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Multi-Cloud Security: Architecture & Ultimate Guide
Multi-cloud adoption is no longer a choice—it’s an essential element in the fast-paced, modern business environment where agility impacts the success of your business. Without strategically addressing the complexities of multi-cloud (AWS, Azure, GCP, OCI), you won’t reap the full benefits of this model.
Organizations need a strategy for multi-cloud security. This article reviews multi-cloud security architecture, requirements, challenges, and best practices.
Defining Multi-Cloud Security
What is Multi-Cloud Security?
Multi-cloud security is a cloud security solution that allows comprehensive data protection across multiple cloud platforms, including both private clouds and public clouds like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Oracle (OCI). Businesses and organizations can use multi-cloud security to protect all public cloud platforms and their varying functions.
Multi-cloud adoption has accelerated in recent years. In 2021, 92% of organizations of all sizes surveyed by Flexera had a multi-cloud strategy, with public cloud spend comprising a bigger slice of IT budgets than in previous years.
Undoubtedly, organizations have embraced all that multi-cloud environments have to offer. While the majority have already invested significantly into more than one cloud to support digital transformation and other initiatives, many plan additional investments to further enable their digital business.
Multi-cloud success, however, remains elusive for many organizations. Among midsize companies, for example, only 50% report that multi-cloud has helped achieve business goals, according to a 2021 survey by HashiCorp.
Studies have called out cost management, governance, and visibility as common barriers to adoption and deployment. But one factor that consistently lingers at the top is security— remaining a struggle even for advanced users as their adoption reaches maturity. In a recent Valtix survey, 51% of IT leaders agreed or strongly agreed that their company doesn’t want to expand to additional clouds because of the security complexities.
One driver behind the challenges is the expectation that you can simply extend your data center or on-prem security framework into the cloud. However, to solve the security complexities associated with multi-cloud environments, your strategy needs to adapt to the dynamic environment with a cloud-first approach.
This article recommends a security model that can help you advance on your multi-cloud journey at the speed of the cloud—and your business.
In a perfect world, organizations would move to a multi-cloud model methodically and strategically. This would allow them to think proactively about security instead of reacting to the new risks.
In reality, many implemented a bottoms-up, decentralized—perhaps even chaotic—approach to initial adoption. Driven by the need for speed and functionality, they deployed whatever made sense at the time—often in siloes, without consulting other teams or centralizing decisions.
While these organizations will have to work harder now on proactive security, they don’t have a choice. And the risks are growing rapidly, which means now is the time to act.
The good news is that many IT pros already understand that they can’t implement security in the cloud the same way they did on premises. In the Valtix survey, 89% of the respondents said they saw cloud security differently in those two environments.
Extending on-prem security into the cloud is not the best approach because:
- Legacy security architectures aren’t flexible enough to accommodate the dynamic, service-based, software-defined public cloud environments.
- Security in the cloud needs to inherently adapt to the dynamic nature of workloads and applications and automatically scale to provide protection.
- The disparate features among the varied application architectures, cloud network constructs, and built-in security tools create an inconsistent security posture across your multiple clouds, leaving gaps in your defenses.
To address security proactively, consider purpose-built, cloud-native solutions that consolidate security management of all your clouds. These solutions are designed to provide end-to-end visibility and control, advanced threat prevention, and defense in a highly dynamic environment—from a single platform.
Multicloud environments add a level of complexity, which can come with security challenges.
The laundry list of cloud threats is long and diverse. To name just a few examples:
- Zero-day exploits
- Malicious insiders
- Ransomware and lateral movement of threats
Considering the breadth and the magnitude of the threats, it’s not surprising that 73% of organizations are very or extremely concerned about cloud security.
Data Loss & Breaches
The risk of data breaches and data loss command the most attention, given that 80% of organizations have faced at least one cloud-related data breach in the previous 18 months. And these data breaches are costly:
- The average data breach in a public cloud environment is $4.8 million, according to IBM Security’s latest “Cost of a Data Breach Report.”
- The average cost of a data breach across the board is lower, $4.24 million.
Multi-Cloud Security Challenges
While navigating the cloud threat landscape, organizations must grapple with numerous multi-cloud security challenges, including:
- The complexities—and the gray areas and vagaries—of the shared responsibility model
- Risks that are unique to the cloud, such as reduced visibility and control
- The inherent open model of the cloud, which requires additional considerations
- The inconsistent architecture and infrastructure of the various cloud environments
- Additional issues common across the board, such as talent shortage and compliance
Many of these aspects require granular expertise— not only in cloud networking and security but also in each cloud provider’s product offerings and services, architecture, automation, and security tools—compounding the challenges.
The shared security responsibility model of the public cloud keeps security teams on their toes. Providers typically offer guidelines, but in practice, you can’t rely on them completely—and the lines sometimes appear fuzzy. This became especially evident in light of recent exploits we’ve seen within cloud provider services, which required the end users to mitigate while waiting for a fix.
In a traditional service outsourcing model, your provider would work with your team to clearly define the boundaries. That’s not the case in the cloud.
Things get even more challenging in the constant parade of updates and new services from providers. They introduce dozens of services, hundreds of new features every year, and numerous updates. Developers eagerly consume the services because they solve specific problems or add new capabilities. The rapid pace of change makes their job easier—and the security team’s job harder.
This throws security teams into a perpetual cycle of catch-up, trying to figure out the implications of each change. Multiply this challenge by the number of clouds you’ve deployed, and the problem is quickly exacerbated.
Unique cloud security risks:
Reduced visibility and control are common problems, with 53% of surveyed cybersecurity professionals identifying a lack of visibility and 46% calling out inadequate control as their top barrier to adoption. Other risks include insecure APIs and lack of a centralized view across multi-cloud.
The talent gap:
The cybersecurity industry has grappled with a talent shortage for years, with the latest data showing a gap of 3.1 million security workers globally in 2020. Provider-specific security requires deep expertise with each cloud’s configurations, intensifying the talent issue.
The variations in controls in individual clouds and app architectures result in inconsistent policy enforcement across your environment, leading to gaps in protection and reduced security posture.
Although your cloud architecture and security approach are different from on-prem, the tenet of multi-layered security still applies. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that covers all the threat vectors and types of attacks. When building out your security layers, consider capabilities such as:
- Visibility into all your assets (apps, APIs, workloads, etc.) across all your clouds, as well as into your security monitoring and whether it’s working as expected
- Cloud network security, such as firewall, data loss protection (DLP), workload segmentation, and intrusion detection/intrusion prevention systems (cloud IDS/IPS)
- Protection against web threats, such as web application firewall (cloud WAF) and malicious IP blocking
- Context-aware security across app lifecycle (dev, test, prod) and type of apps (general, sensitive, compliance)
Extending these security layers from the data center or bolting them on top of your architecture is ineffective and introduces new problems, such as orchestrating and automating the tools across multi-cloud.
Cloud-native security solutions:
- Offer advantages such as agility, scalability, and elasticity
- Work seamlessly with your cloud apps
- Enable continuous discovery of new apps and infrastructure and automatic policy based on app context
Cloud vulnerabilities are one of the biggest challenges for security teams. Consequently, these teams devote much of their time to patching. But managing vulnerabilities alone will not protect you against zero-day threats. By the time a vendor knows about a new threat and creates a patch, it may be too late.
Just like on-prem, multi-cloud needs both reactive and proactive defenses. Active defense enables you to block attacks, restrict unauthorized access to assets, and defend against new and emerging threats. The goal should be to break the attack kill chain in multiple places and not rely on a single point of failure in your defenses. For example, to stop an attacker on a breached server, a malicious insider, or a ransomware attack, an effective last stop is to restrict all outbound traffic to known categories of sites, domains, and URLs.
Although multi-cloud security solutions have different functionalities based on their category, they share a set of common criteria, such as deployment and management simplicity. When evaluating a vendor’s multi-cloud security solution, consider the following aspects:
Multi-Cloud security capabilities:
Security capabilities vary broadly for each solution, even within the same security category. For robust, unified security, look for the following top capabilities in a single solution:
To detect malicious activities such as data exfiltration, you need to combine your cloud asset information and threat intelligence with complete visibility into all traffic flows, including inbound from and outbound to the internet, east-west, and to PaaS services.
A thorough and comprehensive, end-to-end platform will reduce or eliminate the need for multiple point products and enable you to consolidate your cloud security. Look for critical capabilities such as dynamic policy enforcement, identity-based segmentation, network protection (cloud firewall), and web protection.
Active defense capabilities:
If your security only allows you to react to threats rather than proactively stop them, your team will always remain at least one step behind the adversary. In the past, active defense required an agent-based solution. Newer solutions are agentless, reducing deployment and maintenance challenges.
Your business requirements and environment change, and security needs to scale up or down quickly along with the resources it protects. The multi-cloud security platform should automatically perform tasks such as discovering new assets and applying context-based policy—so your team doesn’t have to constantly worry about operating the tool across multiple clouds, regions, and accounts.
Ease and speed of deployment:
Your cloud security solution shouldn’t add to the complexities of multi-cloud, yet many vendors’ products are difficult and time-consuming to deploy across an organization’s public cloud infrastructure. Look for a turnkey solution that is simple and fast to implement and works natively in your environment. This will eliminate the need for admins to manually adapt the environment—instead, the solution “learns” the environment via the APIs in that cloud.
Single policy framework:
A centralized control plane across disparate clouds enables you to enforce granular security policies consistently from one console, simplifying multi-cloud management. To achieve this, the security solution should provide an abstraction layer that decouples control and dataplane.
Valtix solves the complexities of multi-cloud security with a network security platform delivered as a service. Agile, scalable, comprehensive, and robust, this platform supports multi-cloud environments with specific capabilities for AWS, Azure, OCI, and GCP security.
- Layered, proactive defense through advanced security controls (including firewall, WAF, DLP, and IDS/IPS)
- Fast and simple deployment in minutes without additional infrastructure
- Continuous, dynamic, real-time visibility into all your cloud apps and infrastructure
- A single, dynamic policy framework for consistent, automatic policy enforcement across multi-cloud
- A flexible, open platform that integrates threat intelligence feeds and third-party solutions such as SIEM and SOAR
Today’s IT and DevOps teams move fast to support digital transformations and other initiatives that keep your business competitive. Valtix helps your teams accelerate successful multi-cloud adoption cost-effectively and with the skilled resources you already have, without compromising on cloud security.
Solve Multi-Cloud Complexities Strategically
Multi-cloud adoption is no longer a choice—it’s an essential element in the fast-paced, modern business environment where agility impacts the success of your business. Without strategically addressing the complexities of multi-cloud, you won’t reap the full benefits of this model.
Implementing security adds to those complexities, creating another barrier to full implementation. You can overcome the hurdles by shifting to a cloud-first mentality—which requires finding partners that can fulfill your business need for agility and speed.
Read More and Evaluate Solutions in Our Free Multi-Cloud Security Operating Model eBook