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Security for Multicloud and Hybrid Cloud Environments

In multicloud environments, security challenges are most common at the connecting points between different clouds. Internal cloud security skill sets and cloud-native security tools are also key.

Anton Chuvakin, Security Advisor at Office of the CISO, Google Cloud

September 7, 2023

4 Min Read
Source: Beebright via Adobe Stock Photo

No matter the industry, multicloud and hybrid cloud environments are an increasingly common way of doing business. Cloud users may opt to work with more than one cloud service provider (CSP) to increase their flexibility, or the organization may be thrown into the multicloud world by means of a merger or acquisition. 

Just as on-premise environments have their own particular security concerns, these complex multicloud and hybrid cloud environments require special considerations. The truth is that several secure clouds will not automatically form a secure multicloud if used together by the same organization. 

Security at the Seams 

One of the main security challenges that comes along with a multicloud or hybrid cloud environment is the issue of "security at the seams." While each individual cloud is going to be secure by design, security risks emerge at the edges of these clouds, where they connect to one another or to local servers or remote services. In order to benefit from the advantages of a multicloud environment, data needs to be able to move smoothly and securely, and applications that connect to multiple clouds need to be designed and built securely. This is where technical considerations such as the encryption of data and privilege management are needed.

Cloud environments that involve multiple different CSPs add an additional layer of complexity. Acquiring cloud skills is difficult, but mastering multiple private and public cloud environments is even harder. Different cloud environments require different skills and different security practices, and an interaction between any two distinct clouds has its own particular quirks. Be wary of any gaps in your team's skill set, because as sensitive data flows through your complex cloud environment, it's only going to be as secure as the weakest connecting point — effectively leaving your organization at the mercy of lowest common denominator security measures. 

It's important for organizations to build out a team of security specialists with deep knowledge of each of the CSP technology stacks that are in broad use at an organization. With internal skills in mind, your organization's security leaders should prioritize training and hiring decisions in order to make sure you have access to the relevant specialties for your multicloud environment. 

The Importance of Cloud-First Tools

As much as possible, the tools you use to secure your cloud environment should be cloud native. There can be a temptation to rely on legacy tools that have "always been good enough," especially when dealing with a cloud environment featuring different cloud service providers, all with their own rules and compatibility issues. Pursuing this path misses out on the specialized tools that each major provider has to protect their clouds. In truth, legacy tools aren't the best way to secure a single cloud, and fall far short of properly securing a multicloud environment. 

Instead, adopting modern, cloud-native security tools should be an essential part of your cloud migration plan. Multicloud security monitoring is a must, and this monitoring tool itself must be cloud-native in order to properly defend your organization's data. Fortunately, proper cloud-aligned cybersecurity can actually be less expensive, less complex to manage, and more reliable than trying to do the same job with legacy security tools in several clouds. 

Open source technologies are important enablers of multicloud, as they facilitate efficient workflows and data movement. As discussed in an IDC whitepaper, a multicloud-based open source strategy can reduce organizations' overdependence on a small number of third‐party providers and boost companies' compliance posture "with strong data governance and mobility capabilities."

The Evolving World of Multicloud Security 

With multicloud and hybrid cloud environments emerging as the new standard for modern businesses, security tools are advancing rapidly to provide necessary protections. The zero-trust security model is a good example of a security principle that is especially well-suited for defending these complex cloud networks. Malicious actors will identify the weakest spots in your cloud environment and focus their intrusion efforts there. A zero-trust model will limit the scope and damage of these intrusions. 

The increasing use of AI and machine learning to automate security tasks is another exciting frontier in multicloud security. AI security tools help move the world closer to "invisible security," keeping data and networks secure with minimal active effort from your human security teams. The more automated tools can monitor and defend systems without active input, the more hours of the day your security teams can focus on tasks such as assessing and auditing security measures, pursuing training and certification, and promoting security awareness across your organization.

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About the Author(s)

Anton Chuvakin

Security Advisor at Office of the CISO, Google Cloud

Dr. Anton Chuvakin works for the Office of the CISO of Google Cloud, where he arrived via Chronicle Security (an Alphabet company) acquisition in July 2019. Before that, Anton was a Research Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) Security and Risk Management Strategies team.

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