Cloud applications have revolutionized how businesses operate, providing new levels of flexibility, scalability, and increased opportunities for innovation. However, as companies continue to rely on cloud-based apps and services, they’re exposing themselves to increased risk. The complexity and unique challenges of cloud environments combined with cybercriminals and their increasing attacks on this vulnerable attack surface necessitates a proactive approach to security.
This article delves into the intricacies of cloud application security, exploring the risks, benefits and best practices for an optimized implementation.
What Is Cloud Application Security?
Cloud Application Security represents a critical element in cybersecurity and refers to a comprehensive collection of procedures, policies, and technology solutions specifically designed to tackle both external and internal threats to cloud environments within a business.
The primary focus of Cloud Application Security is securing web-based infrastructure, applications, and platforms - a vital component in our modern digital landscape where businesses are rapidly adopting cloud services for better scalability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
Five key facets form the backbone of cloud app security, each playing a significant role in maintaining the security, integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data and resources in the cloud.
Application & Data Security: Protects sensitive data from leaks, breaches, and unauthorized access, ensuring the integrity of the application and the confidentiality of the data.
Identity & Access Management: Regulates who can access cloud resources, implementing stringent authentication and authorization protocols to prevent unauthorized access and minimize risk from compromised accounts.
Governance: Establishes policies and rules to manage cloud data and services, aiding in risk management and policy enforcement.
Data Retention/Business Continuity: Ensures business continuity by implementing robust data backup, disaster recovery, and data retention strategies.
Legal Compliance: Ensures that cloud services as well as data security and privacy practices are compliant with relevant laws, regulations, and standards.
Cloud application security is necessary to deal with the numerous risks and potential hazards that come with the use of cloud services. Their widespread and ease of use can lead to visibility and complexity issues that make it difficult to account for the number of connected third-parties, knowing where data lives as well as how it’s shared. This makes other kinds of attacks, such as account hijacking much more dangerous. Cybercriminals are able to compromise these third-parties and gain unauthorized access to cloud accounts, potentially leading to data theft, manipulation, and disruption of applications and broader business operations.
The potential consequences are made worse by an increase in global regulations and compliance standards that impose hefty fines on companies who lack adherence. Fortunately, many of the same approaches to Cloud Application Security are designed to comply with these new regulatory standards. This is why understanding what cloud application issues can arise, their implementation challenges, what benefits to expect, and best practices to keep, can help create a comprehensive and robust cloud security strategy that manages one of the most critical attack surfaces organizations have.
The Benefits of Optimized Cloud App Security
With an optimized cloud application security approach, businesses of all sizes safeguard their assets, enhance operations, and maintain regulatory compliance. Here’s how.
Monitoring and detection mitigates threat risk
By focusing on Cloud Application Security (CAS), organizations can protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, theft, as well as the fallout that can come from data breaches. These breaches can lead to devastating financial losses, a damaged reputation, and an increase in customer churn. By implementing comprehensive application security in cloud computing, businesses can create a solid defense against malicious entities looking to compromise these cloud systems.
Business operations impact is minimized
Another crucial advantage is the enhancement of your overall Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) which involves an ongoing cycle of identifying, assessing, and addressing cloud-based security risks. This enhanced posture enables you to keep up with evolving threat landscapes and adapt to new cloud technologies or regulations while protecting the longevity of your business by adopting this proactive approach.
The right CAS strategy can also reduce downtime and costs associated with data breaches or cyber incidents. A security breach, ransomware attack, or exploited vulnerability can lead to system downtime or an interrupted dev team, impacting business operations, and potentially even product development. These can have downstream effects that reduce an organization’s overall output which can lead to substantial financial losses.
The right framework can address complex regulations and standards
Finally, optimized cloud app security simplifies and streamlines the regulatory compliance process. Many common cloud security frameworks are designed to help businesses adhere to these standards and keep a record of activities and data that can be useful in case of an audit or investigation related to a compromise. This can improve recovery and investigation efforts while demonstrating a commitment to data security and privacy practices, which can help an organization avoid lawsuits and fines in case a breach does happen.
Consider These Cloud Application Security Best Practices
To ensure an organization is maximizing the benefits of their cloud application security strategy, it’s important to adhere to the following cloud application security best practices.
Establish Firm & Clear Cloud App Security Policies
Cloud security best practices start at the foundation, meaning the organizational level. Your CAS can only be as robust as the policies governing their use and protection. With effective and clear security policies, your cybersecurity department and development teams know how to best carry out security principles and actions and you’re able to foster a security-first culture across the organization.
These policies should clearly define who is authorized to access which cloud services, how these services can be used, what data can be stored in the cloud, what can be shared, and specify what data must remain local due to sensitivity or compliance reasons. Having these policies communicated clearly can also help identify any potential issues when reviewing your cloud environment or when investigating a potential issue.
Enforce Strict Password Policies
Enforcing strict password and secure authentication policies is an essential part of cloud security considerations and one of the easiest ways to secure your cloud applications and data. They act as a first line of defense against common threats like phishing and some of the more simple account takeover attacks.
A strict password policy can include the following:
- Having minimum requirements for password creation (such as length, complexity, use of numbers and special characters)
- Updating passwords on a regular basis
- Requiring unique passwords for each account (and never re-using old passwords)
- Potentially using a third-party monitoring service like HIBP that alerts users to a password leak.
Implement Mandatory Multi-Factor Authentication
This can be considered an addendum to password policy and a component of secure authentication overall, but it has such an outsized impact that it’s worth discussing on its own. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a fundamental component of identity access management and significantly enhances access security, reducing the chances of unauthorized access by protecting against many automated account take over attacks such as brute force password stuffing or using stolen credentials.
Keep a Sharp Eye on Login Activity
Continuously monitoring login activity can help spot unusual or suspicious activity early, enabling rapid response and minimizing potential damage. This kind of monitoring can help spot unauthorized users who may have found their way into your environment or it can detect compromised accounts by flagging anomalous or strange behavior. This could be frequent login attempts by a known user to an account they may not have access to or they may be active outside of common active hours, which may indicate a compromised account.
Adhering to these cloud application security best practices will help you stay ahead of threats, protect valuable assets, and maintain a robust defense line in the cloud. They make up a proactive approach that is prepared for the worst and focuses on quick recovery rather than just prevention.
Stay on Top of Updates
Out-of-date software, operating systems, and cloud applications often contribute to security breaches in the cloud. By keeping your systems updated to the latest versions, you’re eliminating the possibility of threat actors exploiting known vulnerabilities to compromise your organization or infiltrating your environment.
Perform Regular Configuration Audits
Regular configuration audits alongside penetration testing play a vital role in cloud app security and CSPM and help businesses stay ahead of potential attackers. Regular audits identify potential security gaps and weaknesses in an organization’s entire environment, their assets, and their third parties.
Penetration testing assesses whether the security you’ve implemented is effective and efficient enough to protect against attacks. You’re better off knowing there’s a blind spot or a less effective than expected outcome during one of these tests than during an actual compromise.
Keep Your Cloud Apps Secure with Legit Security
Given the shift towards the cloud and third-party services, ensuring you prioritize robust cloud app security is imperative for preserving the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of your most important data and connections.
Optimizing your cloud app security by ensuring you’re implementing policies, practices, and solutions that adhere to the five facets and best practices mentioned above is necessary to stay ahead of threat actors. involves several key steps. Leveraging helpful tools and solutions focused on proactive threat detection, automated discovery, and vulnerability scanning is a good way of ensuring you’re addressing the key elements of a CAS strategy.
The Legit Security platform was designed to offer a proactive solution designed to help organizations address the cybersecurity concerns of their cloud applications extending back to their pre-production development environments, a critical area that is experiencing a swell of attention from threat actors. With Legit Security, organizations can have a comprehensive code to cloud security solution that saves development team time while ensuring a robust application security posture, and cloud security posture.