Federal cloud migrations have ramped up significantly over the past few years, leading to multicloud environments at many government agencies. According to the General Services Administration, today’s average cloud user uses as many as six clouds, many of them across multiple geographies. Data moves between these various clouds, exposing agencies to greater risk for malware and other threats and it is difficult for administrators to maintain visibility and control over their data.
In other words, federal IT administrators have achieved greater agility, but have these gains come at the expense of security? In their quest for “cloud-first” and a desire to employ public, private, hybrid and multicloud environments, have IT teams unwittingly exposed their agencies to security holes they may not even be aware of?
Unifying Multicloud Environments
Hybrid and multicloud infrastructures can create visibility and control gaps that can be tough for administrators to manage. For instance, when data passes between an agency and a hosted cloud provider, it may as well be passing through multiple networks and infrastructures over which the agency has no visibility — a cyber black hole. Likewise, agency personnel may not have sufficient situational awareness with their hosted applications, even if they are using a trusted vendor.
This approach is especially tenuous in today’s security environment where those with malicious intent continuously work to exploit security gaps. Agencies must unify their security processes through policy, detection and enforcement.
Managers must be able to define and automatically deploy security policies based on real-time conditions. Their efforts must be complemented by advanced, dynamic and continuous threat detection. Security policies should be automatically enforced in the event of an attack, whether it occurs on-premises or in a hosted environment.
The goal is to be able to gain visibility and control into those environments for better security and peace of mind. Here are four strategies that can help federal IT administrators achieve that objective:
1. Centralize Cloud Security Management
Administrators must maintain a high level of visibility into network behavior, whether that behavior is taking place in a hosted, on-premises or hybrid environment.
This requires establishing and maintaining centralized visibility and control of the security posture of applications and data. They must have unfettered visibility of network and application metadata to implement real-time threat detection.
Again, part of this involves working with trusted, well-vetted cloud partners, but security managers must still establish systems that provide them with the proverbial “single pane of glass” view and control of their entire multicloud system.
2. Implement Advanced Malware Protection
Employing solutions that protect against advanced or unknown malware is absolutely essential, particularly in the multicloud era. Administrators must be able to analyze their files and applications for potential dangers, regardless of where that information resides. They must also have the ability to isolate unknown malware and render security policies in real time to avoid potential damage.
Machine intelligence can be an essential tool in defense against malware attacks. Historical data can be used to predict and appropriately respond to impending attacks. The more data a system compiles over time, the more intelligent that system becomes and the better it gets at being able to prevent a malware intrusion.
3. Augment Cloud Security with Automation
Automating the process of detecting and responding to threats is essential to defeating sophisticated cyber adversaries. Information can be automatically fed into the appropriate systems to develop threat response actions. When a red flag emerges, the system can parse the data and automatically create and deploy the necessary countermeasures to combat the threat.
Automation can also be used to immediately update and deploy security policies across a network. Detailed security policies can be automatically generated from high-level security “intent” and deployed across firewalls, switches and other components, whether they are managed in-house or through a cloud provider.
4. Deploy Next-Generation Virtualized Solutions
Implementing next-generation virtualized solutions, particularly firewalls, is vital. These virtual alternatives to traditional hardware components allow administrators to more easily plug any security gaps that may exist in a hybrid or multicloud infrastructure.
Automated deployment and configuration of virtualized solutions into cloud environments means better security and faster threat response across the entire network.
A commitment to the cloud does not mean that administrators must relinquish control over their data. They can create a unified system that allows them to more easily manage their various cloud deployments, maintain control and respond more rapidly and effectively to threats. They can reap all of the benefits of the cloud while significantly bolstering their ability to fend off potential risks — without paying a high cost for security.