December 16, 2019

Building Hybrid Cloud Security with Azure

Post by: Cloud Team

New and established businesses are integrating supplemental, cloud-based systems for the simplicity, high SLAs promoted by most providers, and the multitude of features and benefits inherent to most services. This architecture, known as a “hybrid cloud” environment, is increasingly being utilized by enterprises today. Gartner predicts that most organizations will have hybrid architectures for the foreseeable future.[1] Of course, for the established business, there’s a bit of reluctance to completely port to an entirely hosted environment, yet it’s still compelling enough to augment with cloud systems for certain conveniences, such as scalability and accessibility.

You might be at a point where it’s time to supplement your computing needs with additional infrastructure but don’t want to invest in the additional hardware so turning to a provider seems like a good route. The main problem most encounter when at this juncture relates to concerns about cloud security.

In the following, we’re going to look at cloud security issues identified by experts in the field then discuss how a secure hybrid cloud environment can be maintained using Microsoft Azure.

Cloud Security Issues

As with every technological implementation, there are always initial challenges. When it comes to cloud computing, the most pressing of these obstacles relates to IT security management and the complexities surrounding security threats. A 2018 Crowd Research Partners survey found that 90 percent of security professionals are concerned about cloud security with 67 percent concerned about data loss and leakage, 61 percent concerned about data privacy, and 53 percent concerned about breaches of confidentiality.[2]

Within this realm of both perceived and real problems associated with cloud technology is the interoperability of existing systems, such as inadequate credential handling or issues with an API that could expose a vulnerability, all of which root in concerns with setting up and maintaining a secure cloud.[3] Possibilities of a data breach and other malicious usage are definite concerns, in addition to sophisticated phishing attacks that resulted in catastrophic economic losses of over $675 million in 2017 alone.[4]

Building a Secure Hybrid Cloud

In the most general sense, adopting cloud computer architecture into your technology arsenal presents the same number of obstacles as implementing anything new or unfamiliar. Overcoming these issues is a matter of applying tried-and-true best practices for creating sound security measures for your system.

Your cloud is likely going to function differently from systems already familiar to staff, meaning it’s important to understand feature controls and how to apply them appropriately. As such, it helps to start with a checklist where you can compare requirements against the various crucial elements to building a secure cloud. Even for portions of the system that feel familiar, it’s important not to be overly presumptuous, as assuming some portion of a system is working as expected without adequate testing or deeper insight could present issues ranging anywhere from an inoperable feature, to exploitation of a major vulnerability hiding in plain sight.

This is where visibility becomes a major asset in setting up and maintaining a hybrid cloud solution. Without an eye at every integration and end-point, some seemingly small problem could balloon into a much larger issue if left unmonitored for too long. Just as making sure tools and applications play well with each other, fail-safes need to be in place to turn off hazardous integrations as well as quickly cut ties with your data when a mobile device or laptop are lost.

Ultimately, the best integrations will come from proper planning which insists on decision makers delving into a bit of homework. Your checklist will help you ask the right questions, making the transition as smooth as possible while helping ensure the highest level of security.

Azure Security Center: A Security Solution Tailored to Hybrid Environments

One of the fasting growing cloud computing solutions for the modern enterprise is Microsoft Azure, with Azure Security Center addressing both the obvious and more obscure problems faced by organizations when selecting a cloud vendor. This solution is tailored to hybrid environments for business with, among other valuable offerings, a heavy focus on supporting security concerns in a DevOps-centric framework.

While Azure Security Center offers plenty of great features, a few key points should resonate with those concerned about security:

Azure Security Center offers solutions to secure all elements of a hybrid environment – Whether developing for a public or private instance, the system offers resources to protect valuable data for your computing clusters. For example, Key Vault acts as a service for encrypting passwords and hardware keys typically stored in HSWs (Hardware Security Modules), providing a fortified method for retaining credentials, essentially removing the possibility of a hacker accessing said information. The system works inherently with your datacenter, providing support for not only your Windows machines, but other platforms such as Linux, Oracle, SAP, and more.

Control mechanisms offer substantial governance in safeguarding data – Azure Security Center provides a consolidated view of both your on-premise systems and virtual machines, including those not running on Azure. The real-time assessments you receive enable quick resolution to security threats, thanks to the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph that provides intelligent insight with machine learning systems that analyze potential issues. Security is further supplemented by the Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) system provided by Azure that enables users to easily access various, disparate resources quickly, plus it reduces security threats by encrypting keys that integrate with thousands of SaaS integrations.

The Future of Cloud Security

The future of cloud security demands more robust policies as well as granular level controls for every portion of the system as well as visibility. Though these shortcomings have kept some companies from adopting cloud infrastructure or platforms into their business, solutions like Azure Security Center are beginning to erode this reluctance in cloud reliance. As others begin to follow suit, there will be greater control and transparency into operations that formerly presented vulnerabilities.

Acknowledging issues with cloud security isn’t new – dating back to 2016, a report from Forrester shows a projected growth on spending to reach $3.5 billion by 2021 for cloud security solutions alone, coupled with the $24 billion spent on just security software in 2016 along with an expected 10 percent growth every year.[5]

The amount of OSS (Open Source Software) available for cloud systems, including Microsoft, demands fortifying security. What this means for cloud solution customers is an increase in peace of mind as vendors compete to have the most secure system. Customers are already enjoying benefits as providers, like Microsoft, have opened doors for enhanced visibility while offering just enough control to prevent oversights from one customer potentially affecting other subscribers.




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