Cloud Security Explainers:
What Is Cloud Security Monitoring?
Cloud security monitoring encompasses several processes that allow organizations to review, manage, and observe operational workflows in a cloud environment.
Cloud security monitoring combines manual and automated processes to track and assess the security of servers, applications, software platforms, and websites.
Cloud security experts monitor and assess the data held in the cloud on an ongoing basis. They identify suspicious behavior and remediate cloud-based security threats. If they identify an existing threat or vulnerability, they can recommend remediations to address the issue quickly and mitigate further damage.
Benefits of Cloud Security Monitoring
Cloud security monitoring allows you to:
- Maintain compliance – most major regulations, such as PCI DSS and HIPAA, require monitoring. Organizations using cloud platforms should leverage observation tools to comply with these regulations and avoid penalties.
- Discover vulnerabilities – it is important to maintain visibility over your cloud environments to identify vulnerabilities. You can use an automated observation tool to quickly send alerts to your IT and security teams and help them identify suspicious behavior patterns and indicators of compromise (IoCs).
- Avoid business disruptions – security incidents can disrupt business operations or force you to shut them down altogether. Disruptions and data breaches can impact customer trust and satisfaction, so it is important to monitor your cloud environments to maintain business continuity and data security and business continuity.
- Protect sensitive data – you can use a cloud security monitoring solution to perform regular audits and keep your data secure. You can monitor the health status of your security systems and receive recommendations for implementing security measures.
- Leverage continuous monitoring and support – A cloud security management service can monitor your system 24/7. While maintaining security on-premises requires physical monitoring at regular intervals, cloud-based services allow you to implement continuous monitoring, significantly decreasing the risk of letting threats slip unnoticed.
How Does Cloud Security Monitoring Work?
Cloud service providers typically offer native cloud security monitoring tools built into their infrastructure. You can also add a third-party monitoring solution to your cloud environment. Alternatively, you can use on-premise security management solutions to monitor your cloud environment.
Cloud monitoring tools aggregate log data from multiple servers, instances, and containerss. An advanced cloud monitoring solution correlates and analyzes collected data to identify anomalous activity and alert the incident response team. Cloud security monitoring solutions typically provide the following capabilities:
- Continuous monitoring – a cloud monitoring solution should continuously monitor all activity in the cloud, allowing you to detect suspicious behavior in real time and mitigate the threat.
- Visibility – when you migrate to the cloud, you reduce your visibility across your organization’s infrastructure. A cloud monitoring tool can centralize monitoring and provide a unified view of user, file, and application behavior.
- Auditing – powerful monitoring and auditing capabilities can help you maintain compliance with the regulations applying to your organization.
- Scalability – a cloud security monitoring tool can monitor large volumes of data distributed in various locations.
- Integration – ideally, the monitoring solution should integrate with your existing tools and services to provide maximum visibility. Choose a solution that can work with your existing productivity suites (such as Google WorkspaceG Suite or Microsoft 365), endpoint security solutions (such as VMware, Carbon Black, or Crowdstrike), and identity verification and authentication services (such as Okta or Duo).
Related content: Read our explainer on Cloud Security Tools.
How Can You Use SIEM for Cloud Security Monitoring?
SIEM software acts as an overlay for many of the systems we rely on every day to prevent security threats to cloud environments. These systems include:
- Security policy management software
- Anti-malware applications
- Firewalls and intrusion detection or prevention (IDS/IPS) tools
In addition, SIEM retrieves data from operating systems like Windows and Linux, and mission- critical applications like Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.
A SIEM can help understand this huge volume of information, arriving as many data streams in different formats, by normalizing and storing it in a central repository. A SIEM can correlate and aggregate data to provide security insights and generate actionable alerts for security teams.
Here are a two examples of how SIEM can be used to detect cloud threats:
- Identifying an insider threat – consider an employee who leveraged a security misconfiguration to escalate their privileges from user to administrator. A SIEM can help identify an attack by correlating the privilege escalation event with unusual logins from the same user.
- Identifying malicious resources – consider a rogue cloud server that is suddenly started in the environment. This can happen accidentally, creating a security threat, or intentionally by attackers. A SIEM can identify the new asset, correlate it with information from vulnerability and malware scanning tools, and see that it has not undergone security auditing.
Related content: Read our explainer on Cloud Security Audit.
SIEM Use Cases for Cloud Security Monitoring [P1]
With a SIEM solution, administrators can get an aggregate view of many common security vulnerabilities. A SIEM can help isolate vulnerabilities from the low-level noise of everyday activities.
Suspicious events can be detected by examining data like logon events, changes to user permissions or roles, services starting or stopping in the environment, detection of malware, and unusual bandwidth usage.
Here are three examples that illustrate how a SIEM can help detect a cloud security incident:
- Unauthorized user login – a SIEM can detect when a user logs in directly to a cloud server without using the usual cryptographic keys. This could indicate the user’s account role changed, and they are looking for a way to access data they are no longer authorized to access. Similarly, employees can elevate their privileges from user to administrator to access information related to other parts of the business.
- Separation of duties – SIEM can help identify employees who have access to organizational functions that must be handled by different people. For example, if an accounting department employee is given access to approved paychecks and is also responsible for defining salaries in the system, that employee can funnel funds into their own bank account.
- Correlation of events – a SIEM can identify multiple events that do not have significance on their own but together could signify a security breach. For example, consider a new compute instance started in the cloud, and a security scan fails. This could be due to a simple misconfiguration. But taken together with malware detected elsewhere in the environment or a change of privileges, this could mean an attacker has compromised the environment.
Cloud Security Monitoring with Exabeam
Even if an all-cloud initiative is not in motion, it’s likely your organization will be moving operations into the cloud in the near future. Before taking this step, it’s critical to assess how you will go about securing cloud operations by understanding related security and compliance issues. Fortunately, a modern security information and event management (SIEM), or extended detection and response (XDR) solution will let your analysts address enterprise cloud security with advanced monitoring, behavioral analytics, and automation.
A modern approach automatically collects alert data from across multiple clouds, detects deviations in normal user and entity activity using behavioral analytics, and helps analysts quickly respond to attacks on cloud applications and infrastructure. A modern SIEM or XDR can help you combat increasingly targeted and complex attacks and insider threats by augmenting other cloud security solutions like Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) to better detect, investigate, and respond to cloud-based attacks, all while minimizing the detection of false positives.
As cloud-delivered offerings, Exabeam Fusion SIEM and Fusion XDR address cloud security in multiple ways to ensure the protection of sensitive data, applications and infrastructure. As athe leader in Next-Gen SIEM and XDR, Exabeam dramatically improves SOC productivity, allowing teams to detect, investigate, and respond to cyberattacks in 51 percent less time. Here are a few of the ways Exabeam supports Cloud Security:
- Collects alert data by direct ingestion from dozens of cloud security tools and popular cloud-based services across multiple enterprise clouds, in addition to hundreds of other products
- Detects new and emerging threats with behavioral analytics
- Provides machine-built timelines to improve analyst productivity and reduce response times by automating incident investigation
- Includes response playbooks using pre-built connectors and hundreds of actions to contain and mitigate threats
- Offers pre-built compliance packages (Exabeam Fusion SIEM)
- Supports detection and investigation with mappings to MITRE ATT&CK
- Augments other cloud security solutions like IAM and CASB to better detect, investigate, and respond to cloud-based attacks while minimizing the detection of false positives