How to Develop a Hybrid Cloud Security Strategy
This post was last updated on March 18th, 2020 at 05:53 pm
Hybrid clouds integrate cloud computing with on-premise resources. In this ecosystem, environments are not only integrated, but also exchange networking resources and distribute traffic between them. The result should be high availability and scalability. However, since hybrid involves so many connections and endpoints, it can create blindspots in your security perimeter.
In this article, you will learn about the benefits and security challenges of hybrid clouds, and how to develop a hybrid cloud security strategy.
What is a Hybrid Cloud?
A hybrid cloud is an architecture that combines public or private clouds and on-premises infrastructure. Public clouds are typically hosted by third-party providers such as Microsoft, Google, or Amazon. These clouds provide resources that are shared by multiple tenants. Private clouds can be hosted by third parties or can be hosted locally. These clouds provide private resources that are reserved for a single tenant.
For an architecture to be considered a hybrid cloud it must integrate any included infrastructures. Simply having resources in a cloud as well as on-premises does not count as a hybrid cloud.
In addition to integration, hybrid clouds also provide:
- Networking between devices and systems
- High availability and scalability
- Distribution of workloads and application traffic
Hybrid Cloud Benefits
There are several benefits to deploying a hybrid cloud architecture. The most common benefits include:
- Accelerated innovation—hybrid clouds remove the limitations created by in-house resources and enable you to scale as needed with lower costs. This enables faster prototyping and testing of applications and easier deployment.
- Improved business continuity—cloud services naturally provide greater data resilience and redundancy than on-premise environments. Hybrid systems enable you to set up data duplication in the cloud and failover to it when needed. This reduces downtime and limits the risks of hardware failure.
- Greater flexibility—hybrid systems make it easier to adapt to changing needs and system requirements since you can adopt or drop services as needed. These systems also enable you to extend the life of existing hardware, maximizing your budgets and resource efficiency.
- Improved connectivity—cloud services can provide high availability for data and services that are hard to match with on-premises systems. Many services also provide service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee availability. When combined in a hybrid configuration, you have multiple systems from which you can provide services and access data, ensuring minimal downtime.
- Increased security—hybrid configurations enable you to retain greater control over your data, which can grant greater security compared to cloud systems. Additionally, cloud systems often provide access to enterprise-level tools and expertise that you may not have in-house. This expertise can be leveraged to provide increased security overall.
Hybrid Cloud Security Challenges
While hybrid clouds can provide numerous benefits, these systems also present a few challenges for security teams. Hybrid architectures are typically more complex than single infrastructure systems and require significantly more expertise to manage.
The two most common challenges teams might face with hybrid cloud security include:
- Data compromise—when data is spread across systems and frequently moving between systems it is more likely to become compromised. This could mean leakage, corruption, deletion, or inappropriate access. Preventing these issues requires the orchestration of access controls, encryption, data validation, and secure transfer channels. In a hybrid system, this can be even more complicated by the models of shared responsibility that are employed by cloud providers.
- Human error—human error in terms of misconfiguration, accidental data sharing, and misunderstanding of system use all pose a serious threat to security. Unfortunately, hybrid cloud systems can increase the chance of human error. These systems often involve more moving parts and unfamiliar components than traditional, single infrastructures.
How to Develop a Hybrid Cloud Security Strategy
When deploying a hybrid cloud architecture there are a few best practices you need to include. These practices can help ensure that your systems and data are as secure as possible.
Standardizing your processes and configurations helps ensure that all elements are equally protected and reduces issues caused by human error. This standardization should include access rights, default security settings, and auditing and monitoring processes.
You should ensure that system administrators follow a single security protocol across cloud and on-premise environments. Passwords are one example of where this should be carefully applied. For example, internal applications are less vulnerable with default or simple passwords. However, as soon as these applications are moved to the cloud a significant security risk is created.
Databases, like applications, should also be standardized for easier monitoring and maintenance. This is particularly true if workloads are passed back and forth between cloud and on-premises environments. SMB file shares can help by ensuring that a single protocol is used to store and transfer data.
Encrypt all data
Regardless of where your data is stored, it should be encrypted. This is a universal best practice, regardless of your architecture. However, with a hybrid cloud, encryption for data-in-transit is especially important. Hybrid systems typically involve the frequent transfer of data between environments. Each time data is transferred it becomes more vulnerable. Encryption ensures that even if data is intercepted it cannot be used by the thief.
Create a disaster recovery plan
Although hybrid clouds can provide greater business continuity, these architectures cannot completely eliminate the risk of disaster. To avoid any service disruptions and to be able to recover data quickly and smoothly, you need to create a disaster recovery plan.
This plan should include intentional backups of data and configurations that can be restored as needed. It may also include the configuration of failover systems that remain ready in case of need. You can leverage cloud data redundancy for this purpose but make sure to carefully select the regions or availability zones your data is stored in.
Manage and restrict access
Managing access should be part of your standardization process but also deserves special attention. Often, the services and data in your cloud and on-premises infrastructures are not identical. This means that access shouldn’t be identical either. For example, you don’t necessarily want employees to have access to data backups even if they have access to the source data.
Secure all endpoints
Hybrid systems are more expansive than on-premise systems, meaning more endpoints are exposed. These endpoints enable users to reliably access systems and are required for data transfer. However, every endpoint is also a potential gateway for attackers.
To mitigate this increased attack surface, you need to implement strong endpoint protection strategies and tools. These protections should include centralized, system-wide monitoring and automated response features.
Hybrid clouds offer many benefits, including accelerated innovation, improved business continuity, greater flexibility, efficient connectivity, and even more security controls. However, the complex and distributed nature of hybrid environments can increase the attack surface on the network, exposing your data and users to an increased number of threats.
To secure your hybrid cloud environment, you should create a cloud security strategy, including practices, procedures, roles, and tools that should be implemented (or restricted) as part of your overall cyber-security efforts and daily activities. Processes should be standardized, to ensure all relevant parties can understand what is expected. Simplicity can be the difference between full cooperation and a failed implementation of your strategy.
To validate the security posture of your entire IT environment, including cloud assets, contact Infocyte to request a Compromise and Threat Assessment.
About the Author
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.