May 18, 2023

    How Secure is the Cloud? 7 Cloud Security Questions – Answered

    Network security in the Cloud is a top concern for IT and security professionals, according to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).  

    Though many of us use Cloud-enabled services daily, if not hourly, we’re cautious. If we can reach out and touch our on-premises servers – where our data lives day-in and day-out “safely” behind locked doors – we get comfort in believing our systems are “secure.” 

    However, if IT and security professionals are still noting concern, there must be something to that, right? The truth is: The Cloud is incredibly secure – more so than most on-premises systems today. But what tech pros understand is that security takes two: you and your Cloud service provider.  

    If you choose the wrong Cloud provider who doesn’t offer the level of security and the support you need; you could place your critical systems and data at risk.  

    So, what makes Cloud security less disconcerting for those who understand the risks involved?  

    • They know the organization will cross their “Ts” and dot their “I’s.” 
    • Leadership will make the right decisions to set up a secure Cloud environment in partnership with a provider, leaving no stone unturned in divvying up responsibilities and taking ownership. 

    Myths, misconceptions and gray areas shouldn’t keep you from reaching new heights in the Cloud. The benefits are far too great. Build your understanding of Cloud security with these questions and answers. Then, talk to one of our Enavate Cloud experts about what security could look like at your organization. 

    1. Is the Cloud More Secure Than Staying On-premises? 

    Cloud environments have many security advantages over on-premises environments. They have the most advanced firewalls, state-of-the-art detection systems, security tools and policies. And you don’t have to give up complete control of your infrastructure to receive such protection.  

    With on-premises systems, you rely on your internal team, their knowledge and experience, and the tools they use to perform their roles. When you work with a Cloud computing platform such as Microsoft Azure and a Cloud service provider like Enavate, you have the advantage of constant monitoring and protection powered by artificial intelligence, thousands of top security experts and advanced security tools.  

    2. How Does the Type of Cloud Affect Security? 

    The type of Cloud you use can affect who manages various elements of security and what security concerns are most important.  

    How secure is a public Cloud?  

    In a public Cloud, an organization’s data is stored with a third-party provider and often times accessible via public internet in an infrastructure used by multiple organizations.  

    • The upside: Your data can be anywhere. Individuals may not be able to identify what physical devices contain your data, which is a good defense against bad actors. The downside: Your data is stored somewhere you wouldn’t expect or want.  
    • A lot of network security is software-controlled and configured through web interfaces and applications. This provides great flexibility. However, configuring security in this environment can leave serious security gaps if left in the hands of an inexperienced person. 
    • It also can be difficult to get specific concerns addressed. If you need specific answers or details about the location of your data and who can access it, a public Cloud will not give you that level of accountability. 

    Is a private Cloud more secure?

    An organization’s data is stored in a private infrastructure with exclusive accessed. Private Cloud environments are more often in well-identified data centers and controlled by smaller teams. 

    • It can be easier to get specific concerns addressed. Getting answers is simpler and knowing where your data is located is less of a concern.  
    • Data is in a known location or a smaller physical footprint, so ensuring proper physical controls are in place is very important.   
    • Private Cloud typically allows more fine-grained control over configurations and can reduce or simplify compliance issues. 
    • Security controls are often handled by specialized hardware and appliances managed by specialized teams trained in network security, though portals and self-configuration options may be available. 

    What can hybrid Cloud security offer?  

    An organization may use public and private Clouds depending on preference and requirements around sensitive data and compliance.   

    • A hybrid Cloud allows a customer to use public cloud for demand spikes and certain workloads that benefit from Public Cloud and Cloud Native services, while still allowing for the fine grained control of Private Cloud for workloads that require it.  This flexibility comes at the price of additional management, complexity and administrative demands. 
    • Having a hybrid Cloud introduces complexity in management and avoidance of risks, policy and protocol development and adherence, and potential errors in security control coverage. You must ensure all gaps are covered and proper protocols followed.  

    It’s critical to ensure whatever Cloud solution you choose for your application(s) meets the needs of your business or customers.  

    If it is vital to have self-configuration capabilities, a public Cloud might be the best option. If direct access to the team managing the physical site of your Cloud is important, private Cloud may be best. A hybrid solution allows you to take advantage of both public and private Clouds to meet the needs of the business. 

    3. What are the Top Security Risks of the Cloud? 

    Though top security risks vary by Cloud type, there are commonalities. For example, teams working remotely have introduced new vulnerabilities. Other drivers of risk include cyber incidents (e.g., data breaches) and natural disasters.  

    Misconfigurations are also a leading cause of risk, particularly when configuration is the responsibility of the Cloud client. Misconfigurations leave space for hackers to gain access. 

    What’s primarily “at risk” in these situations is data.  

    In reviewing McAfee’s lists of top Cloud security concerns for Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and private Cloud models, a few common concerns about data security emerge. 

    • Internal IT teams with inadequate skill in Cloud security management 
    • Building and maintaining consistent security controls for their infrastructure 
    • Vulnerability to advanced threats and attacks to a public, private or hybrid Cloud  

    In addition, top Cloud security issues common between SaaS and IaaS models include: 

    1. Poor visibility of data in the Cloud  
    2. Data theft from the Cloud by a malicious actor 
    3. Inadequate data access control  
    4. Poor data monitoring capabilities  
    5. Issues with “shadow IT,” where applications or workloads exist outside of IT visibility  
    6. Poor controls over internal data theft or misuse 

    4. Who Manages Security in the Cloud? 

    Knowing who is responsible for which aspect of your Cloud security is imperative. Though your data is stored in the Cloud, that doesn’t mean you can walk away and never think of it again.  

    Protecting your data, avoiding risk and responding to security issues should be the responsibility of both you and your Cloud provider. In between is the type of Cloud service and/or platform you use, which greatly affects who gets which responsibility. 

    The common thread among Cloud service types is that you, the client, are responsible for data protection and access control. The Cloud service provider will always have ownership of the Cloud and its security. 

    • In SaaS environments, you own data protection, access control and endpoints. The Cloud provider covers the rest, including securing, testing and protecting infrastructure, applications, network security, etc.  
    • In Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments, the Cloud user takes on the same responsibilities as SaaS with the addition of application responsibilities.  
    • In IaaS environments, the Cloud provider is only responsible for the Cloud, while the user takes on responsibility for data protection, access control, endpoints, applications, systems and network. 

    5. What Types of Security are Involved in Securing the Cloud? 

    The list of security types necessary to secure your Cloud infrastructure and network is long and may be the responsibility of more than one person. 

    • Access management – Determining which roles can access which data, setting rules and protocols around that access and monitoring for concerning activity: 
      • Single sign-on 
      • Least privilege role assignment 
      • Password enforcement and rotation 
      • Credential management 
      • Multi-factor authentication 
    • Disaster recovery – Planning and implementation of protocols around preparation and response to infrastructure and network disruption, including backup and recovery:  
      • Backup retention, RTO (Recovery Time Objective), RPO (Recovery Point Objective) 
      • Geographic recovery 
    • Continual monitoring – Active monitoring and tracking of environments to identify anomalies, contain threats and report on security.  
    • Encryption – Protection of data as it moves and where it is stored: 
      • Secure data transmission 
      • File and disk encryption 
      • Database encryption and key storage 
    • Network Security 
      • Firewalls 
      • Network segmentation 
      • Load balancing 
    • Physical Security 
      • Access controls 
      • Environmental controls 
    • Ongoing scanning – Assessing the network and infrastructure for vulnerabilities and patching them. 
    • Password management – Defining proper password protocols and authentication procedures. 

    6. Is the Microsoft Cloud Secure? 

    In today’s security environment, it’s easy for the risks to outweigh your capacity to defend and protect against them. Microsoft Azure is protected by the most up-to-date, advanced security and protection developed through continual modern research.  

    That security is built into the environment and regularly upgraded and innovated according to data, artificial intelligence (AI) and insight from cybersecurity professionals. And it monitors for threats and anomalies around the clock. 

    • 3,700-plus security experts on staff at Microsoft 
    • More than $1 billion spent annually on security 
    • 8 trillion-plus security signals analyzed daily 
    • 6 billion malware threats blocked in 2020 

    Businesses in Azure benefit from business continuity, rapid response to threats and the capacity to predict and prevent cyber incidents. 


    7. Is Compliance and Governance Difficult in the Cloud? 

    Compliance and governance in the Cloud are not as difficult or complex as some may believe. Today, top Cloud providers have compliance certifications to meet the needs of various industries, regions and countries. They have experts working daily to follow and maintain compliance requirements. 

    You may find it’s better to focus on your own processes and policies, ensuring employees or customers leveraging Cloud services are adhering to compliance and governance requirements relative to your business. More often, these operating procedures are where the gaps are in meeting compliance.  

    The biggest area of risk companies have typically isn’t building a secure Cloud environment, it is ensuring they have policies and processes governing the entry points to the Cloud. Compromised laptops and devices, poor password and credential enforcement, no patching or security enforcement, no training around security awareness; these are most often how security is breached. A solid security strategy in the Cloud can shield your company from some of this. But your defense is only as good as your weakest link, which is often the end user.

    How do You Start Your Journey to a Secure Cloud? 

    When you work with experienced partners for a Cloud migration, they can manage the process to ensure the safety of your data and sensitive information on the way to the Cloud. Reach out to one of our experts for more information on starting your Cloud journey. 


    This post was originally published on May 18th, 2023 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.


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