A cloud workload is a distinct capacity or work function that we put on a cloud instance. It can be a Hadoop node, a Web server, a database, or a container, among other things.
Broadly speaking, therefore, cloud workload security is any means of protecting these workloads.
There is a common misconception that securing your workloads is the responsibility of the cloud service provider. But that’s not true if you work with an “infrastructure as a service” (IaaS) model such as Amazon Web Services. With IaaS, you share some of that responsibility. In some instances, you would need to extend the security policies, tools, and controls you have for your onsite systems to the cloud in order to secure these workloads. A widespread failure to fully understand and act on the shared responsibility model is demonstrated in a November 2017 survey, where we found that 73% of companies have at least one critical AWS security misconfiguration.
With Threat Stack, a leader in cloud-native security and compliance management, you can better secure your cloud environment and cloud workloads. Our Cloud Security Platform® is designed to meet the unique challenges facing Security and Operations teams working in the cloud. Let’s take a look at the common threats facing cloud workloads along with best practices for enhancing cloud workload security.
Top Threats Facing Cloud Workloads
While new attacks take place every day, the Cloud Security Alliance provides some guidance on the most common types of attacks to watch out for. If you are still fairly new to cloud workload security, you should consider prioritizing these threats first:
- Data breaches involving protected, confidential, and sensitive information. Data breaches could involve unauthorized parties being able to see, use, or release information.
- Account hijacking. Phishing and social engineering come under the heading of account hijacking, where cybercriminals use legitimate accounts to get into your systems.
- APIs and user interfaces that are not secure. These are the weakest links in your network. They face outwards, are easily accessible on the internet, and are easily targeted by hackers.
- System vulnerabilities. These can be bugs and vulnerabilities in your own network, program, and software that, without proper patching and management, hackers can use to find holes in your infrastructure and attack you.
- Lack of identity and access management (IAM) procedures. Your organization may be hacked because someone used a weak password, did not use multi-factor authentication, or used the same passwords for a long period of time or on a variety of sites.
- Rogue or negligent insiders, leveraging legitimate access for unauthorized actions.
- Insufficient due diligence. This can be a problem when you bring in a partner, a third party, or a service supplier without first knowing how secure their systems are.
- Vulnerabilities found in shared technology such as CPU caches. With the cloud, you often share resources with other users. If they suffer from a cyberattack, you might be compromised as well because of these shared resources.
- Advanced persistent threats (APT). These are cyberattacks that enter your system in order to strategically steal intellectual property or data over a long period of time.
- Abuse of cloud services is a threat when you have poor security on your cloud service deployments. Incorrect configurations or fraudulent signups can easily expose your system to threats.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks prevent legitimate users from accessing your cloud resources.
How Cloud Workload Security Works
Effective cloud workload security gives you improved visibility into the workloads you are running, allowing you to control and address issues related to them. It can shield you against attacks that traditional solutions cannot address by employing advanced protection against threats.
Cloud workload security can also consolidate events, and having a single interface or dashboard to manage different security technologies can make your life a whole lot easier. If possible, your cloud workload security should be able to integrate third-party technologies as well, such as including other security solutions into your primary security dashboard.
Steps to Ensure Cloud Workload Security
To ensure that you have effective cloud workload security, you should implement a number of fundamental best practices. First, you should restrict access to your servers to only what is necessary (principle of least privilege access). Audit your current operations and make sure that you do not use any arbitrary code or you do not use an email or web client. You should also manage admin privileges, changes, and logs.
After that, you should focus on:
- Vulnerability and configuration management, including patching
- Traffic visibility and network segmentation
- Managing and monitoring your network security
- Looking at your whitelisted applications
- Preventing exploits and protecting the memory
- Encrypting data at rest and in transit when you are using IaaS
- Implementing advanced behavioral response and detection
- Installing antivirus software
Best Practices for Cloud Workload Security
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA / 2FA) to better protect your cloud workloads. Otherwise, it is very easy for hackers to get hold of account credentials. If you only rely on a username and password, then you might be vulnerable.
- Leverage identity and access management technologies. IAM technologies allow you to protect customer data while also making it easy to use your applications or website without too much hassle.
- Gain more visibility into your cloud environment. You can’t protect what you can’t see, so make sure that there are no blind spots in your cloud environment. (This is where a solution like Threat Stack comes in, providing visibility throughout your infrastructure with near real-time alerting, event context, and more.)
- Implement end-to-end encryption. This will ensure that data is secure, whether at rest or in transit.
- Establish a baseline. Baselining lets you compare data and behavior against historical metrics or standards to distinguish between behavior that is normal and activities that are abnormal.
- Monitor file integrity. File integrity monitoring (FIM) enables you to detect unauthorized changes to files. It lets you know exactly when and how files — including critical system files, configuration files, and content files — are being changed at any moment in time.
- Use SSL certificates. SSL helps you encrypt communications between a browser and your Web server. This will protect sensitive information, such as credit card details that are transmitted over the Web.
- Make sure you have safe access to production workloads. When using continuous development, developers require access to your production workloads to be more efficient. This means you should also monitor and secure activity in production servers.
- Use security alerts. Set up security alerts so you’re notified if something is wrong the moment it happens. Customize security alerts by assigning severity levels to each event, allowing you to receive alerts only when it matters and thereby avoid alert fatigue.
- Educate insiders and employees. It helps if your employees know about your organization’s security policies and protocols as well as their responsibilities in relation to these. A great way to increase organizational understanding and practical implementation of security best practices is to establish a company-wide security awareness program.
Final Words . . .
It’s imperative that modern businesses be able to ensure the security of their cloud workloads. With that in mind, we hope the information in this post will put you on the track to understanding where vulnerabilities can exist, and also provide useful guidance on best practices for reducing exposure and mitigating risk. If you’d like to take the Threat Stack Cloud Security Platform for a test drive, sign up for a demo today.
For additional insights on how to evaluate and select cloud security solutions and vendors, take a look at the following:
Navigating and Evaluating Cloud Security Solutions
Lean Guidelines for Selecting and Managing Cloud Security Solutions
11 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Cloud Security Solution
5 Considerations for Evaluating a Cloud Security Solution
14 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Committing to a Cybersecurity Vendor