What is cloud security?
Learn more about the technologies, procedures, policies, and controls that help you protect your cloud-based systems and data.
Types of cloud security tools
Cloud security tools address vulnerabilities from both employees and external threats. They also help mitigate errors that occur during development and reduce the risk that unauthorized people will gain access to sensitive data.
Cloud security posture management
Cloud misconfigurations happen frequently and create opportunities for compromise. Many of these errors occur because people don’t understand that the customer is responsible for configuring the cloud and securing applications. It’s also easy to make a mistake in big corporations with complex environments.
A cloud security posture management solution helps reduce risk by continuously looking for configuration errors that could lead to a breach. By automating the process, these solutions reduce the risk of mistakes in manual processes and increase visibility into environments with thousands of services and accounts. Once vulnerabilities are detected, developers can correct the issue with guided recommendations. Cloud security posture management also continuously monitors the environment for malicious activity or unauthorized access.
Cloud workload protection platform
As organizations have instituted processes that help developers build and deploy features faster, there’s a greater risk that security checks will be missed during development. A cloud workload protection platform helps secure the computing, storage, and networking capabilities needed by applications in the cloud. It works by identifying workloads in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments and scanning them for vulnerabilities. If vulnerabilities are discovered the solution will suggest controls to fix them.
Cloud access security broker
Because it’s so easy to find and access cloud services, it can be difficult for IT to keep on top of all the software used in the organization.
Cloud access security brokers (CASB) help IT gain visibility into cloud app usage and provide a risk assessment of each app. These solutions also help protect data and meet compliance goals with tools that show how data is moving through the cloud. Organizations also use these tools to detect unusual user behavior and remediate threats.
Identity and access
Controlling who has access to resources is critical to protecting data in the cloud. Organizations must be able to ensure that employees, contractors, and business partners all have the right access whether they are onsite or working remotely.
Organizations use identity and access solutions to verify identities, limit access to sensitive resources, and enforce multifactor authentication and least privilege policies.
Cloud infrastructure entitlement management
Identity and access management gets even more complicated when people access data across multiple clouds. A cloud infrastructure entitlement management solution helps a company gain visibility into which identities are accessing which resources across their cloud platforms. IT teams also use these products to apply least privilege access and other security policies.
What are the challenges of cloud security?
The interconnectedness of the cloud makes working and interacting online easy, but it also creates security risks. Security teams need solutions that help them address the following key challenges in the cloud:
Lack of visibility into data
To keep organizations productive, IT needs to give employees, business partners, and contractors access to company assets and information. Many of these people work remotely or outside the company network, and in large enterprises the list of authorized users is in constant flux. With so many people using multiple devices to access company resources across a variety of public and private clouds, it can be difficult to monitor which services are being used and how data is moving through the cloud. Tech teams need to ensure that data doesn’t get moved to storage solutions that are less secure, and they need to prevent the wrong people from getting access to sensitive information.
The cloud has made deploying infrastructure and apps much easier. With so many different providers and services, IT can choose the environment that is the best fit for the requirements of each product and service. This has led to a complex environment across on-premises, public and private cloud. A hybrid, multicloud environment requires security solutions that work across the entire ecosystem and protect people who access different assets from different locations. Configuration errors are more likely, and it can be challenging to monitor threats that move laterally across these complex environments.
A combination of factors has enabled organizations to quickly innovate and deploy new products. AI, machine learning, and internet of things technology have empowered businesses to collect and use data more effectively. Cloud service providers offer low-code and no-code services to make it easier for companies to use advanced technologies. DevOps processes have shortened the development cycle. And with more of their infrastructure hosted in the cloud, many organizations have reallocated resources to research and development. The downside to rapid innovation is that technology is changing so fast that security standards often get skipped or overlooked.
Compliance and governance
Although most major cloud service providers comply with several well-known compliance accreditation programs, it is still the responsibility of cloud customers to ensure their workloads are compliant with government and internal standards.
Employees are one of a company’s biggest security risks. Many breaches start when a worker clicks on a link that downloads malware. Unfortunately, organizations also need to watch out for insiders who purposely leak data.
Learn more about Microsoft Security
Microsoft Defender for Cloud
Monitor and help protect workloads across your multicloud and hybrid environments.
Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps
Get deep visibility and control of cloud apps with a leading CASB.
GitHub Advanced Security
Build more secure apps faster with threat modeling, vulnerability scanning, and unit testing.
Azure Active Directory
Protect all your users and data with single sign-on, multifactor authentication, and conditional access.
Microsoft Entra Permissions Management
Discover, remediate, and monitor permission risks in your multicloud infrastructure.
Uncover and assess threats across your entire enterprise—on-premises, Azure, and other clouds.
Cloud security is a shared responsibility between cloud service providers and their customers. Accountability varies depending on the type of services offered:
Infrastructure as a service. In this model, cloud service providers offer computing, network, and storage resources on demand. The provider is responsible for security for the core computing services. Customers must secure everything on top of the operating system including applications, data, runtimes, middleware, and the operating systems itself.
Platform as a service. Many providers also offer a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud. They take responsibility for protecting the runtime, middleware, and operating system in addition to the core computing services. Customers must safeguard their applications, data, user access, end-user devices, and end-user networks.
Software as a service. Organizations can also access software on a pay-as-you go model, such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Drive. In this model, customers still need to provide security for their data, users, and devices.
Four tools help companies protect their resources in the cloud:
- A cloud workload protection platform helps secure the computing, storage, and networking capabilities needed by applications in the cloud. It works by identifying workloads in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments and scanning them for vulnerabilities. If vulnerabilities are discovered the solution will suggest controls to fix the issues.
- Cloud app security brokers help IT gain visibility into cloud app usage and provide a risk assessment of each app. These solutions also help protect data and meet compliance goals with tools that show how data is moving through the cloud. Organizations also use cloud app security brokers to detect unusual user behavior and remediate threats.
- A cloud security posture management solution helps reduce risk by continuously looking for configuration errors that could lead to a breach. By automating the process these solutions reduce the risk of mistakes in manual processes and increase visibility into environments with thousands of services and accounts. Once vulnerabilities are detected, these solutions provide guided recommendations to help developers correct the issue.
- Identity and access management solutions provide tools to manage identities and apply access policies. Organizations use these solutions to limit access to sensitive resources and to enforce multifactor authentication and least privilege access.
There are four areas that organizations need to consider when putting in place procedures and policies to protect their clouds:
- Limiting access: Because the cloud makes everything internet accessible, it’s incredibly important to make sure that only the right people have access to the right tools for the right amount of time.
- Protecting data: Organizations need to understand where their data is located and put the appropriate controls in place to safeguard both the infrastructure where the data is hosted and stored and the data itself.
- Data recovery: A good backup solution and data recovery plan is critical in case there’s a breach.
- Response plan: When an organization is breached, they need a plan to reduce the impact and prevent other systems from becoming compromised.
Organizations need to watch out for the following cloud risks:
- Compromised accounts: Attackers often use phishing campaigns to steal employee passwords and gain access to systems and valuable corporate assets.
- Hardware and software vulnerabilities: Whether an organization uses a public or private cloud, it’s critical that the hardware and software is patched and up to date.
- Internal threats: Human error is a big driver of security breaches. Misconfigurations can create openings for bad actors. Employees often click on bad links or inadvertently move data to locations with less security.