Addressing the Security Challenges that Come with Increased Cloud Adoption

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Security Challenges that Come with Increased Cloud Adoption

Organizations understand that cybersecurity is important, but many aren’t sure how to protect themselves or what measures to put in place. Especially when it comes to the cloud.

According to the Cloud Security Alliance’s 2021 report “State of Cloud Security Concerns, Challenges and Incidents,” among the participants surveyed, 41% said they didn’t know if they had experienced a security incident involving the cloud in the past year. Many organizations have attempted to protect their cloud environments with existing security solutions and fail to adopt native cloud security solutions.

With more organizations embracing the cloud, the security risks are only increasing. Organizations are relying on multiple public cloud providers to address their multifaceted needs, often putting their sensitive customer and business data in the hands of vendors.

Unfortunately, that also means organizations aren’t taking responsibility for their own cybersecurity or managing the risks or threats, often not even realizing if an incident has occurred.

Challenges to security with Multi-Cloud Environments

Cloud environments have several differences from traditional infrastructure. If organizations rely on traditional tools and measures, they may not have the same effect in a cloud environment. Cloud security may require new approaches.

A privileged access management (PAM) solution relies on traditional tools for broad access control and time-sensitive capabilities to adapt to the dynamic cloud environment.

PAM operates on the principle of least privilege, which grants the lowest level of privilege to each user. Instead of having access to the whole network, a user only has limited access. Then, if there’s a breach or the account is compromised, the cybercriminal is limited in what they can access and steal. Otherwise, they’d have unrestricted access to the network, which can magnify the impact of the breach.

In the event that a user needs more privileges to complete a task, the privilege is elevated gradually, and only for a limited time period. When the task is complete, the privileges are removed. This is true of all systems and users, shoring up one area organizations may be weakest – people. This helps an organization move to zero standing privileges which significantly reduces the risk to the business.

Data protection and privacy

The diverse environment of the cloud makes consistent data privacy and protection difficult to achieve and maintain with purpose-built security tools. Organizations often struggle to adequately protect data in a multi-cloud environment while also meeting policy and regulatory requirements.

These disconnected environments also have different security controls in place, including built-in tools and security by design, but they’re not enabled by default. This limits the ability to establish system-wide, robust protection across the entire network.

Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs) offer a strong solution to cloud management and security. Administrators use a unified interface to manage both, rather than working with the specifics of each.

Consistency allows IT teams to implement a common security layer in a multi-cloud environment, which is then applied across the entire environment.

Employee skills gaps

Cloud adoption may be increasing, but organizations are limited in how they can maximize its use with employee skills gaps. If users lack the knowledge and expertise to implement and maintain security, organizations are in a weak position.

According to the PwC CEO Survey in 2020, nearly 80% of CEOs expressed concern about key skills in talent. For many, the solution is reskilling or upskilling employees to future-proof their organizations.

Skills gap analyses can be used to identify missing skills and implement training and development solutions to strengthen employees’ cloud proficiency. Training and development should be centered around the skills necessary to continue to grow and adapt to the changing business landscape and cloud environment.

Technology is advancing at a rapid rate, and the cloud is no different. Organizations should commit to ongoing skills gap analyses and training to reskill and upskill employees.

Visibility and control

Visibility and control is a significant challenges in multi-cloud environments due to the shared responsibility model and vendor-controlled infrastructure. Security is shared between the cloud provider and the customer, with the cloud provider responsible for the security of the cloud and the organization responsible for the security of the data within it.

This responsibility does differ between different cloud models, such as IaaS—Infrastructure as a Service, PaaS—Platform as a Service and SaaS—Software as a Service.

With multi-cloud environments, organizations lack visibility and control in the lower layers of the stack and can’t rely on traditional solutions. As a result, they have large gaps in visibility and control.

The possible solutions include:

  • Manage identity and access controls: Identity and access management (IAM) is more complex in the cloud than in closed environments. Providers may have managed services to assist with IAM, but the organization is responsible for implementing them.
  • Enforce policies and data governance: Organizations bear the responsibility of putting policies in place for cloud data ownership. Data should be classified to ensure that security measures are in place.
  • Leverage data security management tools: Data security management tools are critical to protecting the cloud. As organizations scale, the complexity and challenges both increase. A data security management tool offers a unified, consistent option to effectively manage data and users.

Prepare for cloud adoption

Multi-cloud infrastructure may be the answer to the growing complexity of organizational challenges, but that comes with challenges of its own. The rapid adoption creates vulnerabilities that can be exploited, but with that, organizations have new opportunities. Implementing innovative security solutions can help organizations maintain compliance and security in multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud environments.


Joseph Carson is a cybersecurity professional with more than 25 years’ experience in enterprise security and infrastructure. Currently, Carson is the Chief Security Scientist & Advisory CISO at Delinea. He is an active member of the cybersecurity community and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Carson is also a cybersecurity adviser to several governments, critical infrastructure organizations, and financial and transportation industries, and speaks at conferences globally.

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