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The digitization of every employee, customer, and partner touch point has put applications at the center of digital transformation. To keep up with dynamic business requirements, the scale, speed, agility, and availability of applications is also a prime consideration. This makes accelerated cloud adoption a key tenet of digital transformation, as every enterprise today is required to deliver all or some applications from the cloud. However, migrating applications to one or more clouds also means confronting the cyber security risks involved. In the wake of frequent high-profile breaches and ransomware attacks like WannaCry, protection of data in the cloud is of vital importance to enterprises of all sizes.
Cloud framework challenges the fundamentals of security which are isolation and segmentation. Moving applications and data from fully self-controlled to third party-controlled realms poses a significant cyber security concern to most enterprises. IT and security teams rigorously assess applications on a case by case basis before they are moved to the cloud – especially applications which create, process, and store sensitive data.
As a best practice for cloud adoption, the less critical applications are moved to the cloud first, with the assumption that this reduces the security risk and allows to gain experience. However, this is not completely true. Attackers today use sophisticated techniques, not only to steal data, but also to compromise the systems to create bot networks. This eventually robs the enterprise with excessive cloud billing and potentially opens the door to access more sensitive applications which are on-premise. These are some of the reasons why cloud adoption is a slow and careful process for most enterprises.
To reap the benefits of digital transformation, cloud adoption and security must happen in tandem. So, the big question is how can enterprises migrate and secure applications in the cloud without compromising security?
To answer this, for a moment, let us go back to the basic principal of security, which is segmentation. Traditionally, a firewall is deployed at the perimeter to segment the network into zones like internal, DMZ, external, and then regulate the traffic between these zones with policies. Similarly, ACL/VLANs are also configured to segment internal networks. However, these technologies are not suitable to protect applications in the cloud, where the threat is not only from the North-South, but also from East-West traffic.
Following the same basic principle of security, but with new technology, micro-segmentation promises to secure applications in the cloud. Micro-segmentation with a zero-trust approach weaves a perimeter around every application workload. Communication between them is blocked unless explicitly trusted and allowed. Using micro-segmentation, enterprises can easily adhere to compliance requirements like PCI-DSS and HIPAA in the cloud and protect their data from East-West threats and APT style attacks.
Here are three steps detailing how enterprises can securely move applications to the cloud and effectively manage their security using micro-segmentation.
Before moving an application to the cloud, it is essential to know how the application works. Applications used in verticals like healthcare, banking, and finance were developed years ago. Over a of period time, they have become very big and complex. There is also a possibility that the applications are running just they have been for many years. In any case, it is very important to baseline the behavior of an application to enforce and monitor security policies. Behavioral attributes of an application include communication flows, workload roles, ports and protocols, and user access requirements. Also, it is important to check for critical application flows which may need encryption in the cloud.
Once the behavior of an application is well understood, the next step is to develop the right security policy. Application centric micro-segmentation with a zero-trust approach enforces granular security policies in line with application behavior. It protects workloads and flows in the cloud from lateral threats and APTs style attacks. Security policy is enforced using micro-segmentation is customized based on the application behavior rather than a one-fit-for-all as network firewall does.
As enterprises adopt cloud, depending on the need of the enterprise, applications will be migrated to different clouds or a hybrid cloud. There may be a case where workloads of applications are spread across the cloud or a few workloads on the physical server and a few on virtual. To secure the application in such environments, it is imperative that the security of all applications must be orchestrated and managed centrally. This provides the ability to centrally enforce consistent security across clouds, and virtual and physical workloads. Central management of security also brings the needed efficiency within the security teams.
Accelerated cloud adoption is crucial for enterprises to stay competitive in a fast-paced business environment and to provide an enhanced customer experience. Whether enterprises simply lift and shift, re-platform the application or re-architect to native cloud, micro-segmentation can help secure business-critical applications from internal and external threats.
ColorTokens Xtended Zero Trust Platform enables micro-segmentation in both local servers and hybrid cloud environments making it easier for enterprises to effectively secure dynamic application workloads. Here’s more information on how we can help protect your company from cyber threats.