Analytics, Good Identity Hygiene Are Key to Cloud Security

Donald Shin
August 7, 2017

Analytics, Good Identity Hygiene Are Key to Cloud Security

As cloud computing has matured, the benefits it delivers to organizations of all sizes are undeniable. Companies are enjoying agility, scale and speed like never before.

And cloud adoption shows no signs of slowing. Gartner earlier this year forecasted that the worldwide public cloud services market would grow 18 percent in 2017, and Forrester said global cloud services revenues totaled $114 billion in 2016, up from $68 billion just two years ago — that’s annual growth of 30 percent.

With this huge growth in cloud adoption and the recent rash of cyberattacks targeting organizations across all industries, effective cloud security is paramount.

Exposed APIs Introduces Cloud Security Risks

One way the cloud introduces new security risks to organizations is the underlying infrastructure that makes the cloud and cloud applications run, which consists of publicly exposed APIs.

Why is that an important distinction? Because, essentially, what makes APIs useful also makes them exploitable. APIs are built with fully exposed controls to support orchestration, management, automation and integration between solutions and applications.

This level of exposure makes them a rich target for exploitation, and can introduce another dimension of cloud security challenges for businesses, as it expands the boundaries that were not part of traditional on-premise perimeters that enterprises are used to.

It’s often noted that attackers will take the path of least resistance, and employees – sometimes even those in IT organizations – will unwittingly help them, often by using lax identity practices.

Identity Weakness is an Open Door to Cloud Security Risks

There will always be employees who fall prey to phishing attempts, surf exploited websites, use unsecured free Wi-Fi networks in public and download other sketchy material. All of this behavior opens the door to potential attackers.

At the same time, common infrastructure weaknesses are seen by attackers as the exploit of choice to land a beachhead within an organization, such as using a SQL query to find cached credentials or finding an unpatched, publicly exposed server to exploit.

And, of course, you have bad identity and password practices that are always enticing to threat actors – and there’s no shortage of employees who fall back to first initial-last name or password1234 as their password of choice.

Identity weakness can also open the door to full control of the API.

Identity Hygiene

There’s no 100 percent ironclad way to prevent intrusion through exploiting identity, but you can slow them down. How? Through good identity hygiene. Some ways to implement this in your organization include:

Multi-Factor Authentication

Time was, a password was the only necessary way to authenticate to a network or applications. That worked well for a while. Not anymore. Additional layers of defense are imperative. Threat actors can easily crack passwords, so the use of additional types of authentication, such as biometrics and tokens ensure tighter cloud security.

Passphrases over Passwords

We’ve seen time and time again where weak passwords are cracked. A passphrase, however, makes it more difficult. Where a password is typically up to 10 letters, numbers and symbols, a passphrase, however, has a much longer character length to stymie possible attackers and commonly contains underscores to separate words in the phrase. Passphrases don’t have to be grammatically correct and they can also use numbers and symbols to make cracking them that much harder. Mamma Mia! Your passphrase can be your favorite Abba lyric, if that’s your thing.

Depreciate Expired Employee Accounts

Leaving accounts open for former employees or for services no longer in use opens a hole that is easily exploited. A good rule of thumb is to shut down expired employee accounts immediately to dramatically reduce the chance of a disgruntled former employee access the network.

Monitor Access Logs

It sounds like a no-brainer, but knowing who accesses what and when can avoid catastrophe. Monitor access logs frequently for anomalies and to ensure end-users have the correct levels of access.

The industry is currently making improvements in identity by implementing multi-context analysis strategies that include time of access, country of origin, host computer in use and other behavioral analyses to add weight to identity. For example, in his keynote at the AFCEA Defense Cyber Operations Symposium (DCOS), Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and commander of the Joint Force Headquarters–Department of Defense Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN), outlined how assured identity will be critical to cloud security and network security and access.

Lynn said assured identity goes beyond traditional common access cards for authentication and access and leverages biometric authentication such as facial and voice recognition, fingerprint, eye scanning and gait; and behavioral authentication, including travel patterns, location by time, device handling, speech patterns and keystroke cadence.

“When you start getting all of that data…your identity score goes up and it will determine how much access you have to different portions of the network,” Lynn said. “So the future I see will be not only a network that’s mobile that you’re bringing devices into your building, but it will determine what’s your level of access based on the amount of identity that’s been provided to your device. That’s a future we’re currently working on.”

Analytics to Detect Cloud Security Anomalies

Analytics and the ability to detect cloud security anomalies in the cloud are also imperative. Having a strong understanding of how applications are performing and their security posture can provide insight into levels of access and potentially flag a possible security issue before it wreaks havoc.

A10 Lightning ADC comes with integrated, rich, per-app analytics to let you quickly understand your application’s performance and security posture so you can take immediate action if there is an anomaly.

And with A10 Harmony Controller, you can centrally configure and manage policies for applications deployed in data centers or private clouds, public clouds and hybrid clouds and receive granular per-app analytics across A10 Lightning ADC and Thunder ADC bare metal, virtual and hardware appliances. A10 Harmony Controller also delivers analytics for open-source HAProxy instances and native support for elastic load balancing and web application firewalling (WAF) with VMware-powered private clouds and Google Cloud Platform, in addition to AWS and Azure.

Per-app analytics and security data coupled with strong identity hygiene will help ensure your cloud and cloud applications are both high-performing and secure.


Donald Shin
August 7, 2017

About Donald Shin

Don has over 15 years of experience in the Networking and Security industries. Prior to A10, Don work in a variety of roles in R&D, product management, and marketing focused on network security, security efficacy testing, semiconductors and Cloud security.  He is passionate about helping customer's improve their security posture and speaks frequently at security conferences. Read More

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