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IaaS Security: Not Just Checking a Box

Aug 22 2019

Digital Transformation is taking over, we all know this and enterprises are adopting this at a higher than consumable rate. What once took many times months to provision in our legacy infrastructure now can be spun up via a CLI command in seconds. Years ago the Center for Internet Security (CIS) posted a series of best practices for the main cloud service providers (CSP). This has been a guiding document for many security groups as they see their legacy products that once secured their data center become diminished with the move to the cloud. Additionally, this document was created with the broadest coverage in mind so it doesn’t provide consistency across all of the CSPs. 

As customers move into the cloud and start to apply CIS, it can be extremely daunting. There are a lot of findings with little way to understand what is best and how to quickly remediate. On the inverse, large, multi-cloud enterprises are looking to apply a singular policy across all major CSPs. Having a flexible platform to enable this is key to an enterprises success. 

These guidelines from CIS are a great start to securing your new or preexisting cloud services. The challenge we see is many customers moving internal applications to the cloud. In addition new software is being developed daily that can be layered onto Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. 

Recently I met with a large transportation company that was looking to move their entire application stack from their monolithic data center to AWS. Their move was being pushed from the top down to get out of the data center business and adopt the cloud to enable business to work faster. We all know this as the common term Digital Transformation. With this lift and shift they had to completely rethink their security stack. That lead to finding answers to the following questions:

  • How does one rethink their security stack when moving from legacy to cloud form? Do you rely on the tools in the CSP?
  • What framework is going to be best?
  • Which compliance standards do you need to meet?
  • Our legacy security stack had a full policy, procedure and assessment framework, how do we match that in cloud form?

This company was forced to answer all of them at once and build a program from the ground up. That meant was a whole set of new tools that were cloud first. In many enterprises, it’s tough to move aside the security platforms your teams have been using for years, but this team was all in on the cloud and cloud first solutions.

The toughest part of their journey has been to map any possible opening to their infrastructure and a security control that could be enabled. In all they came up with over 500 controls to ensure their digital transformation is secure. Compare that to CIS and it’s a very wide gap. CIS is a great start, but true security programs will need more than a start. They will need a program that enables DevOps to build rapidly while security teams provide the proper controls to reduce risk and secure the organization.

Installing a program of oversight and assessment is key to enterprises securing their cloud footprint. Recently I heard about a company that was hacked by a third party, with the best of intentions, and was told their cloud footpoint was open to the world. Many times security researchers look for some type of fame from these findings, and if not they push them out to whichever security site will post their findings.  These findings, which feel like they are being published weekly, can be easily avoided by implementing an IT Security program.

Where does one go to find such a program? If you don’t have an assessment program today, or are looking for help, top consulting firms have been providing this service for a few years. A core component of this program is a cloud security architecture lead who bridges the gap between the DevOps and security teams. This person will also understand cloud native architecture and is able to talk about both DevOps and security. This architect will also understand what new services are being developed for the business and design the control and risk mitigation systems that will allow the business to transform. 

How does Netskope fit in with all of this though? Netskope’s Continuous Security Assessment (CSA) platform, or as Gartner likes to call it Continuous Security Posture Management (CSPM), is a cloud native solution assessing an organization’s configuration for each of the major CSPs. Today we have over 500 out-of-the-box security checks for AWS, Azure, and GCP. Netskope could have 1000’s of checks, but many of those may not be pertinent to your application, leaving you with a security risk. 

When reviewing our platform with customers, prospects, and partners, I enjoy showing our Best Practices ruleset. Netskope has a team of over 40+ threat researchers around the globe using various techniques to identify security threats in all cloud modes. Every month we update our CSA Best Practices with new gaps that other frameworks do not. In the earliest release of our Best Practices we created a policy to secure MongoDB. MongoDB (MDB) is one of the fastest growing databases on the planet and has a CSP native platform that can easily be provisioned in seconds. Our policy looks for the specific port and protocol MongoDB communicates on. If your enterprise is using MongoDB on a CSP, have you made sure its not open to the world? 

Netskope’s easy framework and domain specific language for the CSP allows you to take that same MongoDB rule and curate it for any application you are moving to the cloud. A simple clone and you can change the port to your application to ensure its privacy from those pesky “security researchers”.

The cloud is today and digital transformation is now. We as a security team need to enable the business while reducing risk and securing our digital assets. This takes a new way of thinking and a new set of platforms and teams who are in the cloud and can speak cloud.