Cloud migration is a notoriously complex process that presents enormous challenges with respect to data security, governance, and a host of other considerations. A recent study showed how 75% of enterprises struggle to secure infrastructure configuration, access, and APIs.
Cloud security is significantly different from traditional cybersecurity and requires a total cultural shift towards risk management. A security checklist can help you assess your cloud security capabilities and ensure there's no lack of readiness in your cloud security assessment.
A high-performing cloud security checklist involves stakeholders from multiple departments to prepare a roadmap for secure cloud access.
Cloud Security Checklist for Safe and Secure Migration
Let’s look at some of the items on our cloud security checklist.
1. Encryption of data-in-transit
Data is one of the biggest assets of an organization and must be secure at all stages of the process. While most organizations encrypt data-at-rest to comply with data storage policies, you must adopt the same approach for data-in-transit. According to the Cost of a Data Breach Report, the global average total cost of a data breach is $4.35 million.
Ensure you clearly understand the nature of the data and its correlation to relevant data governance laws before you go ahead with deduplication and encryption of the data for transit.
2. User separation and secure access management
Identity and access management (IAM) plays a crucial role in deciding who can access your data and to what extent. With properly configured IAM protocols, you can limit access to critical cloud resources and limit malicious users from accessing data outside their domain.
Principle of least privilege (PoLP), proper user separation and IAM can help you create a lasting security barrier that prevents unauthorized access and tampering of cloud resources, applications and data.
3. Implementation of cloud policies and governance frameworks
Cloud service providers (CSPs) and their customers have a shared responsibility model when it comes to doing business in the cloud. This means customers are responsible for the security and compliance of the services and applications hosted in the cloud environment. To hold fast to these security responsibilities, most businesses have internal policies that govern the use of cloud resources in a responsible and secure manner.
There are multiple government regulations and cloud security frameworks that have set the ground rules for security in the cloud, including PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, ISO-27017, ISO-27018 and ISO-27001. Keep in mind that you’re on the hook for the behavior of your partners and third-party vendors. During the vendor onboarding stage, ensure your supply chain can also maintain cloud compliance with relevant regulations.
4. Secure operational integrity of the cloud network
The cloud network provides an added layer of approach for malicious agents and therefore must be adequately fortified against unauthorized access. Network security tools, firewall and intrusion prevention system can help secure the cloud network from cybersecurity threats like brute-force attacks, phishing, distributed denial of service (DDoS) and malicious websites.
5. Build cloud resilience and implement disaster recovery plans
Cloud security is not just restricted to the cloud. Implement safeguards to protect the physical assets from hardware failure, tampering and damage. This includes proper screening and cloud security training of security personnel in and around physical assets.
However, accidents can happen despite the best interests. To build resilience against catastrophic system failures, natural disasters and power outages, it's important to always keep a backup of critical systems and user data, preferably in a separate physical location.
6. Application and documentation of the latest security patches and updates
Cloud patch management helps synchronize your cloud systems with the latest security updates and patches. Security updates are a necessary cloud security component needed to patch new vulnerabilities, exposed areas, and risk approach vectors. However, not all your endpoints will be connected to the cloud network at the same time, so it's equally important you document any changes and follow up on delivery of security updates.
7. Audit of security protocols
Because of the complexity of the cloud migration journey, it requires both outside counsel and in-house technicians. Employee turnover is inevitable, and audits are necessary to detect dependencies in your risk response plan. These audits' main objective is to bypass obstacles that might jeopardize your ability to find and fix vulnerabilities in your cloud environment, both during and after migration.
8. Protection of external interfaces and endpoints
Identify and log all external interfaces and endpoints that access the cloud network daily. Every endpoint can individually act as a point of approach for malicious agents and must be secured with proper safeguards.
9. Logging and analysis of system activity
A well-structured and organized log of cloud system activity is the backbone of security in the cloud. While it may not be possible to keep up with the logs from connected systems, servers and endpoints in real time, a centralized logging dashboard ensures you’re not in the dark when something goes wrong. With an independent logging system, you can reference historical data points and reverse engineer solutions to persistent issues.
Also, several cybersecurity frameworks and regulatory standards implement strict audit logging standards. NIST 800-53, SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA and HITECH are some of the frameworks and standards that make it compulsory for organizations to collect logs which can be used for identification and redressal of issues during emergencies.
10. Identify and patch application risks
Web application security is necessary to protect websites, applications and APIs from various threats like zero-day vulnerabilities, cross site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, shadow APIs, cross-site request forgery and more. Any misconfiguration can lead to vulnerabilities in your cloud application, leading to data breaches and vulnerabilities.
The OWASP Top Ten list covers general guidelines for web application security if you want to know more. To build a robust web application security framework, it’s important to follow best practices, like using the latest data encryption protocols, enforcing authentication and authorization, documenting code changes and tracking APIs in real time.
Cloud security is a comprehensive task that requires continuous oversight and expert guidance from specialists with years of experience. While a cloud security checklist can help secure cloud access and implement a security baseline for your digital transformation journey, it’s only one component in the overall cloud security assessment necessary to ensure a smooth migration to the cloud.
Importance of Cloud Security Assessment
A cloud security assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of your cloud infrastructure’s resilience against various internal and external threats native to the cloud. As more companies move their assets to the cloud, cybercriminals will inevitably find new and more efficient ways to exploit vulnerabilities within existing security models. In such conditions, a reactive approach to cloud security won’t be sufficient to prevent risks.
Periodic cloud security assessments designed to identify weaknesses and misconfigurations in your cloud infrastructure will create the proper risk awareness and resilience needed to match the speed of doing business in the cloud. Continued analysis of the network and cloud servers and services will give you the insight necessary to not only remedy security incidents but also identify future attacks.
Focus Areas for Cloud Security Assessment
A combination of automated and manual cloud security testing tools can cover various business-critical areas to enable secure cloud access and real-time protection against security threats. Ensure your cloud security assessment prioritizes the following areas:
- Overall security posture
- Access control and management
- Network security
- Incident management
- Storage security
- Platform services security
- Workload security
Cloud security is an essential part of your cloud migration and digital transformation strategy, and it’s absolutely essential that you protect your cloud applications and services with the right security controls and frameworks.
However, as we have previously mentioned, cloud migration is already a challenging process and cloud security configuration can add another layer of complexity on top, especially for organizations with limited experience in the cloud. This checklist is only meant to act as a general guide to individuals who already have a working knowledge of cloud management. If you want to attempt cloud migration from scratch, we would recommend consulting seasoned cloud migration specialists like Torry Harris Integration Solutions who can help fit cloud security into your digital transformation plan without disrupting business as usual.