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Three main challenges to tightening cloud security in 2021

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ekaphone maneechot)

IT spending is forecast to transition dramatically to the cloud post-pandemic, making up 14.2 percent of the enterprise IT spending market globally, up from only 9.1 percent in 2020.

For cloud owners to manage this growth intelligently, they need to be aware of unique cloud challenges, and have effective tools and strategies in place to mitigate them ahead of time. Let’s take a deep dive into three specific examples that are more relevant than ever in 2021.

1. A growing skills gap for cloud expertise

86 percent of IT decision-makers believe that a lack of skilled cloud talent is slowing down their cloud deployments. Cloud projects require multi-skilled expertise, and successful candidates need to be equally confident about their abilities in DevOps as they are in security and compliance, for example.

This might sound like a smaller issue than it really is, especially when you consider how ubiquitous cloud is becoming outside of the IT industry. Where cloud was once the playground of tech companies only, it is now on the roadmap of industries as varied as travel, medicine, transportation, and manufacturing, many of which are traditionally not-technical at all. These industries may not be able to offer skilled technical candidates the prestige associated with taking a role at technology companies, making it harder to recruit for open roles and keep cloud projects gaining momentum.

Even once these roles are filled, the speed of change and progress in cloud creates a huge learning curve for cloud stakeholders, and requires employees to stay up to date with cloud architecture, business intelligence, compliance, DevOps, security and more.

Without filling this skills-gap, cloud security is often reliant on overworked staff who don’t have the training or experience necessary to stay on top of the latest cyber-risks. It’s unreasonable to expect these employees to spot problems ahead of time or identify security gaps and misconfigurations before they open doors for attackers. It’s no surprise that enterprises are therefore turning to third-party security tools to manage the threat.

2. A reliance on outdated security solutions

Take a moment to think about how many of your security tools are inadequate at protecting your cloud environment in a future-focused way. Legacy Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) solutions rely on baselines or compliance-based rulesets, both of which utilize historical data or pre-set policies to send notifications about security. Not only are these solutions limited at recognizing new threats to cloud environments, they also fail to take context into account altogether. When fast-paced business changes force you into a new reality, as so many enterprises faced in 2020 for example, the solutions are two steps behind you.

Today, organizational networks need more. They are increasingly dynamic, covering environments such as serverless, or container-based deployments that scale and adapt, sometimes multiple times each week. Only a full view of all your assets and their relationships and dependencies is enough to stay on top of unknown threats, rather than simply protecting against the ones you’re prepared for ahead of time.

Realizing the inadequacy of traditional tools and facing difficulties in recruiting enough cloud talent, many enterprises are onboarding multiple new security solutions to manage various parts of their cloud environment in a siloed way. While these may individually fill a gap, deploying multiple security products in a single environment has its own challenges.

Alert fatigue quickly results in security teams picking and choosing which alerts they respond to, and which they ignore. This is not something you can fix with better education. Multiple tools simply create too much white noise to adequately assert authority over the notifications that they provide.

Instead, enterprises need to reduce their security toolbox, consolidating solutions to the vendors that are offering true ROI, and create a single pane of glass into an ever-increasingly complex environment.

This goes hand-in hand with the organizational trend towards attempting to “know the unknown.” Simply put, it means your solution needs to be ready for anything, and as broad as possible. Here are three features to look out for:

  • Cloud-native and cloud-agnostic – working on the environments on your roadmap, without vendor lock-in.
  • Prioritized and contextualized – Offering recommendations that beat the noise, and show security teams what to focus on.
  • Integrated into your process and toolset - rather than the other way around, without agents that slow you down, or complex onboarding timelines.

3. The need for greater-depth cloud visibility

Misconfigurations have been recently chosen as both the top vulnerability for AWS, and the NSA’s #1 risk on Azure. As organizations increasingly shift to multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud deployments, expert researchers are identifying as many as 230 million misconfigurations every day. 

While DevOps teams understand the need for security to ‘shift-left’ and be included earlier in the process, the realities of this inclusion regularly act as a ‘foot on the brake’ of innovation and transformation. DevOps therefore don’t review their infrastructure-as-code (IaC) templates effectively, and simply live with the vulnerabilities caused by dozens of cloud tools they utilize to manage everything from IaaS and PaaS, to new data management, IoT, or machine learning initiatives.

With a focus on forging ahead on the cloud roadmap, blind spots and security gaps are rife, and handling improper configurations becomes equal to catching a flowing stream of water with a strainer. You simply won’t catch it all.

Updating your security tools for today’s cloud challenges

The average time an organization currently takes to patch a vulnerability is 105 days - that’s more than 3 months. This reality is forcing organizations to think outside the box to effectively manage the distributed environments of our new multi and hybrid-cloud reality.

The winners of the cloud security race will be organizations who onboard tools that provide a high level of contextual awareness, with features that attack alert-fatigue head-on, and that provide extras such as graph-based visualization to uncover both known and unknown threats. They also need to play nicely with various DevOps tools to make shifting left easier and more intuitive for both IT and security teams alike.

Vladi Sandler, CEO and Co-Founder, Lightspin

Vladi is Co-Founder & CEO of Lightspin, empowering cloud and security teams to eliminate risks to their cloud and Kubernetes environments.