IT transformation: cloud security enabling innovation in the digital age
11 September 2017
Cloud computing has been one of the key innovations which is changing the landscape of technology and driving digital transformation across all industries. Lower cost of ownership, improved business agility, innovation and enhanced customer experience are some of the main reasons why cloud, whether private, public or hybrid, has attracted such a crowd.
Disruption needs a secure foundation
Digital transformation is about changing business models and about businesses taking advantage of huge opportunities created by the technologies that are disrupting society. Increasingly more businesses are developing or moving their workloads to the cloud and this transition has enabled them to deliver competitive advantage to their end users. A surprising amount is also aiming to migrate everything onto the cloud over the next few years. There is, however, one aspect that consistently worries IT and business professionals alike – how to achieve high levels of cloud security or bring our security technologies on the journey with us.
Procuring cloud is not only about a platform discussion. It is about understanding business requirements and defining how to secure workloads and applications based on the risk of data and impact. Security needs to keep pace with that change; traditional approaches to securing workloads and web applications are being challenged when moving to the cloud. Old school approaches are not designed to enable or support the benefits of moving to the cloud and businesses are frustrated, having to, in some cases, build scripts to just make them support the basics of scaling.
Security at the Outset
Security is a critical design component at the starting point of a project - so that when you spin up new systems, security controls are already in place. With the speed of the cloud and amount of automation used, businesses can’t rely on manual intervention. Before, security used to sit in a dark corner of the IT department and only called upon when there was a breach or an audit to respond to. Digital transformation provided an opportunity for security teams to collaborate across different functions – these must be fully exposed to the requirements of the business process owners. If we accept that cyber security has become strategic, the employees doing the job need to understand their corporate business goals. If security is done well, compliance and addressing regulatory mandates (such as PCI and GDPR) becomes an output as opposed to a business objective.
Cybersecurity Skills Shortage
Whatever the extent of change within an organisation– people’s perceptions, motivations, and skills also need to be acknowledged and acted upon. Due to businesses moving to the cloud, the threat landscape has changed and different skillsets are needed. To fully secure workloads and stay ahead of the numerous threats, businesses need a team of experts (Security Operations Center (SOC) analysts, data scientists, security researchers, security content developers and threat intelligence analysts) who can investigate, research and analyse globally then monitor, enrich, validate and escalate incident reports on businesses’ environments so these can stay focused on their core business until it’s time to act.
Changing Threat Landscape - Attackers Targeting the Application Layer
Web-based applications, unpatched operating systems and application packages, as well as poorly configured cloud services are prime targets for attackers. According to Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, web application attacks are the leading cause of breaches, more than tripling from 9% to 30% since 2014. Understanding your security responsibilities in cloud-based environments and employing security tools that allow you to continuously monitor and maintain secure configurations and patching are critical to protecting your company’s assets from application-layer attacks. With application workloads in the cloud, businesses need to be mindful of the risks and have visibility in their cloud stack for all systems, especially those that are exposed or hold sensitive data.
The Impact of a Breach
A breach is as much a security issue, as a business one. When a web application is compromised, several different scenarios could play out. Customer data could be stolen, confidential information regarding the company or employees could be leaked, the availability of web application could be impacted, and with any of these scenarios a business is likely to have to deal with post-breach activities and bear costs in investigative, remediation, legal, publicity and regulatory actions, to name a few.
Digital transformation provides the best opportunity yet for the security team to become the enablers of the business, drive innovation, and to be proactive in shaping the future. This, however, requires the company’s leaders to take ownership of understanding the risk and attack surface of their workloads and business-critical web applications, and ensure that they identify high-risk areas to address – before the attackers get there first.
Written by: Oliver Pinson-Roxburgh, EMEA Director of Sales Engineering and Solutions Architecture at Alert Logic.