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Hybrid Cloud Security: Part 3 | @CloudExpo #SDN #API #SaaS #Cybersecurity

A new approach to threat detection in the cloud

In the first article of this three-part series on hybrid cloud security, we discussed the Shared Responsibility Model, and examined how the most common attack strategies persist, are amplified, or are mitigated as assets move from data centers to the cloud. In part two, we talked about the unique security challenges that are introduced by public cloud environments. In this third and final installment, we'll review why it's essential to approach hybrid cloud security with different methods, tools and best practices than those used in the data center.

Bridging the Silo Between On-Premises and Cloud Environments
For today's resource-constrained IT teams, the explosion of public cloud services has only increased the complexity of securing critical infrastructure. Until recently, it has been a challenge for IT professionals to find security tools that are specifically designed to monitor threats inside cloud environments. As discussed in part two of this series, the reason for this is that many so-called cloud security monitoring tools are, in reality, just retrofits of legacy on-premises security products. They can monitor servers running in the cloud, but they don't really "know" that they're in the cloud. Thus, they're not able to monitor those elements of cloud environments that didn't exist in traditional data centers.

To circumvent this challenge, many companies end up deciding to maintain two separate, siloed security monitoring solutions - one for their public cloud environment and the other for their on-premises infrastructure. This approach is fraught with extra costs, complexity and potential security blind spots.

Fortunately, IT professionals now have a third option - centralizing public cloud, private cloud, virtual and physical on-premises security monitoring via a single, cloud-based, SaaS security solution that is built from the ground up. Cloud-native security monitoring tools take full advantage of cloud architectures, services and APIs in ways that legacy solutions cannot. Additionally, because companies have a single pane of glass to monitor all critical infrastructure, security blind spots are eliminated.

The price is right as well. It's a well-known fact that most applications are more cost-effective for the end user when they are delivered as SaaS solutions, and the same holds true for security products. With the SaaS delivery model, security vendors can build monitoring solutions that are faster to deploy, easier to use and offered at a lower cost - all while delivering the same security essentials required to tackle today's rapidly evolving threats. IT teams can start detecting these threats sooner and at a significantly lower total cost of ownership, and concerns about system upgrades, uptime, scalability and the security of the system itself are eliminated. In summary, centralizing security monitoring with a SaaS solution enables companies to effectively reduce the cost, time, effort and complexity of managing their security posture across multiple IT environments.

Hybrid Cloud Security Best Practices
When it comes to hybrid cloud security, it's not enough to simply change your approach and select different tools for the job; organizational best practices must also evolve. Here are three important ones that you should work toward:

1. Develop Strong Identity and Access Management (IAM) Practices
In part two of this series, we looked at how mismanaging cloud credentials can be a detrimental and expensive mistake. Your cloud security strategy must be built on a solid foundation of IAM practices, which should include both using cloud provider IAM services as well as establishing organizational policies around them. Here are a few tips to keep top of mind:

  • Establish IAM guidelines and policies as well as a routine to ensure that your IAM services are continually configured and working appropriately.
  • Streamline IAM with cloud provider services (e.g., Microsoft Azure AD Connect, Azure AD Federated Services, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Directory Service and AWS AD Connector) that either synchronize, consolidate or federate cloud identity management with your on-premises directory. This can not only reduce administrative overhead, but also decrease the likelihood of mistakes and security breaches.
  • Define IAM groups based on the principle of least privilege (i.e., give users the absolute minimum level of access they need to do their jobs) and regularly review access rights to ensure that the controls in place are still appropriate for users.
  • Remember that IAM is not a "set it and forget it" configuration. Rather, it's important to constantly monitor your hybrid cloud environment for suspicious root account logins, changes in security policies and privileges, and other anomalous account activities.
  • Enable a cloud-native SIEM solution to collect and analyze your cloud access logs and API calls, so you can identify compromised account credentials sooner to prevent or mitigate the damage of a cloud breach.

2. Know What Security Data to Look for in the Cloud and Where to Find It
Cybercriminals use many of the same methods in cloud-based attacks as they do in on-premises attacks, but a new approach is needed to help organizations recognize threats in the cloud and to know where to look for them. Specifically:

  • Log collection in the cloud - To detect threats in your public cloud environments, you first need to know what log data sources are available to you as well as which may be "interesting" or useful from a security standpoint. For example, it is important to identify which users are accessing cloud resources and workloads, where and when they are signing in, what resources are being spun up or down, and if anyone has altered security groups or IAM roles. From there, you must also be able to collect and send the log data to a SIEM solution for correlation and security analysis.
  • Intrusion detection in the cloud - Cloud log management is only one prerequisite for complete hybrid cloud security. After you've gathered your log data, you still need to be able to perform cloud intrusion detection. This will help you correlate and analyze your cloud log data within the context of the latest threat intelligence, enabling you to identify intrusions in your cloud environment. This requires a SIEM that's built to natively perform cloud intrusion detection.

3. Take a Unified Approach 
Traditionally, security operations centers have weaved together multiple point security solutions for asset management, vulnerability scanning, intrusion detection, SIEM and event correlation, behavioral monitoring, and log management within their on-premises networks. However, this approach typically requires an extensive amount of integration, fine-tuning and management to create a single source of threat detection and incident response. Re-creating this type of system in hybrid cloud environments often proves to be too cumbersome and error-prone for most IT teams.

Today, there are security solutions available that replace this piecemeal strategy with a tremendously simplified approach that brings together multiple essential security capabilities into a unified platform. These solutions can typically be launched quickly, cost-effectively and without complex integration requirements - greatly reducing the amount of resources needed (e.g., time, budget, staffing) to monitor security postures across cloud and on-premises infrastructures.

Mastering Cloud Security
Regardless of the environment - cloud or on-premises - the goal of threat detection remains the same: to prevent data loss, financial loss and business disruption. Yet, as environments and infrastructures change, so too must your approach to security, as well as the tools and best practices you utilize.

From recognizing how common attack strategies change in the cloud, to identifying unique challenges introduced by public cloud environments, to knowing the most effective security approaches, tools and strategies to use, I hope this three-part series has provided guidance and insight that will help you along on your journey toward mastering hybrid cloud security.

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More Stories By Jim Hansen

Jim Hansen is vice president of product marketing overseeing all of AlienVault's product development initiatives. He is responsible for providing strategic and tactical direction for the AlienVault Unified Security Management (USM) and Open Threat Exchange (OTX) product lines, as well as introducing new products into the marketplace.

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