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November 1, 2022 | David McKenney

Top 7 Things Causing Hybrid Cloud Security Challenges

While adopting a hybrid cloud model comes with many benefits, making the switch without being mindful of the security gaps that can appear due to managing multiple cloud computing platforms can spell trouble. Be on the lookout for the top 7 hybrid cloud security challenges that can impede progress, and possibly put your revenue, productivity, or team in jeopardy.

Top hybrid security threats and challenges

Ransomware

The average cost of a data breach in 2022 is $4.35 million, according to IBM. When distilled to just ransomware attacks, that amount climbs to $4.54 million. Stolen or compromised credentials account for 19% of all breaches, and 45% of breaches occur in the cloud. However, it should be noted that the average cost of a breach in a hybrid cloud ($3.80 million) is lower than in private and public clouds (up to $5.02 million). Breach lifecycles were also shorter in hybrid cloud environments, which can both speed up the incident, but also speed up the course to remediation.

Data breaches will continue to be a regular occurrence, and ransomware will continue to be a threat to organizations that do not have plans to manage the danger. Business continuity plans, backup solutions, cybersecurity training, ransomware protection strategies, and expertise can all improve the outlook for an infrastructure that may have more gaps to fill based on how it is put together.

Network attacks and DDoS

What would happen if everyone tried to rush into an elevator at the same time? At best, getting to where you need to be will slow down considerably. At worst, the elevator shuts down or malfunctions. A DDoS attack works similarly – it overwhelms your website, network, or application with junk traffic, often assisted by botnets designed to crash your systems. DDoS and network attacks can also be accompanied by malware that infects a device and holds sensitive data for ransom.

Lack of proper planning

You can’t prepare for scenarios you don’t know enough about, and that’s certainly true when it comes to cybersecurity.

Part of the problem comes from underestimating how the security domain has broadened in recent years. When looking at a hybrid model, companies have different platforms, connectivity, and access, among other things, at play.

In the last 5 years or so, two things have had dramatic effects on cybersecurity. First, the new perimeter is the individual user, not a firewall. While DDoS attacks still pose a threat, penetrating a user account has become the new attack surface. Second, moving from a centralized infrastructure to a multicloud environment is inevitable for most organizations. However, the sprawl that comes with multicloud often leaves teams playing catch up, including those who oversee security. After spending years centralizing infrastructure to be more in control of the perimeter, the landscape has shifted again, and plans need to shift with it.

Creating a comprehensive cybersecurity plan for hybrid infrastructure requires two pieces: A foundational strategy and plan, and a cohesive approach to bringing disparate parts from hybrid infrastructure together. If your hybrid environment includes private cloud, public cloud and on-premises environments, each will have its security vulnerabilities, requirements, and considerations to think about individually and collectively. If you don’t know what to look out for in all of these situations, it can be extremely difficult to know how to plan.

Visibility issues

Even if you have a proper plan in place, visibility and control issues can keep you from executing your vision. Organizations should be able to see their security landscape in one place, via a dashboard or command center. Any time you must log in and out of several different security platforms with multiple passwords, you lose visibility and threats can creep in.

A common issue with visibility can also come from duplicative workloads and the daunting process of migrating a set of workloads from one cloud to another. Businesses can find themselves straddling more than one cloud in migration, trying to keep the lights on with the current state of things and managing a transition to a new cloud with fluid skill sets.

Security and compliance gaps

With additional environments to consider, organizations also run the risk of falling out of compliance in one space or another.

Compliance is complex, with mandates that may overlap, vary, or contradict based on your industry and environment. For example, if you are a financial services organization and fall out of compliance with the SEC, anti-money laundering regulations, or data privacy requirements, you may experience several different punitive consequences. These requirements can also change based on the geography of your cloud platforms, end users, and employees occupy (e.g. CCPA and GDPR).

When you work with highly standardized cloud services, such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Azure, security posture is easier to measure. With no access to the hardware and no ability to customize beyond what the platform allows, either in the user interface or API, it becomes easier to construct a set of controls to measure against. This is why hyperscalers have native best practice checks for CIS (Center for Internet Security). Because of this, they can also build on compliance frameworks for PCI, NIST, HIPAA, and more.

While these clouds offer the observability to show compliance, that doesn’t make a business compliant in an audit. Organizations can’t just rely on AWS and say, “I’m covered,” they also must show how they are meeting certain security controls.

On the flip side, when looking at private clouds or hosting in general, you’re entering a realm of all snowflakes – no two situations will be alike. Unless a solution is built explicitly as a “compliant” offer, considerable work must be done to satisfy audits.

When making the next cloud choice, VMware-based clouds that dominate the market are a comfortable option. However, it’s important to note that changing or adding platforms can create a significant load on a compliance team to address what’s different.

Knowledge and skill gaps

Of course, none of the aforementioned challenges can be met head-on without acknowledging and fulfilling the need for skilled and knowledgeable professionals who can implement, manage, and update your hybrid cloud environment as needed. The cybersecurity workforce shortage has prevented many businesses from securing in-house talent, and the array of skills now required to effectively run a hybrid cloud infrastructure can be difficult to find in one person or a small security team.

When looking at the core knowledge sets involved with hybrid cloud (storage, compute, and network), those in charge of the network tend to get hit the hardest. The expectations around what these employees should know have grown considerably, with the shift in the network from a device focus into a software-defined space. Someone working in this field would need to focus beyond simply switching to also learn about routing, WAN solutions, active/active designs, encapsulation techniques such as SDWAN, and more.

Even an influx of new cybersecurity workers has not been enough to satisfy the gap, which stood at 2.7 million unfilled jobs as of 2021. The workforce shortage won’t be closed in the next few years (the gap narrowed by about 400,000 since 2020), so businesses that haven’t already started exploring alternatives will need to do so to keep pace with the changing technological landscape and shifting needs that come from hybrid cloud platforms.

Inefficient spending

To manage hybrid cloud architectures properly, organizations also need to be thinking about what their spending looks like, and where they might be able to find efficiencies. Wasted cloud spending has accounted for approximately one-third of total cloud budgets.

Wasted cloud spending is a major issue and becomes more critical as cloud costs continue to rise—and many organizations tend to underestimate their amount of waste. Respondents self-estimated that their organizations waste 32 percent of cloud spend, which is up from 30 percent last year. Being unaware of potential efficiencies can mean throwing money out the window that could otherwise be spent on bolstering cloud security.

A lot of this wasted spend comes from relying solely on the pay-as-you-go model for the public cloud, ignoring options for perpetual workloads in a private cloud or savings plans for the public cloud. Rightsizing has also been a difficult scenario to overcome. For years, IT professionals never thought twice about adding some extra CPUs to a VM if they thought it might help performance, but this practice has led to a habit of gross overprovisioning in the traditional cloud world that can waste money in the public cloud world.

The excellent news about hybrid cloud security

Enough with the doom and gloom. We also have good news. A hybrid cloud security strategy can help businesses overcome these challenges in their data centers. A strong IT security strategy can help you achieve the following:

Constant encryption

To ensure data security, it should be encrypted at rest and in transit no matter where it is in your hybrid cloud environment. However, it’s especially important to secure the transit between public and private cloud environments, where encryption may be trickier.

Standardized processes

Business and security processes are made better with a comprehensive strategy, and taking the time to sit down and approach things from a big-picture view means that you are better able to standardize how processes are run between public and private clouds to close gaps and patch potential paths to vulnerability. If one set of security protocols is more stringent than the other, the more lenient environment is left open to more attacks. Applying the same rules across the board can offer enhanced security and peace of mind.

Solid business continuity and disaster recovery planning

Sitting down to develop a hybrid cloud strategy is not complete without thinking about your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) planning. Your business should be ready for any disaster or mishap that could occur, from human error to natural disaster, to a ransomware attack. The order of operations in the event of an emergency shouldn’t be left up to reactions in the moment. Creating a proactive plan means you can move more swiftly, make your employees feel more secure, and reassure your stakeholders that you have things handled. Your DR and BC plans can include planned backup sites, offsite alternative workstations, communications plans, a triaged approach to getting critical data and systems back up and running, and more.

Reduction in human error

The proper security strategy will also emphasize automation, eliminating manual steps from security processes where possible, thereby reducing human error and preventing one of the main causes of data breaches. This could be done with automated DevSecOps and other automated security tools.

Limiting access to include the most appropriate parties

Everyone on your team doesn’t need access to everything at all times. Managing who has access to what based on their department and responsibilities can limit both accidents and bad actors from posing unnecessary security risks.

Improved visibility

While a threat to hybrid cloud security can be a decrease in visibility, on the other side of the coin, this can be a strength that comes from a strong strategy. Working with hybrid cloud security experts can help you identify what needs to be done to allow visibility across your entire cloud environment in one place.

When it comes to hybrid cloud environments, it’s important to define who does what and when. Hybrid cloud experts can help you identify the right roles, responsibilities, and governance practices to help you get a holistic view of your hybrid cloud environment. Allowing you to better improve your overall security.

Enabling proactive cloud security

Are you ready to take a proactive stance to cloud security? At TierPoint, we’re ready to help. Contact us today so we can discuss how to safeguard your environment with a layered approach to cybersecurity.

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