Security / April 10, 2023

What Is Cloud Network Security?

Cloud Network Security

Cloud networks — especially those spanning a hybrid or multi-cloud infrastructure — are inherently complex. In the early days of cloud networking, this complexity created a unique set of challenges organizations had to overcome to deploy mission-critical workloads on these networks. Today, cloud networks have matured and been successfully deployed by many of the largest and most demanding government agencies, financial institutions, and businesses in the world. This blog will examine the unique challenges of cloud network security and will identify the best practices that should be employed to achieve this.

What Is Cloud Network Security?

Cloud network security is a critical aspect of managing and protecting data, applications, and infrastructures hosted in cloud environments. It encompasses a range of policies, technologies, and controls deployed to protect cloud-based systems, data, and infrastructure from cybersecurity threats. Cloud networks, by their nature, extend across public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments, presenting unique security challenges that differ from traditional on-premises networks.

This security discipline focuses on ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and resources within the cloud. It involves securing the network infrastructure, safeguarding data in transit and at rest, and managing access to cloud resources. Cloud network security strategies must address a broad spectrum of cybersecurity threats, including data breaches, unauthorized access, DDoS attacks, and other cyber threats that can compromise cloud resources.

Effective cloud network security relies on a combination of encryption, intrusion detection systems, firewalls, identity and access management (IAM) systems, and other security measures. It also requires a deep understanding of the shared responsibility model, where security responsibilities are divided between the cloud service provider and the cloud user. This model necessitates that organizations take proactive steps to secure their portion of the cloud environment, including applications, data, and user access.

In essence, cloud network security is about applying rigorous security measures in a more flexible, scalable, and complex environment. It enables organizations to leverage the benefits of cloud computing while minimizing the risks associated with cyber threats and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Why Is Cloud Network Security Important?

As we know from our personal experiences and reading the news, cloud security network challenges continue growing for organizations of all types and sizes. The increasing complexity of cloud networks expands what is commonly referred to as the attack surface of an organization, making it more vulnerable to cyberattacks. This increasing complexity is paralleled by the increasing sophistication and patience of both financially motivated cyber criminals and state-sponsored actors, leading to more frequent, larger, and more persistent attacks and data breaches.

These attacks and data breaches have many — and far-reaching — consequences. At the operational level, these breaches could result in direct and indirect costs arising from business disruption. In financial terms, these costs may go well beyond operational costs into fines arising from compliance or regulatory breaches where, for example, consumer financial or medical data has been stolen because of being inadequately protected. Such breaches and fines often result in reputational damage and loss of confidence that can take businesses years to rebuild.

Ensuring that your organization, users, data, and all your IT assets are protected is a technically challenging but critical task. By protecting your network security in the cloud, you are protecting not only your IT infrastructure and assets but also your business assets — including customer and partner data — from the attacks that pose serious financial, compliance, and reputational risks to your organization.

What Are the Unique Challenges of Cloud Network Security?

Protecting any computer network is a complex and challenging task, but protecting a cloud network poses some unique challenges, and we’ll discuss the importance of three of these in this section.

  • Cloud shared responsibility model — Most organizations move workloads to the cloud to benefit from the agility, scalability, and security that come with hosting these workloads on an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform such as AWS, Azure, GCP, or Oracle Cloud. At a contractual level, these platforms are managed using a shared responsibility model in which the platform vendor is responsible for the security of their platform but the workload-based security — including application, data, and user security — remains the responsibility of their customer.
  • Dynamic nature of the cloud network — By its nature, the cloud and cloud networks are designed to be dynamic and to provide agility and scalability on demand. This means that the network will be in an almost constant state of change as new users, applications, and workloads come online and scale. Managing this is a complex task, especially where cloud networks span multiple cloud platforms, each with its own management and monitoring tools that do not interoperate.
  • Resource and skills challenges — Related to the previous point about different sets of tools, many organizations face a stiff learning curve to learn the functionality, strengths, and weaknesses of these tools and how they work with the organization’s existing tools. This can necessitate hiring new resources and cross-training existing resources to develop new cloud network management skills.

What Are the Five Most Effective Cloud Network Security Best Practices?

As discussed earlier, the good news is that there are now well-established best practices that, if rigorously and appropriately deployed, can help protect organizations from threats to cloud network security. While there are too many to cover in a single blog, we’ll look at five of the most effective best practices.

  • Understand the shared responsibility model — Any organization implementing a cloud network must understand the shared responsibility model of the cloud platform vendor(s) they are partnering with. This means identifying exactly what the cloud platform vendor is responsible for, what the customer is responsible for, and what gaps or gray areas exist between these two sets of responsibilities.
  • Make sure you can see everything — “You can’t protect what you can’t see” is a cliché for a very good reason, and it’s nowhere more true than when it comes to cloud networks. Complete visibility into data at rest, data in motion, applications, users, and workloads is the non-negotiable foundation of any successful cloud network security model.
  • Create a uniform security posture — Creating a uniform security posture, managed by common tools, enforced by common policies, and visible through a single console is one of the most important — but most difficult — cloud network security best practices. It is difficult because business units have different needs, and cloud vendors work with different standards and tools. However, working through these difficulties to achieve a uniform cloud network security posture will pay long-term dividends in terms of security and efficiency.
  • Simplify and reduce your security tools stack — As we have identified, different cloud vendors provide different tools and, sadly, few of the tools are designed to interoperate, resulting in organizations usually having multiple, overlapping security tools. Not only is this inefficient, but it can also result in blind spots and vulnerabilities across your cloud network. The best practice is to secure and manage the cloud network using the minimum possible number of tools and look for tools that work across multiple cloud platforms wherever possible.
  • Blend artificial and human intelligence — While there are many tasks — for example, ingesting and finding threat patterns in massive amounts of data — that AI is uniquely suited for, AI does not replace human intelligence and intuition in securing a cloud network. It is critical that organizations use humans and AI together to automate and optimize as many security processes as possible.

What Are the Key Features of a Cloud Network Security Solution?

So far, we have identified the benefits, challenges, and best practices of cloud network security. In doing so, we have identified the importance of using the right tools to help manage the cloud network and enforce your business and security policies. Let’s focus on what organizations should look for when buying cloud network security solutions. In large part, these mirror the best practices discussed in the previous section, for example:

  • Visibility into all traffic — The volume, variety, and velocity of the data in motion on a cloud network are more challenging than ever. However, the foundation of cloud network security is having visibility into all this data regardless of whether it is North-South data moving on and off the network, East-West data moving between or within platforms or instances, and whether the data is encrypted or not.
  • Single console or pane of glass management — With the complexity of platforms and tools we have discussed in this blog, it is essential that everything happening on the cloud network can be viewed through a single console, often called a single pane of glass. Without this capability, it is difficult — if not impossible — to get the single view an organization needs to secure and troubleshoot its cloud network.
  • Automation — Faced with this complexity, you need to be able to orchestrate and automate the tasks necessary to manage and secure your cloud network to reduce complexity and eliminate the risks of, for example, misconfiguration of ports that could open your cloud network to vulnerabilities and security threats.
  • Proactive monitoring and alerting — Lacking the necessary visibility into what is happening on their cloud networks means that organizations are always reacting to security events, not getting ahead of them and preventing them from happening. Combining complete visibility with rules-based alerting enables organizations to adopt a proactive security posture that enables them to stay ahead of cybersecurity threats.

How Does Gigamon Help Deliver Cloud Network Security?

For many years, Gigamon has been protecting and securing on-premises and cloud networks for many of the most demanding and complex organizations in government, defense, finance, and other sectors in the U.S. and around the world. The Gigamon Deep Observability Pipeline provides the visibility organizations need to be able to take full advantage of cloud networks so that they can run fast, stay secure, and optimize their business.

To find out more, we invite you to try the Gigamon Deep Observability Pipeline, or contact us, and one of our technical experts can show you how Gigamon can help you with your cloud network security.

Learn more about deep observability and how it can benefit your organization today.

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