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5 Major Considerations for Setting Up a Secure Cloud Infrastructure

In a private cloud environment, you are 100% responsible for all of your data, and you need to have the tools and practices in place to keep it secure. In the public cloud, virtually all providers offer deep levels of security, but you still need to put strict security policies in place and enforce them. Either way, building a secure cloud infrastructure is a necessary piece of business for almost every organization. Here’s a brief guide to the best ways to accomplish this in 2022.

Cloud complexity has grown massively in recent years, and continues to grow at an accelerating rate. As the volume of data also increases, the attack surface becomes a larger target. Because the cloud has become so valuable, it has permeated all business infrastructures—and many other aspects of our lives. This has created a perilous situation that requires constant vigilance.

With that fact in mind, organizations of every size need to have a cloud cyberdefense strategy in place.

Basic Principles of Cloud Security

1. Look Closely at Your Environment
The first step is to develop an understanding of everything in your IT environment. It’s best to see it all in context, to know how it’s designed and deployed, and to be able to predict how cybercriminals might exploit it. 

Cloud infrastructure is built entirely of code, and the developers and engineers who program it decide how it is configured. In order for these experts to be able to deploy applications and make improvements rapidly, they are constantly changing this infrastructure.

The fact that they can write code virtually on the fly is one of the primary drivers of cloud adoption, but it also creates new risks every day. No engineer is perfect, and the cloud is rife with “misconfigurations”— vulnerabilities introduced to a system when coders make simple mistakes. These errors have enormous consequences–cloud infrastructure misconfigurations have consistently been one of the three top causes of data breaches

For this reason, every organization needs its security team to have continuous visibility of the cloud control plane. This API (Application Programming Interface) surface is what operates the cloud, and it is the cloud attack surface. By keeping 24/7 surveillance on the control plane, you will know the instant an attack is launched and be able to respond immediately. 

2. Design and Build for Security and Prevention
Cybersecurity professionals keep track of the cloud vulnerabilities that hackers exploit, and are able to prevent cyberattacks through secure design and deployment processes. The idea is to design cloud environments that deny adversaries access to the control plane, prevent misconfigurations from being deployed, and vastly limit the damage. 

3. Empower your Dev and Security Teams
A necessary move in today’s environment is to bring all cloud stakeholders together and make sure they’re operating on the same page when it comes to security. Providing developers and DevOps engineers with tools and knowledge enables them to design and build cloud infrastructure securely. By helping your developers and operations staff to integrate security into their processes, you essentially create a team of security architects.

Integrating your development and security teams also delivers long-term benefits. As the scale of cloud services that you are using increases, you will want your team to have the tools to automate the process of identifying and remediating threats.

4. Build a Foundation of Policy as Code.
In this instance, “policy” is defined as a rule that determines the conditions that must be met before code is allowed to pass a security control and be deployed, and also a set of procedures that execute automatically in the event of a security threat. 

With a policy-as-code strategy, security teams express security and compliance rules in a programming language. Using policy as code, programs can check operating environments for threats, including dangerous misconfigurations. In other words, an application can check the correctness of configurations automatically. 

This will be a big help in your effort to bring all cloud stakeholders onto the same page with regards to security, because policy as code eliminates ambiguity and makes it virtually impossible to ignore the rules.

5. Set Goals and Measure Progress

You may have heard the expression “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” That adage applies when it comes to setting up a secure cloud infrastructure.

Once you have gotten a good look at your current cloud security position and have your security and development teams working in tandem, I recommend setting specific cloud security goals. As with everything, it’s best if these include measurable metrics. You’ll then be able to measure your risk, keep track of engineering hours invested in cloud security, and set a timetable. It’s important to build in processes that allow your team to measure progress in real time.

You can and should expect to see your developers spending less time waiting for security teams to approve deployments. Similarly, your security teams will spend less time hunting down misconfigurations and routing them to the engineers. 

Investing the time and effort it takes to create truly secure cloud infrastructure pays off in efficiencies that ultimately accrue to your bottom line. It’s another proof that rather than viewing security as a hindrance or necessary evil, it’s best to view security as a driver of innovation and growth.

I hope you found this information helpful. As always, contact us anytime about your technology needs.

Until next time,

Tim

Meet the Author
Tim Burke is the President and CEO of Quest. He has been at the helm for over 30 years.
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