Organizations are increasingly taking advantage of cloud systems to manage their data and provide services to users, increasing the need for robust cloud security as part of their overall information security program. The accessibility and flexibility of cloud systems make them especially vulnerable to security threats, requiring new strategies and tools to defend the new undefined enterprise perimeter.

In this post you will learn:

What is cloud security?

Cloud security protects cloud-based systems, data, and infrastructure from attacks. Cloud security applies multiple levels of controls that protect customer data and privacy, support regulatory compliance, and mitigates DDoS attacks. You can create an agile security environment by managing cloud security in one place.

How cloud security differs from traditional cyber security

The following table illustrates how responsibility is divided between the cloud users and cloud providers across different cloud models.


Cloud Security—the cloud service provider and customer share security responsibility On-Premises Security—the enterprise is responsible for security end to end
Cloud Security—relies on API-driven security tools On-Premises Security—uses individually managed security tools
Cloud Security—dynamic resources lead to blurred security boundaries and no clear perimeter On-Premises Security—static resources contain security boundaries at the network perimeter

Cloud security challenges: security concerns of primary types of cloud environments

There are three primary types of cloud environments—public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds. These three environments offer different types of security configurations, based on the shared responsibility model. This model defines how resources are utilized, how data moves and where, how connectivity is established, and who takes care of security.

Public cloud

Public cloud services are hosted by third-party companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. While the services offer efficient and cost-effective authentication management and access control, the shared resources model of these services can result in poor security.

In order to secure your environment, you need to overcome the challenges that come with introducing new security tools. While some tools are available for free, some incur overhead costs. You need to learn how to use the tools or hire an expert to take care of that responsibility. Otherwise, misconfiguration or misuse of the tools can lead to security breaches.

Private clouds

Private clouds aren’t necessarily safer than public clouds. While public cloud services provide built-in security measures implemented in the service ecosystem, private cloud security falls solely on the in-house team.

Companies that don’t perform regular updates and security maintenance will leave themselves exposed to security vulnerabilities. Additionally, the lack of transparency in some private cloud setups can lead to security issues. For example, software upgrades can cause hidden bottlenecks that create security exploits. Private clouds are especially vulnerable to social engineering attacks and access breaches.

Hybrid clouds

Hybrid clouds combine elements of public and private clouds in one environment. This approach gives companies more control over their data and resources. However, poor network execution, inefficient security protocols, and broken management chains can turn hybrid clouds into easy targets for attacks.

Since hybrid clouds integrate multiple services within one structure, compliance—which is critical for security—turns into a complex task as each environment needs to follow the same protocols. Each environment that transmits data within the hybrid network is vulnerable to eavesdropping and cyber attacks. Hybrid clouds with lack of encryption, poor data redundancy, insufficient risk assessment, and data leakage are wide open to attacks.

Top cloud security risks

Cloud systems provide increased access to sensitive data while allowing less control over the network, making them highly vulnerable. Following are the common risks facing cloud-based systems:

  • Data breaches—many high profile data breaches have been associated with cloud infrastructure. Because cloud resources can be deployed on the open iInternet, insecure resources expose an organization to loss or theft of sensitive data.
  • Contractual breaches—sometimes entities sign a contract specifying the terms for their joint use of data, including access authorization. One example is the transfer of data from local to cloud servers without authorization. Attacks can cause these organizations to violate their contracts and face financial losses or legal liability.
  • Data loss—while cloud security doesn’t eliminate all data loss threats, it offers cost-effective and easy solutions for backup and disaster recovery. As opposed to on-premise solutions, cloud environments can store data on multiple cloud data centers and provide added disaster recovery resilience.
  • Gaps in compliance—compliance standards help prevent data breaches by binding organizations into a set of security rules. Unfortunately, at many organizations there are significant gaps in compliance due to the complexity and lack of visibility of cloud environments.
  • Hacked interfaces and insecure APIs—APIs and integration points power cloud computing. While APIs help connecting systems, they can also be used as a back door for attackers.
  • Malware infections—used by hackers to hijack systems and accounts, delete data and harvest identity information and bank details. Cybercriminals use cloud services as an entry point for data exfiltration.
  • Identity management and weak authentication—cloud authentication security requires managing identity across different services. Poorly executed identity management can lead to data breaches and access authorization issues—weak identity management gives cybercriminals easy access to credentials and sensitive systems.
  • Insufficient due diligence and shared vulnerabilities—transitioning to the cloud without ensuring the cloud service provider security measures operate within the standard best practices or offer necessary security controls can lead to massive security breaches and shared vulnerabilities that leave all parties open to attack.
  • Abuse and misuse—cheap infrastructure or pirated software expose companies to security breaches.

9 cloud security best practices

Follow these best practices to improve security for your cloud environments:

    1. Network segmentation—split networks into segments for improved performance and security. If segmentation is already in place you can assess the resources and leverage a zone approach to isolate systems and components.
    2. Identity and access management (IAM)—mitigate security threats like unauthorized access and hijacking of accounts. High-quality IAM solutions help define and enforce access policies and capabilities such as role permissions and multi-factor authentication. Cloud computing requires access control lists (ACL) that monitor and record access.
    3. Training your staff—employees are responsible for individual use of company tech and need to understand security risks. Educate staff on strong passwords, identifying dangerous emails and shadow IT. Using unauthorized cloud services without permission can put the company and the employee at risk.
    4. Implementation of cloud security policies—establish guidelines that define the level of access of each user, the proper use of each service, which type of data can be stored in the cloud, and the security technologies used.
    5. Endpoint security—secures endpoints and monitors user activity in the cloud environment. You can create a strong defense with intrusion detection, firewalls, access control, and anti-malware.
    6. Data encryption—since data is vulnerable to attacks in motion (during transit) and at rest (in storage), encryption provides and important layer of security.
    7. Audits and penetration testing—ensures your security infrastructure remains effective and helps identify points for improvement. Through audits and testing, you can analyze vendors’ capabilities and compliance with your SLA, and make sure that access logs show only authorized personnel.
    8. Cloud disaster recovery—protect data by setting up robust backup solutions. Make sure your cloud provider’s standards align with yours for data backup, retention, and recovery policies.
    9. Plan for compliance—ensure you have the expertise and tools to fully comply with relevant regulations and industry standards. Don’t take cloud vendor statements about standards compliance at face value; understand exactly what is required to become compliant in the cloud.

What is a Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)?

CCSP is a role that was created to help standardize the knowledge and skills needed to ensure security in the cloud. This certification was developed by (ISC)² and the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), two non-profit organizations dedicated to cloud computing security.

CCSP is designed to help professionals supplement and modify traditional security approaches to better ensure cloud protection. It does this by helping organizations train security professionals and recognize the level of competence in their current teams. This ensures that professionals understand how to secure the cloud and what tools are most effective.

Any professional in the information security or IT fields can gain a CCSP certification. Those who most commonly seek one include:

  • Systems and security engineers
  • Enterprise, system, or security architects
  • Security administrators or managers

Why do you need a CCSP certification?

There are many professional and organizational benefits that can come with getting CCSP certified. The most common benefits include:

  • Career advancement
  • Validation and authentication of your skills and knowledge in cloud computing and security best practices and requirements
  • Maintenance of certification level ensures that you remain up-to-date on best practices and technologies related to to cloud based security
  • Access to a community of equally or more highly-skilled security professionals

How to become a CCSP

To gain your CCSP certification, you need to study for and pass the examination offered by (ISC)². This certification is only one of six certifications offered by the organization but is the only one focused solely on secure cloud computing.

To obtain your CCSP certification, you need at least five years of paid experience, including three years in information security and one year in one or more of six CCSP areas:

  • Architecture and design concepts
  • Data security
  • Platform and infrastructure security
  • Application security
  • Security operations
  • Legal, risk and compliance

Cloud Security Solutions

The Exabeam Security Management Platform (SMP) offers a comprehensive solution for protecting your digital resources in the cloud and on-premises.

Exabeam Cloud Connectors callow you to reliably collect logs from over 30 cloud services into Exabeam Data Lake, Exabeam Advanced Analytics or any other SIEM. Updates are made automatically whenever there are API changes, so you don’t need coding skills or costly professional service engagements to ensure the right data is being collected.

Exabeam provides the connectivity necessary to monitor all your cloud services, including:

  • Cloud services—such as Salesforce, Office 365, and Box. Exabeam monitors your cloud services at scale, providing unlimited logging for the ingestion and modeling cloud data. The pricing model is flat and user-based, ensuring visibility within your budget.
  • Cloud infrastructure providers—such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Exabeam scans for anomalous activity throughout your cloud infrastructure through intelligent and automated detection.

The Exabeam SMP platform organizes the data in a user-friendly and visually appealing interface. The cloud security modules of the Exabeam platform take a data-driven approach that enables enhanced controls for visibility, monitoring, and security in the cloud:

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Security Strategist

Samantha has 20 years of experience in cyber security. She has defined strategy for multiple security products and technologies, helped hundreds of organisations of all shapes, sizes, and geographies recover and learn from cyberattacks, and trained anyone who’ll listen on security concepts and solutions. She authors articles for various security publications, and is a regular speaker and volunteer at industry events, including BSides, IPExpo, CyberSecurityX, The Diana Initiative, and Blue Team Village (DEFCON)."

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