Auditing the cloud before, during, and after your migration is critical for establishing and maintaining strong cybersecurity defenses and regulatory compliance in an unfamiliar virtual environment. You need to design, implement and provide post-transition support for the migration, keeping security and compliance in mind at all times. Following some recommended best practices will help you anticipate problems and keep you on track during the project.
Best Practices for Auditing the Cloud
Cybersecurity and regulatory compliance are concerns during all stages of cloud migration. Whether you’re moving software development or an entire IT data center, you’ll need to adhere to cloud security best practices, including but not limited to the following four categories:
- Designing cloud migration plans with regular security audits in mind
- Determining which cloud infrastructure you’ll use—and how to audit it
- Identifying regulatory and other security needs for your cloud infrastructure
- Implementing an audit strategy based on regulatory and other needs
Given the depth and breadth of security risks on the cloud, working with a quality managed security services provider (MSSP) is the best way to streamline your migration and security.
Develop a Secure Cloud Migration Plan
Cloud audits produce the best insights—and are easiest—when conducted on cloud environments designed to be audited. When planning your cloud migration, or longer-term maintenance of cloud assets post-migration, you should consider audits central to your strategy.
A detailed plan will make the entire operation run smoother and faster. Determine the budget, map out what you have to do, have it approved, and get started. Start the plan by identifying:
- Migrating components, connections, and functionality
- Current and projected access points, users, and data flows
- Teams tasked with migrating data and accountable for its safety
Creating an environment apt for auditing cloud services comes down to clear, accessible documentation for every asset that will be directly hosted on or connected to your cloud.
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Determine Your Architecture (and Audit Protocols)
This is an extension of the planning phase, but it’s the most critical part thereof. To prepare your cloud configuration for regular audits, you’ll need to determine what kind of cloud you’re using.
Generally speaking, there are three deployment configurations available to you:
- Public cloud – Companies share resources with others, including servers and network devices. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are the largest providers in this arena. This is a cheaper option but has more inherent security risks than a private environment, which makes auditing more critical—and difficult. Network segmentation, user authentication, and access control are the most pressing concerns to target in a public cloud audit.
- Private cloud – This environment eliminates the risks arising from shared resources, but it costs more. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, and Hewlett-Packard are the major players here. Despite fewer frisks from lesser exposure, data breaches and malware attacks remain major risks. Private cloud audits should focus on these threats.
- Hybrid cloud – Utilizing a mix of interconnected on-site hardware and private and public clouds. Previously mentioned cloud providers also support this type of platform, though often with compatibility issues. Incompatibilities give rise to advanced persistent threats, and hybrid cloud audits need to target patch management and basic cyber hygiene.
Your choice depends on cost, control, and hardware requirements. The methods and relative difficulty of auditing each may also be a factor as you strategize your migration onto the cloud.
The next component of cloud architecture is the type of cloud service that you need and the most prevalent risks common to it, which should be prioritized in your cloud security audits.
In particular, there are three primary service models for cloud implementation:
- Software as a Service (SaaS) – Applications reside in the cloud, where they are accessed through the web. Access control is the major cybersecurity with this service.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Applications are developed, managed, and delivered through a web interface. Like SaaS, access control is critical to prevent data breaches.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – This is a virtual data center in which the customer is responsible for protecting user access, applications, and data. Configuration errors and vulnerabilities in the provider’s network and servers are primary security concerns.
Once you determine the specifics of your cloud architecture, you’ll need to pick a provider and evaluate its ability to support your compliance requirements. At every stage along the way, you should consider how easy (and critical) it will be to audit your cloud and the data stored inside.
Identify Regulatory Compliance Requirements
Depending on the size and nature of your business, the industry or location it operates within, or the expectations of your clients, you may be subject to various regulatory frameworks. In many cases, compliance requires auditing your systems—including any on the cloud—to ensure that any protected classes of data are safe. Compliance “in” the cloud is likely your responsibility.
Cloud providers may implement security measures for the components it supplies and controls, which is often referred to as security “of” the cloud. However, you might still need to conduct a cloud compliance audit to ensure that information you are responsible for is properly protected.
The following cloud-provider issues are areas that your cybersecurity team needs to address:
- Certifiable services – Data storage location may be an uncertifiable element.
- Compliance reports – Cloud provider compliance information should be available on the web. For example, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft publish freely accessible reports.
- Data protection – To what extent is your data protected? How? Is it encrypted? What are the patch management policies? These concerns need to be addressed explicitly.
- Data backup – Does the provider offer automated cloud-storage backups?
To streamline compliance and other audits of your cloud environment, you should understand exactly which components of the Shared Responsibility are yours and which are your provider’s.
Implement a Strategy for Auditing the Cloud
Once you’ve migrated to or otherwise generated a virtual environment, you’re ready to start auditing your cloud to ensure the security of data that lives on or is otherwise connected to it.
This best practice, like the first one above, is all about planning. You’ll need to strategize for cloud audits, ideally before the cloud is even in place. You can choose to use one of the cloud providers’ existing compliance frameworks as your basis, or begin building out audit processes based on a compliance or certification assessment you know you’ll need to conduct in the future (i.e., PCI-DSS vulnerability scans or HITRUST CSF-compliant cloud penetration testing).
Successfully completing a mock- or preparatory compliance audit means that you’ll be more likely to complete an actual cloud computing audit successfully and efficiently In the future.
Every cloud audit is different, but there are some critical considerations that all should cover:
- Network Segregation – Networks that come into contact with data and processes that are on or connected to the cloud need to be separated from each other so an attacker cannot use access to one of them to infiltrate others they do not have access to.
- Access Control – Users need to have their identities authenticated prior to both initial access to and movement within the cloud and any systems connected or related to it.
- Perimeter defenses – Most cloud environments are susceptible to malware and denial-of-service attacks. Use penetration testing to access data breach vulnerabilities.
Once your cloud is up and running, threat and vulnerability management tools will be similar to those used for a physical location. Only now, the cloud provider assumes part of the burden.
Streamline Your Cloud Security!
Transitioning to a virtual environment can be a daunting task. Then, maintaining security on it can be even more challenging, especially when an increasing amount of sensitive data is stored or processed on the cloud. RSI Security will help you design and implement cloud audits that ensure your data is secure, regardless of the risks. We’ll help you rethink your processes for auditing the cloud and keeping all your information secure. Get in touch to learn more!