Applying the 80/20 rule to cloud security

The 80/20 rule, which was first introduced as Pareto’s principle in 1941 by American engineer Joseph Juran, suggests that 20 percent of your activities (in life, business, athletics, etc.) will account for 80 percent of your results. Simply put: work smarter, not harder.

Pareto’s principle cloud security

How can we apply Pareto’s principle to cloud security? Within your security activities, what is the key 20 percent that will produce 80 percent of your results when it comes to reducing risk?

One effort that absolutely falls into the 20 percent bucket is reducing threat actor dwell time. Just like a small kitchen fire is far less damaging than a full house fire, the faster you can identify and respond to an incident the more likely it is you escape it without serious damage. If a threat is swiftly and effectively addressed following detection, then subsequent cost factors such as lost business and reputational damage are drastically reduced if not eliminated completely. The 80/20 rule at work!

A focus area to reduce threat actor dwell time is cloud security misconfigurations that accidentally expose data to the internet at large. Exposed data was the most cited cloud security incident (27 percent) and the biggest overall concern of leaders (64 percent) in Cybersecurity Insider’s 2019 Cloud Security Report. Garner estimates that up to 95 percent of cloud breaches occur due to human error such as configuration mistakes. Fifty-one percent of companies publicly exposed at least one cloud storage service in 2018, according to RedLock’s Cloud Security Trends report.

This presents a challenge because traditional security technologies like IDS/IPS or endpoint protection products are not designed to account for cloud workloads and whether or not they are configured properly. The 2019 Cloud Security report also found 66 percent claimed their traditional security solutions didn’t work or were limited in the cloud. Major IaaS providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) do offer native tools to monitor for misconfigurations, but it is still your responsibility to keep track of your cloud assets and integrate these tools into your security stack, which are both challenges in their own right.

Regardless, the principle of reducing dwell time still applies. More accurately, it’s about reducing the time that sensitive data is exposed to the internet. To accomplish this, organizations need to be able to execute on three fundamental steps:

  • Have visibility of all cloud assets and services.
  • Ensure 24x7x365 monitoring of assets for misconfigurations, policy violations and vulnerabilities.
  • Tie the monitoring of assets to swift remediation of identified risks.

If you can’t execute these steps, you’re more likely to end up in good company with others who have experienced cloud security breaches. Only 37 percent claim confidence in their cloud security posture and 41 percent admit a lack of expertise and training in their staff, according to Cybersecurity Insider’s 2019 Cloud Security Report. Capital One, Dow Jones, FedEx and Tesla are some of the most notable companies that have experienced breaches due to exposed cloud services.

So, how to make the 80/20 rule work for you in this context?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services have emerged as one of the most effective options to help organizations reduce threat dwell time. MDR often represents a turnkey solution to bolster detection of and response to advanced threats that traditional security solutions miss.

As part of its industry-leading MDR platform, eSentire recently announced its esCLOUD portfolio of services to help organizations hunt and neutralize threats to IaaS and Software as a Service (SaaS) investments. It includes esCLOUD for IaaS, a service that monitors your AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform assets, responds and remediates exposed services on your behalf 24x7x365. A welcome addition to our MDR platform and to the 20 percent of security efforts that should drive 80 percent of your results in risk reduction.

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