The modern business world relies heavily on cloud services. Everyone from Amazon to NASA to the small business downtime uses cloud technology in one form or another. Understanding the cloud and how to keep it secure in your organization is vital to running successful operations. Each year, threats to cloud security increase. In 2019, the data of 540 Facebook users was compromised when two third-party developers posted the records on Amazon’s cloud service in plain sight. While this breach was ultimately caused by user error, there are many other threats facing businesses today. Here’s a quick primer on cloud security, architecture, and common threats to help you gain a better idea of your own cybersecurity needs.
Cloud Service Models
Clouds are built with unique architecture revolving around three service models and four deployment methods. There are three distinct service models in cloud architecture. These are IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Here’s a quick overview of each one:
IaaS – or Infrastructure as a service – where companies can basically create a digital/virtual environment for their infrastructure. Think of it as a virtual data center that doesn’t require a physical presence.
PaaS – or platform as a service – gives users a cloud environment in which they can develop and manage applications.
SaaS – or software as a service – covers subscription-based software options that are made available as a service to users and organizations. In modern business applications, SaaS might manifest itself as whatever email client (Gmail, Microsoft 360, Oracle, and so on) your enterprise uses or through a common-use service like Dropbox.
Cloud Deployment Methods
A unique aspect of cloud architecture involves the various deployment methods used within the service model. These are split up into four distinct categories. Here’s a quick look at what each of them are, what they do, and how they might look in real-world applications:
Public clouds are any cloud available to the public for purchase. Think about Amazon or Google Cloud services; these are typically public clouds.
Private clouds are basically built and used by a single company. They’re typically more secure than public clouds. Your company’s cloud is probably a private cloud or a hybrid cloud.
Community clouds are shared between different businesses.
Hybrid clouds are a mix of public and private, community and private, community and public, or any combination of the three cloud deployment methods.
Each deployment method has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a hybrid cloud offers significantly better support for remote workers while reducing overall costs for the business. It’s also very scalable, allowing it to be adapted to essentially as much or as little workload as the organization requires. Hardware costs are low, you can manage multiple platforms and ultimately benefit from better security and performance. Conversely, private clouds are a bit more flexible and secure than public clouds
Community clouds allow businesses to benefit from shared resources, reduce the workload for the IT department, and they’re convenient.
Common Cloud Risks
Attacks and cloud security risks can come from just about anywhere and arrive in myriad forms. Here’s just a small sample of possible risks:
- Data breaches
- DDoS attacks
- Identity theft
- Compliance violations
- Data loss
Aside from these, sometimes a malicious individual on the inside of the organization might wreak havoc from within. Cloud security requires extensive oversight, auditing, and an extension of traditional security measures (firewalls, antivirus, and so on) to work effectively, but it’s worthwhile for preventing these and other security problems.
Compliance and Regulations
Cloud security compliance and regulations are incredibly important aspects of working within a cloud environment. As part of the cloud security model of shared responsibility, you and the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) work together to create a safe and secure cloud environment. The CSP manages the hardware and data center operations. Your organization manages the data, assets, configurations, and access to your cloud.
Depending on your industry, you will need to ensure compliance with various laws and regulations overseeing operations within your field. If your business involves processing payments of any kind, you’ll need to be compliant with PCI DSS (payment card industry data security standard) regulations. This can include using antivirus software, installing firewalls, and performing regular vulnerability testing to ensure everything is up-to-date and functioning properly. To protect health-related information or data that may move through the cloud, you’ll need to be compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). This means any data related to someone’s health must remain confidential and be stored with integrity.
Whether you’re using IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS service models in your cloud, you’ll need to take steps to ensure HIPAA data does not become compromised at any point. To ensure data privacy and compliance with various laws around the world, you’ll need to stay on top of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance 100% of the time. Other countries have compliance standards related to financial risk management and other data protection laws from around the world.
Infrastructure as Code
Another major aspect of cloud architecture and security is the concept of Infrastructure as Code (IaC). IaC is a way for organizations to control and configure their cloud environments. IaC is separated into two sub-sections: imperative (how programs are supposed to operate) and declarative (what it’s supposed to do). By using IaC to test applications, you create virtual machines that streamline the process and make it faster/smoother than traditional DevOps methods. In this manner, you can reinforce cloud security while making it easier to use in the long term.