Threat Research Blog

Top Two Cloud Security Concepts You Won’t Want to Overlook

Organizations transitioning to the cloud require robust security concepts to protect their most critical assets, including business applications and sensitive data. Rony Moshkovitch, Prevasio’s co-founder, explains these concepts and why reinforcing a DevSecOps culture would help organizations strike the right balance between security and agility.

In the post-COVID era, enterprise cloud adoption has grown rapidly. Per a 2022 security survey, over 98% of organizations use some form of cloud-based infrastructure. But 27% have also experienced a cloud security incident in the previous 12 months. So, what can organizations do to protect their critical business applications and sensitive data in the cloud?

Why Consider Paved Road, Guardrails, and Least Privilege Access for Cloud Security

It is in the organization’s best interest to allow developers to expedite the lifecycle of an application. At the same time, it’s the security teams’ job to facilitate this process in tandem with the developers to help them deliver a more secure application on time. As organizations migrate their applications and workloads to a multi-cloud platform, it’s incumbent to use a Shift left approach to DevSecOps. This enables security teams to build tools, and develop best practices and guidelines that enable the DevOps teams to effectively own the security process during the application development stage without spending time responding to risk and compliance violations issued by the security teams. This is where Paved Road, Guardrails and Least Privilege could add value to your DevSecOps.

Concept #1: The Paved Road + Guardrails Approach

Suppose your security team builds numerous tools, establishes best practices, and provides expert guidance. These resources enable your developers to use the cloud safely and protect all enterprise assets and data without spending all their time or energy on these tasks. They can achieve these objectives because the security team has built a “paved road” with strong “guardrails” for the entire organization to follow and adopt.

By following and implementing good practices, such as building an asset inventory, creating safe templates, and conducting risk analyses for each cloud and cloud service, the security team enables developers to execute their own tasks quickly and safely. Security staff will implement strong controls that no one can violate or bypass. They will also clearly define a controlled exception process, so every exception is clearly tracked and accountability is always maintained.

Over time, your organization may work with more cloud vendors and use more cloud services. In this expanding cloud landscape, the paved road and guardrails will allow users to do their jobs effectively in a security-controlled manner because security is already “baked in” to everything they work with. Moreover, they will be prevented from doing anything that may increase the organization’s risk of breaches, thus keeping you safe from the bad guys.

How Paved Road Security and Guardrails Can Be Applied Successfully

Example #1: Set Baked-in Security Controls

Remember to bake security into reusable Terraform templates or AWS CloudFormation modules of paved roads. You may apply this tactic to provision new infrastructure, create new storage buckets, or adopt new cloud services. When you create a paved road and implement appropriate guardrails, all your golden modules and templates are already secure from the outset – safeguarding your assets and preventing undesirable security events.

Example #2: Introducing Security Standardizations

When creating resource functions with built-in security standards, developers should adhere to these standards to confidently configure required resources without introducing security issues into the cloud ecosystem.

Example #3: Automating Security with Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

IaC is a way to manage and provision new infrastructure by coding specifications instead of following manual processes. To create a paved road for IaC, the security team can introduce tagging to provision and track cloud resources. They can also incorporate strong security guardrails into the development environment to secure the new infrastructure right from the outset.

Concept #2: The Principle of Least Privileged Access (PoLP)

The Principle of Least Privilege Access (PoLP) is often synonymous with Zero Trust. PoLP is about ensuring that a user can only access the resources they need to complete a required task. The idea is to prevent the misuse of critical systems and data and reduce the attack surface to decrease the probability of breaches.

How Can PoLP Be Applied Successfully

Example #1: Ring-fencing critical assets

This is the process of isolating specific “crown jewel” applications so that even if an attacker could make it into your environment, they would be unable to reach that data or application. As few people as possible would be given credentials that allow access, therefore following least privilege access rules. Crown jewel applications could be anything from where sensitive customer data is stored, to business-critical systems and processes.

Example #2: Establishing Role Based Access Control (RABC)

Based on the role that they hold at the company, RBAC or role-based access control allows specific access to certain data or applications, or parts of the network. This goes hand in hand with the principle of least privilege, and means that if credentials are stolen, the attackers are limited to what access the employee in question holds. As this is based on users, you could isolate privileged user sessions specifically to keep them with an extra layer of protection. Only if an administrator account or one with wide access privilege is stolen, would the business be in real trouble.

Example 3#: Isolate applications, tiers, users, or data

This task is usually done with micro-segmentation, where specific applications, users, data, or any other element of the business is protected from an attack with internal, next-gen firewalls. Risk is reduced in a similar way to the examples above, where the requisite access needed is provided using the principle of least privilege to allow access to only those who need it, and no one else. In some situations, you might need to allow elevated privileges for a short period of time, for example during an emergency. Watch out for privilege creep, where users gain more access over time without any corrective oversight.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Paved Road, Guardrails and PoLP concepts are all essential for a strong cloud security posture. By adopting these concepts, your organization can move to the next stage of cloud security maturity and create a culture of security-minded responsibility at every level of the enterprise.

The Prevasio cloud security platform allows you to apply these concepts across your entire cloud estate while securing your most critical applications.