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Cloud Security Strategy

A cloud security strategy is the combination of the measures, tools, policies, and procedures used to secure cloud data, applications, and infrastructure.

Wiz Experts Team
5 min read

What is a cloud security strategy?

A cloud security strategy is the combination of measures, tools, policies, and procedures used to secure cloud data, applications, and infrastructure. It should address the specific security risks and challenges that an organization faces, and it should be aligned with the organization's overall security goals.

Defining your organization's cloud security strategy is not a one-time exercise. Your strategy should be dynamic and evolve with the changing cloud computing landscape, which continues to introduce new services, features, and, unfortunately, new threats.

Core focuses of a cloud security strategy

Below are the core four areas that every cloud security strategy should be centered on:

  • Identity and access management (IAM): This is the process of controlling who has access to what data and applications in the cloud. It includes creating and managing user accounts, setting permissions, and using multi-factor authentication.

  • Infrastructure protection: This is the process of securing the cloud infrastructure, such as virtual machines, storage, and networks. It includes implementing security controls, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, and monitoring for suspicious activity.

  • Data protection: This is the process of securing sensitive data in the cloud, such as through encryption and access controls. It also includes having a plan for data recovery in case of a breach.

  • Detection and response: This is the process of detecting and responding to security incidents in the cloud. It includes using monitoring tools to identify suspicious activity, and having a plan for isolating and remediating incidents.

Challenges in Building a Cloud Security Strategy

Developing a cloud security strategy is challenging due to the inherent complexity of cloud environments, the rapid pace of technological change, and the constantly evolving threat landscape

The table below covers the most common challenges in building and implementing a cloud security strategy.

ChallengeDescriptionRecommendation
Lack of VisibilityAs organizations migrate to cloud platforms, they often lose sight of the entirety of their cloud assets. This lack of visibility can leave unprotected endpoints, misconfigured resources, and even lead to instances of shadow IT.Organizations can use comprehensive cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools. These tools can provide visibility into cloud assets, identify security risks, and help to improve cloud security.
Misconfigurations and human errorsCloud environments are complex and can be quickly provisioned, leading to potential oversight in configurations. These oversights are often the easiest way for attackers to penetrate systems.Organizations should implement Infrastructure as Code (IaC) to standardize and automate cloud deployments. They should also incorporate automated security checks within the CI/CD pipeline to catch misconfigurations before deployment
Compliance with regulatory standardsDifferent regions and industries have various regulatory standards. Keeping up with these, especially in a dynamic cloud environment, can be taxing.Organizations can utilize automated compliance check tools tailored for specific standards. They should also regularly conduct third-party audits to ensure unbiased compliance checks.
Shared responsibility model misunderstandingWhile cloud providers ensure the security of the cloud itself, customers are responsible for their data and applications. This demarcation often leads to gaps in security coverage.Organizations should regularly consult their cloud provider's shared responsibility matrix. They should also ensure that their team understands where the provider's responsibility ends and where theirs begins.
Complexity of multi-cloud and hybrid environmentsUsing multiple cloud providers or a combination of on-premises and cloud solutions can lead to inconsistent security postures.Organizations should adopt a cloud-agnostic security platform, ensuring uniformity in security policies across different environments.
Rapid evolution of cloud technologiesThe cloud landscape is continuously evolving, with new services and features released regularly, potentially introducing new vulnerabilities.Leverage a cloud security tool that can immediately identify new services added to the environment and the vulnerabilities they may introduce.

Why cloud security needs a new operating model

The cloud has fundamentally transformed security in three important ways:

  • The environment is completely different. Development teams are now building in the cloud faster and more decentralized than ever before. This means that the cloud environment is highly dynamic, with resources constantly being created, updated, and deleted. This makes it more challenging to keep track of and secure all resources across clouds and architectures.

  • The risks are completely different. Cloud environments are now shared and controlled by third-party providers. This means that organizations have less control over the security of their data and applications. Additionally, cloud environments are often exposed to the internet, which makes them more vulnerable to attack.

  • The ownership model is completely different. In the cloud, development teams own their infrastructure and choose and deploy their own technologies. This means that security teams need to work closely with development teams to ensure that security best practices are followed.

These changes have made it more difficult for organizations to secure their cloud environments. To address these challenges, organizations need to adopt a new cloud security operating model that makes cloud security a team sport. This means that security teams need to work closely with development teams to ensure that security is built into the development process from the start.

A modern cloud security operating model should incorporate the following principles:

  • Full-stack visibility. Organizations need to have full visibility across their entire cloud environment, including all resources, configurations, and traffic. This visibility is essential for identifying and addressing security risks.

  • Proactive security. Organizations need to take a proactive approach to security by identifying and addressing risks before they become breaches. This can be done by using automated tools to scan for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.

  • Enable business agility. The cloud security operating model should be flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of the business. This means that it should be easy to integrate new cloud services and applications, and to scale security operations as needed.

By adopting a modern cloud security operating model, organizations can address the new challenges of cloud and effectively protect their cloud environments.

Making cloud security a team sport in five phases

The Cloud Security Maturity Journey

The modern cloud security operating model is not a static state, but rather a continuous journey of improvement. This journey involves:

  1. Gaining visibility into your cloud environment

  2. Identifying and remediating critical risks

  3. Adopting best practices to continuously improve overall security posture

  4. Shifting left to focus on preventing issues from even entering the production environment

  5. Implementing detection and response capabilities

We break down this journey into five discrete steps, but organizations should not focus on each step solely in sequential order. For example, organizations can still begin the process of critical risk reduction even if they have not achieved full visibility into their cloud environment.

Below is an overview of the goals and required capabilities for each phase, but you can find the full breakdown of each step in our Strategic Guide to Cloud Security.

Phase 1. Gain full Visibility

Goals:

  • 100% visibility into any cloud, any architecture

  • Normalization across clouds to simplify security for any engineer

  • Ability to segment visibility by team based on infrastructure ownership

Required capabilities:

  • Full inventory of cloud resources

    • Cloud coverage

    • Technology coverage

    • Architecture coverage

    • Automatic and continuous detection

    • Configuration visibility

  • Role-based access control

Pro tip

One key metric that organizations should be cognizant of in this stage is what percentage of their environment does the security team have automated, continuous visibility over.

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Phase 2. Remediate Critical Risks

Goals:

  • Comprehensive understanding of workload and cloud risks

  • Identification of attack paths and critical combinations of risk

  • Clear prioritization, context, and evidence for remediation down to 0 critical risks

Required capabilities:

  • Exposure analysis and validation

  • Misconfiguration analysis

  • Vulnerability management

  • Secure use of secrets

  • Malware detection

  • Sensitive data detection

  • Kubernetes security posture management

  • Identity analysis

  • Attack path analysis

  • Customizable policy frameworks

  • Automated workflows

Pro tip

The most critical metrics for organizations to measure for this phase is the number of critical issues open in their environment and overall reduction in critical issues over time.

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Phase 3. Democratize security

Goals:

  • Proactive reduction of the attack surface and blast radius for continuous improvement

  • Ingrain security into the development process through self-service

  • Enterprise readiness for the next threat or business shift

Required capabilities:

  • Self-service access for development and operations

  • Segment cloud security and remediation by risk factor

  • Continuous monitoring and incident response management

  • Policy management, enforcement, and alerting

  • Automated compliance assessments

  • Rapid threat detection and response

  • Readiness for M&A

Pro tip

Key metrics include active usage of your security platform across all teams, reducing the time it takes to detect and respond to risk, increasing the adoption of security best practices, and reducing downtime associated with unexpected security issues.

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Phase 4. Build securely by design

Goals:

  • Secure from source to production including container registries, VM images, and IaC

  • Share learnings from the run-time environment back to the development environment

  • Prioritize policy enforcement in the pipeline to prevent introduction of issues into production

  • Implement hardened baselines to reduce drift

Required capabilities:

  • Full cloud configuration lifecycle coverage

  • Full container security lifecycle coverage

  • Unified policy framework across the development lifecycle

  • Golden VM images

  • Streamlined responsibilities and processes across teams

Pro tip

By implementing security guardrails in the development pipeline, organizations can proactively identify and mitigate risks, preventing security breaches before they occur. By doing this, organizations not only improve their security posture but also increase operational efficiency, reduce costs, and increase business agility. A key metric of this approach is the saving of developer time and reducing the number of risks in production.

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Phase 5. Detect & Respond to Intrusions

Goals:

  • Prioritize the integration of signals across control plane, data, security, and runtime events to detect modern cloud threats effectively

  • Promote a democratized security approach involving SOC (Security Operations Center) and IR (Incident Response) teams, breaking down technology and people silos and foster a shared ownership model with self-service access to detection contexts and clear guidance on remediation strategies

  • Leverage cloud detection and response capabilities to strengthen proactive security measures, ensuring readiness and resilience against future threats

Required capabilities:

  • Awareness of risk across your entire cloud estate

  • Combined intelligence from runtime events and cloud telemetry

  • Contextualized detections

  • Workflow flexibility

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