Good Cloud Security Management Starts with Security Policy Monitoring and Deployment of Appropriate Cloud Security Solutions


Cloud Security Solutions / tools

Cloud security solutions providing automated policy auditing and enforcement are easy ways to manage the significant risk posed by policy deviations.  This article will illustrate how policy contributes to cloud security, highlight the challenges of policy auditing and enforcement that can potentially be resolved with cloud security solutions, and suggest a strategy for baselining policy auditing and enforcement with cloud security solutions that will allow your team to focus on bigger challenges that can’t be solved with policy.

The Cloud Needs Cloud Security Solutions

The cloud’s great benefits come with its own security challenges.  After all, “cloud” is just a fancy word for, “your data on someone else’s computer.”  It is important that your team recognize this challenge and apply appropriate cloud security solutions.

The Amazon Web Services Shared Responsibility Model is a great model to illustrate the responsibilities of your cloud provider, your in-house security team and the need for cloud security solutions.  In the AWS model, the customer is responsible for security “in” the cloud and deployment, as well as its own associated cloud security solutions.  AWS is responsible for the security “of” the cloud, as well as their deployment of their cloud security tools.

The AWS Shared Responsibility Model and Responsibility for Cloud Security Solutions

Although this model is specific to the AWS approach and the division of responsibility for cloud security management solutions, the philosophy behind it is a useful tool for assessing your cloud providers and implementation appropriate cloud security tools.  What are the cloud provider’s responsibilities, particularly in light of the cloud security solutions they deploy?  What are your responsibilities as the customer for the implementation of cloud security solutions?  Are there any responsibilities to be shared across cloud security solutions or that have a very small but significant differentiating detail impacting the deployment of cloud security solutions?  What are the right cloud security solutions?  There is also the matter of prioritization and what are the most critical cloud security tools to deploy first.

Consider that you have a dozen cloud providers, each with slightly different models, responsibility boundaries and/or cloud security tools.  The nature of your cloud security management must now evolve from a single policy to an approach deploying cloud security tools managing the increased complications and complexity arising from differing models, boundaries and cloud security risk management solutions.

Policy: The Inglorious Lynchpin of Security …and Cloud Security Solutions

Although some consider policy and security to be only loosely related, in many ways policy is the first line of your security.  Policy is only useful if it is followed and the only way to know if it is being followed is to check through tools like cloud security solutions.

Policy is the first line of security for two reasons.  First, there are so many variables in your IT environment – from actors to IT compliance concerns to hardware and software acquisition decisions to, possibly, cloud security solutions – good policies can help reduce the variables of these environments to a manageable slice of reality.  In other words, a good policy (when followed) can make life simpler because you know exactly what your world should be.  You can detect deviations and you can plan cloud security solutions that integrate well with the small set of hardware, software, and behaviors impacting the environments underlying your cloud security solutions.

Second, it helps your team and your customers know how to do the right thing.  Without policy, your people can be blind to the actions that help security, the actions that hurt security, and the actions that don’t affect security.  It helps your team understand the bounds of safe behavior.

But policy only works when it is written well and – more importantly – when it is followed.  According to the Ponemon study of 2016, 25% of all data breaches were from human error.  The definition of human error is the violation of a policy.  48% of breaches were caused by the malicious or criminal attacks, many of which would be thwarted if technical controls (required by policy) were implemented, verified, and enforced through tools like cloud security tools.

A single policy may be easy to develop, implement, and enforce.  But most organizations are subject to dozens of internal policies and externally imposed policies.  Keeping track of the rules of the policy is hard enough, and enforcing each rule across hundreds of employees, dozens of cloud providers and their different cloud security tools, and dozens of office locations possibly can be incredibly costly if not impossible without help that automated tools like cloud security tools can provide.

Unenforced Policies, the False Sense of Security and the Role of Cloud Security Solutions

A good policy is the acknowledgment of proper configurations and behavior.  It details “what right looks like.”  But if policy is not enforced, it can be more dangerous than a situation without any policy at all.

Your team of people, processes, and technology all rely upon each other.  Like any good team, each part of the team must be able to predict the actions of the other.  If you press “send” on an email, you predict that the system will do its job and deliver your email.  If you are requesting an internal accounting report, you are anticipating it will be delivered in accordance with the policies of the Accounting Department.

But what is worse than a bad policy?  A good policy that is not enforced!  This is because policies that are not enforced give a false signal.  Now everyone familiar with the policy is working on a false assumption and will mis-predict the behavior of others. 

For example, you have a policy that all your hosts will run Windows operating systems.  As you assess security threats, you focus on threats to Windows OS, because, after all, all of your hosts run Windows OS.  When you see an Android OS security concern during research, you ignore it because you don’t run Android OS, and you proudly report to management that “we are secure.”  But if your policy is not enforced, then you won’t detect the host that is running Android OS, and you will be blindsided.

Policy Enforcement and Cloud Security Solutions

Dozens of policies, each with three dozen requirements.  Hundreds of policies; thousands of requirements.  If you could satisfy all of the requirements you would reduce the vulnerabilities in your cloud infrastructure by 75% instantly.  But how can you do such a thing with a reasonable amount of time and money?  Time to add something to your “security as a service” nomenclature: policy enforcement and auditing services through cloud security management solutions.

This is not a new idea.  In 2013, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework captured the best practices of successful organizations and discussed the concept of policy: “The organization’s risk management practices are formally approved and expressed as policy.” Once formally approved, cloud security tools can facilitate demonstrable enforcement.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework five functions are Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.  Policy compliance is a major part of the Respond function, and the detection of deviation from policy is a major part of the Detect function. Cloud security tools play a critical role in facilitating these Respond and Detect functions.

With such an emphasis on policy, it is imperative that your organization be adept at policy implementation and enforcement through tools like cloud security risks management tools or cloud security tools.

Cloud Security Solutions Can Solve the Difficult Task of Policy Enforcement and Make You More Secure

Policy implementation and enforcement is truly a low-hanging fruit.  If you can verifiably implement and enforce policy, then you can eliminate or reduce the overwhelming majority of risks.

Bar none, the best way to approach this task and reap the benefits is to use security automation, analytics security as a service and cloud security tools to help you verify implementation and detect deviation from policy.  The strategy is simple: utilize fully automated cloud security solutions to facilitate policy auditing  as your baseline, and use specialized tools or consulting for your niche, specific needs.  Then, utilize an automated cloud security solutions for policy enforcement to act on the information from the policy auditing service as part of your overall comprehensive cloud security solutions.

Implementing cloud security solutions will allow your in-house experts to focus on planning deployments and supporting operations, instead of hunting, finding, verifying, patching, and then checking back a month later.  Through cloud security tools, you can also establish baselines to detect anomalous behavior, isolate incidents, and recover faster.

Cost Effectiveness of Cloud Security Solutions Makes It an Easy Risk Mitigation Decision

Using automated security as a service, as well as policy audit and enforcement cloud security solutions, are an “easy win” for your organization.  Cloud security risks management tools can be a part of your risk management plan and help improve your risk management process, as well as help you quickly find deviations from policy that pose a verifiable risk.

So now when helping your organization understand your risk, you don’t have to rely on policies that (fingers crossed) are ensuring sound practices.  Now you can cite the policies and provide audit data from cloud security tools to support your risk assessment and quickly correct deviations drawn from your cloud security tools.  Now, your report to the Board isn’t “I think we are secure,” it is an informed assessment and mitigation method grounded in data provided by your automated IT compliance cloud security risks management tools.

Other benefits from cloud security tools include proving your due diligence to outsiders like insurance underwriters, shareholders, and partner organizations. They will also appreciate the visibility and transparency that appropriately implemented cloud security management tools provide.

Summary and Conclusion

Security management has become more than just acquisitions and patching.  Your security management strategy must consider policy through tools automated compliance tools like cloud security tools because good, enforced policy is your first line of defense.

And because good, enforced policies through cloud security tools will provide clear return on investment, you should make the right investments in the security automation and cloud security tools that make policy and IT compliance easy.  Give your stakeholders promises backed by data from cloud security management tools – not by hopes that all people, processes, and technology are complying with policy.  And you can focus on the bigger problems that aren’t as easily solved by policy.

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