21st February, 2021 5 Min read
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Migrating workloads to public cloud environment opens up organizations to a slate of new, cloud-native attack vectors which did not exist in the world of premise-based data centers. In this new environment, workload security is defined by which users have access to your cloud environment, and what permissions they have. As a result, protecting against excessive permissions, and quickly responding when those permissions are abused, becomes the #1 priority for security administrators.
Traditionally, computing workloads resided within the organization’s data centers, where they were protected against insider threats. Application protection was focused primarily on perimeter protection, through mechanisms such as firewalls, IPS/IDS, WAF and DDoS protection, secure gateways, etc.
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However, moving workloads to the cloud has led to organizations (and IT administrators) to lose direct physical control over their workloads, and relinquish many aspects of security through the Shared Responsibility Model. As a result, the insider of the old, premise-based world is suddenly an outsider in the new world of publicly hosted cloud workloads.
IT administrators and hackers now have identical access to publicly-hosted workloads, using standard connection methods, protocols, and public APIs. As a result, the whole world becomes your insider threat.
Workload security, therefore, is defined by the people who can access those workloads, and the permissions they have.
Your Permissions = Your Attack Surface
One of the primary reasons for migrating to the cloud is speeding up time-to-market and business processes. As a result, cloud environments make it very easy to spin up new resources and grant wide-ranging permissions, and very difficult to keep track of who has them, and what permissions they actually use.
All too frequently, there is a gap between granted permissions and used permissions. In other words, many users have too many permissions, which they never use. Such permissions are frequently exploited by hackers, who take advantage of unnecessary permissions for malicious purposes.
As a result, cloud workloads are vulnerable to data breaches (i.e., theft of data from cloud accounts), service violation (i.e., completely taking over cloud resources), and resource exploitation (such as cryptomining). Such promiscuous permissions are frequently mis-characterized as ‘misconfigurations’, but are actually the result of permission misuse or abuse by people who shouldn’t have them.
Therefore, protecting against those promiscuous permissions becomes the #1 priority for protecting publicly-hosted cloud workloads.
The problem, however, is that existing solutions provide incomplete protection against the threat of excessive permissions.
A New Approach for Protection
Modern protection of publicly-hosted cloud environments requires a new approach.
Summary: Take Responsibility
It is tempting for enterprises to assume that cloud providers are completely responsible for network and application security to ensure data privacy. In practice, cloud providers provide tools that enterprises can use to secure hosted assets. While cloud providers must be vigilant in how they protect their data centers, responsibility for securing access to apps, services, data repositories and databases falls on the enterprises.
The responsibility to protect the public cloud is a relatively new task for most enterprises. Since everything in the cloud is external and accessible, if not properly protected with the right level of permissions, enterprises must quickly incorporate smart configuration hardening into their network security strategies to address this growing threat.
GlobalDots works with cutting-edge security players to help organizations secure their cloud environments by providing comprehensive, cloud-based solutions to harden cloud configurations, reduce their attack surfaces, augment their security postures, and immediately respond to attacks once they are discovered.
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