As more organizations rely on the cloud for its advanced computing capabilities, there is a growing need for robust cloud security tools to identify and manage cloud cybersecurity risks. Choosing the right vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure will help you mitigate cloud security risks and protect your sensitive cloud data. Read on to learn more.
How to Find the Best Vulnerability Assessment Tool for Cloud Infrastructure
To optimize their cloud security posture, organizations can choose from a range of cloud vulnerability assessment tools available on the market. Some tools are designed to secure broader cloud infrastructure, whereas others safeguard specific components on the cloud.
The most widely implemented cloud vulnerability assessment tools are those that:
- Secure the perimeter of your cloud infrastructure
- Track regulatory compliance with cloud security standards
Ultimately, the best vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure will depend on your cloud security needs. Working with a managed security services provider (MSSP) will help you determine the most appropriate cloud vulnerability assessment tool.
What is Vulnerability Assessment for Cloud Infrastructure?
When choosing a vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure, it is critical to identify one that will strategically address security risks and provide significant protection for your cloud assets. If poorly managed, cloud security risks can result in data breaches, compromising the sensitivity and integrity of your data and disrupting business operations.
If your cloud infrastructure hosts multiple sensitive and interdependent assets, it is even more imperative to swiftly identify and mitigate security risks.
The NIST’s Cloud Risk Management Framework
One way to optimize your vulnerability assessment methodology is to leverage the cloud risk management guidelines provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The NIST’s cloud risk management framework helps safeguard:
- Assets within your cloud infrastructure, such as:
- Cloud-hosted databases
- Cloud-based systems
- Sensitive data, belonging to:
- Customers (e.g., cardholder data, protected health information (PHI))
- Employees (e.g., personally identifiable information (PII))
- Stakeholders (e.g., information about business relationships)
- Confidential information about your organization, such as:
- Intellectual property (IP)
- Strategic business objectives
Beyond helping to identify which assets are most prone to cloud security risks, the NIST’s cloud risk management recommendations will help establish a cloud risk management policy to guide overall vulnerability assessment for your cloud infrastructure.
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Criteria for Vulnerability Assessment on the Cloud
When choosing a vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure, it is critical to meet the criteria established by the cloud risk management policy.
Specifically, cloud vulnerability assessment tools must identify:
- Threat likelihood – Vulnerability assessments that classify vulnerabilities by risk levels will help determine which risks are more likely to result in threats and, if so, how serious the impact might be
- Exploitable vulnerabilities – Although not all the vulnerabilities present in your IT infrastructure are exploited by cybercriminals, it is best to stay ahead of all possible risks. A robust vulnerability assessment tool will identify the most pertinent threats and vulnerabilities and help minimize system fatigue from threat over-detection.
- Threat impact – Based on threat intelligence, threat and vulnerability assessments will be most effective if they can point to the potential impact of vulnerabilities, should they be exploited.
- Asset sensitivity – It is also critical to identify which assets are more resilient to threats and vulnerabilities than others to optimize incident response protocols and ensure that all the assets in your cloud infrastructure are adequately safeguarded.
Developing and optimizing your cloud vulnerability assessment methodology based on the NIST cloud risk management framework will help increase the effectiveness of cloud vulnerability assessment tools. With an established cloud vulnerability assessment methodology in place, it is measurably easier to choose the right vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure.
Secure Your Cloud Infrastructure with Perimeter Defenses
Many cloud security threats start out at the perimeter of your cyber defenses. If not swiftly mitigated, these threats can infiltrate your cloud infrastructure and cause widespread damage to your cloud assets. Cloud vulnerability assessments at the perimeter of your cloud infrastructure can be achieved with web application security scanners, penetration testing, and antivirus tools.
Combined, these tools will mitigate cloud security vulnerabilities and help manage cloud risks.
Web Application Security Scanners
Cybercriminals may also attempt to gain access to your cloud infrastructure by exploiting web application vulnerabilities, especially for those applications directly connected to cloud assets. A web security scanner is a robust vulnerability assessment tool for cloud assets that are directly connected to web applications.
The Open Web Application Security Project’s (OWASP) list of web application vulnerabilities can be used to generate threat intelligence and optimize the effectiveness of web security scanners.
Web application security scanners will help detect web application vulnerabilities such as:
- Broken access controls – Attempts to gain unauthorized access to cloud environments can be detected via:
- Elevation of role-based access privileges
- Poor implementation of the least privilege principle
- URL tampering to bypass access control checks
- Cryptographic failures – Gaps in encryption of web applications connected to cloud environments can be detected via:
- Use of weak encryption algorithms and protocols
- Poor validation of web application security certificates
- Transmission of web traffic as cleartext data
- Injection – Transmission of malicious data to cloud environments via web applications can be detected based on:
- Improper validation of user-supplied data
- Use of unvalidated data in object-relational mapping (ORM) search parameters that extract sensitive data from cloud environments
- Security misconfigurations – Web application security misconfigurations can compromise cloud infrastructure if:
- Applications are not security hardened and contain insecure permissions
- Default accounts and passwords have not been changed
- Critical security patches are not up-to-date
With the help of web application security scanners, your organization will safeguard any cloud infrastructure connected to web applications. The reach and effectiveness of cloud vulnerability assessments for web apps are further optimized with a vulnerability management partner.
Another robust vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure is penetration testing or pen testing, which simulates a cybercriminal’s attempt to breach your cloud infrastructure. Although penetration testing might look different when implemented on the cloud than on-premise, it is effective at swiftly identifying and mitigating cloud security vulnerabilities.
Planning for cloud pen testing exercises typically involves:
- Asset identification – All virtual assets, especially those prone to vulnerabilities, are identified for testing. Critical assets may include:
- APIs connected to high-traffic websites or applications
- Applications containing sensitive data (e.g., password managers)
- Access point detection – Based on the assets to be tested, pen testers will identify potential access points that can be exploited by cybercriminals to breach cloud infrastructure. Access points to cloud assets include:
- Network access points (e.g., routers)
- Web access points (e.g., data packages)
- Tool selection – Penetration testers will also identify sets of tools to implement the penetration test, depending on the expectations of the test.
- Attack implementation – Once critical assets and potential access points have been identified and the right tools are selected for the cloud penetration testing exercise, pen testers will make final plans for which test to conduct. Types of tests include:
- Internal penetration tests or “white box” tests
- External penetration tests or “black box” tests
- Hybrid penetration tests or “gray box” tests
Penetration tests will help conduct reliable cloud vulnerability assessments and secure your entire cloud infrastructure from security threats, especially if optimized in partnership with a penetration testing specialist.
Antivirus and Antimalware
When it comes to defending your cloud infrastructure from malicious software or malware, the best tools for cloud vulnerability assessments are antivirus and antimalware programs.
Antivirus and antimalware tools are especially critical when it comes to mitigating social engineering attacks, such as phishing—the use of emails to pretext unsuspecting individuals into divulging sensitive information that cybercriminals can use to gain unauthorized access to otherwise protected IT environments.
Phishing emails may contain links to malware such as:
- Trojan horses, which may seem like legitimate programs but are actually viruses
- Spyware, which captures account information by spying on user activity (e.g., keyloggers)
- Ransomware, which encrypts a user’s system or network until a ransom is paid to initiate the decryption of sensitive data
As a vulnerability assessment tool for cloud assets, antivirus and antimalware will help detect specific malware signatures and initiate the appropriate incident response protocol to contain potential security threats. Antivirus and antimalware tools deployed on the cloud function in a similar manner to those deployed on-premise, except they are tailored to cloud infrastructure. Cloud-based antivirus and antimalware programs are also easily optimizable to various cloud configurations and provide long-term cloud risk management.
Achieve Regulatory Compliance with Cloud Security Tools
Besides optimizing security defenses at the perimeter of your cloud infrastructure, it is also critical to ensure that your cloud security implementations meet the requirements of regulatory standards. Lapses in regulatory compliance can result in cloud security vulnerabilities, which may culminate into significant data breach risks. When choosing a vulnerability assessment tool for cloud assets, it is critical for the tool to track compliance with cloud security standards.
Cloud Security Compliance and the PCI DSS
If your organization processes card payment transactions on the cloud, compliance with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) is critical to mitigating risks.
The PCI DSS consists of 12 Requirements to help organizations secure cardholder data (CHD) whether it is processed on-premise or on the cloud. Per Requirements 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12 of the PCI DSS, organizations must safeguard CHD on the cloud by:
- Implementing network security controls (NCSs) for all virtual networks
- Changing vendor default accounts and passwords for all cloud-based services
- Encrypting any CHD stored on the cloud using industry-standard cryptography
- Installing cloud-based firewalls to detect potential web application threats
- Reviewing access controls to cloud-based services at least once every six months
- Securing access to cloud services and assets via multi-factor authentication
- Penetration testing cloud environments that contain CHD
- Establishing and disseminating an organization-wide cloud security policy
Cloud vulnerability assessment tools that track the implementation of PCI DSS cloud security controls will help increase the effectiveness of cloud vulnerability assessments and safeguard CHD in the long term. Working with a PCI compliance partner will help you choose the right vulnerability assessment tool for cloud assets that handle CHD.
Cloud Healthcare Data Risk Management and HIPAA
To ensure the privacy and sensitivity of healthcare data, organizations both in and adjacent to healthcare need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
For organizations to effectively meet the HIPAA compliance standards, they must conduct ongoing risk assessments to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities to protected health information (PHI). The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules stipulate guidelines for implementing HIPAA-compliant controls when handling PHI.
Effective risk management of cloud-based electronic PHI (ePHI) requires a vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure that will identify gaps in the following aspects:
- Access controls – Users should only be able to access cloud environments containing ePHI if they have:
- Role-based access granted based on business need
- Access privileges delegated by the least privilege principle
- Audit controls – User access to cloud environments containing ePHI should be monitored via:
- Logging user access events in audit logs
- Implementing processes to audit access logs
- Integrity controls – Any ePHI stored or transmitted over cloud systems or networks must be monitored for potential alterations, modifications, or deletions from secure environments.
- PHI transmission – Robust HIPAA-standard safeguards should be used to transmit ePHI across unsecured networks and mitigate cloud security risks.
Optimizing your cloud security controls based on the HIPAA risk management guidelines will help protect ePHI stored on the cloud and enable faster and more effective cloud vulnerability assessments. A HIPAA compliance partner will help you align the requirements of the HIPAA rules with those of your internal cloud security policy for robust healthcare data risk management.
Optimize Cloud Vulnerability Assessments
Identifying a robust vulnerability assessment tool for cloud infrastructure will optimize cloud vulnerability assessments and enable faster and more effective vulnerability remediation. By leveraging the expertise of an MSSP for cloud vulnerability assessments, you will strengthen your security posture and boost your data security assurance.
To learn more, contact RSI Security today!