cloud; however, hybrid cloud risks are higher simply because there are more clouds to protect.  The trust boundary is extended beyond the organization for access to its essential critical data with hybrid cloud architectures.

Sensitive data can be kept off the public cloud to help manage risk.  Doing so today may be helpful, but hybrid cloud solutions are integrations between public and private clouds.  This integration without the appropriate security could still make your private cloud solution vulnerable to attacks originating from the public cloud.  Secure hybrid clouds have significant benefits to organizations today.  Along with the great benefits of the cloud are the negative aspects and challenges faced with securing the organizations’ data.  The negative aspects are continually being addressed to help realize the incredible benefits that hybrid cloud architectures can provide for organizations today.

What is hybrid cloud security?

Organizational IT infrastructures have increased in complexity, especially with hybrid clouds implementations.  This complexity, combined with the benefits of cloud having characteristics of broad network access, and on-demand everywhere access capabilities, complicates how securing a hybrid cloud can be done.  Securing the data, applications, and infrastructure internally and externally from hackers’ malicious adversary tactics and inadvertent, unintentional activities are compounded.

Many cloud vendors have adopted industry compliance and governance security standards, especially those created by the USA government, to ease the security threats and risks that an organization may experience in the cloud.  The Federal Risk and Authorization Program (FedRAMP) provides standards and accreditations for cloud services.  The Security Requirement Guide (SRG) provides security controls and requirements for cloud service in the Department of Defense (DOD).  These standards and others help cloud vendors and organizations improve their hybrid cloud security.

Securing the cloud, an organization should consider the cloud architecture components that consist of applications, data, middleware, operating system, virtualization, servers, storage, and networking components.  Security concerns are specific to the service type.  Organizations have a shared responsibility with the cloud service provider for security with hybrid cloud security.

The responsibility for hybrid cloud security should include specific disciplines.  Some essential discipline areas for managing risk and securing hybrid cloud are:

  • Physical controls to deter intruders and create protective barriers to IT assets are just as important as cybersecurity for protecting assets.
    • Security parameters, cameras, locks, alarms.
    • Physical controls can be seen as the first line of defense for protecting organizational IT assets. Not only from security threats but from overall harm from environmental challenges.
    • Biometrics (one or more fingerprints, possibly retina-scans) where system access ties to extremely sensitive data
  • Technical controls
    • Cloud patching fixes vulnerabilities in software and applications that are targets of cyber-attacks. Besides overall keeping systems up to date, this helps reduce security risk for hybrid cloud environments.
    • Multi-tenancy security each tenant or customer is logically separated in a cloud environment. This means each tenant has access to the cloud environment, but the boundaries are purely virtual, and hackers can find ways to access data across virtual boundaries if resources are improperly assigned and data overflows from one tenant can impinge on another.  Data must be properly configured and isolated to avoid interference between tenants.
    • Encryption is needed for data at rest and data in transit. Data at rest is sitting in storage, and data in transit, going across the network and the cloud layers (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS).  Both have to be protected.  More often than not, data at rest isn’t encrypted because it’s an option that is not turned on by default.
    • Automation orchestration is needed to remove slow manual responses for hybrid cloud environments. Monitoring, checking for compliance, appropriate responses, and implementations should be automated to eliminate human error.  These responses should also be reviewed and continuously improved.
    • Access controls – People and technology accesses should always be evaluated and monitored on a contextual basis including date, time, location, network access points, and so forth. Define normal access patterns and monitor for abnormal patterns and behavior, which could be an alert to a possible security issue.
    • Endpoint security for remote access has to be managed and controlled. Devices can be lost, stolen, or hacked, providing an access point into a hybrid cloud and all of its data and resources.  Local ports on devices that allow printing or USB drives would need to be locked for remote workers or monitored and logged when used.
  • Administrative controls to account for human factors in cloud security
    • Zero trust architecture (ZTA), principles and policy continually evaluate trusted access to cloud environments to restrict access for only minimum privileges. Allowing too much access to a person or technology solution can cause security issues.  Adjustments to entitlements can be made in real-time, for example, is a user suddenly downloading far more documents?  Are those documents outside his or her normal scope of work or access?  Of course, this requires data governance that includes tagging and role-based access that maps entitlements to tagging.
    • Disaster recovery – Performing business impact analysis (BIA) and risk assessments are crucial for performing disaster recovery and deciding how hybrid cloud architectures should be implemented. Including concerns related to data redundancy and placement within a cloud architecture for service availability and rapid remediation post attack.
    • Social engineering education and technical controls for phishing, baiting, etc. Social engineering is an organizational issue and a personal issue for everyone.  Hackers can steal corporate data and personal data to access anything for malicious purposes.
    • A culture of security is critical for organizations. The activities of individuals are considered one the most significant risk to the organization.  Hackers target their access to any organization through the organization’s employees as well as partners and even third-party software vendors and services contractors.  The employees, contractors, and partners need to be educated continuously to help avoid security issues that can be prevented with training and knowledge.
  • Supply chain controls
    • Software, infrastructure, and platform from 3rd parties have to be evaluated for security vulnerabilities. Software from a 3rd party supplier, when installed, could have security vulnerabilities or have been hacked that allow criminals complete access to an organization’s hybrid cloud environment.  Be sure to check how all 3rd party software vendors approach and practice safe security controls over their products.

Security in the cloud is a shared responsibility that becomes more complex as deployments are added.  Shared Services are a way to deliver functions such as security, monitoring, authorization, backups, patching, upgrades, and more in a cost-effective, reliable way to all clouds.  Shared services reduce management complexity and are essential to achieve a consistent security posture across your hybrid cloud security architecture.

Configuration Management and Hybrid cloud security

Hybrid cloud security architecture risks are higher simply because there are more clouds to protect.  For this reason, here are a few extra items that you should put on your hybrid cloud security best practices list, including visibility, shared services, and configuration management.  First, you can’t secure what you can’t see.  Hybrid cloud security requires visibility across the data center and private and public cloud borders to reduce hybrid cloud risks resulting from blind spots.

Another area to focus on is configuration management since misconfigurations are one of the most common ways for digital criminals to land and expand in your hybrid cloud environments.  Encryption isn’t turned on, and access hasn’t been restricted; security groups aren’t set up correctly, ports aren’t locked down.  The list goes on and on.  Increasingly, hybrid cloud security teams need to understand cloud infrastructure better to secure it better and will need to include cloud configuration auditing as part of their delivery processes.

One of the Hybrid cloud security tools that can be utilized is a Configuration Management System (CMS) using configuration management database (CMDB) technology as the foundation that can help organizations gain visibility into hybrid cloud configurations and the relationships of all cloud components.  The first activity with a CMS involves discovering all cloud assets or configuration items that make up the services being offered.  At this time, a snapshot of the environment is made with essential details of the cloud architecture.  Once discovering their hybrid cloud architecture, many organizations immediately look for security concerns that violate security governance.

Once the CMS is in place, other hybrid cloud security tools such as drift management and monitoring changes in the cloud architecture can alert to cloud attacks.  Once the unauthorized drift is detected, other automation tools to correct and alert can be implemented to counterattack the attack.  The CMS and the CMDB support cloud security operations and other service management areas, such as incident, event, and problem management, to help provide a holistic solution for the organization’s service delivery and service support.

Conclusion

Security issues in hybrid cloud computing aren’t that different from security issues in cloud computing.  You can review the articles on Security, Governance, and Privacy for the Modern Data Warehouse, Part 1 and Part 2, that provide a lot of pointers on how to protect your data and cloud services.

Hybrid cloud security risks and issues will be one of those IT organizational business challenges that will be around for a long time.  Organizations need to stay informed and have the latest technologies and guidance for combating the hybrid cloud security issues and threats.  This includes partnering with hybrid cloud solution providers such as Actian. It is essential for the organization’s ability to function with consistently changing cloud security needs.

About Lewis Carr

Senior strategic vertical industries, horizontal solutions, product marketing, product management, and business development professional focused on Enterprise software, including Data Management and Analytics, Mobile and IoT, and distributed Cloud computing.