Hybrid Cloud Security: 10 Steps to Build Your Strategy

hybrid cloud security

There is growing adoption of cloud computing in businesses. Maybe your company already uses the cloud. It has made security an essential requirement for data and infrastructural safety. Some use hybrid cloud systems in their day-to-day operations. Because this orchestration operates between two different platforms, security is a critical requirement. In this post, we shall look at the various steps to build your hybrid cloud security. However, before we dive into the primary aim, let us understand what hybrid cloud security is and the challenges to maintaining it.

Hybrid Cloud Security: 10 Steps to Build Your Strategy

What does Hybrid cloud security mean?

A hybrid cloud is an environment for cloud computing that orchestrates two types of cloud platforms. That is a third-party, public cloud service and a local private cloud. With a hybrid cloud, the enterprise gets a flexible deployment option by allowing the movement of workloads between the public and private clouds with changes in costs and computing needs.

Hybrid cloud security involves protecting the infrastructure, applications, and data on the public and on-premise cloud. It includes workloads, business processes, and management over multiple IT environments.

Many companies assume it is the responsibility of the cloud services provider to handle the security aspects of the cloud. However, securing the cloud is a shared responsibility between the company and the vendor. The cloud service provider secures their infrastructure, and the enterprise secures the application layer and their data. The following are the means of protecting the application layer:

• Encrypting the data with the algorithms

• Implementing user access policies

• Continuous monitoring of the software services and components on the cloud infrastructure

• Patching and updating the containers and virtual machines, and

• Managing the configurations of the cloud services to fulfill the organizational requirements

Why opt for a hybrid cloud for better security?

Using a hybrid cloud, the company can choose where to place the data and workloads based on policy, compliance, audit, and security requirements.

Although the environment makes the hybrid cloud remain separate and unique entities, the containers facilitate their migrations. The other means is using encrypted APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that help in transferring workloads and resources. The separate but connected architecture allows the business to run essential workloads on the private cloud and minimally sensitive workloads on the public cloud. Therefore, data exposure reduces, allowing the enterprise to customize its flexible IT portfolio.

Challenges to Hybrid cloud security

Enhancing and maintaining security in the hybrid cloud is not with its share of challenges. Below are the key challenges that companies and organizations face when implementing a hybrid cloud strategy.

Leakage of data

There are several ways that sensitive data may be compromised. They include destruction, improper or unauthorized access, and data corruption. There is always a risk of sharing a private and secure cloud accidentally or maliciously to the public cloud in a hybrid cloud deployment.

The responsibility of securing the data is always the responsibility of the owner. Therefore, if a company uses a hybrid cloud, it should take extra caution when evaluating its public cloud provider’s data practices and security protocols. The company should also ensure that the security protocols on the public cloud correspond to on-premise databases.

Governance and compliance

Cloud computing is a concern for organizations in industries having strict regulations. Some have even banned the use of the cloud entirely or require it to be applied only in non-sensitive workloads.

However, cloud computing technology is now mature enough. It can be applied in various applications by different industries in many workloads, regardless of sensitivity. Today, we see the application of cloud services in heavily regulated sectors like finance, government, and healthcare. However, using the Hybrid cloud poses new compliance challenges.

The primary part of the challenge is not the specific compliance requirement. It is a need for manually checking whether the infrastructure complies with the standards and regulations. This process is error-prone, tedious, and complex. It even gets more complex if the enterprise uses different systems on-premises and on the cloud.

All infrastructure and configurations must be automated, reproducible, automatically audited, and repeatable to ensure that the hybrid environment has manageable compliance.

Control and visibility

When a company deploys, infrastructure OpenStack Private cloud blended with public clouds like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, seeing and controlling the multiple distributed system becomes a challenge. Various issues like security incidences, vulnerabilities, and breaches may go unnoticed.

The other risks of poor visibility include:

• Difficulty in identifying the root cause of the production issues

• Difficulty in implementing self-service systems

• It becomes a challenge to control costs across the hybrid cloud, and

• Breakdown in the collaboration in the agile/DevOps environments because of lack of clarity of who made the changes and when.

Steps to developing Hybrid cloud security strategy

There are various steps that a business must take to ensure that the organization is ready for hybrid cloud security. Below are the critical steps;

1. Standardizing various processes

If a company does not standardize business and security processes between their private and public clouds, it paves the way for security gaps and human errors. Some of the most significant data breaches in the world resulted from errors in configuring the public clouds. Had the security teams used the same security measures on-premise, they would have avoided many of these breaches.

If a procedure to set administrator password exists on-premise, you should use the same procedure to set passwords on the public cloud. It ensures that processes are in sync and configurations are the same all over the system. Are there processes that the company uses to ensure that credentials in a development environment do not cross over to production? We should repeat the same processes in the public cloud.

Standardizing the process that a company uses to transfer the assets between the cloud and on-premise environments. Such assets include things like virtual machines or databases.

2. Configure processes and secure tools for the cloud

A company can reduce the likelihood of ad hoc practices and human error by organizing its security processes into automated workflows. Software development and deployments are example use cases for hybrid cloud environments. The software development team can use automated DevSecOps pipelines which can make a significant difference.

DevSecOps enable the incorporating of automated gates into the process of software development. Thus, the team can run a series of security tests before promoting the code to production. With automated tools, you can securely manage the various deployments and destroy the resources used in the development and deployment. Hence, you can avoid leftover data copies and virtual machines that can become a liability.

3. Consistently encrypting the data

We should encrypt data both at rest and on transit as a general security measure. Cloud service providers have data encryption included in their security features.

However, based on your data, you can add other encryption mechanisms for complementing the provider’s encryption. It is essential to coordinate data encryption between the public and public clouds, ensuring the use of the same levels of encryption. We should pay particular focus to encrypt the data in transit between the public and private clouds.

4. Establish a disaster recovery and business continuity policy

A company must develop several backup plans for a smooth operation in emergencies like data center and service outages. We can achieve this by implementing automation in backups of data and virtual machines’ images. If possible, ensure that you have an entire disaster recovery site hosted remotely or on a cloud region. A disaster recovery plan enables a timely resumption of services after an outage. It helps avoid costly repercussions and financial losses. Having a business continuity policy allows a company to forecast the levels of development it will reach. It also outlines what to do in case an outage strikes it.

5. Leveraging the CSPM

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is a recent class of security solutions. It assesses the security vulnerabilities and the best practices in the cloud environment automatically. It also provides the procedures for resolving various issues through automation. Because CSPM offers visibility and control over distributed and disparate systems, it is suited for cloud environments.

You can achieve the following security tasks in the hybrid cloud using CSPM.

• Scan for misconfiguration on the compute instances that may be vulnerable to exploitation.

• Automatically repair violation from a central console

• Scan for misconfiguration that can reveal sensitive data in buckets

• Review the cloud deployments using the compliance obligations to see if they are compliant.

• Implementing the risk assessment frameworks like ISO and NIST

• Ensuring critical operational tasks like key rotation are working properly

• Monitor the creation of new instances and buckets

• Determining your cloud environment platform.

6. Leveraging the CWPP

A Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) is a security platform focused on the workload level. It provides specific requirements for protection to each workload in the hybrid and other multi-cloud environments. CWPP offers the following in a complex hybrid cloud environment:

• Assesses the risk level and prescribes remediation for specified workloads

• Remediates and identifies the vulnerabilities before the deployments

• Offers greater visibility over the configuration gaps, vulnerabilities, workloads, and incidents

• It can support DevSecOps workflow where security is shifted to testing and development stages in the SDLC (Software development life cycle).

7. Managing access across a hybrid environment

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is an essential factor for protecting the assets in a hybrid cloud environment; the security teams can extend the Identity and Access Management across both environments using methods like identity federations and unified directories taking advantage of the SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language).

You should use Identity and Access Management to enforce the principle of least privileged access within public and private clouds. Thus, contractors, employees, and other users can only access the resources that they need.

8. Isolate the most critical infrastructure

You should isolate the critical systems whether deployed on the private or the public cloud. They should be separate from other systems and only accessible to as few users as possible. To achieve isolation, you can use network segmentation technologies like Amazon VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) can play a critical role. By Isolating the critical system, you prevent unauthorized access and interference that can cause irreparable damage and losses to the company.

9. Audit the cloud vendor

The other strategy to ensure your hybrid cloud security is through performing an audit of your cloud vendor. Audit the vendor before enlisting their services. The cloud provider should meet the needs of your hybrid cloud deployment. You can carry this out with an internal team that has expertise in cloud computing. Cloud vendors overlook security when advertising their products. They forget that security is a shared responsibility between them and their clients. Ensure that you understand how they protect their infrastructure so that you can evaluate and match them with your on-premise. Ensure that you have identified over one more suitable vendor who can act as a contingency if your organization does not approve the vendor you prefer.

10. Securing the endpoints

Compared to on-premise systems, Hybrid cloud systems are more expansive. Thus, it means that there are more exposed endpoints. The endpoints enable reliable access to the system by the users and are required for transferring data. However, attackers can use these endpoints as gateways to launch their attacks.

To prevent the attackers from using the endpoints as the gateway to launch the attacks, you need to fortify the endpoints with robust protection tools and strategies. The protections should include features for automated response and system-wide monitoring.

Conclusion

There are many benefits of a hybrid cloud. They range from flexibility, accelerated innovation, efficient and effective connectivity, improved business continuity, and many more. However, these benefits may not be realized if you do not have a security strategy in your organization. In this post, we looked at the various challenges hindering the correct implementation of hybrid cloud security.

Having a cloud security strategy helps you select the right solution for securing your hybrid cloud. Create a security strategy that clearly defines practices, procedures, tools, and roles that the company should implement as part of its overall cloud protection strategy. To ensure that every person understands their role, standardization of the processes is essential.

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