What Are Secure Cloud Applications?
Secure Cloud Applications Defined
Secure cloud applications are software programs hosted in the cloud that are protected from cyberattacks, unauthorized access, data leaks and loss, compliance violations and other threats or risks.
As organizations move applications and data from on-premises data centers to cloud environments, these assets are more vulnerable to attackers. To ensure cloud app security, IT and security teams must adopt a multi-layered approach that includes robust threat mitigation informed by threat intelligence, strong authentication and identity access management, optimal security hygiene and patching cadences, and powerful monitoring and filtering technologies such as a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB).
What Are Threats to Cloud Application Security?
A broad array of threats makes it difficult to secure applications in the cloud.
- Security misconfiguration. Many security settings for cloud applications must be configured manually. Misconfiguring security settings – or failing to configure them at all – leaves the door wide open to potential attackers.
- Visibility issues. IT teams inevitably relinquish some visibility and control when applications are moved to the cloud, making it difficult to secure cloud applications effectively.
- Application vulnerabilities. Despite the best efforts of development teams, many applications are published with serious vulnerabilities that, when discovered, enable attackers to gain unauthorized access to IT systems.
- DOS attacks. When cloud applications are responsible for business-critical processes, Denial of Service (DOS) cyberattacks can easily cripple a company for minutes or hours.
- Staff shortages. Many IT teams are understaffed and may lack the skills or expertise needed to keep up with a quickly evolving threat landscape. This often leaves inexperienced administrators struggling to secure cloud applications, often with less-than-ideal results.
- Shadow IT. As they seek to get work done faster, employees may seek to bypass what they consider to be cumbersome security procedures by using unsecured, commercial cloud applications to share files, manage work or collaborate with others. Since these sites are not controlled by IT or protected by security policies, uploading sensitive data or confidential information to these sites can create serious risks.
- Regulatory compliance problems. Regulations like GDPR, HIPAA and PCI DSS contain strict rules for how certain data must be used, accessed, stored and retained. When IT teams can’t accurately track data in the cloud, maintaining compliance with these frameworks can be problematic.
- Poor security practices. Security solutions like firewalls require constant updates. When overburdened IT teams lack the resources to apply patches and updates with an optimal cadence, attackers can more easily gain access by exploiting outdated technology.
- Human error. Many of the largest cyberattacks are the result of human error or poor security hygiene. For example, when employees use the same password for multiple sites, attackers may use credentials stolen via a breach at one site to hack into a user’s account at other sites.
How to Secure Cloud Applications
There are several best practices that can help IT teams secure cloud applications.
- Discover cloud assets. Many IT and security teams are unaware of all the cloud applications and assets within their IT environment. By using technology that auto-discovers and inventories all cloud applications, IT teams can better visualize the attack surface, scan applications for vulnerabilities, document compliance requirements and remediate any issues.
- Conduct security awareness training. Organizations can reduce human error through training that makes employees more aware of threats, how they work and what they can do to mitigate them.
- Adopt stronger access controls. Technologies like multi-factor authentication can drastically reduce breaches that result from unauthorized access to IT systems.
- Choose automated solutions. By automating the tasks of monitoring traffic, filtering out threats, issuing alerts and enforcing security policy, short-staffed IT teams can accomplish far more with less effort and fewer resources.
- Reduce the attack surface. When inventorying cloud assets, IT teams can take steps to reduce redundant applications, workloads and assets in the cloud.
- Gain control of shadow IT. Developing a comprehensive inventory of cloud assets provides visibility into instances of shadow IT, allowing security teams to block access to these applications or coach employees to rely instead on sanctioned cloud apps.
Securing Cloud Apps with a CASB
A Cloud Access Security Broker, or CASB, is one of the most effective ways to secure cloud applications. Sitting between an organization’s end users and the cloud applications and services they consume, a CASB service monitors traffic, authenticates users and enforces a wide range of security policies for all cloud applications.
- Visibility. The auto-discovery capabilities of a CASB allow IT and security teams to uncover and inventory all cloud applications within the organization’s IT environment – including instances of shadow IT – and the users interacting with these cloud assets. CASBs also categorize the risk associated with each application and user.
- Threat mitigation. Through continuous monitoring, CASBs can identify anomalies and suspicious behavior that may be signs of an attack. By blocking actions, alerting security teams or quarantining traffic, CASBs help to prevent many known and unknown threats.
- Data security. IT and security teams rely on CASBs to control access to data in the cloud, monitor how it is used and stored, and take action to prevent data from being leaked, lost, misused or destroyed.
- Compliance. CASBs enforce security policies that ensure compliance with a broad range of regulations while simplifying security audits and demonstrating the control over data assets required by regulators.
Forcepoint CASB: Best-in-Class Data Security for All Cloud Apps
Recognized as a leader in cybersecurity by NSS Labs, Gartner and Forrester, Forcepoint offers a leading CASB solution as part of Forcepoint ONE, an all-in-one, cloud-native security platform.
Forcepoint ONE provides full visibility and control over data in any cloud app, including shadow IT, to ensure consistent security across all the cloud applications an organization relies on.
With Forcepoint ONE CASB, organizations can:
- Minimize risk by blocking malware, ensuring compliance and preventing data leaks and loss.
- Secure cloud applications effectively by centralizing cloud security and setting and enforcing policies from one location.
- Safeguard access to business apps from BYOD and unmanaged devices.
- Simplify compliance with demonstrable processes for controlling information.
- Strengthen authentication and identity access management (IAM) practices with granular Zero Trust access and data controls based on user, device or location.
- Maximize uptime and minimize latency with a solution that runs on the AWS hyperscaler platform.
Contact Forcepoint to learn more about Forcepoint ONE CASB and CASB pricing.