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Securing the Cloud Environment With a Zero-Trust Model

The rapid shift in hybrid working practices has significantly increased the integration of cloud environments within organizations. While it is admissible that the cloud does provide a rapid and efficient working environment, creating ease in data storage and transfer, cloud environments are not particularly secure.

Statistica reports that the top cloud security concerns include data loss and leakage, data privacy, and credential theft. Despite the cloud privacy and security challenges only five percent of organizations deeply assess their cloud security infrastructure.

Since most of the cloud security challenges involve insecure endpoints, it is crucial to implement the zero-trust security model to help mitigate these risks.

Zero-Trust Prevents Cloud Security Issues

The Zero-Trust security model follows the principle of trust no one and always verify. Although the foundations of this security model have been around for a considerable time now, the shifts in the cyber threat environment has led to various significant developments within it. Therefore the security model is now widely accepted and recognized as a sophisticated strategy for implementing robust security.

The cloud environment is an attractive target for threat actors, aiming to steal or hack critical business data like financial information or personally identifiable information (PII). Amidst this, organizations need to secure endpoints through various tools ranging from VPNs, to antivirus protection and a lot more. However, integrating the Zero-Trust Model surpasses the use of all such tools. It is the best effective strategy to mitigate cloud attacks and data breaches. By following the principle of least privilege:

  • Every access request is inspected.
  • Users and their devices are authenticated.
  • The permissions are assessed before the trust is granted.

If the trust isn't granted, the cyber-attacker who might enter the cloud environment via a compromised device or backdoor vulnerability can't access or steal your data. In addition, as the zero-trust model creates a secure segment and no one can move laterally, the attacker won't be able to move anywhere within the cloud.

A survey reveals that 84% of the respondents fear that supply chain attacks can emerge as the largest cyber threat to their organizations. During the software supply chain attacks like the SolarWinds attack, the attacker takes advantage of poor cloud security practices. But when Zero-Trust model policies are followed, the attacker can't cause any damage or move laterally despite having access to the cloud network.

Moreover, the Zero-Trust model in the cloud improves the IT infrastructure as organizations consider this cost-effective and flexible method. As this method doesn't need any integration or hardware, the IT teams can focus on enhancing security without sacrificing their ease of use.

When organizations are moving to the cloud environment, their biggest fear is access management and loss of visibility. Also, workload security remains another issue between the cloud service provider and your organization. However, with the Zero-Trust security approach, the security policies are applied based on tied identity communication workloads. As a result, security remains intact and unaffected by network hurdles like IP addresses, protocols, and network ports.

Potential Challenges to Zero-Trust Model

IBM reports that the global average cost of a data breach is rising to $4.24 million. For this reason, more and more organizations shift towards deploying the zero trust model.

The Zero-Trust model allows the organization to control its network. It sets certain boundaries and imposes access controls to safeguard sensitive apps and data from unauthorized access and lateral movement.

However, despite its popularity, zero-trust is still a growing concept that experiences hurdles and potential challenges. For instance, Zero-Trust is a theory, to put this theory into practice requires a great deal of work. One should have exact knowledge about the organization's computing, building up the right policies, using the appropriate tools and solutions, and encouraging the company's leadership to change the security strategy. This effort also requires much time and resources.

Another challenge of the Zero-Trust approach is the chance of losing productivity. The Zero-Trust model demands great ongoing management, and when you continue to manage it, you might sometimes create issues with security settings. For example, if you adjust the firewall incorrectly, it can lock the entire department of employees and affect their overall performance.

These changes are challenging, but you can still deal with these hurdles with the right approach and planning.

Tips for Applying Zero-Trust Model In the Cloud

To secure the cloud environment with the Zero-Trust model, here are some effective measures that you can adopt:

1. Identify the Cloud Sensitive Data

The cloud service provider needs to recognize sensitive data like the PII, payment card details, or other contact data to determine that the right security solution is used. Furthermore, by doing so, the security configuration of the cloud guarantees adequate safety of the crucial business data. It is the most fundamental step toward achieving the Zero-Trust approach.

2. Control Access

The next step in achieving the Zero-Trust model is to control the access that users have. Identity authentication and security are the core principles of the Zero-Trust approach. To limit user access, it's crucial to use the latest technologies like MFA and IAM. Both methods enable users not to trust anyone and always verify their identity in the first place. You need to verify the device and the user to access the cloud environment for identity verification and if that person is authorized to access the data.

3. Adopt a Least Privilege Model and Deploy Access Control

The least privileged access model is a security paradigm that restricts each user's access to the access they need to do their job. Doing this prevents an attacker from gaining access to a vast amount of data with a single compromised account.

4. Inspect Everything Within the Network

The Zero-Trust model requires effective monitoring and verification of almost everything. With continuous monitoring, it's easy to distinguish between a regular login or a compromised user account. For example, you will know that a ransomware attack is in progress or when a threat actor uploads more files into your cloud drive. However, this requires the right system and tools, and most tools, when coding the rules produce false results. The right inspection tool uses individualized baselines per user account to detect abnormal behavior based on data access or user account behavior.

5. Create Zero-Trust Policy

By having the Zero-Trust policy in the right place, you can achieve your desired target. While drafting the Zero-Trust policy, always use the 5W's and 1H method that helps you answer all the questions about the cloud traffic. This includes who the users are and who can access the network, how they can access the apps, and when and where they can access it. By implementing the Zero-Trust policy, you can rest assured that only legitimate apps and authentic people can access the cloud environment.

Final Thoughts

The cloud environment experiences various security issues, and establishing trust is one. Despite all the security and privacy claims made by cloud providers, they fail to achieve the desired level of cloud security and often lead to costly mistakes. But, by deploying the Zero-Trust model, one can detect and prevent cloud dangers.

The Zero-Trust approach is the modern technique for cloud security. It focuses on protecting the sensitive data and the access paths by eliminating trust and verifying each allowed access. By implementing the Zero-Trust model, you can reduce the risks of cyber-attacks and other vulnerabilities within the cloud and further boost the security of your cloud environment.

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