We have recently read a lot of posts about the SolarWinds hack, a vulnerability in a popular monitoring software used by many organizations around the world.
This is a good example of supply chain attack, which can happen to any organization.
Events like these make organizations rethink their cybersecurity and data protection strategies and ask important questions.
Recent changes in the European data protection laws and regulations (such as Schrems II) are trying to limit data transfer between Europe and the US.
Should such security breaches occur? Absolutely not.
Should we live with the fact that such large organization been breached? Absolutely not!
Should organizations, who already invested a lot of resources in cloud migration move back workloads to on-premises? I don’t think so.
But no organization, not even major financial organizations like banks or insurance companies, or even the largest multinational enterprises, have enough manpower, knowledge, and budget to invest in proper protection of their own data or their customers’ data, as hyperscale cloud providers.
There are several of reasons for this:
1. Hyperscale cloud providers invest billions of dollars improving security controls, including dedicated and highly trained personnel.
2. Breach of customers’ data that resides at hyperscale cloud providers can drive a cloud provider out of business, due to breach of customer’s trust.
3. Security is important to most organizations; however, it is not their main line of expertise.
Organization need to focus on their core business that brings them value, like manufacturing, banking, healthcare, education, etc., and rethink how to obtain services that support their business goals, such as IT services, but do not add direct value.
Recommendations for managing security
Security best practices often state: “document everything”.
There are two downsides to this recommendation: One, storage capacity is limited and two, most organizations do not have enough trained manpower to review the logs and find the top incidents to handle.
Another security best practice state: “encrypt everything”.
A few years ago, encryption was quite a challenge. Will the service/application support the encryption? Where do we store the encryption key? How do we manage key rotation?
In the past, only banks could afford HSM (Hardware Security Module) for storing encryption keys, due to the high cost.
Most cloud providers, not only support encryption at rest, but also support customer managed key, which allows the customer to generate his own encryption key for each service, instead of using the cloud provider’s generated encryption key.
Most organizations struggle to handle security compliance over large environments on premise, not to mention large IaaS environments.
Any organization exposing services to the Internet (from publicly facing website, through email or DNS service, till VPN service), will eventually suffer from volumetric denial of service.
Only large ISPs have enough bandwidth to handle such an attack before the border gateway (firewall, external router, etc.) will crash or stop handling incoming traffic.
The hyperscale cloud providers have infrastructure that can handle DDoS attacks against their customers, services such as AWS Shield, Azure DDoS Protection, Google Cloud Armor or Oracle Layer 7 DDoS Mitigation.
Using SaaS Applications
In the past, organizations had to maintain their entire infrastructure, from messaging systems, CRM, ERP, etc.
They had to think about scale, resilience, security, and more.
Most breaches of cloud environments originate from misconfigurations at the customers’ side on IaaS / PaaS services.
Today, the preferred way is to consume managed services in SaaS form.
Limit the Blast Radius
To limit the “blast radius” where an outage or security breach on one service affects other services, we need to re-architect infrastructure.
Switching from applications deployed inside virtual servers to modern development such as microservices based on containers, or building new applications based on serverless (or function as a service) will assist organizations limit the attack surface and possible future breaches.
Example of these services: Amazon ECS, Amazon EKS, Azure Kubernetes Service, Google Kubernetes Engine, Google Anthos, Oracle Container Engine for Kubernetes, AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, Google Cloud Functions, Google Cloud Run, Oracle Cloud Functions, etc.
The bottom line: organizations can increase their security posture, by using the public cloud to better protect their data, use the expertise of cloud providers, and invest their time in their core business to maximize value.
Security breaches are inevitable. Shifting to cloud services does not shift an organization’s responsibility to secure their data. It simply does it better.