Cloud: Keeping transformations secure

Most mid-sized to large enterprises have already moved some of their infrastructure, data, and workloads into the cloud for better agility and efficiency. Nearly three-quarters of businesses are running a hybrid and/or multi-cloud strategy today, according to Forrester Research. By Kunal Anand, Chief Technology Officer at Imperva.

The rise of cloud transformation

While many organisations are moving to the cloud, they may not be ready to move their data. One reason for this may be due to the lack of understanding of the security mechanisms and capabilities organisations need when they make the migration.

Cloud migrations are often part of larger corporate digital transformations that include the adoption of DevOps strategies, microservices, APIs, containers, and more. Security is rarely the driver — though it may be the moast important passenger. To make cloud transformations as efficient and successful as possible, companies must remain secure and compliant throughout.

To do so, organisations must standardise security practices across cloud, hybrid and multi-cloud assets, use modern security platforms built for the cloud automation era and use Defense-in-Depth to protect APIs, applications and data, wherever they reside.

What to ensure when securing cloud migrations

Every company’s business transformation is different and performed at a different pace. The environment sometimes dictates your security tools. When an organisation has a choice, it can be quicker to achieve standardised controls through a comprehensive solution. This way, organisations can enable complete visibility across their enterprise.

Today’s cloud-enabled enterprises strive to be agile, collaborative, highly automated, and efficient. Manually moving workloads and technologies to the cloud is a step backwards, being slow, labour-intensive, and error prone. This can ultimately lead to more security vulnerabilities, as well as wasted time and money. Therefore, modern enterprises are turning to rebuilding or refactoring business applications on microservices and cloud technology. To protect cloud infrastructure, security solutions must protect critical APIs and manage access to them by applications and users, including privileged insiders.

One of the benefits of an on-premises-only infrastructure is the ability for security teams to lock it down and minimise the attack surface. There is a massive cost to the business, though, as this can greatly hamper employees’ productivity, and their ability to innovate, partner, and act on business opportunities. If this is not executed securely, migrating to the cloud can cause organisations’ threat surface to balloon, exposing them to a potential explosion of attacks and leading to breaches whose financial damage outweighs all of the cloud-earned gains. To stay ahead of threats while protecting cloud migration, organisations need a multi-layered security architecture that provides autonomic Defense-in-Depth.

Learning from mistakes

In 2019, we learned some hard lessons about securing cloud migration. We announced a security incident that affected a subset of our Cloud WAF customers. We conducted a thorough investigation with internal security teams and outside forensics specialists to determine the root cause. Our investigation identified an unauthorised use of an administrative API key in one our production AWS accounts in October 2018, which led to an exposure of a database snapshot containing emails and hashed & salted passwords.

From this experience, we gained some valuable insights. Firstly, when an organisation responds to a security incident, organisations should operate honestly and transparently with all stakeholders. When this is communicated quickly and early in the investigation process, customers are able to make informed decisions and act on the security measures recommended. From our experience, this openness and sincerity was appreciated by our key customers and partners.

Second, organisations should focus on being fact-driven in their communications to employees, customers, partners and the community, which means organisations must confirm findings and assessments (and take actions to protect customers) in order to responsibly share additional details.

Third, organisations should establish security incident workflows and processes adapted to the hybrid cloud environment. Finally, organisations should take the time to understand the shared responsibility of deploying and managing applications and data in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions.

As a company, we regret that this incident occurred and have been working around the clock to learn from it and improve how we build and run Imperva. Security is never “done” and we must continue to evaluate and improve our processes every single day. Our vision remains the same: to lead the world’s fight on behalf of our customers and their customers to keep data and applications safe from cybercriminals. Now, more than ever, we commit to our vision, where data and applications are kept safe.

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