Guide to Hybrid Cloud Security
What is hybrid cloud security? Hybrid cloud security is about protecting data, applications, and associated workloads hosted across multiple public and private cloud environments.
The concept of a hybrid cloud is gaining prominence as it helps organizations save costs, improve agility, better scale development, and utilize applications and tools from a variety of vendors. However, it comes at the cost of potential security threats. Almost 94% of enterprises are concerned about cloud security, according to the 2022 Cloud Security Report. This claim is hardly surprising in the wake of cloud computing’s adoption. Businesses today are leaning towards cloud services along with bare-metal environments. About 76% of organizations distribute their workloads across multiple cloud providers.
In this guide, we take a deep dive into hybrid cloud security to understand the challenges that businesses face, its advantages, and everything in between.
What is Hybrid Cloud Security?
Hybrid cloud security involves securing applications, infrastructure, and data of an IT architecture spread across multiple computing environments including on-premises, public and private cloud. A hybrid cloud strategy facilitates orchestration and management of workloads between the IT environments that allow you to keep critical information away from vulnerable public clouds.
All of these environments communicate with each other through WAN and orchestration tools forming one entity with different segments housing specific workloads. A hybrid cloud is a preferred model that lets you avoid workload migration between clouds or building cloud-native applications that are bound to a specific provider.
Hybrid cloud security is inherently difficult. You will have to implement separate authentication and security policies for private workloads, public cloud resources, and services. Further, they need to be consistent across the board. This complexity often leads to accidental data loss, unauthorized access, and other errors that result in security breaches. With the public cloud, the primary security challenge is that you do not have full visibility or control over the underlying cloud infrastructure. Cloud providers are responsible for securing the infrastructure while you are responsible for securing what runs on that infrastructure. This is the shared security model. Organizations in highly regulated industries are not comfortable with this model.
Most organizations use on-prem servers or private infrastructure for critical data and workloads. This enables your in-house IT and security team to take charge of safeguarding your assets. Having a comprehensive policy to observe, discover and mitigate security issues is important for effective hybrid cloud security.
Why Do Most Organizations Prefer a Hybrid Cloud Environment?
For a hybrid cloud environment to work, you need to establish an appropriate mix of public and private clouds and on-premise legacy systems. Each of these environments will have certain advantages and your hybrid cloud architecture should include them. Below we have mentioned the three core benefits that motivate organizations for hybrid cloud.
A hybrid cloud setup offers the scalability of public cloud servers and a secure infrastructure of private options. You need to be smart about how you distribute workloads between different cloud environments. Successful organizations house critical and sensitive workloads on private clouds because security matters more than the cost. However, they house other unimportant data on public platforms. This makes sure that you optimize the cost, security, and complexity of your servers.
Highly Flexible Environment
With a hybrid cloud strategy, you effectively prioritize your data, processes, and workloads and help in spreading it across different cloud options. This offers great flexibility in managing your data. It also promotes streamlined data transfer between the environments.
Hybrid clouds enable you to deliver greater performance even during periods of high demand for your services. By using servers across different clouds, you create a sense of zero downtime. Say if one cloud environment goes out of service, you can automatically replace it with another. By creating redundancy, you can power instant backups.
Security Challenges of Hybrid Cloud Security
According to a data breach report by IBM, cyberattacks compromising data cost companies $3.92 million on average. Despite the benefits, the adopters have cited hybrid cloud security as a major concern. The security threats for hybrid cloud environments include unauthorized public cloud use, loss of resource control, misconfiguration, and improper access controls. These vulnerabilities can be leveraged to steal critical data or hijack internal systems.
Compliance Checks are Complicated
Businesses across industries are leveraging the benefits of cloud technology. Even organizations in healthcare and financial domains that handle critical customer data are finding ways to leverage cloud computing to manage sensitive workloads; unlike earlier when purely non-critical processes were housed in the cloud. This new practice has brought new compliance issues to the forefront. Enterprises need to be compliant to avoid reputational loss and financial sanctions. The more complex the hybrid cloud ecosystem, the tougher it is to maintain compliance protocols.
The only way to effectively tackle compliance challenges is to assess the infrastructure or component level setup. Right when you begin hybrid cloud deployment, you must manually check if each step follows the industry standards and compliance requirements. This is often a complex, time-consuming, and inaccurate process with the number of cloud and on-prem divisions.
Ensuring compliance in such a scenario can be simplified by automating changes related to configuration and infrastructure. It makes everything - including security audits - repeatable and reproducible.
Data Privacy is A Critical Aspect
Close to 79% of enterprises have witnessed at least one cloud data breach in the last 18 months, according to an IDC report. There are a number of factors that make data vulnerable to attacks such as illegitimate access and eavesdropping. Data is always at risk as long as it is in the cloud since the ease of data flow widens the attack surface both at rest and while it traverses between the environments.
Regulations like GDPR have emphasized the criticality of ensuring data security. But how can you safeguard data in such a complicated system? Encryption is one of the primary ways of securing data. Even if sensitive data gets exposed, encryption makes it impossible to be misused. You can use security and cryptographic tools to implement foolproof encoding. In addition, you can control access to data through an endpoint authentication policy to avoid data breach instances.
Lack of Visibility Leads to Security Blindspots
As much as the hybrid cloud approach helps organizations efficiently manage their workloads, it increases overall complexity. Managing multiple public and private clouds along with on-prem systems adds elements that need constant monitoring. This demands enterprises to gain absolute visibility and control into hybrid cloud configuration, infrastructure, and components. Blindspots could hide security threats, incidents, and breaches leading to significant damages.
Not just from a security standpoint, improper visibility will make it difficult for you to investigate performance issues. Since the majority of this is done manually, it usually leads to errors. Therefore, it is important to adopt automation as a philosophy. Practices like infrastructure-as-code, policy-as-code, and security-as-code improve your hybrid cloud security.
Using open-source or third-party code is pretty common in the development landscape. This has also increased the number of security breaches through the supply chain. Attackers are aware that supply chain risks work in longer chains i.e., even if you are stringent about hybrid cloud security, your vendor may not have implemented an effective policy to avoid threats.
It is crucial that you properly investigate the origin of any code or product that you add to your software. Along with manual processes, have an automated and repeatable inspection to constantly look for any security gaps.
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Hybrid Cloud Security Structure
Securing your hybrid cloud infrastructure involves different elements that are responsible for protecting the environment from any threats, both purposeful and accidental.
Physical Controls for IT Assets
Physical controls such as access authorizations, locks, cameras, and alert mechanisms form a shield for your assets and defend them against potential attacks.
Physical controls can be seen as the first line of defense for protecting organizational IT assets. Not only from security threats but from overall harm from environmental challenges. You can implement layered authentication systems such as biometrics with multiple fingerprints and retina scans to guard critical data.
Administrative Controls for Human Factors
Hybrid cloud security relies considerably on human actions and errors. Users tend to expose the systems by accident. To ensure that such instances are kept at bay, you can implement the below policies:
Zero trust architecture (ZTA): Instead of giving too much access to a particular user or process, restrict the privileges to a minimum. If extended access is needed, it can be granted in real-time after establishing the authenticity of the request. Implementing strong governance policies like tagging and role-based access can help in evaluating risk factors.
Disaster recovery: Implementing models to quickly restore data during emergency incidents or outages helps in instant remediation. You can conduct assessments and impact analyses before going for data redundancy.
Anti-social engineering: Introduce policies and controls to restrict social engineering attacks like tailgating, phishing, baiting, pretexting, and quid pro quo. Such malicious attacks facilitate the theft of sensitive data and access to private networks.
Best Practices for Hybrid Cloud Security
There are several best practices that you need to implement for unrestricted hybrid cloud security. Below are some of the important practices:
- Fix vulnerabilities in vendor software by cloud patching them regularly. This reduces the risk of including hostile code within your system by keeping it up-to-date.
- Ensure that data for every specific user is constrained to block visibility between different tenants. Since cloud ecosystems have shared resources, multi-tenancy security has increased significantly. Data leaks between the tenants will give hackers a way into your system.
- Encryption models should be extended even when data isn’t traveling between the cloud environments.
- Heavily automated processes for monitoring, risk detection, and mitigation will ensure continuous evaluation with minimum to no errors.
- Access to your system by users and infrastructure components should be purely contextual. Proactive monitoring to detect unusual access requests should be implemented and such instances must be considered a serious security threat. Even the remote access authorizations that can be triggered from local ports must be secured. Such devices can prove to be a vulnerability if they’re lost or stolen.
Why A Hybrid Cloud Solution is More Secure
Enable remote access: By hosting your data and workloads on the cloud you can make it accessible remotely through proper authorizations. However, when you host applications on-premises, the access is narrowed down. By using a combination of infrastructure models, you effectively reduce the threat landscape.
Maintain proper compliance: Hybrid cloud empowers you to follow industry and government-ruled regulations by having a more resilient backup for data and applications. Compliance is more complex for sure with a hybrid cloud, but it is more secure and compliant as well.
Improve data security: Your capability to manage data security improves significantly with a hybrid cloud strategy as you can be in control of securing sensitive information and critical workloads.
Stay secure as you scale: You can increase your data storage and cloud computing capabilities on-demand and at affordable rates. However, as you scale, you can choose to have low-priority apps and workloads run on the public cloud, and more sensitive data and workloads running in your private cloud. This gives you better security controls as you scale.
Better disaster recovery: When incidents and outages occur, you need multiple options to run your apps from an uncompromised environment. You may need to move just a few services to a new environment, or quarantine an infected service. In these cases, having multiple options is an advantage, and that’s what the hybrid cloud delivers.
Access to new security technologies: With a hybrid cloud strategy, you can build any and every kind of application as it gives you access to newer and cutting-edge security technologies. Things like Kubernetes secrets management, policy-as-code, and zero-trust security are practices that can be done in a private cloud, but are most efficient in a public or hybrid cloud.
Why and How GitOps Makes Hybrid Cloud Security Simple?
Kubernetes has been significantly facilitating organizations to implement a hybrid cloud strategy. It provides consistency across networking, security, and IAM responsibilities through automation. Kubernetes is best managed using GitOps practices, which means you manage your hybrid cloud environment directly from Git. With GitOps, you consider Git as the single source of truth and you manage your system declaratively. Therefore, you apply changes to your system automatically through a commit.
Weave GitOps is a hybrid management solution that is designed to follow GitOps principles. It uses automation tools like Flux to streamline operations across your production clusters in multiple clouds. With Weave GitOps, you get a single control plane to manage all your cloud environments and workloads. It enables complete visibility and observability across all platforms.
Weave GitOps makes implementing security and compliance policies a part of your development pipeline so that you can avoid security threats. It does this by leveraging policy-as-code practices to define specific security configurations that every service being released needs to meet. The solution reviews every change to see if it passes the security requirements as defined in the policies. Only if the change passes these checks does it make it to production. In this way, security checks are not done manually but are automated. This improves the quality of security checks and ensures that applications are more secure without additional manual effort. In summary, Weave GitOps not only simplifies hybrid cloud operations using GitOps practices but also ensures security is enforced by default. This is a powerful combination.
A hybrid cloud strategy is turning out to be a favorable option for organizations across industries including the highly regulated ones. However, its wide acceptance hinges on hybrid cloud security. Securing a hybrid cloud comprehensively will need an operational model that automates underlying configuration and management. Kubernetes and GitOps make it possible. Weave GitOps is a hybrid cloud tool that comes from a house that devised much of the GitOps architecture and its best practices.
Learn more about Weave GitOps Enterprise.