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Hybrid Cloud Security Explained

Hybrid cloud security is a combination of strategies, technologies, and teams working in unison to secure an organization’s hybrid cloud environment.

Wiz Experts Team
6 min read

What is hybrid cloud security? 

Hybrid cloud security is a combination of strategies, technologies, and teams working in unison to secure an organization’s hybrid cloud environment. Hybrid cloud environments comprise both public clouds from providers like Google Cloud, AWS, VMware, OCI, Azure, and Alibaba, as well as private clouds, which are typically data centers exclusive to an organization. 

Hybrid cloud security is vital because architectures that combine public and private IT infrastructures are growing. According to the 2023 State of DevOps Report, commissioned by Google Cloud’s DORA Team, hybrid cloud usage grew from 25% to 42.5% in 2022. Furthermore, the global hybrid cloud market is forecasted to reach almost $350 billion in the next five years, a compound annual growth rate of 21.91%. 

This widespread and growing orchestration of public and private clouds will bear fruit for organizations as long as one critical and complex hurdle is overcome: hybrid cloud security. 

Understanding hybrid cloud

The nuances of hybrid cloud security can be better navigated by understanding how hybrid clouds operate. 

A hybrid cloud environment features at least one public and one private cloud, although numerous organizations opt for a menagerie of services and infrastructures from multiple providers. 

Complex and interconnected hybrid cloud environments typically have three layers: 

  • The physical layer includes in-house as well as third-party infrastructure like data centers. 

  • The protocol layer includes a series of controls to make sure the enterprise architecture is protected from a range of potential cyberattacks. 

  • The organizational layer protects the hybrid cloud infrastructure from what’s widely considered the weakest link in cybersecurity—human error.

Challenges of hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud is a critical component of present-day IT infrastructures. Companies adopt this model for benefits including cost savings, increased autonomy, operational agility, optimized performance, and granular scalability

However, a series of hybrid cloud security hurdles need to be addressed and overcome to fully unlock these benefits and avoid security catastrophes. The biggest hybrid cloud security challenges include: 

Most importantly, all these critical components of hybrid cloud security need to be managed from a single pane. The most effective way to achieve robust security for a hybrid cloud is to choose a unified, cloud native security solution and meticulously follow best practices.

Hybrid cloud security best practices

Below are some best practices to get you started on your hybrid cloud security journey. 

Map all resources and controls across your hybrid cloud

You can only unify what you can account for. So, the first and most important step in hybrid cloud security is to identify every single IT resource and control across your public and private clouds. 

This is critical because IT resources, controls, and configurations are likely disparate cloud service providers (CSPs) that have varying approaches. Also, mapping all of your IT assets and controls can help identify the critical intersections of your public and private clouds.

Focus on the 4 Cs of cloud native security

Every cloud native security approach should include the four critical “Cs”: 

  • Cloud: Typically managed by CSPs and made up of a combination of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services

  • Clusters: Tackle workload security

  • Containers: Need to be secured to address vulnerabilities that nest in container images

  • Code: Features advanced controls to limit exposure and protect communication

Securing each of these components can help create bulletproof fortifications around even the most complex hybrid cloud infrastructures. 

Protect VMs and storage buckets

One of the best ways to secure your infrastructure against data breaches is to protect your virtual machines (VMs). Best practices for VM protection include regular updates, constant monitoring, and using multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Misconfigured storage buckets are also common attack vectors for threat actors. This means it’s vital to optimize controls and permissions, as well as implement granular policies following zero trust principles. 

Keep in mind that the Capita data breach, which involved the compromise of more than 3,000 files, was the result of an AWS bucket that had no password. This incident is just one of many stark reminders to prioritize storage bucket security. 

Segment your network to limit potential damage

Security breaches may be inevitable, but network segmentation can ensure that the damage caused by breaches is limited to a small area. Virtual private clouds (VPCs) and subnets can help segment your network. Network access control lists (NACLs) are also an effective way to police and control network traffic. 

Together, VCPs, subnets, and NACLs can form a powerful roadblock against threat actors who seek to inflict lateral damage. 

Tighten your IAM posture

It’s critical to optimize the access of human and machine identities, especially in complex hybrid cloud architectures. The principle of least privilege should be enforced at every possible juncture to ensure that digital identities can access or influence solely those IT assets critical to their main functions. 

Some methods to maintain IAM hygiene include rotating access keys, implementing service-linked roles, and keeping a watchful eye on access patterns to spot anomalies and suspicious activity. 

Safeguard your supply chain

The key to protecting your hybrid cloud supply chain is having a clear understanding of individual and shared responsibilities. 

For instance, your organization is likely solely responsible for the safety and controls of private on-premises infrastructure. Meanwhile, your PaaS and SaaS vendors will have varying degrees of responsibility for the security of their underlying infrastructure. 

When it comes to IaaS services, you will need to take on more responsibility, including for configurations, access management, data encryption, and various security settings. 

Carefully study the SLAs (service level agreements) between you and your vendors to know which hybrid cloud security responsibilities belong to whom.

SolarWinds: Real-world fallout from a compromised supply chain 

The SolarWinds attack is one of the most commonly cited examples of what happens when an enterprise's supply chain is targeted. In 2021, SolarWinds reported that the aftermath of the attack had cost them $3.5 million, and insured losses for compromised customers were predicted to be as high as $90 million

These numbers rarely paint the full picture of the fallout from a software supply chain attack because companies also face reputational damage and other significant long-term consequences that are difficult to quantify.

Strengthen incident response

Hybrid cloud security doesn’t stop with building robust defenses against potential threats. You need to have an incident response plan in place to help your organization bounce back from an attack with minimal damage. It can also help you conduct swift postmortems to understand why and how defenses were breached. 

Some ways to strengthen your incident response include: 

  • Assigning clear roles to all stakeholders

  • Scheduling regular rehearsals of playbooks

  • Documenting the results of these rehearsals

  • Introducing automated incident detection wherever possible

Elevate data protection and governance

Protect your crown jewel—data—with multiple layers of security. One of the simplest ways to do this is to encrypt all of your data. Encryption prevents malicious actors from reading your data, even if they have managed to access it. 

Data privacy should also be a top priority because compliance failures can lead to significant fines and reputational damage. Generate regular compliance reports, and calibrate your compliance tools to meet industry or customized benchmarks. Also, keep your threat intelligence ecosystems healthy to guarantee a steady flow of information regarding new threats to your data and compliance posture.

Meta: Real-world costs of a data protection fail

Remember that Meta was recently hit with a whopping $1.3 billion fine by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission for data privacy failures. Incidents like this highlight the magnitude of fallout caused by data protection and governance oversight. 

Fortune 500 companies might be able to survive the repercussions of legal fees and penalties, but most small and medium-sized enterprises will struggle to bounce back after such losses. 

The bottom line is that data protection and governance is a critical pillar of hybrid cloud security and needs to be treated as a top priority. 

The optimal approach to hybrid cloud security

It’s not an understatement to say that the quality of your hybrid cloud security posture can make or break your organization. The aforementioned best practices can help you protect your environment in a growing landscape of hybrid cloud security threats—but none of those practices will be actionable without a unified, single-vendor cloud native solution. 

Wiz’s cloud security platform can help defend any hybrid cloud architecture against a growing array of threats. The best part is that you don’t need to make any long-term commitments to understand the full capabilities of Wiz. 

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