The Ultimate Guide to Cloud Security Best Practices
Why Is Cloud Security Important?
While the public is gradually becoming more aware of the importance of cloud security, there is still a lingering misconception that cloud security isn’t essential. Many businesses assume that security is up to the cloud service provider.
No matter how secure a cloud platform is, securing a business’s devices, data, and everything held within (and connected to) the cloud is a must-do. Fortunately, every cloud security engineer is aware of that. Still, it can make your job a bit tougher when you have people at your organization that aren’t familiar with the need for cloud security.
When cloud security is brought into question, you must remind your team members that:
- Cloud providers are not responsible for securing a business’s data or connections.
- Lack of cloud security can lead to outages and downtime that impact operations.
- Failing to govern cloud security properly can lead to significant compliance issues.
- Designing security into cloud architecture from the start ensures resilience.
With those things in mind, the next question that always comes up is logical but not so easy to answer. That is: How exactly do you achieve cloud security? It’s time to step back and review cloud security best practices.
5 Cloud Security Best Practices
Whether you are thinking about becoming a cloud security engineer for the first time, reskilling after taking a break from your career, or upskilling so you can continue advancing, reviewing the best practices is always worthwhile.
Here are five essential cloud security best practices you need to keep at the forefront of your planning:
1. Categorize Your Cloud Locations and Service
Before improving cloud security, you must first map out where everything is and determine whether things are in the best place. More specifically, this means choosing the right cloud location (public, private, or hybrid) and the best service (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, or FaaS).
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when figuring out how to best use the cloud for your project. Choosing the appropriate cloud location and service will require an in-depth review of the assets, information, users, and use cases of whatever it is you’re trying to store.
If you’re working with an organization already using the cloud, you can simplify things by mapping out where things are now. Once you have a complete picture, you can decide if and when things need to move around.
2. Understand the Shared Responsibility Model
Cloud service providers never accept full responsibility for securing your data. It simply wouldn’t be feasible to work with every client to ensure their connections and devices are secure. Nor could they follow each unique security procedure when encrypting, storing, and accessing their data.
Often, the contract with a cloud provider will limit their responsibility to host infrastructure, network controls, and the physical security of the servers where the cloud lives. As such, cloud service providers have what’s known as a shared responsibility model. This means the provider takes on some of the responsibilities. The client (you or your business) then agrees to handle the rest.
Depending on your business’s needs, you might try negotiating with a cloud provider to get more or less responsibility. In most cases, this leaves the client to handle other security responsibilities, such as access management and when, if, and how you store certain types of data. But remember, the more responsibility you take on, the more control you’ll have, which is a good thing for today’s businesses.
3. Create an Access Management Policy
Access management is always in the hands of the client. One critical cloud security best practice is learning to create an access management policy and handle it as the organization changes and grows. To put it simply, the purpose of an access management policy is to:
- Define all users in your organization.
- Determine what rights each user should have.
- Control when rights are granted and revoked.
On paper, it sounds simple, but it can be more difficult in practice. You might decide that a user’s privileged access to a particular system should be revoked if they hand in their resignation or if they are terminated. But it takes automation or manual input to achieve that promptly.
Moreover, access management requires an increasingly flexible approach. For proper security, you’ll need to determine if a user truly needs to be granted privilege access to a system indefinitely when they only need that access for an hour. Automating privilege escalation and de-escalation requires the right tools and a strategy in and of itself. Still, it’s worth pursuing (and may be required for some cloud use cases).
4. Perform Penetration Testing and Create a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) Plan
One of the most crucial activities a cloud security professional can invest in is continuous monitoring and regular testing, such as pen tests. This allows you to find new vulnerabilities as they appear and ensure that you always resolve risks of the highest priority first. As you go along with your testing, you’ll use that information to help inform the creation and management of a BCDR plan.
A BCDR plan is essential to ensuring uptime and resiliency. Many scenarios will need to be factored into your BCDR plan. In addition, your plan should be informed by real-world threats and vulnerabilities, like those detected by pen tests.
How often you conduct pen tests and utilize other assessments depends on your organization and the available resources. Still, your BCDR plan should be continuously reviewed and updated as things change. Additionally, someone should ensure relevant employees are aware of their responsibilities under the BCDR plan. That way, everyone can act quickly if the plan needs to be activated.
5. Use Log Management and Continuous Monitoring
Finally, in addition to regular testing, constant monitoring of your cloud environment is necessary to ensure secure operations. Your exact monitoring tools depend on your selected cloud services, industry, and unique business use cases. Still, several recommendations exist to help guide the way.
One of the ways to help prepare yourself for making such selections is to invest your time into becoming a certified cloud security professional. This will give you the foundation to confidently approach any cloud environment and ensure that the proper cloud security best practices are followed.
Become a Certified Cloud Security Engineer with EC-Council
About the Author
Sydney Chamberlain is a content writer specializing in informational, research-driven projects.