In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic impact on how and where we do business. For many enterprises, the “where” became the cloud – immediately. This rapid adoption of the cloud – in most cases multiple clouds – created a rapid increase in security issues. Suddenly, enterprises had new cloud security requirements they needed to understand and deploy without the benefit of time to learn. The complexity continued to increase, and this triggered new security issues with potentially costly consequences. These included:
- Data leakage/exfiltration – Unauthorized movement of sensitive data from inside the enterprise to outside can be accidental or deliberate. Often the discovery that data has been leaked occurs days, weeks, or months later, and can result in a damaged brand, lost customer trust, and fines.
- Ransomware – Enterprises can pay thousands to millions of dollars to access encrypted data and systems in order to restore operations. Additionally they can be extorted to pay for the recovery of stolen sensitive information. If they refuse to pay, enterprises can lose days or weeks of revenue trying to recover their systems, and risk having sensitive data posted on the internet.
- Non-compliance – Enterprises not adhering to mandatory regulations (PCI-DSS, CMMC, HIPAA) or voluntary cybersecurity frameworks (NIST, GDPR) can incur costly penalties and potential shutdowns that limit their ability to conduct business. Customer relationships may be damaged by the perception that security isn’t a priority.
- Team collaboration/staffing shortages – DevOps is highly distributed across the enterprise and many teams acknowledge the lack of cloud platform security expertise. Cloud security practices should encourage significant collaboration that leverages both internal and external expertise.
To maintain cloud security and reduce–if not totally eliminate–the impact of these serious security issues, enterprises need a proven cybersecurity framework to address these issue directly.
Steps to strengthen your cloud security
Cloud environments are dynamic and constantly evolving. These 5 steps provide a proven framework to improve your enterprise’s cloud security using a technology driven approach, even in a multi-cloud environment.
- Visualize/maintain an accurate inventory of compute, storage and network functions
Security teams often lack visibility across multi-cloud and hybrid environments. Cloud environments are often managed in disparate consoles in tabular forms. Security teams need to understand controls that filter traffic, including cloud native controls (network security groups and NACLs), and third-party infrastructure (SASE, SD-WAN and third-party firewalls). A single solution that provides a detailed visual representation of the multi-cloud environment is critical.
- Continuously monitor for exposed resources
It is important to understand which cloud resources are publicly accessible or Internet-facing. Unintentional exposure of resources to the Internet is a major cause of cloud breaches. This includes any data resources like AWS S3 buckets or AWS EC2 instances. Security teams need to easily identify and report on exposed resources, and then provide remediation options that include changes to security groups or firewall policy.
- Continuously validate against industry best practices
There are many industry best practice frameworks that can be used to validate cloud security. CIS Benchmarks and Cloud Security Alliance are two of these frameworks. Security teams should continuously validate adherence to best practices and quickly remediate findings to eliminate misconfigurations and avoid excessive permissions.
- Validate policies – segmentation within/across clouds and corporate mandates
Many security teams create segmentation policies to minimize attack service and reduce the risk of lateral movement. Examples may be segmenting one Cloud Service Provider from another (AWS cannot talk to Azure) or segmenting access across accounts in the same CSP. Both segmentation and corporate policies should be continuously monitored for violations and provide detailed information that enables rapid remediation.
- Conduct comprehensive vulnerability prioritization
All vulnerability management solutions provide a severity score, but more comprehensive prioritization can occur by identifying which vulnerabilities in the cloud are Internet-facing (including the downstream impact of these vulnerabilities).
While the risks grew for many enterprises this past year as they rapidly moved to the cloud, several have dodged the bullet. RedSeal has helped many successfully adopt a strong security framework and gained actionable insights into their cloud environments. These insights were often an eye-opener.
- Underestimated VPC inventory in the cloud – A healthcare customer expected “a few VPCs” in their cloud environment. The implementation of RedSeal revealed they had over 200 VPCs. This helped them see their overall cloud footprint and reduced their attack surface.
- Exposed cloud resources– An enterprise customer incorrectly believed that all of their cloud resources were protected by a third-party firewall. Consequently, many resources were directly exposed to the Internet. RedSeal identified the exposed resources and the misconfigurations before any exploitation occurred.
- Risky shadow IT – A technology company’s business unit had cloud instances that did not pass the company’s access security mandate. RedSeal identified these resources and helped determine that employees had bypassed process and created unauthorized cloud resources. The company’s shadow IT with respect to cloud security is now under control.
- Zone-based segmentation as required by PCI-DSS – A payment card provider validated that card holder data was segregated and protected after their cloud migration. They modeled and monitored their segmentation policy, enabling their audit to be completed quickly and confidently.
- VPC/VNET without subnets or subnets without instances – A healthcare customer discovered 100s of empty VPC/VNET subnets and subnets without instances in their cloud environment. The default configuration: “ANY/ANY” could have been easily exploited by malicious actors and industry best practices indicate they should be deleted or actively monitored.
With RedSeal, all these enterprises, and more, have utilized a multi-cloud security methodology that highlights: Visualization/Inventory, Exposure, Industry Best Practices, Policy Validation, and Vulnerability Prioritization. These 5 steps can bring peace of mind to security teams who have had to act quickly and without warning in response to this most unprecedented year.
Looking for more details on how 3rd party firewalls may impact your cloud security framework? Download our whitepaper “How Should I Secure My Cloud?”
RedSeal’s Cloud Security Solution -Ensure Your Critical Cloud Resources Aren’t Exposed to the Internet
 AWS uses the term VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) and Azure uses the term VNet (Virtual Network). Conceptually, they provide the bedrock for provisioning resources and services in the cloud. However, there is variability in implementation.