The corona pandemic – and above all, the home office boom associated with it – has proven to be a real cloud driver over the past 12 months. Today more companies than ever adopt a cloud-first approach and prefer cloud deployment options to traditional on-premises solutions. As the current State of Cloud Report 2021 shows, 55 percent of all workloads will be executed in the cloud in the next 12 months. According to the Netskope Cloud & Threat Report, the number of cloud apps used per company rose by 20 percent last year alone. Companies with 500 to 2,000 employees use an average of 664 different cloud apps per month.
The positive effects of the cloud initiatives – from increased agility and efficiency to relevant cost savings – are usually felt quickly by companies. But with the speed with which many of them have approached cloud migration, new security risks are emerging. Privileged Access Management (PAM), which is specifically geared towards the challenges of the cloud, keeps these risks well under control.
Identities Are The New Security Perimeter
A significant problem associated with the rapid cloud adoption is the resulting considerable increase in privileged accounts and credentials, making it increasingly difficult for IT teams to manage and secure them properly. In addition, more and more employees are working from home, and the management of critical infrastructures and development platforms and access to constantly new and updated web applications take place outside of the protected corporate environment.
If this sensitive cloud access is only covered with simple passwords, cyber attackers have an easy time with it. Like the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report , Verizon found that 77 percent of security breaches in the cloud are due to compromised credentials.
A rethink is needed here: companies need to understand that traditional on-premises security solutions alone are not enough to protect cloud environments adequately and that the new security perimeter lies in identities and privileged access themselves. If companies continue to focus on simply moving their remaining on-premises legacy systems to the cloud, sooner or later, they will experience a rude awakening.
Suppose you want your cloud and all systems and data accessible through it to be protected. In that case, you have to build strong authentication, authorization and access controls for users from the start, which are defined according to their roles and areas of responsibility. Privileged Access Management is central to the implementation of these controls.
The Benefits Of PAM For Cloud Migration
For many companies, moving to the cloud is something that cannot be postponed. Especially if you assume that the majority of the workforce will continue to (partially) work from home, this means that security teams must specifically address privileged access as part of the ongoing cloud migration to continue to adequately protect sensitive data, ensure compliance, and prevent unauthorized access to systems.
Visibility must be at the heart of the cloud security strategy, and it must be maintained at all times. An occasional discovery scan of privileged accounts is not sufficient because it simply does not offer the transparency to keep all risks under constant control. Continuous automated detection of all types of accounts is essential for the teams here. This is the only way to ensure that the authorizations are configured correctly and adequate supervision.
Monitoring – Keep An Eye On The Privileges Of Employees And Third-Party Providers
Another vital measure when securing cloud services is monitoring. Although the vast majority of users can be trusted, the behaviour of those accessing sensitive information and privileged accounts should still be observed and verified. This includes monitoring network traffic for unusual activity, such as B. Access outside regular business hours, from unique locations, or other outbound activity. Organizations can also look for signs of compromise by requiring additional dynamic security controls for privileged access, such as a zero-trust approach requiring continuous verification.
At the same time, it is essential to limit monitoring to your employees and keep an eye on your partners. The majority of businesses these days work with third-party vendors in a variety of ways. This includes external contractors who work on temporary projects, permanently integrated contractors or personnel from temporary staff. Failure to monitor your privileged access would pose significant security risks.
Another essential measure to minimize the risk of abuse and become more resilient is the restriction of access according to the just-in-time principle. This means that access is only granted for a strictly limited period defined for the user and never permanently. Far too many companies maintain privileges for far too long, fail to allow passwords and accounts to expire and delete requests when they are no longer needed, e.g. when projects end or employees leave.
Granting permanent privileged access violates the least privilege principle and harbours uncontrollable risks. Therefore, it is advisable to use PAM solutions that enable companies to give privileged access in real-time or only when required.
Keep An Eye On Your Cloud Responsibilities
When securing the cloud, it is also essential to know exactly what your responsibilities are. Many organizations are unaware that most misconfigurations and inconsistent controls are legally the user’s faults, not the cloud provider. Joint liability can only arise in rare cases so that it is also in the interest of the provider to help their customers implement security best practices. However, the primary responsibility rests on the shoulders of the company. You need to ensure that access and permissions for every identity and system interacting with cloud-based systems are appropriately managed and protected.
These systems can include critical applications or databases stored in the cloud, application development platforms, or tools used by the business or engineering teams. With this in mind, cloud access should be incorporated and audited using the same PAM policies, processes, and solutions used across the company.
Companies must also keep an eye on changes and plan them in their security strategy. The increased use of cloud services also shows this: Companies today use an average of around 2,000 cloud services, which is 15 percent more than last year, which is mainly due to the growth of SaaS.
As quickly as digital transformation projects are currently gaining pace, PAM can help here just as well. In DevOps companies, a wide range of cloud resources are created, used and paralyzed continuously and on a large scale. PAM assists by automating the rapid creation, archiving, querying and rotation of secrets.
In times of an intensified threat landscape and increasing cyber-attacks, PAM can considerably simplify the work of IT and security departments. In this way, PAM not only provides a better overview of hybrid on-premises and multi-cloud environments, data and infrastructures and privileges in general. A well-designed PAM also enables granular controls that support continuous authentication and secure authorization to be set up and implemented across different environments. At the same time, a strong PAM strategy ensures clearer audibility by making it easier to comply with regulations and compliance.
In the constant transformation, which is being pushed even further by Covid-19, which is forcing the use of more and more cloud services, PAM can offer companies an additional valuable level of security. By precisely controlling what users can see and do on cloud platforms, services, and applications, organizations can reduce the attack surface and ultimately overcome cloud security challenges.