Gartner forecasts that worldwide public cloud end-user spending will grow 23% to USD 332.3 billion in 2021 as cloud technologies become mainstream. As cloud computing architectures continue to become more prevalent, “cloud native” has become a popular buzzword. But what exactly does “cloud native” mean and what impact does it have on security? How exactly do you secure all these cloud native applications?
In this blog, we define cloud native, look at cloud computing security challenges and risks, and identify cloud security best practices. We’ll wrap up our discussion of all things cloud computing with a look at security solutions and tools.
On a very basic level, cloud computing refers to any component of computing – applications, databases, analytics, storage – accessed via the internet. Think of cloud computing as an on-demand service that also gives you the ability to build, design, and manage applications in the cloud.
Organizations that use cloud computing services avoid the upfront costs of creating and managing their own IT infrastructure and reduce overall IT operating costs. Scaling resources up and down is easy with cloud computing. You pay for only what you use, when you use it. It gives businesses flexibility without having to worry about infrastructure.
Cloud native refers to a software development approach that uses cloud computing to build and run scalable applications in public, private, and hybrid clouds. Adopting a cloud native architecture means abstracting away all the infrastructure layers such as servers, storage, and operating systems. Technologies common to cloud native architectures include microservices, containers, and orchestrators. DevOps workflows are deployed as microservices that are run in containers, of which Docker is the most common. Containers, in turn, are often managed by an orchestration engine, of which Kubernetes is the most popular.
Cloud native architectures allow organizations to deliver new products to market faster and to be more agile in meeting customer demands. Adopting a cloud native approach often leads to more efficient development and happier developers. The cloud native architecture leverages the flexible, distributed, and scalable nature of cloud computing so that developers can focus on writing code and developing features that ultimately keep their customers happy.
In reference to security, cloud native encompasses application, platform, and infrastructure security. Security must be built into every component in your solution, including every layer from your operating system to your application to your container. Cloud native security requires a highly integrated approach to secure your environment.
As with any computing technology, there are inherent risks that must be addressed. How do organizations benefit from cloud computing while securing sensitive data? First, they must be well versed in the potential risks. Second, they need to adopt best practices and implement the tools that keep them secure.
When thinking about best practices for cloud security, you can break it down into three stages: understanding your overall risk, securing your cloud, and remediating any issues you might find. In addition, you need to secure your applications and make sure you have the right professionals on board to manage the security of your cloud deployment.
You need visibility into your cloud use to better understand your overall risk profile. You should be looking at what types of data and applications you are moving to the cloud, whether it contains sensitive data such as PII, and who is able to access it. You should also be looking at your cloud service provider to better understand what security measures they offer. For example, if you’re storing data that’s regulated under HIPAA or GDPR, you need to make sure your cloud platform is compliant with those industry standards. Finally, keep an eye on user behavior and any changes that could signify malicious intent to prevent potential data loss.
Now that you have visibility into your data and application use, you need to deploy the appropriate protections to secure your cloud. This includes encrypting data, setting user access controls, implementing identity access management tools, limiting how data is shared, and making sure your APIs are secure. Depending on your cloud deployment, you may be responsible for the security of your applications and network traffic, so now is the time to deploy appropriate measures to secure these.
Once you are in a production environment, you still need continuous visibility into your cloud deployment to identify and remediate any security issues that might arise. Your cloud policies will need to be adjusted as technology changes and as new data enters the environment. For example, you might need to add multi-factor authentication to verify identity before a user can access new, highly sensitive data or add a machine learning tool to look for fraudulent behavior. The point is, you will find issues and you will need to implement new security policies and procedures to stay on top of an evolving threat landscape. Like all things tech, your cloud deployment is dynamic and ever changing, so make sure your security is too.
In addition to cloud security issues, you also need to be aware of the security of the applications you are running in the cloud. There are many application security tools out there to help, as well as those specific to microservices, containers, and Kubernetes deployments. And don’t forget about a software composition analysis tool to manage your open source use.
Finding an experienced security professional is hard these days. To complicate matters, not every security professional will be well versed in cloud native technologies. Finding security personnel to manage a wide range of cloud computing security tools is essential to the success of your deployment.
Cloud computing is the foundation of many digital business ventures and the future of software development, yet significant challenges still remain when it comes to security. The cloud is the perfect place for hackers to hide and launch their increasingly sophisticated attacks. It is also a platform ripe for intentional and unintentional insider attacks. To protect against loss and reduce overall risk, organizations must take the time to implement their cloud computing security strategy from planning to deployment to production.
When addressing cloud security, the plain fact is there are many strategies and best practices to consider, which reflects the complexity of this environment. Investing in cloud security now is one way to make sure you get the most out of your investment, while also preventing serious data breaches that could irreparably damage your company’s reputation, trust, and bottom line.