What is cloud security? Fundamental guide


Cloud security involves various methods and technologies aimed at protecting a business from external and internal threats. It's crucial as companies adopt digital transformation strategies and incorporate cloud-based tools and services into their infrastructure. This guide simplifies the concept of cloud security, why it's essential, the challenges it poses, available solutions, and the approach to ensuring cloud security.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing refers to accessing resources, software, and databases over the internet rather than relying solely on local hardware. It allows organisations to scale their operations efficiently by outsourcing infrastructure management to third-party providers.

Common cloud computing services include:

  • IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service): A hybrid approach where some data and applications are managed on-premises, while cloud providers handle servers, hardware, networking, virtualisation, and storage.
  • PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service): Streamlines application development by offering a custom application framework that manages operating systems, software updates, storage, and infrastructure.
  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service): Cloud-based software available via subscriptions, with third-party providers managing technical aspects like data, servers, and maintenance.

Why Cloud Security Matters

As businesses shift to cloud-based environments and various computing models like IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS, the need for robust cloud security becomes evident, thus the question: How safe is it to store your data in cloud storage? While cloud providers handle infrastructure management, data security remains the organisation's responsibility. Cyber threats targeting cloud environments continue to evolve, emphasising the importance of cloud security in safeguarding data, applications, and workloads.

Cloud Security Challenges

Lack of visibility: Monitoring data access and usage can be challenging as many cloud services are accessed externally and through third parties.

Multitenancy: Public clouds host multiple client infrastructures, making it possible for attacks on one client to affect others.

Access management and shadow IT: Managing access to cloud services can be complex, particularly when bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are in place.

Compliance: Ensuring regulatory compliance is often confusing in public or hybrid cloud deployments, with ultimate accountability resting on the organisation.

Misconfigurations: Misconfigured settings account for many data breaches, making proper configuration crucial.

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Cloud Security Solutions

Identity and Access Management (IAM): IAM tools enforce access policies for users across on-premises and cloud services, creating digital identities for monitoring and restricting data interactions.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP): DLP services use alerts, encryption, and other measures to protect data, whether at rest or in transit.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM automates threat monitoring, detection, and response in cloud environments using AI-driven technologies.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: These solutions expedite data recovery and business operations in case of breaches or outages.

Approaching Cloud Security

Cloud security strategies vary by organisation, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides essential principles based on its cybersecurity framework: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. These principles help organisations assess their security readiness and apply preventative and recovery measures.

An emerging technology in cloud security, Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), addresses misconfigurations in cloud environments. CSPM solutions organise and deploy essential cloud security components, including IAM, compliance management, threat monitoring, risk mitigation, and asset management, reducing vulnerabilities and enhancing security.