Security / May 28, 2019

What Is Cloud Security?

“The cloud” is a term used to simply describe on-demand availability of computer and storage resources that are accessed remotely. Rather than keeping data on in-house hard drives and servers and needing to purchase just the right amount of equipment, organizations instead have access to virtually unlimited scaling resources on tap.

This provides a number of clear advantages: Cloud services are generally much less expensive than local options (thanks to reduced hardware and maintenance costs); authorized users can access cloud services and data at any time and from anywhere in the world; businesses can easily scale cloud storage to meet growing needs; and cloud solutions offer reliable back up in the event that local files become lost or corrupted. But perhaps the biggest concern about this data migration to the cloud is cloud security.

What Is Cloud Security?

Cloud security (sometimes also called cloud computing security) is just what it sounds like — any tools, processes or strategies used to protect applications, infrastructures and data contained in, or otherwise associated with, the cloud. The end goal, of course, is to ensure the safety of vital business and customer digital assets. The term cloud security applies to all cloud environments (private cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud options). From protecting data and authenticating access to ensuring user privacy and supporting regulatory compliance, cloud computing security handles many of the same responsibilities attributed to conventional IT security.

That said, cloud security brings with it a number of advantages when compared to traditional IT security. For one thing, cloud security takes data off premises, effectively eliminating the threat of on-site, inside-job breaches. The same could be said for the threat of misplaced storage devices. And where on-premises security demands that businesses build robust security solutions from the ground up (which they may or may not have the aptitude or resources to do), cloud security providers have the expertise to build effective security measures and to keep them up to date. This higher standard of security also often applies to user authentication — an area where many businesses are somewhat lax.

But in addition to these benefits, cloud security is important for other reasons. Many businesses are currently making the transition into a more cloud-centric data storage strategy. And as they do so, they need a cloud provider capable of offering top-tier security solutions. Because cyber threats are becoming both more advanced and more targeted toward specific businesses, businesses also need a provider who can keep up with evolving threats and create a customized cloud security solution.

But even so, the truth is that modern cloud security is far from infallible, and the effectiveness of any cloud security solution still depends heavily on the user. This is where the idea of shared responsibility comes into play.

What Is Shared Responsibility?

The concept of shared security is simple but has a profound impact on how IT protects its cloud presence. It’s the notion that the cloud service provider protects a portion of the end-to-end system, and IT is responsible for the rest. For public clouds, the cloud service provider ensures physical security of the data center and servers, and on-premises IT is responsible for securing everything above the hypervisor level, which includes operating system configuration, encryption for client-side and server-side data, network traffic protection, access management and more.

In the shared responsibility model of cloud computing security, cloud security is analogous to a cloud application’s user experience; the provider will ensure that their portion of the stack, namely the servers and network performance, are meeting service level agreement standards, but the ultimate user experience is the responsibility of the organization itself.

But while the shared responsibility model divides security between servers and applications, cybercriminals do not — they find vulnerability across layers. Therefore, the best way to detect cloud attacks early is by looking at network data packets. And the way to do that is with packet-level cloud security.

What Is Packet-Level Security (and Why Does It Matter)?

Network data packets are the most reliable source of intelligence into network activities; analyzing packets in motion provides deep visibility into malicious activities as they happen. So, instead of responding to cloud security attacks only after the damage is done, businesses can identify and eliminate threats to the system much more quickly — ideally, before they can cause any damage.

Unfortunately, the default cloud security services offered by most cloud providers (such as Amazon CloudWatch and Watchtower for Azure) fall into the categories of monitoring and management tools. These tools are insufficient when it comes to providing full, reliable business data security. This is because these services are built primarily as application debugging tools and are only triggered after a cloud security-related event has already taken place.

Conversely, packet-level analysis reveals malicious activities as they occur. When threat actors target an organization, they are looking to exploit vulnerabilities across all deployment platforms and across all computer and network layers. That means that the most effective security solutions are those that allow users to track threat actors as they move through those layers.

By centralizing cloud security, either within the public cloud or by sending data back to on-premises security systems, IT gains a single point of visibility for all security-related activities on the network. This makes threat monitoring and response much faster, easier and more effective. Administering centralized policies and meeting compliance requirements are easier when all network activities are aggregated into one location.

How Can Gigamon Help with Cloud Security?

To be able to effectively recognize and respond to cloud threats as they happen, businesses need to be able to analyze network packets in real time. The problem is that different kinds of traffic demand different monitoring tools, and when all network traffic is routed past every tool, traffic becomes bottlenecked and response times suffer.

Gigamon provides the solution, with GigaSECURE® Cloud.

GigaSECURE Cloud is a cloud-based tool designed to acquire, optimize and distribute different kinds of network traffic, quickly and reliably, to the cloud security tools best suited to analyze them. This empowers businesses to optimize their security to fit the new world of cloud data storage and to respond to threats as they occur. Simply put, GigaSECURE gives businesses the ability to police their own cloud traffic.

“Data in motion” technologies are always evolving, and so are the threats that target them. In order to remain ahead of the curve, you need the right cloud security tools at the right times. GigaSECURE Cloud from Gigamon ensures that those tools are being put to the most effective use. After all, the cloud is the future of data storage, and with Gigamon helping businesses stop attacks as they occur, that future looks bright.

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