Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

12/10/2020
02:00 PM
Keith Neilson
Keith Neilson
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Cloud Identity and Access Management: Understanding the Chain of Access

Here's where enterprises encounter challenges with cloud IAM and the best practices they should follow to correct these mistakes.

Through 2025, customers will be at fault for 99% of cloud security failures, according to Gartner, and 90% of organizations that don't control public cloud use will share sensitive data in inappropriate ways. This should come as no surprise given the immense complexity of public cloud service offerings and the hybrid and multicloud deployments enterprises gravitate toward.

Organizations must implement cloud ownership guidelines, establish governance policies, and find a way to visualize who has access to their cloud environments to avoid financial loss and data exposure. For example, in a recent event involving a leading search engine, an unsecured server with a removed or expired password gave cybercriminals access to user search queries and location that put customers at risk for fraud. 

This article explores where enterprises encounter challenges with cloud identity and access management (IAM) and best practices they should follow to correct these mistakes.

Related Content:

CSA Moves to Redefine Cloud-Based Intelligence

The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence

New on The Edge: 10 Ways Device Identifiers Can Spot a Cybercriminal

Why You Can't Apply On-Premises IAM in the Cloud
Many enterprises wrongly assume they can use the same IAM approach for cloud and on-premises, which puts security at risk and opens opportunities for mistakes. Data in cloud environments is highly distributed, whereas data center environments are centralized and well-controlled, so the same rules can't be applied to both. Additionally, the cloud allows users to take advantage of elastic services that can scale up and down dynamically. This means cloud environments experience a rapid rate of change, and old IAM policies that may be suitable for on-premises can't keep up. Therefore, enterprises must acknowledge that they need a new set of policies specifically tailored to their cloud environment.

This is easier said than done, as 81% of organizations use a multicloud approach and public cloud providers' IAM tools typically can't expand beyond their own platform, making it difficult to implement a standardized IAM solution across all cloud platforms. 

How Users Bungle IAM Permissions
A common mistake in cloud IAM is that organizations are too liberal with their permissions, whether they intend to be or not. People in different groups (such as employees and contractors) have access to resources in the cloud and can turn on access and change permissions within cloud environments. Since decision-making is dispersed and owned by people who don't always have the background information needed to make informed access decisions, it's easy to unknowingly grant access to users or resources that should never have been given access in the first place. Since cloud environments are extensive and complex, visibility of which users have access to data becomes increasingly difficult. This lack of visibility can also make enterprises unaware of expired/removed passwords that compromise resources.

Consequences of Failing to Protect Privileged Users and Machines
Stolen or compromised credentials and cloud misconfigurations were the most common causes of a breach for companies in 2019, representing nearly 40% of malicious incidents. In these instances, unauthorized users take advantage of weak IAM policies to gain access to sensitive resources and data. The resulting breach typically costs companies an average of $3.86 million — and it doesn't stop there. Breaches also result in damaged reputation and loss of customer trust, which significantly affects a company's value.   

Best Practices
To avoid breaches and keep data secure, organizations must create IAM governance policies specifically for their cloud environments — and they must be able to enforce these policies. Best practices for cloud IAM governance include:

 

  • Ensure visibility to understand who, or what, has access to specific cloud resources. Visibility must be the first step and needs to span the entire multicloud environment.

  • Design, implement, and enforce IAM policies to limit access to sensitive resources to only users and machines that truly need it. This includes designing permissions so that users can't change permission settings. This ensures unintentional or inherited access through policies is monitored and secured.

  • Investigate security tools to ensure you're being alerted of changes in policy and subsequent risks. For example, if a password is set to expire, who will be alerted and what will happen if/when the password expired? Unfortunately, the resource is often left completely open without any authentication required.

  • Expose misconfigured cloud resources and human error. Ask the question: What is the "blast radius" if certain resources are exposed? Can that information be leveraged by unauthorized users to gain access to additional resources? Considering the extended attack surface when writing and implementing IAM policies helps ensure the most critical assets are properly secured.

The Future
Through 2024, Gartner predicts, most enterprises will continue to struggle to measure cloud security risks. However, this shouldn't deter organizations from using the cloud to power their workloads and improve efficiency and productivity. Enterprises must have a cloud governance strategy to evaluate risk vs. reward to make informed decisions. By implementing governance and IAM policies for people and machines while improving cloud visibility, enterprises can ensure data stays secure, only authorized users have access to sensitive data, and the blast radius is minimized if a mistake happens. 

As CloudSphere's Technical Evangelist, Keith Neilson is responsible for the company's analyst and cloud provider relationships and strategy with a focus on ensuring the wider market understands the business and technical value proposition of the CloudSphere platform. In ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
News
Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
Commentary
Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-16632
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-15
A XSS Vulnerability in /uploads/dede/action_search.php in DedeCMS V5.7 SP2 allows an authenticated user to execute remote arbitrary code via the keyword parameter.
CVE-2021-32073
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-15
DedeCMS V5.7 SP2 contains a CSRF vulnerability that allows a remote attacker to send a malicious request to to the web manager allowing remote code execution.
CVE-2021-33033
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-14
The Linux kernel before 5.11.14 has a use-after-free in cipso_v4_genopt in net/ipv4/cipso_ipv4.c because the CIPSO and CALIPSO refcounting for the DOI definitions is mishandled, aka CID-ad5d07f4a9cd. This leads to writing an arbitrary value.
CVE-2021-33034
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-14
In the Linux kernel before 5.12.4, net/bluetooth/hci_event.c has a use-after-free when destroying an hci_chan, aka CID-5c4c8c954409. This leads to writing an arbitrary value.
CVE-2019-25044
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-14
The block subsystem in the Linux kernel before 5.2 has a use-after-free that can lead to arbitrary code execution in the kernel context and privilege escalation, aka CID-c3e2219216c9. This is related to blk_mq_free_rqs and blk_cleanup_queue.