What is Cloud Security

March 11, 2024
| Cloud Security

An organization’s incident response plan is the set of measures and procedures it has in place to respond to and protect against a cyberattack. An effective incident response plan can reduce the damage experienced after a security breach and ensure faster systems recovery.

As the rates of cybercrime continue to increase, incident response plans have become indispensable to the organization’s security protocol. However, it’s important to understand why and how incident response strategies for cloud-based infrastructures and systems differ from traditional incident management.

Pillars of Information Security Management

According to the Cloud Incident Response Working Group Charter, there are three key elements that set cloud incident response apart from traditional incident response methods.
When organizations engage cloud services with digital assets located across the globe, it is challenging to investigate an incident together.
In the cloud, organizations do not have the same visibility rights as in a traditional IT environment. In some instances, they can only view logs provided by the cloud service providers for the specific service being used. It can be a challenge to understand an incident and curb its spread.
Shared Responsibility
Cloud security has various stakeholders. In some services, customers are responsible for their data and cloud service providers for the underlying infrastructure and services.

The Steps of the Cloud Incident Handling Process

According to the Cloud Incident Response Working Group’s framework, the incident-handling process in the cloud can be divided into four phases:

Incident Detection in the Cloud

An integral aspect of a company’s security infrastructure is incident detection, the practice of monitoring networks, servers, and IT assets for suspicious activity. Effective incident detection can find intruders in an organization’s infrastructure and chart appropriate incident response strategies.

Detecting security breaches in the cloud is a daunting task. Because traditional incident detection mechanisms are not effective in the cloud environment, it is important that organizations hire security experts who know how to effectively respond to cloud-based data breaches.

The Importance of Incident Response in the Cloud

In a perfect world, successful cyberattacks would never occur, but realistically, security breaches are unavoidable. Companies need secure plans and strategies to minimize the risks associated with security incidents.

If a security incident is identified, an incident response plan enables security teams to defend affected applications and infrastructures against compromises, insider threats, and access misuse. An effective incident response strategy can prevent excessive damage and reduce business disruption and enables organizations to quickly contain issues and respond effectively.

Reputation, revenue, and customer trust are at stake in the event of a cyberattack. The goal of any incident response plan is to restore operations as quickly as possible, minimize losses, and fix vulnerabilities.

The Cloud Incident Response Life Cycle

The incident response life cycle is a structured guideline that outlines various stages of safeguarding sensitive data and thwarting data breach attempts. The incident response life cycle describes the actions needed to quickly resolve an issue and ensure the continuity of business operations. Effective incident handling is an integral part of security management.

Let’s look at the four phases of the incident response life cycle in the cloud.


Without predetermined guidelines, response teams cannot effectively address a security breach. Organizations must establish policies, procedures, and agreements for incident response management.

It’s important to create standards to enable seamless operations after an incident. Organizations must also conduct cyber awareness training for their employees as well as assessments to evaluate the efficacy of their incident response measures.

Detection and Analysis

Cybersecurity teams need to monitor security events so that they can detect, alert, and report potential threats. Analysis of this information can help organizations identify vulnerabilities and determine where they need to bolster their security posture.
Containment, Eradication, and Recovery
The goal of this third phase is to minimize damage and restore normal operations as soon as possible. To prevent further breaches, cybersecurity teams must isolate the compromised system or device from the rest of the network, then perform a coordinated shutdown. They should then ensure that all infected devices have been wiped clean, and that all passwords have been changed. Once the incident is contained, security experts can determine the cause of the attack and implement measures to prevent further breaches. The final steps are to check all systems and networks, recover data, and restore business operations.
After a security breach, a cloud forensic investigation must be conducted to analyze the incident response steps and, if necessary, determine how the protocol can be improved. Cloud environments rely heavily on continuous improvement, so tracking and analyzing incidents help security teams improve at preventing future attacks.

Best Practices for Cloud Incident Response

Since millions are at stake, businesses constantly evolve their incident response practices to thwart cyberattacks. To maintain a strong cybersecurity posture, organizations must constantly iterate their incident management process.

Here are some best practices to secure cloud computing:

Focus on monitoring systems
Focus more on monitoring systems like applications, users’ behavior, and APIs. Find past information on successfully handling cloud incidents to quickly detect, respond, remove, and prevent attacks.
Use the best alerting tools
Use popular alerting tools like PagerDuty and Slack to enable the existing security system and alternate between devices on demand.
Follow shared responsibility model
Though most cloud providers have their incident response team, users add an extra security system that matches with the vendor’s system. Both parties need to work under a shared responsibility model.
Manage Access to Cloud Applications
There is usually more than one user in a cloud application who has access. To protect sensitive data, set up passwords, and manage access within the core group.
Protect your cloud logs
Most cloud providers allow their customers to have access to cloud logs to some insight about basic service operations, such as cloud access logs. For extra fees, some cloud providers will allow their customers to get full logs, such as cloud audit logs and errors logs. Such logs can be stored on customer on-premises devices, which is ideal. The log is the most important element in any digital investigation, and this is why attackers always try to compromise the logs and delete them to clear their traces. Always ensure your cloud logs are stored in a secure location and make them only accessible to authorized personnel.

What is SOAR?

The term “security orchestration, automation, and response” (SOAR), originally coined by the research firm Gartner, refers to a set of software programs that collect threat information, automate routine responses, and triage more complex threats, minimizing the need for human intervention.
SOAR platforms allow organizations to streamline security operations in three key areas:
Incident response
Orchestration and automation
Threat intelligence (TI) management capabilities
The main objective of a SOAR solution is to streamline security operations. In simplest terms, it’s the automatic handling of tasks related to security operations.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the elements of a SOAR platform:

Automation is a vital component of responding to security incidents in a cloud environment. Automating incident response helps organizations scale their capabilities, rapidly reduce the scope of compromised resources, and eliminate repetitive work by security teams. For instance, SOAR technology can be used as part of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud incident response to unify workflows across cloud and on-premises infrastructures.

In today’s environment of widespread and sophisticated cyberthreats, SOAR platforms are key to managing the seemingly endless stream of cyberattack attempts that many organizations face. The main drivers for the rise in the adoption of SOAR technologies are the shortage of skilled cloud security professionals, the evolution of advanced cyberthreats, and increases in the number of security alerts.

Benefits of SOAR

For analysts overwhelmed by the growing volume of threat alerts received each day, SOAR platforms are an invaluable resource. The main purpose of a SOAR solution is to provide a standardized process for data aggregation that automates threat detection and response processes, reducing analysts’ workload and allowing them to focus on other mission-critical tasks.

For analysts overwhelmed by the growing volume of threat alerts received each day, SOAR platforms are an invaluable resource. The main purpose of a SOAR solution is to provide a standardized process for data aggregation that automates threat detection and response processes, reducing analysts’ workload and allowing them to focus on other mission-critical tasks.

Improves efficiency

Monitoring many security technologies can create enormous strain on security analysts. Instead of spending time on mundane tasks such as gathering and sorting through metrics and reports, cybersecurity personnel can relegate much of this work to the automation capabilities of SOAR platforms.

Automated incident response takes the heat-of-the-moment guesswork out of event handling, limiting cyberattack dwell time and overall business impact. SOAR platforms can help organizations improve their productivity and capacity to address more threats by allowing security staff to work smarter, not harder.

Reduces response time
With the increasing volume of aggressive cyberthreats, a rapid security response is vital in minimizing the risk associated with a breach. SOAR solutions help organizations reduce the time needed to validate potential threats and respond to alerts without human intervention, and help facilitate accurate incident assessment and prioritization.
Optimizes Threat Intelligence
SOAR platforms provide immediately actionable, high-quality information that incident response teams can use to identify and respond to risks. SOAR software aggregates and validates data from various sources, such as threat intelligence and incident response platforms and security solutions like intrusion detection systems (IDSs) and intrusion prevention systems (IPSs). This helps security professionals contextualize incidents, make better-informed decisions, and accelerate incident detection and response.
Increases Flexibility, Extensibility, and Collaboration
SOAR solutions provide organizations with the flexibility to either adapt the templated use case workflows or build new workflows which offer additional opportunities for collaboration. They collate all data and make it accessible in a centralized location, which makes collaboration, problem-solving, and resolution easier and more effective.
Reduces Business Costs
SOAR platforms can lead to significant cost savings when it comes to reporting and alert handling, as they play a significant role in automating security procedures and reducing the impact of breaches. Consequently, SOAR tools can minimize staffing expenses, costs associated with disruptions to business operations, and other financial losses.

How Is SOAR Different from SIEM?

Security information and event management (SIEM) tools are software solutions that collect, analyze, and store security-related log data from various tools (e.g., firewall, IDS, IPS, antivirus software) and networking appliances (e.g., proxies) for compliance or auditing purposes. In simpler terms, SIEM platforms help organizations recognize potential threats and vulnerabilities before they can disrupt business operations, thereby enhancing data security in the cloud.

Though SOAR and SIEM platforms have a lot in common, there are differences in their capabilities. While both solutions collect data, they differ in the quantity and type of data they collect as well as the type of response they facilitate. Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between SOAR and SIEM solutions:

SIEM tools only raise an alert when a potential threat is discovered. Security analysts need to intervene to investigate more closely, analyze the threat, and remediate any damage. This requires constant fine-tuning and development and often ends up being time-consuming. On the other hand, SOAR platforms reduce human intervention, as they automate the response process and filter out false positives, allowing security teams to handle the alert load quickly and efficiently.

SIEM platforms examine various logs and event data from traditional infrastructure component sources, while SOAR software analyzes data from endpoint security software, external threat intelligence feeds, and third-party sources.
Both SOAR and SIEM solutions help security teams improve their efficiency, however, SIEM platforms are better positioned to handle larger volumes of data with varied sources and formats. SOAR tools are superior when it comes to their automation capabilities, flexibility, and integrations library, making them ideal for scenarios where the need for human intervention must be minimized.

Security Incident Response in AWS Cloud

Organizations using AWS Cloud should be prepared to detect and respond to security incidents and outline remediation methods that leverage automation to improve response speed.

AWS Cloud uses a shared responsibility model, meaning that AWS is responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure while customers are expected to protect their data and networks. Security experts must continuously monitor the AWS Cloud environment and be ready to respond to and mitigate the impact of potential breaches.

The following steps provide the framework for AWS incident management:

For a successful AWS cloud incident response strategy, it is important to train security teams on cloud technologies, create policies to detect and respond to threats, run penetration tests, and fix the security gaps uncovered in security assessments.

Security Incident Response in Microsoft Azure

To secure the workspace environment in Microsoft Azure, it is of paramount importance to set up an effective incident response process. Running incident response in the cloud can seem daunting, but defining roles and responsibilities in advance can improve efficiency.

Azure’s incident response life cycle is a five-step process:

Security analysts need to be equipped with intelligence capabilities, detection tools, and incident management solutions to accurately and promptly identify potential threats and suspicious activity.
Conduct a preliminary assessment. The on-call member of the security response team will evaluate the threat and assess whether there is a risk. It’s imperative to assign the investigation an appropriate priority level; events wherein data is at imminent risk should be treated as high severity and fixed as soon as possible. Assign a security incident manager to ensure that the incident response process is handled correctly throughout each stage, and that cross-dependencies are tracked.
At this stage, analysts examine the collected data to better understand the security event. At this point, the security incident manager can bring in additional subject matter experts to aid in the investigation.
Stabilization and recovery processes are designed to repair and restore the services affected by a security breach. In this stage, the security team aims to take mitigation steps to resolve immediate security risks, ensure that the threat has been successfully contained and that corrective measures are being implemented, and identify additional mitigation strategies if needed. The process is tested to ensure that corrective measures are applied effectively to maintain operational success.
After the security breach, an internal post-mortem is conducted to identify any technical or communications lapses, procedural failures, manual errors, or process flaws that might have caused the incident. Response procedures are evaluated for sufficiency and completeness.
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