Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Software Development

Cloud Security 101: Insights and best practices unveiled

December 4, 2023
Roksana Radecka

As businesses increasingly shift their digital infrastructure to the cloud, the conversation around cloud security becomes an important focus point.

According to the 2023 Thales Cloud Security Study, 39% of the almost 3,000 IT and security professionals reported data breaches in their cloud environments over the previous year. This statistic illustrated that securing cloud infrastructures isn’t a task to be deferred or taken lightly – it’s a business-critical mandate.

This article takes you on a comprehensive tour of cloud security – from understanding the types of threats to which cloud systems are subjected to actionable measures for fortifying your cloud infrastructure to DevOps’s pivotal role in elevating your cloud security strategy.

Security in a cloud environment

One of the strongest arguments favoring cloud-based systems over on-premise solutions is the level of security.

Cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud invest heavily in state-of-the-art security protocols that are more robust than most companies could ever achieve independently. These providers have dedicated security teams that protect the infrastructure, run regular audits, and implement the latest security technologies. This translates into built-in security benefits for their customers, which are more effective and cheaper than what could be implemented by an in-house IT department.

Additionally, cloud providers offer a wide range of security services and features, such as advanced firewalls, data encryption, and intrusion detection systems. This allows businesses to customize their security settings to suit their specific needs, all without the overhead of managing and maintaining physical hardware.

Types of cybersecurity threats

cloud security: common types of cybersecurity threats
Cloud security: threats

Understanding the cybersecurity threats you may encounter is crucial for crafting an effective defense strategy. Below are some of the most common types of security threats in digital systems:

Brute Force Attack

This type of threat involves an attacker attempting to gain unauthorized access by guessing credentials such as passwords or encryption keys through systematic trial and error. Unlike other attacks, brute force relies on sheer computing power and persistence rather than exploiting system vulnerabilities. Common methods include dictionary attacks, executed by testing a list of likely passwords, and exhaustive key search, which tries all possible values. Hence, if a system accepts an infinite number of failed attempts to log in, it is a misconfiguration issue. Imagine what would happen if you had 10,000 attempts to guess a four-digit PIN number?

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

DDoS attacks aim to overload a network or service with overwhelming traffic, rendering it slow or entirely inaccessible. The attack usually involves multiple systems working together to flood the target. Remember that your system can be “DDoSed” by an accident. This usually happens if an online shop starts a sale and is flooded by customers. Even the most sophisticated cloud-based systems need some time to scale up and be able to accept the increased load. Such incidents can occur even with the internal systems, e.g., when 10,000 employees would want to read a freshly published internal article.

Insider Threat

Insider security threats come from individuals within the organization, such as employees, contractors, or other agents who have information concerning the organization’s security practices, as well as access to its data and computer systems. The risk here is that these insiders have the potential to misuse their privileges to steal data or intentionally sabotage the system. Such an attack can also occur unintentionally. For example, it’s not uncommon for the attacker to leave a USB stick on a parking lot, hoping an employee finds it. An untrained individual would be curious to know what is inside the stick, and by plugging it in, they would install malicious software on their computer and the network. Also, such a threat may occur when an unskilled employee gets too much access and misuses it (even accidentally). It is important to perform access audits and give as little access and privileges as possible.

Malware

Malicious software, or malware, is any program or file intended to harm a computer or network. Types of malware include viruses, worms (essentially, computer viruses that can self-replicate across a network without human action), Trojan Horses (malware that disguises itself as a legitimate program), and ransomware. Once inside the system, they can do anything from stealing data, logging keystrokes, and corrupting files. 

It is a good practice to restrict software that can be installed on an organization's computer. Moreover, up-to-date and high-quality anti-virus protection can come in handy.

Man-in-the-Middle Attack

This type of attack involves an unauthorized entity secretly intercepting and possibly altering the communication between two parties. Man-in-the-middle attacks can occur in various forms, including session hijacking, email eavesdropping, or HTTPS spoofing.

Phishing

In a phishing attack, the attacker masquerades as a trustworthy entity to trick users into sharing sensitive data such as passwords or credit card numbers. This often happens through deceptive emails that appear to be from reputable sources. Moreover, such emails try to force immediate action by saying, “Please do it now! I really need it!”. Since such attacks do not occur every day (and employees might not be prepared for them) a good practice involves training by sending fake phishing emails by the organization’s IT Security department. This will show people what such attacks look like and how to protect against them. Also, an anti-phishing policy should be in place in an organization.

SQL Injection

SQL Injection is a type of attack that targets databases through flawed web applications. The attacker inserts malicious SQL code into input fields, which then get executed, potentially giving the attacker full access to the database. This can lead to unauthorized viewing, modification, or deletion of sensitive data. A good practice includes creating a “SQL Injection Attack Cheat Sheet” which will help detect potential threats. Also, implementing tests that will validate if the systems are resistant against such threats should be a must.

Understanding these types of threats helps you recognize the enemy and enables you to build more robust security measures to protect your cloud-based systems.

How to ensure security in cloud environments?

From encryption to firewalls, compliance standards, and internal company policies, we delve into essential practices that collectively form a robust defense against unauthorized access and potential threats.

Encryption

Encryption transforms input data into unreadable text, which only the encryption key can decode. This is a robust barrier against unauthorized attempts to access the information and is an essential practice for securing sensitive data. It’s important to employ robust encryption algorithms and manage your encryption keys with utmost care to maximize effectiveness. Modern encrypting standards such as AES-256 and/or RSA-4096 should be used to provide a high level of security. Keep in mind that unbreakable encryption does not exist.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA enhances security protocols by demanding multiple forms of identity verification before granting access. Instead of solely relying on a password, this process necessitates at least one additional verification step – such as access confirmation on another device, security codes, or biometric data – creating a more robust security environment.

Firewalls

Firewalls act as gatekeepers for your network, scrutinizing incoming and outgoing traffic based on a set of predefined rules. Adequately configuring these rules helps keep out unauthorized users while enabling secure data transmission. This layer of control is crucial for isolating and protecting cloud-based systems.

Compliance Standards

Being compliant with data privacy standards like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) might be mandatory, depending on your business’ location and industry. However, even if you’re not obliged to follow them, it still might be a good idea, as these standards are internationally recognized references for data privacy and security best practices.

Passwords Manager

Using highly sophisticated and well-encrypted software to store passwords will help you keep your data safe. In the modern world, many systems require strong passwords that are humanly impossible to remember. Moreover, passwords’ rotation, being a good practice itself, might lead to passwords’ degeneration. Imagine if you have 3 different systems where you are required to change the passwords once every month and you do not have a password manager. Sooner than later, you will be updating them to something similar, easy to remember for you and easy to break for somebody else. Just a reminder, the two most common passwords over the internet include “123456” and “admin”.

Internal Company Policies

Last but not least, your internal company policies can be one of the most potent tools in your security arsenal. These policies should outline the dos and don’ts for employees regarding data handling, access levels, and use of cloud services. Regular training and audits can ensure everyone in the organization understands and adheres to these policies, thereby minimizing the human error factor, which is often a significant security risk.

By taking these measures, you can create a robust security environment for your cloud systems.

How DevOps helps to protect cloud systems

DevOps isn’t just about speeding up your software delivery cycle; it’s also a significant player in fortifying your cloud security posture. Here’s how:

  • Automation Reduces Human Error: By automating repetitive tasks, DevOps minimizes the chance of human error, which is often the root cause of security breaches. Automated security checks can be integrated into the CI/CD pipeline, ensuring that vulnerabilities are identified and addressed before deployment.
  • Configuration Management: DevOps tools enable consistent and automated configuration management. This ensures all deployed resources adhere to a predefined security baseline, reducing the attack surface.
  • Continuous Monitoring: DevOps isn’t a “set it and forget it” model; it involves continuous infrastructure monitoring. This ongoing vigilance enables quicker detection of vulnerabilities or irregularities, allowing immediate corrective actions. Also, reacting quickly and professionally to detected issues is paramount for effective monitoring.
  • Immutable Infrastructure: In a DevOps model, infrastructure is often treated as code (Infrastructure as Code - IaC). A compromised component can be immediately replaced with a secure version, minimizing the potential damage from attacks like data breaches or malware.
  • Integrated Security Testing: DevOps encourages a “shift-left” approach to security, embedding it earlier in the software development lifecycle. This includes practices like DevSecOps, where security testing is done in the development phase rather than being left for the end, thus making security a shared responsibility across the teams.
  • Secure Collaboration: DevOps enhances communication between the Development and Operations teams, making it easier to address security concerns collaboratively and proactively rather than as an afterthought.
  • Multiple environments: using different environments that are copies (or parts of the production environment) also helps finding issues and threats in the early stage. Thanks to the IaC approach, you can easily create dev, stage, test, pre-prod environments and much more.

Incorporating DevOps into your cloud security strategy is not an option; it’s a necessity. It provides the continuous improvement model that security practices need in today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving threat landscape.

Cloud security checklist

Navigating the labyrinth of cloud security can be daunting, but it’s a challenge that businesses can’t afford to sidestep. From understanding the myriad of cybersecurity threats to implementing best practices, mastering cloud security is an ongoing endeavor. But remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Leveraging DevOps can be your ace in the hole, transforming security from a bottleneck into a streamlined, integral part of your business operations. Adopt a security-first mindset, employ DevOps, and make your cloud fortress impenetrable.

  1. Evaluate current cloud security status:
    • Assess the current state of your cloud security.
    • Review any past incidents or data breaches.
  2. Stay informed on cloud security trends
    • Regularly update yourself on the latest trends and developments in cloud security.
  3. Understand cloud provider security controls:
    • Familiarize yourself with the security protocols and features provided by your cloud provider (e.g., AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
  4. Types of cybersecurity threats:
    • Understand common threats such as brute force attacks, DDoS attacks, insider threats, malware, man-in-the-middle attacks, phishing, and SQL injection.
  5. Implement security measures:
    • Ensure robust encryption practices are in place for sensitive data.
    • Implement MFA for added security.
    • Configure firewalls to control incoming and outgoing traffic.
    • Align with and adhere to relevant compliance standards (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS).
  6. Develop internal company policies:
    • Establish clear and comprehensive internal policies regarding data handling, access levels, and cloud service usage.
    • Conduct regular training and audits to ensure employees understand and comply with these policies.
  7. DevOps integration:
    • Understand the role of DevOps in enhancing cloud security.
    • Emphasize automation to reduce human error.Implement configuration management for consistent security baselines.
    • Ensure continuous monitoring for quick vulnerability detection.Consider adopting an "immutable infrastructure" approach for enhanced security.
    • Integrate security testing early in the development lifecycle through practices like DevSecOps.
    • Encourage secure collaboration between development and operations teams.
  8. Continuous improvement:
    • Acknowledge that cloud security is an ongoing process.
    • Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement in response to evolving threats.
  9. Regular security audits:
    • Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities and areas for improvement.
    • Take proactive measures based on audit findings.
  10. Stay proactive against emerging threats:
    • Stay informed about emerging cybersecurity threats and adapt security measures accordingly.
  11. Incident response plan:
    • Develop and regularly update an incident response plan in case of a security breach.
    • Ensure all relevant stakeholders are aware of and understand the plan.

By following this checklist, business owners can enhance the security of their cloud systems and better protect their digital assets.

cloud security checklist

FAQ: Cloud Security

Development
DevOps

Subtitle

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis,

List item

List item

List item

List item

Design is not just what it looks like and how it feels. Design is how it works

- Steve Jobs

Subtitle

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis,

List item

List item

List item

List item

Lorem Ipsum voluptate velit
Lorem Ipsum voluptate velit

Subtitle

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis,

List item

List item

List item

List item

Let's talk!

Contact us