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Google Cloud Security Best Practices

10 essential best practices to securing your Google Cloud environments

Wiz Experts Team
7 min read

Google Cloud security: A brief overview

For organizations leveraging the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), security can't be an afterthought. Instead, it must be an integral part of the entire software development process. Security considerations should take center stage from initial design all the way to deployment and maintenance. By embedding security into the software development lifecycle, businesses can protect applications and data from potential threats, preventing serious consequences—like reputational damage and financial loss.

Critical components of Google Cloud architecture

Google Cloud offers myriad services, each designed to cater to specific needs. As more businesses migrate to the cloud, understanding the security aspects of these services becomes increasingly important. Components that require robust security measures include:

  • Compute Engine: Virtual machines running in Google's data centers

  • Cloud Storage: A platform for saving and accessing data whenever needed

  • BigQuery: An optimized data warehouse managed by Google, enabling rapid SQL queries through its advanced infrastructure

Securing these components is vital as they often handle sensitive data and can be potential entry points for malicious actors if not adequately protected. To learn more about reducing threats, let’s turn our attention to underlying principles and models of cloud security.

Understanding the shared responsibility model

One of the foundational concepts of cloud security is the shared responsibility model. In the context of Google Cloud, this means that while Google is responsible for the security of the cloud (including infrastructure, hardware, software, and networks), users are responsible for security in the cloud (including data, applications, and configurations). It's a collaborative effort: Google provides the tools and best practices, but it's up to users to implement them correctly.

Challenges to implementing Google Cloud security measures

While Google Cloud offers advanced security features, implementing them can come with challenges:

  • Managing access controls: Allowing only authorized individuals access to specific resources can be complex, especially in large organizations.

  • Data encryption: While Google Cloud provides tools for encryption, understanding when and how to use them is crucial to success.

  • Maintaining visibility: As organizations scale, keeping track of all cloud resources and ensuring they adhere to security best practices becomes more difficult.

To address these challenges and bolster security, understanding compliance is key.

The role of compliance in Google Cloud security

Compliance isn't just about meeting regulatory requirements; it's also about ensuring an organization's data and processes adhere to established security standards. In other words, adhering to compliance standards can enhance an organization’s Google Cloud security posture. Whether it’s GDPR, HIPAA, or any other regulation, cloud compliance is a roadmap guiding organizations toward a more secure cloud environment.

Essential Google Cloud security best practices

Let’s take a closer look at essential Google Cloud security best practices and how they help organizations keep data safe.

  1. Training and awareness

  2. Security Blueprints

  3. Organizational design

  4. Least privilege approach

  5. Visibility

  6. Centralized logging and monitoring

  7. Data security

  8. Automating workflows

  9. Limiting external exposure

  10. Regular audits

1. Training and awareness

Cyber threats are an ever-changing landscape, making continuous learning a necessity. By holding regular training sessions and leveraging resources such as Google Cloud's security best practices center, teams can stay up to date on the latest threats and mitigation techniques.

Google Cloud's security best practices center

Training and awareness have a powerful ripple effect, significantly reducing the odds of a security breach. With a well-informed team in place, the next step is to explore the specific security frameworks and blueprints provided by Google Cloud.

2. Google Cloud security blueprints

A security blueprint serves as a foundational guide, helping organizations follow security best practices as they set up and maintain their Google Cloud environments. The security foundations blueprint is a quintessential example, offering a detailed guide to security implementation:

Google Cloud security foundations blueprint for deployment pipeline

3. Organizational design

The essence of organizational design in cloud security lies in the art of isolation. Keeping business teams and resources distinct opens the way for customized access controls. Granularity in access controls not only optimizes resource usage but also minimizes the risk of unauthorized access. The following diagram illustrates the relationship between Google Workspace user accounts and particular cloud resources:

Google Cloud resource hierarchy

4. Least privilege approach

The principle of least privilege means giving someone just the right amount of access—nothing more, nothing less. With minimum necessary access, the potential damage from breaches is contained. This approach is illustrated in the following code snippet, which grants read-only access to a storage bucket only:

# IAM policy granting read-only access to a storage bucket
{
  "bindings": [
    {
      "role": "roles/storage.objectViewer",
      "members": [
        "user:example@email.com"
      ]
    }
  ]
}

5. Visibility into cloud environment

Comprehensive visibility within Google Cloud ensures streamlined operations and efficient resource management. It also empowers organizations to detect and respond to anomalies in real time. Google Cloud's advanced monitoring tools, such as Cloud Monitoring, allow businesses to gain deeper insights into their cloud infrastructure, ensuring optimal performance, security, and cost-effectiveness: 

Google Cloud Cloud Monitoring Diagram

Proactive monitoring and analysis of the vast array of data within Google Cloud helps users address potential issues preemptively, providing uninterrupted service and a robust cloud ecosystem.

6. Centralized logging and monitoring

Google Cloud Platform’s vast capabilities necessitate tracking security events scattered across diverse services like Compute Engine, Cloud Storage, and BigQuery. This is where Google Cloud's centralized logging and monitoring, powered by tools like Cloud Logging and Cloud Monitoring, comes to the rescue. These tools offer a unified platform that seamlessly integrate logs from various Google Cloud services for a consolidated view of an organization’s operational landscape:

Diagram of observability in Google Cloud

Organizations can significantly enhance their defense posture by streamlining the audit process within Google Cloud and ensuring real-time threat detection through advanced analytics and alerting mechanisms. For instance, by utilizing Google Cloud's Security Command Center, companies can gain insights into potential vulnerabilities and receive alerts about suspicious activities. Another example is the use of Cloud Audit Logs, which provides a record of actions taken on specific resources, helping organizations track and investigate potential security incidents.

7. Data security

Data protection is the cornerstone of any organization's cloud strategy. Luckily, Google Cloud offers robust encryption mechanisms to safeguard both data at rest and in transit. With Google Cloud's advanced encryption capabilities, organizations can keep data impervious to unauthorized access, maintaining its integrity and confidentiality. 

For assets stored in Google Cloud Storage, Google Cloud provides options for using customer-managed encryption keys, giving organizations an added layer of control over their data encryption process. The following code snippet illustrates how to encrypt a Cloud Storage object using a customer-managed key within the Google Cloud environment:

# Command to encrypt a Cloud Storage object using a customer-managed key

$ gsutil kms encryption -k 
projects/[PROJECT_ID]/locations/global/keyRings/[KEY_RING]/crypto
Keys/[KEY] gs://[BUCKET_NAME]/[OBJECT_NAME]

8. Automating workflows

Because services and resources are continuously deployed and scaled, Google Cloud security postures must be dynamic. Automation within Google Cloud provides a powerful solution, ensuring that security tasks— from policy enforcement to anomaly detection—are executed uniformly across the platform. Integrating automation into an organization’s security strategy leads to a significant reduction in the risks associated with human error and manual interventions. Google Cloud offers a suite of tools, such as Cloud Security Command Center and Cloud Functions, that foster seamless automation of security workflows.

Cloud Security Command Center dashboard

9. Limiting external exposure

It goes without saying that the internet is both a powerful tool and a potential vulnerability. While it facilitates seamless connectivity, data exchange, and cloud-based operations, the internet also opens the door to cyber threats. From sophisticated cyberattacks to data breaches, these threats are always evolving.

One of the most effective strategies for mitigating ever-changing risk is to limit external exposure. Organizations can create a more secure environment by controlling which services and applications are exposed to the broader internet, significantly reducing their attack surface. This approach minimizes the risk of unauthorized access and ensures that the organization's resources are shielded from potential threats.

Google Cloud offers robust tools and services to help organizations limit external exposure effectively. Specifically, Google Cloud's Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) provides granular controls over network traffic. Using VPC firewall rules, organizations can define and enforce policies that dictate which types of traffic are allowed and which are blocked. The following code snippet illustrates how to create a firewall rule that permits only internal traffic, effectively ensuring that external, potentially malicious traffic is kept at bay:

# Command to create a firewall rule allowing only internal traffic

$ gcloud compute firewall-rules create allow-internal --allow tcp,udp,icmp --source-ranges 10.0.0.0/8

10. Regular security audits

When performed periodically within the Google Cloud ecosystem, security audits act as vital checkpoints. They assess the current state of the organization's cloud infrastructure, ensuring that the defense mechanisms in place are effective and aligned with best practices. More than just a routine check, these audits delve deep into the system, offering valuable insights into potential vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and areas of improvement.

Google Cloud Audit Logs

Integrating the best practices described above creates a strong foundation for a holistic approach to Google Cloud security. Understanding, implementing, and regularly updating these security practices allows organizations to create a fortified defense against cyber threats.

Empower Google Cloud defenders with context and prioritization

Wiz was the first cloud security platform to integrate seamlessly with Google Cloud’s Security Command Center (SCC). Now, with just a quick glance at the Wiz Security Graph, organizations can quickly and fully understand the impact of an unfolding threat and prioritize the most effective response based on the underlying architecture and risk. 

The Wiz integration with SCC offers a solution that automatically correlates cloud events and threat detection data against other risk factors with a single deployment, single visibility layer with all context, a single policy layer spanning events, and a single prioritized view of issues.

To begin modernizing your approach to threat detection and response in your Google Cloud workloads, schedule a demo.

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