Sep 04 2018

As expert managed service providers, we offer a complete range of secure, cloud-based infrastructure and services. Over the years, our customers have asked us plenty of challenging questions on how they can stay secure as they move to public, private, and hybrid clouds. We thought it would be useful to answer some of these questions here, so you can make an informed decision about your cyber security, cloud-based needs.

Are Cloud-Based Services More or Less Secure than Traditional, On-Premise Data Centers?

Any IT environment probably has vulnerabilities or flaws that can be exploited by attackers, but when that ecosystem is properly managed, it helps to mitigate and minimize security risks. That said, cloud-based infrastructure is often more secure than an on-premise data center.

  • Cloud vendors dedicate extensive manpower and resources to keeping the overall cloud environment safe and protected.
  • Cloud-based infrastructure has a fast and responsive patch and maintenance cycle to remove any identified, underlying vulnerabilities.
  • Cloud services use strong best practices like data separation and role-based access to reduce the “attack surface” that criminals can use to breach data and systems.

Can My Organization Deploy Third-Party Cyber Security Tools into a Cloud Environment?

Typically, yes. Many cloud providers will allow for installation of approved security tools so you can monitor, manage, and control your cloud environment. Tools may include:

  • Active monitoring of all environments together with intrusion detection and alerts.
  • Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing to identify and close potential attack vectors.
  • Encryption of servers and data when it is at rest, in transit, or archived.

You may also be able to develop and deploy your own security tools, tailored to your exact needs.

What Policies and Processes Should I Use to Ensure Data Security?

There’s a wide range of policies and best practices to keep your data secure. We recommend a combination of the following:

  • Secure application data access through SSH keys, encryption, or similar protocols so that applications can only access authorized data.
  • Role-based access based around the Principle of Least Privilege so users can only access clearly-defined parts of the cloud, based on their job role needs.
  • Multi-factor authentication through using a combination of passwords, tokens, and biometrics to grant secure systems access.
  • Regular IT security audits and vulnerability scans to identify and fix potential flaws.

What Are the Cyber Security and Data Protection Implications of Different Types of Cloud Infrastructure?

There are three main “types” of cloud implementations — public, private, and hybrid.

Public clouds like the Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services are available to anyone who wants to create an account and deploy cloud-based infrastructure. Typical cyber security considerations for public clouds include:

  • Robust password management including enforcing password types and changing them regularly.
  • Strong authentication, especially for privileged users, which could include dual or multi factor authentication.
  • Locking down infrastructure for the most critical applications and data, so they cannot be altered without extra authentication.
  • Deploying vendor-based and third party security tools to monitor and manage the environment.

Private clouds operate in a similar way to public clouds with one vital difference. They typically don’t have any accessible connection to the internet, so only trusted users in your business can even attempt to access them. These private clouds are offered by vendors like VMWare and NetApp.

They have all the same considerations as public cloud services, except that you are also:

  • Severely restricting or eliminating access to individuals without a dedicated “point of presence” into the private cloud.
  • Getting a firewall in place that will reject outside access attempts into the private cloud.

Hybrid clouds use some combination of public and private clouds, together with any on-premise data centers or storage. These integrations can create unintended vulnerabilities in your network and data if they are not carefully managed. Ideally, you will want to combine any hybrid cloud deployment with a complete security audit and vulnerability scan and assessment to eliminate flaws. Once any security gaps are closed, hybrid clouds can be as secure as public and private clouds.

We hope you’ve found these answers useful. As you can see, we’re experts in managing cloud services, and we’re always looking for challenging questions! If you’ve got any, please get in touch.