Author: Kristin Manogue, Global Programs
When technology is advancing day by day, companies tend to seek out opportunities that could lead to competitive advantages. Cloud has been one of the key areas for most companies, including both new and established businesses across all sectors. According to a Gartner survey in 2020, 81% of the companies are using at least two or more cloud services.
But along with the heavy adoption of multiple appliances in the cloud, enterprises and cloud providers are still facing challenges when it comes to security and compliance. Security compliance focuses on meeting a set of requirements defined by an industry, a government, a given framework, or your customers. A compliant status will show that your company is taking the required measures to operate in your sector or with the partners and entities associated with you.
Some compliance standards today include:
- PCI-DSS ( Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard): Mainly applicable for organizations that process, store, or transmit credit cards
- ISO 27001: Not domain-specific and a standard that any organization can follow
- HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): Mainly for healthcare-related organizations
Traditional data centers are fully managed and maintained by the organization, including any associated infrastructure. But with a public cloud, infrastructure management is shared between the cloud service provider (CSP) and its customer. Private clouds can be similar to traditional data centers if the customer wants to host the data center on-premises, but the CSP will be solely responsible for the physical data center. Then you have hybrid clouds, a combination of private and public clouds, which are getting more and more attention.
The responsibility of maintaining and controlling security standards primarily depends on the cloud deployment model. Data and access control remains a responsibility of the client, while other responsibilities keep changing based on the deployment type chosen such as IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
Traditional vs. Cloud Environments
In traditional data centers, a client’s responsibility starts from the physical data center, network, and host management, while in the cloud, the CSP is responsible for physical security. Therefore, in cloud compliance, it is the CSP that manages measurements related to physical security, including failover mechanisms and access control. There are significant differences between traditional storage and cloud storage, for example, in terms of backup, reliability, scalability, access management, and compliance.
Cloud has gained more popularity due to its flexibility and cost structures, where there is no setup cost and you pay only for what you use. CSPs use service level agreements (SLAs) to specify availability and security, thus assuring clients of their service’s reliability. Unlike traditional data centers, the cloud can also be scaled whenever needed, which can additionally lower the risks of downtime due to resource unavailability.
Furthermore, the maintenance of traditional data centers requires experts in different areas, with the organization bearing full responsibility. But in the cloud, the CSP experts are responsible for the security of the physical data center and meeting compliance requirements. Data backup for disaster recovery can also be less complicated and cost-effective in the cloud, not to mention other advanced cloud technologies such as failover mechanisms, alerting, and monitoring, all at a lower price.
Companies tend to use multi-cloud approaches due to the unique service offerings and facilities provided by different cloud vendors. In such environments, where multiple cloud providers use single architectures, complications can occur when defining boundaries. Sometimes, there can be blind spots that directly affect multi-cloud security. When facilitating multi-cloud or hybrid setups, asset visibility can also be a challenge and even lead to cloud security sprawl.
If there is no appropriate multi-cloud security posture management that can identify misconfigurations in different cloud environments, remediate them, and report the risks, this deficiency will directly affect the organization’s compliance status. This is because it has no way of applying technical measures and following policies and procedures set to meet the given compliance standards.
Cloud Setup for Security Compliance
Cloud security and cloud compliance are not the same; technical security is only one part of compliance, which entails the implementation of various security standards and controls. When an organization adopts a multi-cloud or hybrid setup, managing all the platforms at the same time can bring additional burdens, as the environment can keep changing and growing with new applications or additional data.
Major CSPs such as AWS, Azure, and GCP have built security mechanisms that help maintain your security and stay compliant with security standards. However, having native security tools relevant to each platform alone will not help you have a fully compliant environment; there can still be vulnerabilities and security flaws in both hybrid and multi-cloud environments due to complex integrations that can easily become blind spots.
Achieving compliance in a cloud setup is comparatively less burdensome than in a traditional on-premises setup because the CSP manages certain aspects of your environment. Compliance becomes a collaborative effort between the CSP and the client. Since misconfigurations and authorization issues are among the top cloud challenges, it is important to have cloud-native security that covers platform-, infrastructure- and application-level security.
Cloud compliance aspects include:
- Cloud security posture management (CSPM)
- Continuous monitoring
- Deep asset visibility
- Cloud-native security
- Threat intelligence
- Application security
Maintaining and managing your security compliance status in multi-cloud and hybrid setups requires unified solutions that can offer deep visibility of your assets. Misconfigurations in the cloud are one of the main issues that cloud users face, and cloud security posture management (CSPM) can help identify compliance issues as well as misconfigurations before it is too late.
Having a security compliance certificate only shows that your organization is following a standard set of guidelines and requirements, but in order to be secure, continuous monitoring is vital. Monitoring will also help you maintain availability, integrity, and confidentiality.
The Benefits of a Cloud-Native Approach
A cloud-native approach helps organizations run scalable applications and focuses on DevSecOps, containerization, and microservices. Such an approach will, by design, include security features that can help automate certain aspects and requirements of security compliance, including continuous monitoring, real-time flows, and security scores.
This helps organizations evaluate their environment in a timely manner compared to a traditional datastore. With cloud-native appliances, identity and access management (IAM), along with asset management including resource grouping for better focus, are less complex. In compliance, an audit trail plays a significant role in maintaining a compliant status and as part of a security incident investigation. Also, cloud-native approaches are compatible with containerization, auditing security flows in third-party integrations, and providing real-time non-compliance status alerts and scoring mechanisms.
Traditional Datastore or Cloud for Security Compliance?
Managing a traditional data center to meet compliance requirements can be costly compared to the cloud. Also, there are more responsibilities in a traditional data center, as the owner is the sole responsible party. Meanwhile, in the cloud, the cloud provider manages the physical security of your datastore, network, and—based on the deployment model—other aspects.
With rapidly changing environmental factors and new technologies, cloud advancements and capabilities are growing faster every day. In a traditional setup, the implementation and integration of technologies and applications can take much effort and time; meanwhile, in a multi- or hybrid cloud security environment, using native security tools and CSPM, companies can easily identify compliance issues. Cloud Security Posture Management will also provide continuous monitoring and vulnerability scanning for threat detection and deep asset visibility, making securing your cloud to meet compliance requirements easier versus traditional setups.