Keeping the cloud secure with a mindset shift

Gartner estimates that in 2023 worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services will grow by 21.7% and hit nearly $600 billion. Even as the economic downturn has most businesses looking for ways to tighten their belts, the cloud remains one investment few firms are willing to scale back on.

cloud security approach

This race to innovate is exposing organizations to cloud blind spots; many are now operating across a mix of cloud architectures, using different tools, and requiring different skills, which is leaving behind a trail of security gaps.

As more critical data and systems are migrated, cloud security measures must keep pace with the changing landscape and priorities. But this requires more than just investing in the latest solutions. We also need to see a fundamental shift in mindset and organizational culture.

Understanding the roles of the shared responsibility model

One of the most common pitfalls we encounter in cloud security is the tendency to pursue a “lift and shift” approach; firms will simply transfer their existing on-premises security processes to the cloud wholesale.

It’s easy to see why this strategy is appealing: it offers a fast and seemingly effective resolution for businesses facing tight deadlines and budgets. However, this is almost certain to leave critical gaps in security and visibility that will make it easy for a threat actor to infiltrate the system or access confidential data.

The lift and shift approach also tends to come with an assumption that the cloud provider will take on ultimate responsibility for security and will take care of any gaps that arise.

This is where the shared responsibility model comes in. This concept delineates security obligations between the cloud provider and the user. Typically, the provider will be responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure, while the user must secure their specific workloads. Crucial security activities such as setting access permissions, segmenting environments, and implementing measures like MFA are entirely down to the user organization.

Cloud security can never be a passive process. Organizations must actively protect their environment, particularly as they grow more complex.

Navigating the multi-cloud landscape

A multi-cloud approach has become the standard strategy, and most enterprises are also pursuing a hybrid setup. Being able to mix and match private and public clouds from multiple vendors, as well as retaining on-prem infrastructure when needed, affords organizations a great deal of flexibility. Firms are free to leverage the strengths of various cloud providers for different needs.

But this flexibility comes at a cost: complexity will invariably introduce several security challenges. Each cloud provider has its own set of tools and security controls, which can lead to inconsistencies and gaps that could be exploited.

Therefore, a multi-cloud approach must be reined in by a consistent security mandate that transcends the boundaries of individual cloud providers. Visibility is one of the most important assets here. Security teams must be able to see all traffic and application dependencies across all areas of their cloud regardless of its complexity.

Shifting left to catch issues early

Organizations developing software through cloud-based tools and environments must take additional care to adapt their processes. Adapting a “shift-left” approach for the continuous integration and continuous deployment CI/CD pipeline is particularly important.

Traditionally, security checks were often performed towards the end of the development cycle. However, this reactive approach can allow vulnerabilities to slip through the cracks and reach production stages.

The shift-left approach advocates for integrating security measures earlier in the development cycle. By doing so, potential security risks can be identified and mitigated early, preventing malware infiltration and reducing the cost and complexity of addressing security issues at later stages. This proactive approach aligns with the dynamic nature of cloud environments, ensuring robust security without hindering agility and innovation.

Businesses should consider how they can mirror the shift-left ethos across their other cloud operations.

Empowering teams for better cloud security

Organizations must also not overlook the human element of cybersecurity and consider how employees are using the cloud daily.

Misconfigurations – often due to a lack of understanding of cloud security principles – are a leading source of cloud vulnerabilities. To address this, organizations must invest time in educating employees on cloud security.

This must go beyond training sessions—it requires fostering a culture where development and security are aligned. Security must not be seen as an afterthought or a hurdle to innovation but as an integral part of all operations.

Organizations can minimize the risks associated with misconfigurations and other human errors by empowering teams with the knowledge and tools they need to implement secure practices. Tools which facilitate visibility and automation into cloud-native architectures are particularly valuable here. Zero trust segmentation, for example, provides security teams with granular insight into all areas of the network, helping them to catch both malicious activity and human error early. At the same time, it can also help to automate security policies to ensure a consistent approach that minimizes the chances of human error.

This strengthens the organization’s security posture and promotes a proactive approach to security, where every team member plays a role in safeguarding the organization’s cloud environment.

Embracing the shift in cloud security mindsets

Securing the cloud is a complex task that extends beyond technical measures – it requires a shift in mindset that extends to business culture and individual behaviors.

Enterprises must fully understand the shared responsibility model and their place in it as well as the communication paths between their cloud and on-premises workloads. Implementing a shift-left mindset, not just for software development but for general cloud operations, will help ensure that security is always front of mind and that any issues are caught and addressed early.

With the right strategy, technology and mindset, organizations can not only secure their cloud environments but also leverage the full potential of the cloud to drive innovation and growth.

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