Five Cloud Security Best Practices Every Business Should Follow

Cloud security is a fundamentally new landscape for many companies. While many of the security principles remain the same as on-premises, the implementation is often very different. We've collected our best recommendations for securing your cloud environment, from identity and access management, to app security, to threat detection. 

Here Are Five Essential Strategies for Securing Your Cloud Environment:

1. Prioritize and Strengthen Access Control

Modern cloud security threats have far surpassed the capabilities of traditional security practices. The current best practice is to "Assume Breach" - to operate and protect your cloud as if an attacker has breached your network perimeter. Consider your business. You probably have employees working in a variety of settings (both in-office and remote), across a range of mobile and stationary devices. The only constant across these endpoints are the user identities. They warrant layered security strategies including:

  • Multi-factor authentication
    • Provide an extra layer of security by requiring two or more of the following authentication methods:
      • Something you know (a password)
      • Something you have (a trusted device that is not easily duplicated, like a phone)
      • Something you are (biometrics)
  • Conditional access
    • Implement automated access control decisions for your cloud applications, pulling information from user behavior analytics. 
  • Adopt a Zero Trust Model
    • A Zero Trust Model requires verification of identity before any sort of network connection or asset/application access is granted. By treating all requests as potential threats, then verifying, your network is in a far better position to proactively address suspicious activity. 

2. Harden Your Network

Securing the perimeter of your cloud environment should always be a top priority. We're witnessing a time of tremendous innovation in network security, and your business solutions must meet the challenges of the evolving threat landscape. Here are three ways to improve your network security:

  • Implement a comprehensive firewall solution
    • Even with identity and access management controls in place, you still want to be able to protect the perimeter, detect hostile activity, and develop a standard response to threats. Web application firewalls (WAFs) protect your web applications from common exploits like cross-site scripting and SQL injections. 
  • Establish DDoS protection
    • DDoS attacks flood networks with illegitimate traffic via bot nets. Protect your web assets and networks from malicious traffic targeting application and network layers - to maintain operations and support your customers.
  • Micro-segment your network
    • Micro-segmenting occurs when your security team divides your network into distinct security segments, then set security controls and solutions that are tailored for the needs of the individual segment. Micro-segmentation, virtual networking, and subnet provisioning can help establish more perimeters within your zero trust network. 

Socialimage_Infographic_The Shared Cloud Responsibility Model

3. Understand Your Oversight Responsibilities

Depending on the nature of your business, you may have a mix of on-premises and cloud-based assets. When a company operates primarily on-premises, it owns the whole stack and is responsible for securing everything. However, when working in the cloud, you responsibilities (and those of your cloud provider) may vary. Here's the typical oversight for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solutions:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service
    • For applications running in virtual machines, more of the burden is on the customer to ensure that both the application and operating systems are secure.
  • Platform-as-a-Service
    • As you move to cloud-native PaaS, cloud providers like Microsoft will take more of the security responsibility at the OS level itself. That does not give you carte blanche to ignore your own security initiatives, but rather find ways to strategically layer helpful solutions. 
  • Software-as-a-Service
    • At the SaaS level, more responsibility shifts away from the customer. It is imperative, however, than employees using a given software regularly patch and update it, and go through the necessary approval channels before installing it on a company network. 

4. Take a Company-wide Approach to Security

In order to improve your security posture in a meaningful way, you need to engage all areas of your business. With so many security vulnerabilities and recommendations, it can be hard to triage and prioritize response. Ensure you have the tools you need to assess your current environments and identify potential security issues:

  • Educate stakeholders
    • Maintain regular communication with your business stakeholders to share security initiatives, project updates, benefits, and best practices.
  • Collaborate with your IT team on policies
    • To get out of reactive mode, you must work with your IT teams up front to apply key security policies to your network assets, applications, and customer solutions. 
  • Prioritize employee training
    • Every department can benefit from a better understanding of current cyber threats. Quarterly employee trainings, phishing simulations, and deep dives can go far in creating a more educated workforce - protecting their personal and professional data. 


5. Secure Your Apps, Secure Your Data

In order to adequately protect your data and applications, your business needs a defense-in-depth strategy across identity, data, hosts, and networks. This may include encrypting data at rest, at use, and in transit. It is also imperative to establish an intelligence system that can rapidly identify evolving threats:

  • Enable detection for all resource types
    • Ensure threat detection is enabled for virtual machines, databases, storage, and IoT.
  • integrate threat intelligence
    • Use a cloud provider that integrates threat intelligence, providing the necessary context, relevance, and prioritization for you to make faster, better, and more proactive decisions.
  • Modernize your security information and event management (SIEM)

If your business is looking for a cloud solution to address these concerns, and more, consider Microsoft Defender for cloud. The solution protects multi-cloud and hybrid cloud workloads through built-in XDR capabilities. Defender helps your IT team detect vulnerabilities and enable threat protection for workloads running in Azure, AWS, Google cloud platform, and on-premises. Microsoft Sentinel works within Defender to aggregate security data from across your network and separate noise from legitimate concerns. For more information about securing your cloud, reach out to iCorps for a free IT consultation

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