Visibility, Actionability, and Security Automation in the Cloud

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness month, and for more than a decade we have used this designation to help raise security acuity across the board from the enterprise level to the individual.

But a lot has changed over this period, particularly when it comes to moving critical operations and data out of the traditional data center, and as such new strategies are required for developing security awareness in the cloud.

Three key takeaways for elevating your cloud security awareness include the need to maintain visibility into your cloud environment at all times, the ability to act upon any issues identified to mitigate risks, and the need for increased automation of security efforts to apply emerging best practices as consistent and enforceable behaviors.

Gaining and Maintaining Visibility

A recent SANS study reported that nearly half of organizations process or store sensitive data in the cloud, but fully one-third (33%) said they do not have enough visibility into their cloud providers’ operations for security purposes.

Similar findings were revealed in an earlier study by IDG, which found that four in ten respondents (45%) said that the migration to the cloud has made maintaining visibility into potential vulnerabilities more difficult.

Simply put, it’s impossible to properly secure dynamic cloud environments without knowing what is happening at all times, in every corner of your cloud. The emergence of elastic infrastructures and api-driven cloud service suites has changed the way security has to be architected, implemented, and managed throughout the workload lifecycle.

Organizations moving to the cloud need to have team members who are proficient in the use of APIs for better security, which requires tying both offensive and defensive strategies together in order to remediate security events in record time compared to legacy security responses.

With increased visibility, teams can quickly mitigate the most common vulnerabilities in minutes to drastically reduce the organization’s threat surface, and then can focus resources on issues that require more time and attention to fix. This rapid prioritization and classification of threats lends itself to agile organizations and their patterns.

Actionability

The dynamic and swiftly moving nature of the cloud is leaving traditional security practices in the dust. The problem is that many of those security solutions are proprietary, are too slow, and simply require too many resources of both technological and biological types.

Bottom line, the security model that has served most businesses well was never built for speed, and is simply unsustainable for opportunities in a cloud-centric world. Today, security solutions must be agile, lightweight, loosely coupled and extensible, and they must provide actionable information in real or near-real time.

With a good handle on API-enabled security and continuous monitoring tools, organizations can operationalize security so they can respond within to issues in mere moments. Continuous security solutions alert of critical issues in real-time, giving teams access to the needed data to address the issue without waiting for backup.

Automating Security Efforts

The rapid creation and modification of cloud infrastructures means most traditional data center security solutions can’t be effective, or will at least be severely diminished in their capabilities.

Static data centers were ostensibly easy enough for people to handle when searching for vulnerabilities introduced by changes to the environment, but cloud environments where rapid and complex changes occur are simply too much for individuals to effectively monitor without having the right tools in place.

Organizations need to integrate automated security acceptance tests as a subset of key security controls directly into the last stage of the functional testing processes. These automated security validations can promote deployments in the cloud with greater security at a more rapid pace.

You already understand the value of operational tools which can deliver continuous monitoring and alerting for efficiency’s sake, so why not draw from this knowledge and automate aspects of your security suite as well?

Conclusion

Migrating critical business operations and sensitive data to the cloud will undoubtedly save organizations a great deal in IT allocations, but it also requires that they understand how to apply security best practices at the speed of the cloud.

Understanding the techniques and tools required for gaining comprehensive and persistent visibility in cloud environments is essential, as is knowing how to act upon the issues discovered in order to remediate them effectively.

Automating security throughout every stage of the development and deployment process ensures that organizations can improve not only their overall security, but they can benefit from a marked improvement in efficiency and better realize the returns that the cloud can offer.

Happy Cyber Security Awareness Month.