Maintaining Security in a Multi-Cloud Environment

By, Kristin Manogue, Product Marketing Manager, Cloud Security Posture Management

First off, we should ask: What does multi-cloud mean and how does it differ from the typical cloud approach? In brief, a multi-cloud is a cloud-based approach consisting of more than one cloud solution of more than a single cloud vendor public or private. But why should you invest in such a solution?

First, multi-cloud gives you much more flexibility because it allows you to find the perfect solution for each of your business requirements. Not every cloud is suitable for everything; sometimes it is better to rely on a few providers specialized in specific areas. For example, an organization may want to start integrating with Kubernetes and thus have specific items they require from their provider. For virtual machine instances, Azure may offer more regions and zones specific to that customer’s needs.

Another benefit of multi-cloud is greater redundancy, meaning better protection against failures and the possibility of switching between cloud environments.

But when it comes to security in a multi-cloud environment, is the fact that there are many clouds beneficial or not? The simple truth is that the more complicated and interconnected things are in a system, the more difficult it is to manage and tame them. So, this article discusses the challenges of protecting a multi-cloud environment and the tools and solutions available to help you achieve proper security.

Security Challenges in a Multi-Cloud World

When it comes to multi-cloud, there are several aspects you need to consider to make sure you are secure: visibility, complex configuration, privileges, security policies, and attack surface.

Visibility

The issue of visibility is a challenge because it mainly determines whether or not you will be able to control your dispersed multi-cloud environment. To minimize the attack surface, you need to have full insight into what is happening in your network. When there is any abnormal situation or any change in configuration, the administrator should immediately notice so that he can react quickly, as any neglected issue may lead to a critical state.

To guarantee good visibility in a multi-cloud environment, it’s first worth taking advantage of the professional solutions discussed in the following paragraphs. The topic is very complex because you need to gain access to multiple platforms that have their own security features and granularity.

Complex Configuration

Even if you are only using one cloud, the correct configuration is key. But when it comes to multi-cloud security, you have to focus on more than a single environment, which can be a challenge because the infrastructure is much larger and more diverse. The engineering team responsible for the configuration of such a complex infrastructure must be skilled in all the cloud solutions, and it is very difficult to find such specialists.

Every single configuration mistake that produces a real vulnerability leaves your system open to attack. Keep in mind that hackers usually comprehend all the potential flaws a solution can have in its configuration and thus will be able to know unquestionably if your system is vulnerable.

Privileges

When it comes to permissions, it’s easy to make a mistake in a multi-cloud environment because there are many interdependencies between individual clouds, user groups, and processes; that is, who should have access to specific resources? Each user or process should only have access to those resources that are actually needed. Furthermore, the permissions list must be continually updated to avoid any issues that could lead to secret data becoming publicly accessible. For example, unnecessary permissions to read from Amazon S3 was one of the reasons the Capital One breach occurred. The more you can rely on AI to determine the proper level of configuration, the more secure your cloud environment.

Security Policies

The security policy in the case of multiple clouds must be consistent for all clouds across your system. Unfortunately, each supplier has its own set of controls, which makes this extremely difficult. Still, only full synchronization between components will assure a high level of security. So a clear security policy is a must, taking into account the individual constraints of each cloud provider and with procedures in place to remedy security issues and safely process data, including personal data. Without the proper policy, you will lack an action plan in the event of a cloud security incident.

Attack Surface

When you use clouds from various vendors and run many services, your attack surface increases. Each supplementary element in the infrastructure implies potentially new vulnerabilities and new attack vectors.

How to Take Control?

To handle the challenges presented in the previous section, you need to first understand what you are really dealing with. First off, get to know the shared responsibility model. You may think that if you use and pay extra for a solution, full responsibility lies with the cloud vendor. Unfortunately, vendors are only responsible for the security of their own infrastructure, while securing data and workloads is the customer’s. Consequently, you need to know precisely how much responsibility is on your side and create your security policy accordingly.

Another thing to pay attention to with cloud services is the importance of having one panel for monitoring and reporting. This is essential because it is much more comfortable to control a given environment when you can use a single source of truth instead of having multiple points for each cloud individually. This not only increases efficiency but also accuracy, as too much dispersion may lead to you overlooking important issues. A single panel can also prevent alert fatigue by reducing the tools producing security alerts.

Another important element is in regards to Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM). When looking across cloud resources and assets, it is critical to ensure there are no misconfigurations or compliance and policy violations. It’s also crucial that you have the ability to automatically remediate any non-conforming or misconfiguration issues.

A robust integration structure is another practice worth considering. Integration in a multi-cloud environment is complex, and not all solutions can be combined into a unified system. But you can try to minimize the number of support tools in use, which will also help keep overhead down.

Most importantly, to optimize control over a multi-cloud environment, automation is key because it reduces the risk of human error. You should automate security anywhere possible using the proper tools, which will be discussed in the next section. Automation allows you to significantly save time when investigating security incidents. Engineers and security specialists should be focused on analyzing and solving complex problems, not on operations that can be easily automated.

What Kinds of Tools Do You Need?

So, what tools should you adopt to increase the level of security in your multi-cloud environment? There are several conditions and features that these solutions should meet. First, any tool should have threat-detection, notifying a security analyst and offering up a visualization for better understanding. Auto-remediation can be a valuable feature as well for less-critical incidents. Of course, a modern solution should not work without the use of machine learning because classical analysis methods are no longer satisfactory.

A proper tool should also operate on all cloud environments and resources to eliminate the necessity of using a separate tool for every cloud. Such a product should additionally support the entire scope of services offered by the cloud provider in case you need them in the future as you develop. Furthermore, it should be able to detect anomalies and empower continuous analysis of your multi-cloud security posture and compliance from CI/CD to production. Finally, the chosen tool vendor should provide expert tech support in case you have any questions.

An example of a complete solution that meets all of the above-mentioned assumptions is Check Point CloudGuard, which can provide advanced threat prevention for all of your assets and workloads in a multi-cloud infrastructure.

Good Preparation Is the Key

There is no doubt that good preparation is key when it comes to taking the security of your cloud environment to a higher level. You should first familiarize yourself with the challenges in this area and then find the strategies and tools that will best help you handle these difficulties. By deploying tools that integrate with multi-cloud providers, you can centralize visibility and therefore have more control over the security and compliance posture of your cloud deployments.

Also, keep in mind that security should be a part of your CI/CD pipeline. This will guarantee a more secure production of your applications while streamlining your development cycles saving your organization time and money.