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    26 Jan 2023 · Software Engineering

    3 Pillars to Maximizing Security Potential in Complex Cloud Environments

    8 min read

    As organizational dependence on the cloud grows, so do the challenges of implementing and managing security strategies. Strategies that may have been effective for traditional, on-premise networks are generally inadequate for cloud infrastructure. This is because cloud networks are becoming increasingly complex: organizations these days rarely rely on just one cloud service. Instead, businesses deploy many different services from multiple vendors, often relying on a mix of public and private cloud providers to support their operational goals. The complexity of the cloud demands that the way we approach cloud security must be layered and strategic. When developing a robust cybersecurity strategy for your cloud network, it’s important to consider three main pillars to maximizing security potential:

    • Hybrid and multi-cloud environments
    • Seamless functionality
    • Branch office edge protection

    Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Environments

    Both hybrid and multi-cloud refer to cloud deployments that utilize more than one cloud. Where they differ is in the types of infrastructure they use. A hybrid cloud refers to deployments that utilize two or more different types of clouds, including a private cloud along with one or more public cloud services. Alternatively, a multi-cloud environment always includes more than one public cloud service. Multi-cloud environments don’t always include a private cloud, but when they do, they can be considered both a multi-cloud and a hybrid cloud.

    Since both hybrid and multi-cloud use multiple cloud computing service providers, businesses are able to maximize the value that the cloud offers with highly flexible services. Businesses don’t need to lock into one specific vendor or contract. Instead, they can choose from a variety of solutions in order to best suit the needs of their organization.

    Another major benefit of using a hybrid or multi-cloud environment is risk mitigation. Service outages can be catastrophic, often costing organizations thousands of dollars per second of downtime. Spreading services across multiple cloud providers means that even if one provider goes down, you still have alternative resources at your disposal.

    Whether or not you choose hybrid or multi-cloud depends on the needs of your organization. A hybrid cloud may be ideal for companies operating within countries which restrict the storage of sensitive data on public hyperscalars. Being able to take advantage of the scale and flexibility of public clouds while observing the legal requirements of PII data storage is a real competitive advantage.

    Securing your Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Environments: Best Practices

    1. Address Interoperability

    Interoperability allows businesses to fully take advantage of the flexibility and scalability of their cloud environment by integrating new technologies with existing services. While this is typically seen as a major benefit, there are security considerations that must be addressed. Bad configuration, poorly implemented authentication, and outdated services can lead to security vulnerabilities that may put your organization at risk.

    2. Understand how the shared model works

    It’s important to understand how the shared model is applied to you and your cloud providers. Typically, cloud providers are responsible for the security of their own infrastructure, but often provide customers with additional security features to protect their data. How your data is used in their infrastructure is usually the responsibility of your organization. For example, any third-party software your organization deploys on the cloud is your organization’s responsibility to keep patched and otherwise hardened.

    3. Choose your cloud vendors carefully

    It’s important to choose your cloud vendors carefully and have a thorough understanding of the products, services and security policies of each. Having a comprehensive understanding of the products and services being used is essential to maintaining a secure environment.

    4. Harden your applications

    Hardening your applications is essential to maintaining a secure environment. A vulnerability and exposure (VnE) manager can be critical to achieving this, as it regularly monitors your applications for threats and vulnerabilities.

    5. Backup your data

    In today’s age, ransomware attacks are more common than ever, costing businesses millions each year. Mitigate the risks of ransomware attacks by maintaining up to date and secure backups of your data.

    6. Monitor for change

    The security of your services should be continuously monitored and assessed. Updates, configuration changes, the addition of new services, or any other changes to your system can create new security vulnerabilities that must be addressed immediately.

    Seamless Functionality

    One of the major challenges for maintaining an effective cybersecurity strategy is implementing security solutions that are simple and easy to use. One-time passwords or push notifications for password-based multi-factor authentication, for example, can be frustrating for users and reduce productivity. With the increasing complexity of cloud environments, it’s essential for organizations to adopt seamless security solutions that allow users to access cloud services in your environment with minimal disruption to workflow.

    Below are some examples of seamless security controls:

    Single Sign-on (SSO): single sign-on allows users to access multiple applications with one set of credentials. This eliminates the need to sign in to each individual application as well as the need for multiple username and password combinations.

    Biometric Authentication: biometric authentication uses an individual’s unique physical characteristics as part of the authentication process. It is used as a type of multi-factor authentication, most often coupled with a username and password. Examples of biometric authentication include fingerprint or facial recognition. The benefit of using biometric authentication means that users don’t need to enter additional passwords or one-time passcodes.

    Automation: automation is becoming an increasingly central component of a robust cloud security framework. Automation allows businesses to automate security related tasks, such as automatic updates, automatic vulnerability scanning, and more. The benefits of automation mean that certain tasks can be taken care of by automation tools instead of requiring user intervention.

    Branch Office Edge Protection

    Often enterprises require on-premise branch offices in order to comply with location requirements, compliance, or other data privacy concerns. While connecting a branch office to the cloud poses additional security risks, steps can be taken to maximize the security of your branch offices.

    Understanding the risks

    The nature of the edge poses a big security challenge for organizations and an appealing target for malicious actors. For one, edge projects tend to be populated with a high number of IoT devices and supporting infrastructure, and as a result generate a massive amount of data. This makes the edge a prime target for criminal hacker organizations. Another major security challenge is the sheer scale of deployment locations. The edge is often spread across hundreds or even thousands of locations, ranging from anything like warehouses, factories, retail stores and more. The vast number of edge locations poses the challenge of ensuring that every location in the network is secured.

    Branch office edge security best practices:

    1. Edge must be integrated into your security strategy: each edge node requires the same level of security, visibility and redundancy as your central data center. This should include multiple layers of protection such as endpoint protection, multi-factor authentication (MFA), malware protection, end-user training, and more.

    2. Monitor for change: automated monitoring tools can aid in alerting you of system changes and potential security threats, helping you respond to potential security threats as soon as they appear.

    3. Make patching a priority: aggressive patch management is recommended to maximize the security of your branch office edge. This can be done using centralized configuration management and monitoring tools.

    Securing IoT with SD-Branch Solutions

    IoT devices are increasingly becoming a target for hackers. IoT devices not only increase the network’s potential attack surface, but they also often contain security vulnerabilities due to factors such as poor code, built-in backdoors, and limited memory and CPU. This is where SD-Branch comes in. SD-Branch extends native security that is built into your Secure SD-WAN into the branch network, providing organizations with additional security for IoT devices. SD-Branch solutions include three components:

    1. Network edge protection: your next-generation firewall must extend security from the SD-WAN connection to access controllers in order to secure all inbound and outbound IoT traffic.

    2. Device edge protection: integrated network access control (NAC) solution should be used to identify, segment, and to apply policy to all IoT devices.

    3. Access edge protection: access points must secure IoT traffic moving through the branch network

    By incorporating branch office edge protection into your overall strategy, you can effectively manage your cloud security to ensure the safety of your data in a seamless, efficient way.


    Modern cloud environments are becoming ever more complex, and so too are the security challenges that come along with it. Hybrid and multi-cloud environments that integrate many services and connect a large number physical locations and IoT devices require a sophisticated security framework to keep up with a constantly evolving cyber landscape. With the right cybersecurity strategy and tools, you too can maximize security potential in your cloud environment.

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    Avatar for Jenelle Fulton-Brown
    Writen by:
    Jenelle Fulton-Brown is a security architect and internet privacy advocate based in Toronto, Canada helping Fortune 500 companies build future-proof internal systems.
    Avatar for Jenelle Fulton-Brown
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    I picked up most of my soft/hardware troubleshooting skills in the US Army. A decade of Java development drove me to operations, scaling infrastructure to cope with the thundering herd. Engineering coach and CTO of Teleclinic.