Cloud infrastructure security describes the strategies, policies, and measures that organizations implement to protect cloud-based systems, data, and infrastructure from threats and vulnerabilities.
Wiz Experts Team
10 min read
What is cloud infrastructure security?
Cloud infrastructure security describes the strategies, policies, and measures that organizations implement to protect cloud-based systems, data, and infrastructure from threats and vulnerabilities. At its core, cloud security infrastructure aims to ensure that the data, applications, and services hosted in the cloud remain secure and inaccessible to threat actors—while ensuring data hosted in the cloud is always available to authorized users. On a practical level, cloud infrastructure security involves a combination of physical and virtual security measures, ranging from secure data centers to encryption protocols.
The need for a secure cloud infrastructure has grown exponentially in tandem with the rise in cyber threats that target cloud environments. From data breaches to DDoS attacks, the cloud is not immune to the range of security challenges traditional IT environments face; however, the dynamic nature of the cloud also presents its own unique set of challenges.
Let’s delve deeper into how to secure cloud infrastructure, starting with an explanation of the critical components at stake.
The cloud is built on a foundation of multiple components, each playing a crucial part in keeping cloud-based services secure and running smoothly. To implement robust cloud infrastructure security, it's essential to understand these components and their significance. Here are the key pillars of cloud infrastructure:
Virtual machines (VMs) run applications and services just like a physical computer. Ensuring a secure cloud infrastructure means safeguarding these VMs from threats and unauthorized access.
Containers package an application and its required environment and ensure that they run consistently in different computing environments. Because each container is isolated, they offer an added layer of security.
Serverlessfunctions are event-driven, allowing developers to run code in response to specific events without managing the underlying infrastructure where the functions execute. While the ephemeral characteristics of serverless functions can diminish the potential attack surface, it’s still essential to apply rigorous security protocols.
Object storage is used for storing large amounts of unstructured data. Object storage solutions must be secured to prevent unauthorized data access or breaches.
Block storage is typically used for databases or applications. Block storage solutions require encryption and access controls to ensure data integrity and security.
File systems are hierarchical storage systems that need stringent security measures to prevent unauthorized file modifications or deletions.
Virtual private clouds (VPCs) are isolated cloud environments that allow users to control their virtual networking environment. Proper configuration is crucial to prevent potential vulnerabilities.
Content delivery networks (CDNs) distribute content across multiple locations to optimize user access. Ensuring secure data transfer and protection against DDoS attacks is vital for CDNs.
Load balancers distribute incoming network traffic across multiple servers, which is why they need to be secured to prevent potential traffic diversions or breaches.
Identity access management (IAM)
User roles define what actions a user or system can perform to help minimize potential damage from breaches.
Permissions determine which resources a user or system can access. Regular audits ensure that permissions are granted correctly.
Authentication mechanisms such as passwords and multi-factor authentication make sure that only authorized users can access resources. These measures are a cornerstone of cloud security infrastructure.
Management and monitoring tools
Cloud management consoles provide interfaces for users to oversee and track their cloud-based resources. It’s critical to make sure these consoles are accessed securely.
Logging keeps a record of all activities and helps track any anomalies or potential security threats.
Alerting systems notify stakeholders of potential security incidents, enabling swift action.
As you can see, each component of the cloud infrastructure plays a pivotal role in your overall security posture. The major takeaway? Make sure that each element is secure and regularly monitored.
Security considerations for each cloud service model
Companies are increasingly relying on cloud service models to transform operations, while striving to balance the implementation of robust security measures with maintaining functionality and efficiency. Each cloud service model comes with its own set of security considerations:
Platform as a service (PaaS)
PaaS platforms provide the tools and environment for developers to build and deploy applications. It’s important to integrate security best practices into the development process, such as implementing secure coding protocols and conducting regular vulnerability assessments. We also recommend these best practices for PaaS security:
Patch management for platform software: Regularly update and patch platform software to prevent potential exploits. But you don’t need to keep track of every new version on your own: Automated patch management systems can help with timely and consistent updates.
Data encryption at rest and in transit: Protect data when it’s stored and when it’s in transit. Implement strong encryption protocols to keep data confidential and tamper proof.
Software as a service (SaaS)
Software as a service (SaaS) provides readily accessible online applications, which means it requires stringent user access controls and multi-factor authentication (MFA) to safeguard against unauthorized access.
User access controls and MFA: Since SaaS applications are accessible online, implement robust user access controls and multi-factor authentication mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access.
Data backup and recovery solutions: Regular backups ensure that data can be restored in the event of accidental deletions, system failures, or cyberattacks. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan can further enhance data security.
Secure API integrations: Many SaaS applications integrate with other services via APIs. Make sure these integrations are secure and regularly audited to prevent data breaches.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
In the case of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), users gain control over a virtualized environment, making secure VM configurations and strong network security measures essential for protection against threats:
Secure VM configurations: Because users have control over the cloud resources in IaaS, it's essential to configure VMs securely by disabling unnecessary services and applying all security patches right away.
Network security measures: Implementing firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other network security tools can safeguard your infrastructure from potential threats. Routinely monitoring network traffic can further enhance security.
Regular vulnerability assessments: Periodic infrastructure scans can identify potential vulnerabilities, allowing for timely remediation.
In essence, while the cloud offers flexibility and scalability, it also introduces unique security challenges based on your service model. By understanding these challenges and implementing tailored security measures, you can harness the power of the cloud while ensuring that data and applications remain secure.
Security considerations for each type of cloud architecture
Different cloud architecture models are designed for different organizational needs. Each presents its own set of security challenges and considerations. Let’s take a closer look.
Data encryption to protect sensitive information: In a public cloud environment, resources are hosted offsite and are often shared with other organizations. Implementing robust encryption protocols for data at rest and in transit ensures that sensitive information remains confidential, even in a shared environment.
Secure access to public cloud resources: Given the open nature of the public cloud, it's crucial to have rigid access controls. This includes secure VPNs, multi-factor authentication, and strict IAM policies.
Compliance with industry-specific regulations: Organizations operating in regulated industries, like healthcare or finance, must ensure that their public cloud deployments comply with industry-specific regulations, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS.
Physical security of data centers: Since private clouds are often hosted on-premises or in dedicated facilities, it’s crucial to prioritize the physical security of data centers—from surveillance to access controls.
Network segmentation and isolation: Within a private cloud, segmenting and isolating networks can prevent potential breaches from spreading across the environment. This is especially important when hosting sensitive or mission-critical applications.
Regular security audits and assessments: Periodic evaluations of the private cloud environment can identify vulnerabilities or misconfigurations, allowing for quick remediation and ensuring a robust security posture.
Secure connectivity between public and private cloud components: A hybrid cloud combines elements of both public and private clouds. Secure and encrypted connections between these components prevent data leaks or breaches.
Consistent security policies across both environments: To maintain a uniform security posture, it's essential that security policies, ranging from access controls to encryption standards, are consistent across both the public and private components of the hybrid cloud.
Data sovereignty and residency considerations: In a hybrid environment, it’s essential to understand where data resides and maintain compliance with data sovereignty laws, especially for organizations operating across borders.
In short, the choice of cloud architecture plays a significant role in determining which security measures your organization should adopt. (If you’re interested in learning about the future of cloud infrastructure security, you can read more here.)
The role of zero trust in cloud infrastructure security
Traditional security models often operate on the principle of "trust but verify," which is increasingly inadequate. On the other hand, the zero-trust model runs on a simple yet powerful principle: "never trust, always verify." Every access request is treated as if it originates from an untrusted network, ensuring that every user, device, and application undergoes rigorous verification before gaining access to resources.
Let's explore three key ways that zero trust helps to secure cloud infrastructure:
1. Strict user access controls regardless of location
Traditional security models usually emphasize perimeter defenses to an excessive degree, potentially leaving internal resources vulnerable. Zero trust ensures that access controls are consistently enforced, whether a user is accessing resources from within the corporate network, from a remote location, or from a public cloud.
2. Continuous monitoring and validation of network traffic
Merely verifying users and devices at the point of access isn't enough. The zero-trust model mandates continuous monitoring of network traffic to detect and respond to any anomalies or suspicious activities in real time. This ensures that any potential breaches can be swiftly identified and mitigated.
3. Leveraging micro-segmentation to limit the lateral movement of threats
With micro-segmentation, your cloud environment is divided into smaller segments so that applications and workloads operate in secure, isolated zones. Micro-segmentation reduces the attack surface and ensures that even if a threat actor gains access to one segment, they cannot move laterally to compromise other parts of the environment.
The zero-trust model offers a proactive and holistic approach to cloud infrastructure security. By challenging the traditional notions of trust and emphasizing continuous verification and monitoring, the principle of “never trust, always verify” keeps cloud environments resilient in the face of emerging threats.
In addition, Gartner offers a guide for security and risk management leaders looking to protect networks, endpoints, and infrastructure as a service. This primer is especially relevant for enterprises undergoing a transformative period for their digital infrastructures as the threat landscape evolves.
Now let’s turn our attention to actionable best practices to fortify your cloud deployments.
Cloud infrastructure security best practices 101
Here are the top five best practices, supplemented with examples and recommendations, to ensure a robust cloud security posture:
1. Regularly update and patch
Virtual machines (VMs) in the cloud should be regularly updated with the latest security patches to prevent potential exploits. The code snippet below is used to update the package lists for packages that need upgrading, as well as new package installations:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
2. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA)
For cloud management consoles like AWS Management Console or Microsoft Azure Portal, always enable MFA to add an extra layer of security.
3. Encrypt data at rest and in transit
Employ solutions such as AWS Key Management Service (KMS) or Azure Key Vault for the administration of your application's cryptographic keys. The following Python code snippet demonstrates how you can retrieve a key from Azure Key Vault using the Azure SDK for Python:
from azure.identity import DefaultAzureCredential
from azure.keyvault.keys import KeyClient
key_client = KeyClient(vault_url="https://my-key-vault.vault.azure.net/", credential=DefaultAzureCredential())
key = key_client.get_key("my-key-name")
4. Regularly back up data
Schedule automatic backups for your databases hosted in cloud services like Amazon RDS or Microsoft Azure SQL Database.
5. Educate employees
Conduct frequent training workshops on cloud security protocols and the identification of potential threats. For instance, you can discuss how to spot and respond to fraudulent emails masquerading as legitimate cloud service providers requesting password verification or updates.
Incorporating these best practices into your cloud strategy can significantly enhance the security of your cloud infrastructure. Remember: Cloud security is a shared responsibility. While cloud providers ensure the security of the cloud, customers are responsible for the security of their data and configurations in the cloud.
As we’ve seen, cloud infrastructure security is an essential plank of your overall security posture.
To recap, here are the key takeaways:
Take a holistic approach: Cloud security is multifaceted, requiring a combination of technical, organizational, and human-centric measures.
Understand the shared responsibility model: While cloud providers ensure the foundational security of the cloud, customers must secure their data, configurations, and applications within the cloud. Be sure to understand where your responsibilities begin and end.
Commit to continuous evolution: As the threat landscape evolves, so should our security strategies. Regular audits, updates, and employee training are essential.
Trust but verify: Embrace the zero-trust model, ensuring that every access request, regardless of origin, undergoes rigorous verification.
Cloud infrastructure security is pivotal to an organization's overall security strategy. Wiz offers a comprehensive solution that enables security, dev, and DevOps teams to collaborate effectively in a self-service model designed for the speed and scale of cloud development. With Wiz, you can continuously detect and remediate misconfigurations across hybrid clouds, uncover vulnerabilities without agents or external scans, and automate least-privilege policies.
Our platform unifies workload protection and response to real-time threats, monitors cloud workloads for suspicious activities, and secures containerized applications from build time to real time. Wiz also ensures compliance with industry standards and proactively monitors sensitive data to prevent breaches. Integrating Wiz early in development workflows aids in detecting vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, ultimately reducing risk and increasing business agility.
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