Connect with us

Cybersecurity

The Ins and Outs of Cloud-Based Security Solutions

mm

Updated

 on

Although cloud-based information security tools are gaining momentum in the enterprise environment, many customers continue to be skeptical about the reliability of such solutions. Is the situation changing? What efforts should vendors make to increase the level of trust in security with the cloud at its core? What factors to consider when choosing a system like that? Let us try to figure out the answers.

The need for cloud security tools is growing

There is a strong reason why cloud technology is booming these days: it provides game-changing advantages to customers. It allows an organization to scale its information system by quickly engaging new resources. Cloud-based solutions have superseded many products that used to come only in the form of software because they are much easier and cheaper to deploy.

Another thing on the plus side of leveraging cloud security is that the customer can bridge the competence gap by outsourcing the task to a qualified provider. This is particularly important when a company launches a new business project and lacks resources to back it with a dedicated security system. By turning to a specialized vendor, it gets a sufficient scope of expertise and tech support.

Cloud security solutions are highly popular among organizations using software-as-a-service (SaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). In many cases, there is hardly any alternative to this approach. For instance, businesses with geographically scattered structures find it more cost-efficient to use a cloud security tool than to buy a software or hardware complex for each branch. In this scenario, ease of deployment and extensive scalability are the fundamental pros of such solutions.

Not only the end-nodes get frequently attacked, but infrastructure in the cloud also is at risk and needs to be protected. The provider typically assumes a part of the responsibility but ensuring the intactness of the hosted data is mostly up to the client.

Cloud-based InfoSec products have been around for years, but the pandemic has created additional use cases that have demonstrated how effective they are. The healthcare crisis has changed the mindset of customers who have turned their attention to vendors’ existing offerings.

Nearly all types of on-premises products can be deployed from the cloud nowadays. These include data loss prevention (DLP) solutions, cloud access security broker (CASB) systems, and identity services for single sign-on (SSO) technology implementation.

It is safe to say that any firmly established security product uses the cloud in some way, especially in areas that are not affected by government regulation. This trend gave rise to a new category of security systems called Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), designed to verify the correctness of resource settings within the cloud.

At this point, most customers are not ready to transfer government-supervised security areas into the cloud. Some companies have their own regulations that also limit the range of data that can be operated in cloud services. Moreover, even if corporate or state rules do not prohibit transferring specific systems, many customers err on the side of caution and refuse to do so.

Experts predict that in the future it will be cheaper for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to comply with cloud-related regulations than to build a comprehensive security system from the ground up.

Is cloud security affordable?

Cost-efficiency is an important advantage of cloud solutions in general. Is this true for cloud-based security? These services often use a pay-as-you-go model, only charging customers as resources are consumed. This allows companies to deploy their defensive infrastructure, such as a firewall, in a relatively short time and only pay for the actual use of the system to protect specific resources.

The cloud delivers unparalleled flexibility: there are licensing plans that presuppose paying not for specific features of the security solution but for the use of any system features that are currently needed. This approach can be implemented via tokens that the customer activates or deactivates independently.

The cloud eliminates the effect of irrational license purchases, where a customer buys an out-of-the-box product packed with redundant features. The larger the company and the more complex its infrastructure, the more cost-efficient a cloud security product is (compared to a traditional on-premises solution).

Another important advantage is the absence of hidden costs, such as the cost of maintaining system resilience. In the case of the cloud, these are already included in the price tag. The security-as-a-service (SECaaS) model is only as good as your total cost of the products deployed on-premises.

As for the provider’s liability, the software is typically delivered “as is,” which means that the vendor is not responsible for its operation. A similar model applies to cloud services, except that the provider takes on certain obligations related to the availability of the service and takes a reputational hit if a serious breach occurs. In addition, there are government acts in some regions (for instance, the EU’s GDPR) that impose responsibility for the security of confidential data on the provider as well.

How to choose a cloud-based information security tool?

When selecting the optimal product, you should consider the availability of an application programming interface (API), given that real-time incident response involves process automation. Pay attention to API documentation, capabilities to integrate with other systems, and the availability of turnkey blocks for solutions that the customer is using.

The “API first” concept implies doing more through a programming interface than through a graphical one. If the customer looks five or more years ahead, they should not consider on-premises solutions at all. It is necessary to scrutinize the licensing scheme and understand how the cloud system will interact with the security solutions currently in use.

Experts single out two main scenarios of selecting a cloud security tool. Mature teams make their choice based on a commitment to a particular vendor, its solution stack, and the technology culture it offers. Organizations with less mature cybersecurity teams narrow down their criteria to the price aspect of the offering and often choose between different managed security service (MSS) providers without focusing on a specific vendor.

A service-level agreement (SLA) should also be on the checklist. It reflects the provider’s commitment to service continuity as well as other terms and conditions.

Modern cloud solutions boast a decent level of integration. Many providers already have a stack of ready-made scripts and tools for interaction with other systems the customers may be using.

Information security tools mainly use a multi-cloud environment. By the way, interoperability between different clouds is a distinct trend in today’s market. This hallmark is one of the competitive advantages of cloud solutions.

What does the future hold?

In many cases, the government shapes this market. At the same time, the wording of legislative acts never indicates how exactly the regulator’s requirements should be implemented in terms of architecture. This leaves a lot of room for development but makes it difficult to assess future trends.

The mass migration of companies’ digital infrastructures online will continue to be the main driving force for the evolution of the cloud security market. The growing use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies also has a positive effect on the development of cloud services and associated security tools. By and large, the future of the market can be viewed in the context of the following three trends:

  •       Changing public and customer perspectives to step up confidence in this segment and security tools that are delivered from the cloud.
  •       Further development of cloud-based InfoSec platforms. Efforts by vendors to create more attractive offers, functionalities, and conditions for customers.
  •       Regulatory initiatives to help organizations move to the cloud.

Conclusion

The cloud security market is on the rise, driven by companies’ mass transition to the remote work model and the increasingly enticing offers from vendors and service providers. The government’s role in regulating this sector is warmly received by many players, but some customers are still reluctant to move their important information security systems to the cloud.

A key element that might give a new impetus to the development of cloud security is the growing confidence of potential customers in cloud service providers. Furthermore, the number of affordable cloud-based security solutions is constantly increasing. Unsurprisingly, many businesses do not even consider purchasing on-premises products.

David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 17 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs MacSecurity.net and Privacy-PC.com projects that present expert opinions on contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, malware, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy, and white hat hacking. David has a strong malware troubleshooting background, with a recent focus on ransomware countermeasures.