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Improving hybrid cloud security with a Zero Trust framework

Hybrid cloud security is a critical concern for organizations combining on-premises infrastructure and cloud-based services. But while the flexibility of a hybrid cloud model offers numerous advantages, it also presents some challenges.

Hybrid cloud security uses a range of measures to protect data, apps, and network communication within a hybrid environment. However, as organizations expand their digital footprint, the attack surface also grows, making it essential to adopt a security strategy that’s not only rigorous but comprehensive.

A highly effective approach to achieving this security objective is through implementing a Zero Trust security framework. In this post, we break down the key elements of hybrid cloud security, share best practices, and explore the benefits of using Zero Trust to tackle hybrid cloud security challenges.

What is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust is a security framework. It is not a product or a service, but a model based on three main security principles:

  1. Verify explicitly.
  2. Use least privilege access.
  3. Assume breach.

In the past, traditional security models assumed that everything inside the corporate network could be trusted. However, in today’s dynamic and distributed computing environment, this assumption is no longer valid. Instead of assuming everything in the corporate firewall is secure, the Zero Trust framework operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.”

In the context of hybrid cloud security, Zero Trust means that no user, device, and application—inside or outside the network—is trusted by default. This approach aligns with the dynamic nature of hybrid environments, where data and workloads move seamlessly between on-premises and cloud infrastructures. 

What is hybrid cloud security?

Hybrid cloud security involves protecting data, devices, and infrastructure across a mix of on-premises infrastructure and cloud computing environments, such as a public or private cloud. A Zero Trust framework, in the context of hybrid cloud security, becomes a powerful defense strategy for organizations dealing with the complexities of modern IT infrastructure.

Here are some examples of how Zero Trust principles intersect with hybrid cloud security:

  • User identity—In a hybrid cloud setup, a Zero Trust framework helps prevent unauthorized access even in a heavily distributed environment.
  • Endpoint security—Zero Trust cybersecurity rules also extend to devices, ensuring that each endpoint meets security requirements before they can gain access to resources.
  • Least privilege access—In a Zero Trust framework, users only get the minimum level of access they need to perform their tasks. This helps minimize the potential impact of a security breach.
  • Micro-segmentation—Zero Trust divides networks into small, isolated segments, each with their own security controls and policies. This prevents threats from moving laterally.
  • Dynamic perimeter—In a hybrid cloud setup, Zero Trust treats all areas as potentially risky. It watches over not just the internal network but also includes cloud services and remote users in its security plan.
  • Encryption—Zero Trust security puts a strong focus on keeping data safe. It insists on using encryption for data, making sure it’s protected as it moves between on-premises and cloud environments.

Hybrid cloud challenges

The primary advantage of using a hybrid cloud environment—impressive flexibility and accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection—is also its biggest vulnerability. Hybrid cloud environments are ideal targets for attack if they’re not properly set up and monitored. All it takes to infiltrate or disrupt an organization’s network is a single type of malware. Here are a few common security challenges associated with hybrid cloud environments.

Hyperjacking via rootkit

Hyperjacking involves unauthorized access and control of a virtualized environment, often facilitated by a rootkit. A rootkit in information security is a type of malicious software designed to gain unauthorized control over a network while remaining hidden from detection. In hybrid cloud environments, the challenge lies in preventing and detecting these stealthy attacks that can compromise the integrity of virtualized systems.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

DDoS attacks pose a significant threat to hybrid cloud environments by overwhelming services with excessive traffic, leading to service disruptions. Ensuring robust DDoS protection is crucial to maintaining the availability and performance of both on-premises and cloud-based resources. Zero Trust security principles can mitigate the impact of DDoS attacks by ensuring continuous verification and strict access controls.

Migration exploits

Migration exploits target vulnerabilities during the transfer of data and applications between on-premises and cloud environments. These exploits can be leveraged to compromise sensitive information during the migration process, emphasizing the importance of secure data transfer mechanisms.

In hybrid cloud environments, where sensitive data moves between on-premises and cloud platforms, Zero Trust security principles become essential. Upholding data security and privacy, enforcing consistent authentication controls, and sustaining continuous visibility for the prompt detection of security incidents are all essential components. These measures collectively reinforce the Zero Trust framework, helping to prevent unauthorized access and keep data safe from breaches.

Hybrid cloud security solutions

In the dynamic landscape of cybersecurity, continual advancements are being made to develop products and services that safeguard organizations from evolving threats. To enhance your organization’s defenses in the realm of hybrid cloud security, applying a Zero Trust framework model can be immensely beneficial.

Depending on your organization’s specific needs, consider implementing intelligent cloud security solutions and monitoring tools to accomplish the following:

  • Secure and manage identitie Simplify access, set smart policies, and give users safe ways to unlock themselves and get back to work without the help of an administrator.
  • Defend against threats. Reduce risks with threat detection and remediation solutions, proactively block malware, and consider device-based conditional access for added breach prevention.
  • Protect sensitive data. Encrypt data at rest, in transit, and in use, classify sensitive content at scale, address data theft or exposure, and preserve content through send hold notifications.

Implementing solutions like this improves resilience in a rapidly changing threat landscape. By combining advanced security solutions, real-time monitoring, and continuous employee training, you create a holistic approach to security that adapts to emerging hybrid cloud security challenges and safeguards your digital assets effectively.

How to implement Zero Trust for a hybrid cloud environment

Implementing Zero Trust for a hybrid cloud environment involves taking a comprehensive approach that addresses various aspects of security. Here’s a step-by-step guide to implementing Zero Trust in a hybrid cloud setup:

  1. Define what needs to be protected. Identify the various types of applications, assets, services, and critical data that are vital to your business. Then, determine their locations and figure out who accesses and uses them.
  2. Map data flow. Get to know the way data moves within your hybrid environment and identify the pathways data takes between on-premises infrastructure and cloud services. This process is crucial for establishing effective security controls at each stage of data flow.
  3. Plan your cloud infrastructure. Work out your new cloud infrastructure, creating clear boundaries between users and applications. Consider applying microsegmentation to divide the network into isolated segments with its own security controls. This step is fundamental to establishing a secure environment.
  4. Define Zero Trust policies. Formulate Zero Trust policies based on the principle of least privilege, apply multifactor authentication (MFA) mechanisms to enforce these policies, then educate users on your company’s protocols for accessing data in the cloud.
  5. Encrypt data in transit and at rest. Protect sensitive information from being intercepted during transmission by encrypting all data stored in the hybrid environment. This is a crucial component of maintaining confidentiality and integrity.
  6. Automate security responses. Integrate automation into your security infrastructure to enable swift responses to detected threats. Automated responses can include isolating compromised devices, blocking malicious activities, and initiating incident response protocols. Automation enhances the effectiveness of your security measures.
  7. Monitor and maintain. Continuously monitor your Zero Trust environment to inspect and log all traffic. This ongoing scrutiny helps identify unusual activity, allowing for the adjustment of policies to enhance security. Active monitoring enables the expansion of your protect surface, enabling strategic changes to further fortify your security architecture.
  8. Perform regular security audits. Conduct audits and assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of your Zero Trust implementation. Identify areas for improvement and adjust security measures based on evolving threats and organizational changes.

By following these steps, your company can systematically implement and maintain a robust Zero Trust framework in the cloud, aligning security measures with organizational goals and ensuring a resilient and adaptive security posture.

Tips for implementing a Zero Trust framework

Implementing a Zero Trust framework for a hybrid cloud environment can be a significant undertaking. Here’s some advice for smoothly launching Zero Trust at your organization:

  • Assess overall security posture. Identify existing vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses in your organization’s current security posture. This is crucial for determining the readiness for implementing a Zero Trust framework.
  • Define your goals and objectives. Clearly articulate the objectives and goals you aim to achieve in your hybrid cloud environment by implementing a Zero Trust framework. Align these goals with the broader business objectives to demonstrate the value of the security initiative.
  • Build a cross-functional team. Assemble a diverse team that includes IT, security, compliance, and other relevant departments. Collaborate with key stakeholders to ensure comprehensive and coordinated implementation.
  • Engage leader Secure executive support for the implementation of a Zero Trust framework. Communicate the strategic importance of Zero Trust for enhancing security and mitigating cyber risks.
  • Create a roadmap. Develop a phased implementation roadmap. Break down the implementation into manageable steps, starting with high-priority areas. This approach allows for gradual adoption and minimizes disruptions to ongoing operations.
  • Choose Zero Trust technologies. Invest in advanced security technologies that uphold Zero Trust principles. This may include tools for continuous monitoring, micro-segmentation, multifactor authentication, and enc
  • Communicate all changes. Communicate changes transparently and effectively to all stakeholders. This includes end-users, management, and other departments impacted by Zero Trust cybersecurity Address concerns, provide guidance, and encourage a culture of security awareness.
  • Train your team. Provide comprehensive training to your IT and security teams about Zero Trust principles and the specific changes that will be introduced. Ensure that the team is well-prepared to handle the technical and cultural shifts associated with Zero Trust.
  • Iterate and improve. Establish continuous monitoring mechanisms to track the effectiveness of the Zero Trust framework. Regularly review and update policies based on emerging threats, organizational changes, and lessons learned from security incidents.

Remember that implementing a Zero Trust framework to improve hybrid cloud security is not a one-time project but an ongoing process. Regular assessments, updates, and adaptability to emerging threats are key elements of a successful hybrid cloud security strategy backed by Zero Trust.

Take the next step in your Zero Trust implementation

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