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Thomas Stoesser l Dec 2, 2022 l Data Protection, Big Data Analytics, Cloud Computing

How to Complete a Cloud Security Assessment

Cloud computing is driving a new post-pandemic wave of digital transformation across the globe. Gartner forecasts spending on related services will reach nearly $600bn in 2023 as a result, a 21% year-on-year increase. But the cloud also brings with it a new set of security risks for enterprises which threaten to outstrip the ability of IT teams to anticipate and respond. This is where a Cloud Security Assessment can provide crucial insight – highlighting an organization’s current security posture and where there may be gaps in visibility and protection to plug.

Why organizations need cloud assessments

Enterprises are migrating data to the cloud in ever greater numbers to drive cost efficiencies, scalability, and greater IT and business agility. Cloud apps help to support new hybrid ways of working, and innovative new experiences for employees and customers. But cloud infrastructure and services also expand the corporate attack surface. They present a new distributed environment that might involve multiple cloud service providers (CSPs), who place the burden of security on you, adding complexity and opacity.

Security teams struggle to gain visibility into their assets and potentially malicious activity in these environments. Limited in-house skills make the job more difficult – new features are released at such a rate by cloud vendors that it becomes increasingly challenging knowing which configurations are the most secure.

In this context, a Cloud Security Assessment can provide peace-of-mind that cloud-based networks and assets are adequately configured and protected. More specific benefits include:

  • Supporting compliance efforts (ie PCI DSS, GDPR)
  • Improving baseline security
  • Enhancing incident response and accelerating recovery
  • Improving resilience to future threats
  • Identifying dangerous vulnerabilities and misconfigurations
  • Bringing in third-party expertise to help stretched in-house resources

How to get started

Cloud Security Assessments may vary depending on which third-party service provider is brought in to help. However, as a general rule of thumb they will identify under-secured attack vectors, check for any evidence of current malicious network activity, and recommend additional security approaches to enhance resilience going forward.

Specifically, assessments should cover:

General security posture – derived from documentation and interviews with subject matter experts.

Access controls – by checking identity and access management (IAM) processes and policies.

Cloud storage security – including object- and block-level storage.

Network security – including checks for misconfigurations.

Incident response – reviewing relevant roles, responsibilities and processes.

Cloud provider security – ensuring the CSP’s offerings are correctly configured.

Workload security – including virtual machines, containers and serverless workloads.

Why data-centric security is important

One of the key benefits of conducting a Cloud Security Assessment with a reputable partner, is the evidence it may uncover of any security gaps in the enterprise cloud environment. A commonly overlooked but critical security control is strong encryption or tokenization, which should be applied continuously to all sensitive data stored and managed in the cloud. In this way, if threat actors manage to breach cloud networks or if data accidentally leaks from cloud stores, it will not have a significant financial, reputational or compliance impact.

Given the growing market for such services, it’s important that organizations understand the importance of true data-centric security in the cloud. They should look for providers that can offer:

  • Support for all major cloud platforms
  • Continuous discovery, classification and protection across the entire cloud environment
  • The scalability to support larger data volumes as the business grows
  • Format-preserving encryption, so data is protected but can still be used for things like cloud-based analytics

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