Data security continues to be a major concern for enterprises seeking to move applications and services to the cloud but that is not deterring an increasing number of organizations from adopting it anyway.
A new assessment of cloud adoption and security issues released by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) at the RSA conference in San Francisco this week shows enterprises are adopting cloud computing in robust fashion. The CSA described the growth as being driven by “top-down IT strategic planning and viral adoption from individual users and departments.”
Enterprises have overwhelmingly begun adopting the whole gamut of available cloud service delivery models including software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, security-as-a-service, identity-as-a service and data as service, the CSA said.
Managing security and compliance of these disparate cloud services continues to a challenge for enterprises that is exacerbated by the inconsistent quality of the security controls offered by cloud vendors. Even so, as cloud adoption has grown in the enterprise, evidence suggests that the risks are manageable says Jim Reavis, founder of CSA in comments to Dark Reading.
In fact nearly 65 percent of some 200 IT and security professionals survey by CSA earlier this year expressed confidence in cloud security vendors offering as good or better security than on-premise security controls.
“The threats are primarily self-inflicted by the cloud-adopting enterprise and can be mitigated by comprehensive strategies that cover governance as well as technical issues,” Reavis says.
Here are some of the other key security issues that dominated the cloud security conversation over the past year.
The Dirty Dozen
Data breaches, insecure Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and weak identity and access management controls are the biggest security concerns for enterprises, the CSA said in a report listing the top dozen cloud security concerns. Other major issues included system and application vulnerabilities, account hijacking and malicious insiders.
This is the second time in recent years that CSA has compiled a list of the top cloud security threats and many of the items in the recent survey are the same as from its first survey. The biggest changes were the emergence of a specific threat category for identity and access control, and the addition of ‘insecure interfaces” to the API category, Reavis says. “We think the relatively strong security posture of major cloud providers, means that the attackers will go after user credentials as the path of least resistance,” he says.
A Big Time Cloud Security Skills Shortage
Concerns over security are being heightened by a lack of skilled staff for dealing with cloud security at many organizations. The lack of skills is a bigger barrier to cloud security than other considerations like the lack of an internal strategy, lack of a budget for cloud breach detection and a lack of actionable cloud security analytics, according to an RSA presentation from Skyhigh Networks.
“The speed you need to secure and react to business requirements is really putting pressure on security teams,” says Sami Laine, chief technologist at CloudPassage in comments to Dark Reading. In many cases, there is an absolute dearth of availability of skills to handle cloud security requirements, he says.
The Impact of Agile IT on Cloud Security
The adoption of agile IT service delivery models by a growing number of organizations has begun to present new cloud security challenges for organizations, Laine says. The trend is requiring security teams to support a far greater number of software code releases than previously, even as the life cycle of how often developers push code out into production has become exponentially shorter, he says.
For many, the only way to succeed will be automating the delivery of critical security services like firewall configuration, privileged account management and software assessments, he said.
The Opportunities and Challenges Posed By App Containerization
The trend towards application containers and microservices architectures offer an opportunity for organizations to bolster security. Containers, for instance, minimize the attack surface and allow for greater segmentation of application components. But the trend poses new challenges for security as well, Laine says.
“Containerization is absolutely transformative,” he says. Containers can be spun up in literally milliseconds and enable organizations to build systems around microservices.
But a container environment in the cloud is also a lot harder to monitor using traditional security tools, he says. “You have less ability to see into those systems and to be able to assure that security is configured properly,” he says. For example, in a traditional IT environment, periodic scans can help organization detect vulnerabilities. Running period scans in an environment where containers are constantly being spun up, run, and taken down can be a lot harder Laine said.
An RSA presentation by managed cloud computing company Rackspace listed other concerns. For instance Docker, which has emerged as the container standard, runs as root, so everyone has access to everything. Similarly, a container environment offers a lot of storage options raising issues over control and data being stored in clear-text.
Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio