Cloud Security Controls: What You Need to Know

Cloud security controls are a set of security controls that protect cloud environments against vulnerabilities and mitigate the effects of malicious attacks.

A broad term, cloud security control includes all best practices, procedures, and guidelines that must be followed to secure cloud environments. Cloud security controls assist businesses in addressing, evaluating, and implementing cloud security.

See Also: Cloud Security Checklist

A cloud service provider hosts a company’s applications on its servers and makes them available via the internet in cloud computing. At the same time, on-premises software is deployed in-house on a company’s servers.

Because cloud computing is different from on-premises deployment, it is reasonable to expect cloud security to be further as well. Before migrating to the cloud, organizations must understand how cloud security differs from data center security. It’s also essential for companies to implement cloud security controls after completing the migration.

See Also: Best Practices for Cloud Security

While cloud service providers offer a range of cloud security tools and services to secure customers’ networks and applications, organizations must implement the necessary security controls.

Also, when companies move their sensitive data and applications to the cloud, user access happens remotely. As a result, administrators must also implement cloud-based user access controls.

What Does Cloud Security Controls Mean?

A cloud security control is a collection of controls that enable the cloud architecture to protect against vulnerabilities and mitigate the impact of a malicious attack. It is a broad term encompassing all of the precautions, practices, and guidelines that must be put in place to safeguard a cloud computing environment.

See Also: Cloud Security Compliance Standards and Control Frameworks

Cloud security control primarily helps to consider, evaluate and implement security in the cloud. The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) has created a Cloud Control Matrix (CCM) designed to help prospective cloud buyers assess the overall security of a cloud solution.

Although there are unlimited cloud security controls, they are similar to standard information security controls and can be categorized in different domains, including:

  • Deterrent Controls: Do not protect the cloud environment but serve as a warning to a potential attacker.
  • Preventive Controls: Used to manage, strengthen and protect vulnerabilities within a cloud.
  • Corrective Controls: Helps reduce the after-effects of an attack.
  • Detective Checks: Used to identify or detect an attack.

What Kinds of Cloud Computing Security Controls Exist?

Your organization and the cloud service providers with whom you do business share responsibility for enforcing cloud security controls that protect applications and data stored or distributed in the cloud.

These controls include security controls such as establishing data recovery and business continuity plans, encrypting data, and controlling cloud access to reduce, mitigate or eliminate various types of risk.

See Also: PCI Compliance in the Cloud

While there are numerous types of cloud computing security audits available, they are typically classified into the four categories listed below:

  • Deterrent Controls – Deterrent controls are intended to keep malicious actors away from a cloud system. Deterrent controls inform attackers that there will be negative consequences if they continue to steal data or engage in any suspicious activity. They work more like a warning system. Insider attacks pose a risk to cloud service providers, so one deterrent control would be for a cloud service provider to conduct criminal background checks on employees. These checks can warn that an attack will face the consequences.
  • Preventive Controls – Preventive controls strengthen the cloud’s resilience to attacks by removing security flaws. A preventative measure would be to write code that disables inactive ports, ensuring that hackers have no suitable entry points. Another way to reduce vulnerability to attack is to maintain a robust user authentication system. Preventive controls are critical to system strengthening. Strong authentication of the cloud user, for example, ensures that only authorized personnel can access the data.
  • Detective Controls – Detective controls are designed to detect and respond to security threats and events. Detective controls are designed to detect and appropriately respond to any event that may appear on the online platform where you place your data. Detective controls include intrusion detection software and network security monitoring tools. Also, monitoring the network to determine when an attack might occur is an example of detective control. In an attack, detective controls trigger security protocols and appeal to the attacker and the owner of the data, which is something suspicious. System and network security monitoring, intrusion detection systems, and prevention arrangements are part of detection controls.
  • Corrective Controls – In a security breach, corrective controls are activated. The task of corrective controls is to limit the damage caused by the event. A software developer can write a code to disconnect data servers from the network when a specific type of threat is detected to prevent data theft. Corrective controls usually come into play during or after the event, limiting the damage of attacks. An example of this is backing up the system in case of an attack.

Any cloud security control plays a role in maintaining the overall security state of a system. A successful security operations team takes precautions to prevent attacks, detect them quickly, mitigate their impact, and ultimately restore the cloud environment’s function and stability.

What Are the Applicable Cloud Computing Security Controls?

Cloud computing security generally refers to various policies, technologies and controls deployed to protect cloud data, applications, and related cloud computing infrastructure. Cloud security architecture is only effective when you have an appropriate security and defense system and process.

Security concerns related to cloud computing fall into two main categories:

  • Security issues faced by cloud security providers
  • Security issues faced by customers using cloud security software

Responsibility for securing data is divided between cloud service providers and customers. The cloud service provider must always ensure that the infrastructure is secure and that its client’s information is protected.

On the other hand, users should strictly control their cloud security practices and prevent security protocols such as strong passwords and authentication methods so that only authorized personnel can access the data.

Physical availability decreases when an organization decides to bring its data online with a cloud security software or application. Therefore, it is necessary to keep an eye on employees who have access to this information, as insider attacks are a massive threat to organizations and businesses. In addition, data centers often need to be under surveillance.

Below are the useful vital features that need to be addressed when deploying cloud security controls. By implementing these controls, you can take advantage of the agility and customer focus of the cloud without sacrificing the security or compliance you need:

Data Protection in Cloud Environments

If you choose to host sensitive data with a cloud service provider, you lose control of physical access to the server. This creates additional security vulnerabilities as you can no longer play a role in determining who has physical access to servers.

An employee of the cloud service provider can illegally access, modify or copy data and even distribute it to others. To prevent insider attacks, cloud service providers must perform detailed employee background checks and maintain strict and transparent access to servers and IT infrastructure.

Also, knowing what your users and systems are doing requires reviewing log files. In the cloud, you will likely need to rely on your vendor to provide log files, and you probably won’t be able to review the logs of the underlying shared infrastructure.

You should ensure that logs are aggregated and flowing into your event management tool despite potentially limited information.

Centralized visibility of cloud infrastructure

One of the most challenging challenges in cloud computing security is the lack of visibility into cloud-deployed applications and services. Lack of visibility means you cannot efficiently gather information about the security state of applications and infrastructure deployed in the cloud.

This may be because many different systems are working together in the cloud, or there is no transparency between the business and the cloud service provider.

Cloud security control fundamentals include centralized visibility into security policies, configuration settings, and user activity, as well as risks that may be stored in online data stores. This makes it less likely for your security team to overlook a vulnerability in cloud security due to misconfiguration or a lack of abnormal activity that could indicate an attack.

The problem is that different clouds provide different configuration options, and developers frequently select these options without security expertise. It is not easy to gain visibility across instances and clouds.

Security teams require centralized visibility into their cloud infrastructure to reduce such risks. Cloud workload protection (CWP) tools, tightly integrated into cloud management and security systems, can assist with this task.

Cloud workload protection (CWP) tools give security teams the ability to monitor and evaluate existing services’ configuration status and the overall security posture of the cloud environment. Automatic configuration monitoring allows IT teams to quickly identify and respond to security misconfigurations, reducing the time it takes to implement fixes while increasing security.

Critical capabilities of adequate workload protection and platform security tools include:

  • Traffic analysis
  • Examination of data stored in the cloud for sensitive or malicious content
  • Regular configuration monitoring and evaluations
  • Recommendations on how to improve vulnerable areas of the cloud environment
  • Warnings for configuration issues
  • Identifying compatibility issues due to misconfiguration

Integration with cloud management and security systems on a native level

In legacy IT systems deployed and managed on-premises, IT organizations, maintain complete control over every piece of IT infrastructure across the entire technology stack. Delegating some of your IT infrastructure to a cloud service provider, on the other hand, entails giving up some control over how that infrastructure is deployed, managed, and configured.

As a result, IT organizations must increasingly rely on cloud service providers to make administrative decisions that enforce a high level of security.

Unlike traditional data centers, cloud computing relies on a shared responsibility model where the customer and others control some security settings by the public cloud vendor.

Visibility of your security posture across clouds requires close coordination between your solution and the underlying cloud environment. This means API-level integration with tools such as Amazon Inspector and VPC Flow logs and GuardDuty for AWS, Stack Event, Security Center for Azure, and Stream Drivers for Google Cloud Platform.

A cloud access security agent (CASB) solution that integrates deeply with the SaaS service may be required to identify risks and configuration issues.

Cloud Security Through User Authentication and Access Management

Cloud services should be protected by a username and password. Still, a malicious actor always risks stealing login credentials, gaining unauthorized access to cloud services, and stealing or modifying data.

An attacker can also install malicious code on the system. Cloud service providers must implement a secure authentication and access management system to protect customers from such attacks.

Controlling who can access your data and managing their privileges is critical to information security. For your data in the cloud, you must understand the cloud provider’s controls over their employees’ access to your systems.

You should extend your identity and access management to the cloud using federated security with single sign-on and role-based privileges to reduce the number of identities and privileges to manage. Root privileges, which should always be minimized, must be even more tightly managed in the cloud.

Additional web application layer protections

Additional vulnerabilities arise when it is unclear who is responsible for protecting the cloud infrastructure. Your company is in charge of the security of cloud-based applications and data. Cloud service providers take responsibility for infrastructure only.

To best fulfill their role in the shared responsibility model, your organizations should use web application firewalls to secure web applications. App threat detection differs when apps run in the cloud rather than on-premises because controlling access to specific IP addresses does not work with cloud-deployed apps.

Here, threat detection should occur in the application content, not traffic. This requires constant granular adjustments that you cannot handle manually.

Only an approach that takes advantage of AI’s computing power and speed will be able to protect today’s cloud-based applications. Machine learning can assist in detecting the type of user or application behavior that indicates a problem and implementing safeguards that no human-assisted approach can match in terms of speed or accuracy.

Threat intelligence feeds

The more complex your cloud environment, the more vulnerable it is to threats. Maximum cloud security is provided by a comprehensive solution that brings all of your company’s cloud services under one roof.

A good solution should include dynamic threat intelligence feeds with extensive global and local security event intelligence. When selecting cloud security controls, look for providers whose solutions are informed by data collected across all of their deployed sensors.

Cloud security automation

The cybersecurity field is insufficient to meet all corporate needs due to the cybersecurity skills gap. Today, cybersecurity professionals are in high demand, and existing security teams have a variety of skill gaps. After all, such issues expose businesses to a wide range of threats.

Until the cybersecurity industry can keep up with enterprise needs and demands for a larger and more capable talent pool, security architects are encouraged to help organizations automate their security functions wherever possible.

One approach currently used includes plugins that provide administrators with greater visibility into multivendor ecosystems, automation, and simplified management. When application changes occur, IT and DevOps teams can stay up to date without updating security policies each time application features change.

Security configuration scripts, available for download from security providers, can also help automate security processes.

Patch management in the cloud

While your servers are in the cloud, the need to know about your systems’ vulnerabilities and apply patches does not disappear. For some types of cloud services, the vendor will resolve these issues, but you remain responsible for some versions of Infrastructure as a Service.

The challenge of keeping track of whether patches have been applied becomes more complex as servers in the cloud are up and down much more frequently. You will want to scan for security vulnerabilities continuously, not periodically.

Cloud configuration management

One of the most severe threats in the cloud is misconfiguring a system and unintentionally exposing it to the public internet. While configuration management is essential for internal systems, it is even more critical in the cloud due to the risk.

Define standard configurations and automate deployment procedures. Your cloud provider may have tools to ensure that your instances adhere to best practices.

Surkay Baykarahttps://www.pcidssguide.com
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Cyberwise. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Cyberwise, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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