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GUEST POST: Practitioners Guide to Effective Cloud Security

Cloud computing helps companies of all sizes to reduce their costs of doing business and to quickly scale their operations up or down as needed. However, the benefits of using cloud services don't come without challenges. Companies that use a cloud computing model often have less control of their data, and hackers look at cloud service providers as lucrative targets. Here are five cloud security best practices that allow companies to reap the many benefits of cloud computing while protecting their data and networks. #1 Get to Know Your Shared-Responsibility Model When you partner with a cloud service provider, you can expect a reduction in your operating costs for security. The cloud service provider is responsible for securing the computing resources that it offers to its customers. In essence, security costs are shared across many different organizations, which lowers the costs for all. However, the cloud service provider doesn't take full responsibility for all aspects of your company's cybersecurity. Responsibility for security is shared between the cloud service provider and your company. By getting to know your shared-responsibility model, you can avoid having security issues fall through the cracks. According to experts, a cloud service provider is generally on the hook for securing its cloud while your company must handle security inside of the cloud. For instance, if your company is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) customer, your cloud service provider will be responsible for application, operating system, and data center security. Your company will usually be responsible for data governance, account management, and directory infrastructure. #2 Improve Identity and Access Management Hijacking accounts is a classic way for hackers to get into otherwise secure computer systems and wreak havoc. Once hackers gain access to legitimate administrator accounts, they often create other accounts that allow them to stay on networks without being noticed. By flying under the radar, these cybercriminals can inject malware into cloud services where the code will run on cloud servers as part of the offered SaaS. Hackers use these types of malware attacks to listen to network traffic and gather intelligence data. Identity and access management (IAM) protocols and tools help companies to track user activities that relate to account creation. They allow companies to detect and investigate suspicious accounts before hackers can cause major damage. Today's users are more tech savvy than ever before, and organizations can be sabotaged or exploited by their own employees. For the unethical crowd, the cloud is a great place to illegally share digital files and pirated software. Financially motivated cybercriminals can also use cloud services to mine cryptocurrencies undetected. By improving your company's IAM protocols, you can make sure that only certain users have access to specific areas on your network. You can also track the activities of those users to make sure that your IT resources aren't being abused, that your company isn't violating its cloud service provider agreement, and that your company isn't breaking any laws or industry regulations. #3 Use Advanced Endpoint Security Methods The modern workforce offers more flexibility to its staff members than it did a decade ago. Remote working and bring- your-own-device (BYOD) policies work well with cloud computing, but they bring their own set of endpoint security issues with them. Companies usually have robust firewalls in place to protect network assets. However, they rely on their employees to use security-enabled laptops, tablets, and smartphones to access networks. These devices often have inadequate security features and have become prime targets for hackers. Using traditional antivirus (AV) products to protect endpoints from attacks isn't enough these days. Traditional AV products need a threat signature to detect malicious files. Today's hackers modify malware code faster than AV providers can update threat signatures. Advanced endpoint security products use machine learning technology and artificial intelligence algorithms to detect patterns of suspicious behavior. They proactively hunt threats to endpoints before malware can cause harm to your network. #4 Secure APIs The use of application programming interfaces (APIs) is a game changer for websites. When users visit a restaurant's website and get directions to the eatery via Google maps without leaving the site's homepage, they're benefiting from an API. Today's websites run on APIs that allow visitors to seamlessly transmit and store data without marring the user experience. While APIs are easy and cost effective to implement, they can leave holes in your IT security. When securing API endpoints, only allow connections that use transport layer security encryption. Block connections over HTTP in favor of those that use HTTPS. Another API security best practice is to validate input. Besides checking to see if the API is getting data in required formats, validate incoming data to make sure that no harmful text or malicious strings are received during transmission. Tools such as Cloudflare and OCTA help with securing APIs. #5 Troubleshoot With Red and Blue Teams The best way to know whether your methods, tools, and people are ready to meet the latest cybersecurity threats in the cloud is through audits. The most effective audits involve red and blue team security measures. During these security audits, your company's red team attacks your network using the same tactics and tools that a hacker would use to breach your network. Red team members act in the same fashion as ethical hackers. Your blue team protects your network against the red team attack by identifying security anomalies, analyzing threats, and implementing countermeasures. When the war game is finished, your blue team presents the security weaknesses that it found and advises senior managers on the best ways to overcome those shortcomings. Conclusion Being able to access data from any device at any time is one of the key advantages of cloud computing. As those bits and bytes of data stream across a public internet, they are at greater risk of being intercepted, modified, or destroyed by hackers. These five tactics are the minimum cloud security measures that you need to take to secure your data and network. About the Author Glenn Mabry is a senior Instructor / Security Researcher for Advanced Security. With over twenty years in intel and cybersecurity with both the public and private sectors, Glenn has a passion for cybersecurity. Glenn teaches cybersecurity topics such as Cloud Security, Exploitation and Penetration Testing. Advanced Security is a cybersecurity training network that gives the industry's top Subject Matter Experts the ability to showcase their skills and learners the advantage of staying ahead of the extremely fast-paced industry. References

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