Cloud Security for SaaS



Cloud computing and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) applications have revolutionized how companies operate. While they've made our life easier, they tend to be vulnerable to cyberattacks and breach attempts. Cloud providers like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud spend billions each year in making their platform and SaaS products secure. In this article, you will learn how cloud companies bring security to their stacks and ensure safety.


Cloud Access Security Brokers


The cloud usage of today's businesses has gotten complex. On average, an organization utilizes about 1,935 cloud services, according to the McAfee Cloud Adoption and Risk Report 2019. Unfortunately, not all of those services pose the same risk, nor all of them are safe.


Therefore, enterprise companies and governments need to audit their respective network to find vulnerabilities. Tools used for that purpose are Cloud Access Security Brokers or CASB. More specifically, find comprised accounts and unauthorized cloud applications, which are prime targets for hackers.


The CASB tool will analyze the traffic coming in and out of the cloud. Then, it highlights the risk associated with each traffic source and blocks the access if found inappropriate.


Azure has Microsoft Cloud App Security for this purpose. For AWS, you'd need to buy third-party CASB tools from its marketplaces.


It is part of the broader SaaS Security Posture Management services offered by cloud service providers.


Infrastructure Protection


The cloud providers offer several tools to protect your cloud infrastructure. These encompass the control methodologies that govern the regular operation of the cloud.


AWS has several tools like AWS System Manager, AWS Firewall Manager, AWS Direct Connect, and AWS Cloud Formation, among others, to protect the infrastructure.


Azure has Azure Firewall Manager for this purpose. With third-party tools, companies can secure it within Azure VNets.


IAM and PAM


IAM (Identity Access Management) and PAM (Privileged Access Management) are two of the most important security services. They allow enterprise and government organizations to manage and apply risk-based access control.


IAM enables admins to define who is authorized to use what resources in the cloud. Generally, not everyone should have the same privileges. By limiting privileges, you can ensure the accounts do minimal damage to the infrastructure even when they're compromised.


Privileged Access Management helps you manage privileged accounts, i.e., have access to sensitive data. But, first, you need to check if they comply with the regulatory framework and are appropriately configured.


Data Encryption and Protection


Data encryption is central to safeguarding critical information in the cloud. Encrypted data is hard to access and intercept while in transit. So it makes the communication security between the cloud and the users and among cloud applications.


Encryption converts the data into unreadable data, also known as ciphertext, using algorithms. The algorithm itself can only decrypt it.


AWS has the AWS KMS and AWS CloudHSM for this purpose. IT admins can encrypt the data directly or provide protection to other keys that applications use to encrypt data. AWS Encryption SDK is a tool that can be used beyond the AWS platform.


Similarly, Azure allows organizations to enable "encryption at rest" by using Azure Storage Service Encryption.


Threat Detection Control


Your cloud infrastructure is likely going to be face cyberattacks from time to time. Therefore, all the traffic that poses a threat to the cloud must be detected and dealt with at the earliest.


Threat detection is core to most cloud providers, and they offer multiple tools for it. IAM, as mentioned above, is one way to detect threats and unauthorized access.


With Amazon GuardDuty, companies and governments can monitor malicious activity and detect unauthorized behavior. It analyzes billions of events across various data sources and uses machine learning to identify and prioritize potential threats. It's recommended that you integrate GuardDuty with Amazon CloudWatch Events to set up alerts and make them actionable.


Similar threat detection tools exist for Azure and Google Cloud. You can either use their in-built detection tools or make use of specialized third-party tools.


Incident Response Management


Any incident that's potentially a threat should be detected, triaged, contained, and responded to. And for this purpose, there are incident response management tools within cloud service providers and SaaS providers.


AWS allows companies to automate incident response with tools like AWS CloudFormation. For example, in Azure, you'd have to follow the regular Security Incident Response lifecycle in Azure Security Control, which is Detect > Assess > Diagnose > Stabilize > Close.


Within these tools, you have services like Log Analysis, Log Management, Intrusion Detection Systems, Vulnerability Scanner, which help detect and respond to the threat.


DDoS Attack Protection


DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service is a typical attack that aims to exhaust the application's resources. As a result, it makes the application unavailable to the users.


DDoS attacks can target any endpoint, both at the infrastructure and application level.


AWS recommends that enterprises and governments use the AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) to prevent these attacks. It protects all of their APIs against exploits. In addition, you can create security policies that control bot traffic. Furthermore, it can detect attack patterns and block their access, if necessary.


Azure has Azure DDoS protection, which is a multi-layer protection service, to protect against such attacks. Within this tool, admins can set up metrics, analytics, and alerting. As a result, it makes the IT team's job easier.


Data Center Physical Security


While the tools and software do a good job of protecting your data and information, they aren't enough. That's why cloud companies invest in enforcing physical security at their data centers.


At AWS data centers, they follow a design principle that limits intrusion. In addition, strict physical and environmental control is in place that checks who can and cannot access the servers. They also have business continuity and data recovery measures in case there's a natural or man-made disaster.


Azure also has similar measures in place to counteract physical threats to the data centers.


Seven Pillars of Cloud Security


When your team sits down to design a security framework for your cloud, it should be based on these seven pillars:


  1. Access Management

  2. Network Control

  3. VM Management

  4. Perimeter Network Control

  5. Governance and Incident Management

  6. Data Protection

  7. Scalability


While the cloud service providers offer state-of-the-art security tools, it's your job to ensure total protection. IBM reports that 95% of all security breaches are due to human error. So enterprises and government agencies need to have the best cybersecurity team in place to handle the resources.


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