Enterprises utilize the cloud to gain a competitive advantage through leveraging the exceptional cost-effectiveness, speed and agility of usage-based, on-demand cloud services. Enterprise cloud security is still major a concern for many businesses, especially out at the digital edge where dense populations of users, applications and data reside. Though many cloud service providers (CSPs) have greater security infrastructures than most enterprises, the business still shares at least half of the responsibility for securing its data and applications in the cloud.
The cloud security landscape
While security and privacy concerns are similar across cloud and traditional non-cloud services, cloud security concerns are amplified because transitioning to the public cloud requires shifting some control over organizational assets to the cloud provider, and those assets could be mismanaged. For instance, the cloud provider assumes control over information as well as system components that were previously under the customer’s direct control.
Despite this inherent loss of control, the cloud customer still needs to take responsibility for its use of cloud services to maintain situational awareness, weigh alternatives, set priorities, and effect changes in security and privacy that are in the best interest of the organization. The customer achieves this by ensuring that the contract with the CSP and its associated cloud service agreement have appropriate provisions for security and privacy.
Overcoming cloud security challenges
Although cloud computing can help companies accomplish more by breaking the physical bonds between an IT infrastructure and its users, the heightened security threat must be overcome to benefit fully from this evolving computing paradigm. The following are some of the risks associated with the cloud:
In cloud computing, data can come from a variety of sources. These data sources have their own security specifications, making it difficult to have a balanced security mechanism for a whole repository. Different datasets need to be treated differently, based on their security restrictions. Encryption is the standard used to ensure data protection. Unlike traditional data, encryption of data in the cloud can be challenging. Extending encryption into the cloud is difficult to manage as it can be hard for an administrator to generate and revoke encryption keys when resources are hosted elsewhere.
Data is processed across multiple clusters and nodes, which makes it difficult to completely secure the data at rest stored in these data nodes. A complex environment gets created due to parallel processing across different nodes, making it vulnerable to security threats. Attack on sensitive data can lead to huge cost risks for a business.
Recommended security approaches follow:
The Message Authentication Approach
Data is encrypted using different types of encryption techniques. Even though the data is preserved, the encrypted data is meaningless and unreadable unless the user has the proper key. Performing message authentication codes (MACs) is a common solution for achieving message authenticity and integrity. A MAC can be viewed as a cryptographically secure checksum of a message. Computing a MAC requires authorized senders and receivers to share a secret key, and this key is part of the input to a MAC computation. There are various levels (e.g., file-level encryption, application-level encryption) that can be encrypted using different encryption techniques based on the requirement.
At the infrastructure level, data in motion needs to be secure and data activity that is visible to user, and system activity across the environment needs to be monitored. In addition, monitoring different protocols can be used to protect privacy and security. While ensuring security of data in motion, different components need to be considered, such as the network, log data, etc.
The Interconnection-First Approach
One approach to mitigate cloud security risks that many enterprises and CSPs are leveraging as part of their overall cloud security strategy is to use an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) framework deployed on Platform Equinix™. An IOA prescribes methods and designs for directly and securely interconnecting to multiple clouds and moving workloads safely between them and your organization in the world’s most secure and reliable data centers. The Equinix Cloud Exchange™ enables you to do more in the cloud by providing secure, direct and flexible virtualized connections to and among multiple CSPs, which can be quickly provisioned within hours rather than days or weeks. This allows your organization to develop hybrid cloud infrastructures where you can keep your most sensitive data on-premises, while off-loading less sensitive data and workloads to the cloud.
This interconnection-first approach to security also allows you to boost cloud application performance, reduce latency and scale, and improve network control and visibility — delivering a quality cloud experience to your users.
Read the IOA Playbook to learn more about how you can leverage cloud computing in the most secure way.