8 essential cloud security best practices that every organization should start with
Wiz Experts Team
6 min read
Cloud security: A refresher
Cloud security, often called cloud computing security, encompasses a broad range of policies, technologies, applications, and controls to protect data, applications, services, and the associated infrastructure of cloud computing. It falls under the umbrella of IT-related security terms, including network security, computer security, and, more generally, information security.
With our growing dependence on cloud services, safeguarding these systems is of utmost importance. Integrating cloud security throughout the software development lifecycle safeguards sensitive data and ensures the integrity and availability of services businesses and individuals depend on daily.
From the security perspective, the main components of cloud architecture are as follows:
Compute: This is the backbone of the cloud, providing the processing power required to run applications. It can adjust in size depending on the demand, guaranteeing cost efficiency and peak performance.
Storage: Cloud storage solutions offer a place to save data in the cloud, which can be accessed anytime, anywhere. It's crucial to ensure this data remains secure from unauthorized access or breaches.
Network: This component ensures connectivity between users, data, and applications. A secure network ensures that data in transit won’t be tampered with or eavesdropped on.
Identity and Access Management (IAM): IAM systems restrict access to cloud resources so only authorized users can make use of them. IAM is a crucial component in safeguarding sensitive data and applications.
Cloud security and the shared responsibility model
Cloud security is a two-way street: it’s a combination effort between the cloud provider and the user. On the cloud provider side, the duties include ensuring the security of the infrastructure they operate and own, while it’s up to users to secure the data they put in the cloud and its access. This shared responsibility model provides that both parties play their part in maintaining a secure cloud environment.
Best practices and recommendations to make the cloud more secure
The following practices and action items form a bedrock foundation for a secure cloud environment. By adhering to these recommendations, organizations can significantly reduce their risk profile and ensure a safer cloud experience. We recommend starting with these eight best practices:
MFA requires a second method of authentication in addition to a password to access a resource. MFA emerged as a response to the limitations of password-only authentication, with an increasing number of cyberattacks targeting user credentials.
By adding another barrier to intruders, MFA reduces the chance that anyone without access permission will get through the door. Even if an attacker manages to get their hands on a user's password, they would still need the second factor (such as a one-time code sent to a phone) to gain access.
It’s highly recommended for admins and super admins of cloud accounts to leverage non-phishable factors, such as WebAuthN or YubiKeys, to further enhance security. Utilizing such advanced authentication methods ensures a robust defense against phishing attempts and other cyber threats.
Enable MFA for all cloud accounts, especially admin accounts
Inform users about the significance of MFA and offer guidance on how to utilize it
Regularly review and update MFA settings to stay up to date with new standards
2. Follow the least-privilege principle
The principle of least privilege (PoLP) is a concept in IT security that demands every user and process should have only the minimal access required to perform their functions. By adhering to PoLP, the potential damage from breaches or insider threats is minimized. Unauthorized data access or system changes become significantly more challenging.
An example IAM policy can be defined as follows only to give listing access to a bucket:
Promptly remove access for individuals who change roles or depart from the company.
Periodically review the business need for granting access to specific personas/roles
3. Perform regular audits
As cloud environments grow and change, configurations can drift from security best practices. Regular audits help identify and rectify these discrepancies. Audits ensure continuous compliance with security standards, reducing the risk of breaches due to misconfigurations.
Schedule periodic security audits
Use automated tools to continuously monitor configurations
Address audit findings promptly and document changes
4. Keep your data encrypted
To prevent unauthorized access or data being intercepted, it's crucial to encrypt data both when it's stored and while it's being transferred. Through encryption, data remains confidential. So, even in the event of a breach, the data stays indecipherable without the decryption key.
Encrypt data at rest using strong encryption standards
Ensure data in transit is encrypted using protocols like TLS
Frequently change encryption keys and ensure secure storage
5. Back up data on a regular basis
Regularly scheduled backups ensure that data can be restored with minimal disruption in the event of data loss, whether they take place because of an accidental deletion, a cyberattack, or a some other disruption to the system.
With regular backups, organizations can quickly recover from data loss incidents, minimizing downtime and data unavailability.
Schedule regular backups for all critical data
Test your backup restoration processes periodically
Store backups in geographically separate locations for redundancy
6. Secure your APIs
APIs act as gateways to applications, which can make them appealing targets for cyberattacks. It’s crucial to ensure these APIs have proper authentication and authorization mechanisms, so malicious actors can't exploit them to gain unauthorized access or disrupt services.
Implement strong authentication and authorization mechanisms for APIs
Regularly review and update API security configurations
Software vulnerabilities are a prime target for attackers. Regular updates and patches guarantee that recognized weak points are tackled. This reduces the attack surface by removing potential attack vectors.
Subscribe to vulnerability feeds for your software and services.
Implement a regular patching schedule.
Test patches before applying them using a staging environment.
8. Harden your network security
The network serves as a wall that’s built to keep out cyber threats. So any holes in that wall are going to produce risks. It’s up to you to find them and plug them up.
A robust network security posture, including firewalls, virtual private clouds (VPCs), and other tools, ensures that malicious traffic is kept at bay and only legitimate traffic can access your resources.
Implement firewalls to filter out malicious traffic
Use Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) to isolate resources
Regularly review and update network security rules
Wiz is a cloud security platform that helps organizations proactively identify, prioritize, and remediate risks across their cloud environments. Wiz provides a single pane of glass view of all cloud resources and their associated risks, including misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, malware, sensitive data, and identities.
Wiz can be used to implement many of the cloud security best practices discussed above and cover more advanced use cases by offering solutions in the areas of:
Visibility and control: Wiz provides a comprehensive view of all cloud resources and their associated risks, giving organizations the visibility they need to identify and address potential security issues.
Least privilege: Wiz can be used to enforce least privilege access to cloud resources, ensuring that users only have the access they need to perform their job duties.
Data security: Wiz can be used to identify and protect sensitive data in the cloud, including data that is stored in object storage buckets, databases, and other cloud services.
Threat detection and response: Wiz can be used to monitor for threats in the cloud and respond to incidents quickly and effectively.
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