EXPERT CLOUD CONSULTING SERVICES

Top 10 Cloud Security Best Practices

Cloud security includes processes, controls, policies, and technologies that secure the cloud computing environment against cyber threats. Let’s look at the core set of best practices for cloud security that can guide a secure cloud infrastructure and mitigate risks.

1. Select a Reliable and Trusted Cloud Service Provider

Select a reliable cloud provider who offers in-built cloud security protocols and follows the highest levels of the industry-best practices. The mark of a trusted cloud provider is evident in the range of security compliance and certifications they hold.

Organizations can use various factors to assess the security capabilities of a potential provider. For example, evaluating their levels of compliance with various information compliance standards and different regulations, including HIPAA.

Cloud security is a collaborative process where both the providers and the customers must play their roles to ensure safety. For instance, a cloud provider should install timely patches to prevent attacks. Customers, on the other hand, should develop security policies by restricting access, sharing, and modification of cloud data.

2. Monitor and Prevent

Customers and Cloud service providers have different roles when securing cloud activities. They also share the responsibilities for monitoring and responding to suspicious cloud security problems.

The cloud service providers monitor the security of infrastructures they offer to cloud customers. On the other hand, the customer monitors the applications and the users accessing the cloud services. Information gleaned from this monitoring allows customers to implement additional measures for detecting attempts of unauthorized access.

They can also use the information to monitor unexpected behavioral changes of users and applications. It is also important to implement additional monitoring automation schemes such as autoscaling to provide users with around the clock access to resources as they need them. The end goal is to provide 100% visibility so that customers can quickly detect unusual occurrences and address them to prevent security problems.

3. Implement intrusion detection and prevention

Intrusion detection and prevention is the third most effective solution for cloud security. An organization must actively look for intrusion signs and configure alerts to detect, mitigate, and ultimately prevent unauthorized access.

Also, consider implementing artificially intelligent prevention and detection systems in the cloud. Artificial intelligence learns the behaviors of all user activities that access a particular cloud environment. For example, it builds knowledge of the types of data an employee uses frequently and the types of cloud resources the employee requests. Hence, whenever a new user performs unusual activities the system flags it as a malicious entity.

4. Implement Encryption Use of cloud services exposes data and increases risk by sending the data back and forth between network and the cloud. To ensure that data remains secure when using cloud services we recommend that companies implement the highest levels of encryption for data both in transit and at rest.

5. Enforce Least Privileges

This cloud security best practice helps to deal with the users who try to access your cloud services. Begin with zero trusts; provide users access only to the data and services they need.

To reduce complicacy while enforcing policies, form well-defined groups with specific roles to consider access to selected resources. Add users directly to groups, instead of tailoring access for every user.

6. Define cloud usage role policies

Most organizations implement a corporate strategy for secure use of  cloud accounts; it’s the right approach. However, users often do not adhere to the established strategies. It is incumbent upon the organization to monitor usage activities as another way to maintain cloud security. Monitoring provides a clear picture of the services, resources, and usage patterns of a particular individual. Users with suspicious cloud usage activities can be denied access to ensure they don’t introduce security risks to cloud data and applications.

7. Enable Strong Password Security

No matter what service you are using, a strong password security policy is always the best practice.

This policy is necessary to prevent unnecessary access. All passwords must need a lower-case letter, an upper-case letter, a symbol, a digit, and it should be of at least 14 characters. Make sure the users update their passwords every three months. This password policy will prevent users from creating easy passwords across many gadgets and protect against malicious attacks. Also, enforce multi-factor authentication as an extra layer of cloud security best practices.

8. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication Apply additional verification procedures to other security practices such as password protection for a greatly strengthened cloud security posture. Multi-Factor Authentication protects against malicious users assuming the identity of the legitimate users. The authentication mechanisms require additional levels of proof that they have authorized access. Such methods can include a code sent to a trusted mobile number or the answer to a security question only known to the user.

9. Avoid compliance violations

While moving the workloads and applications into the cloud, companies run the risk of compliance violations. Many regulations require that organizations know exactly where the data is stored, who has access to it, how it is processed, and how it is protected. Some regulations also require that cloud providers hold specific compliance credentials. Organizations can be at risk of compliance violations if the proper steps are not taken to transfer data to the cloud or when deciding on a cloud services provider.

10. Regulatory compliance check

A cloud customer has a role to ensure full compliance with information security regulations. Although many businesses adhere to compliance regulations to avoid fines, the primary intent is to keep systems secure in the first place. Therefore, implementing the guidelines is an effective way to tackle security issues and remain compliant. A cloud provider that fully understands industry specific regulations such as HIPAA, PCI DSS and others will make the security and compliance task that much easier.

A secure cloud environment can help to scale the business. However, security should not come at the cost of user experience or operational efficiency. Ibexlabs is an AWS Level 1 MSSP partner that provides baseline security services and also specializes in other areas like AWS Well-Architected Review, CI/CD pipelines, infrastructure automation, and 24/7 support.

*Photo credit: Pexels

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Governance, Risk, and Compliance in Managed Security Services

By
Rahul Buragohain
|
August 2, 2022

What is Governance, Risk, and Compliance?

GRC is a structured approach—and a strategy— to manage an organization's overall governance, enterprise risk management, and meet compliance regulations.

The primary purpose of GRC is to firmly establish sound business practices in everyday life. GRC has grown in stature as risks have become more significant and complex. It spans multiple disciplines, including enterprise risk management, compliance, third-party risk management, and internal audit, and is essential for organizations of any size. 

Developing a GRC discipline is especially important for organizations with extensive governance, risk management, and compliance requirements and where programs to meet these requirements often overlap.

The three components of GRC are:

  • Governance: Ensure that organizational activities, such as managing IT operations, are aligned to support the organization’s business goals and objectives.
  • Risk: Confirm that any chance (or opportunity) associated with organizational activities is identified and addressed in a way that supports the organization’s business goals. This means having a comprehensive risk management process that rolls into an organization’s enterprise risk management function.
  • Compliance: Make sure that organizational activities operate to meet the laws and regulations impacting those systems. This means ensuring the system's data are used correctly and appropriately secured.

Why is GRC important today?

As businesses grow increasingly complex, they need a way to identify and manage critical organizational activities. Also required is the ability to integrate traditional distinct management activities into a discipline that increases the effectiveness of people, business processes, technology, facilities, and other essential business elements. GRC achieves this by breaking down the traditional barriers between business units and requiring them to work collaboratively to achieve the company's strategic goals.

Drivers for GRC

Regulation is the biggest driver of GRC. Today’s digital age is fueling a risk in regulation that touches all entities, large or small. At the same time, the traditional industries such as banking, insurance, healthcare, and telecoms have borne the brunt of regulation. Nowadays, personally identifiable information has enormous business potential and risk of abuse. The rise in cyber-attacks, which expose personal data, as well as growing awareness by individuals, have shed new light on how companies manage information and technology through people, processes, and culture.

The GRC approach

As has been stated before, GRC is best implemented in a holistic manner that surrounds the entire organization. This does not necessarily mean that an umbrella unit is required for coordination, even though that might work for certain types of entities.

The Capability Model of the GRC is made up of four components:

  • LEARN about the organization’s context, culture, and critical stakeholders to inform objectives, strategy, and actions.
  • ALIGN strategy with objectives and actions by using effective decision-making that addresses values, opportunities, threats, and requirements.
  • PERFORM actions on desirable things, prevent and remediate undesirable items, and detect when something happens as soon as possible.
  • REVIEW the design and operating effectiveness of the strategy and actions and the ongoing objectives to improve the organization.

GRC solutions

To address the needs of GRC, many organizations are turning to technology solutions. These solutions enable the leadership to monitor GRC across the enterprise by ensuring business and technology to the organization’s governance, risk, and compliance requirements. The 

Capabilities include the following components:

  • Risk Management (logging, analysis, and management)
  • Document management
  • Audit management
  • Reporting
  • Analytics

However, having a tool alone isn’t enough to guarantee an effective GRC. Technology doesn’t have ethics—people do. Hence, GRC must be addressed from a people and process perspective, even before the technology is considered.

The Ibexlabs Solution

Managing governance, risk, and compliance are one of the organization's most essential and complex activities. As an AWS Security Competency Partner, Ibexlabs can establish an expert-led GRC program and implement the rollout as follows.

  • First, Ibexlabs will identify the stakeholders who will help develop the GRC strategy and define what GRC will look like within the organization. Once all key stakeholders have been identified, clearly articulate the objectives of the GRC strategy, the success criteria, roles and responsibilities, and critical milestones for success.
  • Second, Ibexlabs will gather information about the organization’s current landscape and all compliance measures that your organization needs to abide by. Ibexlabs will also prioritize the areas to improve each process’s maturity, evaluate the data's quality, and locate operational gaps.
  • Third, Ibexlabs will onboard the team with a dedicated communicated plan and report consistently to the concerned departments while allowing them to operate independently. The process of building acceptance starts by gathering key leadership positions and ensuring they are aligned with the GRC implementation plan and budget. This will establish a top-down focus for the program.

With these steps complete, Ibexlabs will expand and evolve the program. As we move forward, we will continue to communicate its importance and revise and modify it as the business changes. Once the business begins to see the value and outcomes of the newly implemented GRC program, Ibexlabs will continue to build upon it and communicate its importance across the organization.

Talk to an Ibexlabs' Cloud Advisor to learn how we can implement Governance, Risk, and Compliance controls to make your business secure and compliant.

Cloud Security
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How to Build an Audit-Ready Cloud Environment

By
Santosh Peddada
|
July 19, 2022

For any organization to have an audit-ready cloud environment, a baseline which contributes to any compliance program such as SOC2, FedRAMP, and HiTrust, it is essential to follow best practices for a well-architected environment and security when building the cloud environment.

The security best practices include:

Confidentiality: Allow access to resources and applications only to those who meet the appropriate security criteria. Granular access to IAM user and roles should be the most highly guarded, for example, through the use of AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store and Secrets Manager.

Integrity: Integrity is the assurance that the information being accessed has not been altered and truly represents what is intended. Information can lose its integrity through malicious intent, such as unauthorized changes or intentional misrepresentation. Integrity can also be lost unintentionally, such as when a computer power surge corrupts a file, or someone authorized to make a change accidentally deletes a file or enters incorrect information. Regardless of the cause, changes and status needs to be tracked, and a record log used to itemize events. AWS Cloudtrail is a good way to accommodate this.

Availability: Infrastructure should be available 24/7 with Multi-Availability Zone (AZ) deployments and a well-structured disaster recovery design, including database load balancing using Amazon RDS, and high-availability storage options through Amazon S3, etc.

Controllability: Regulations like GDPR require that companies encrypt both data in transit and data at rest. Ibexlabs’ solutions are designed with encryption for both.

Visibility: Application and data should feature Well-Defined Tags that help you identify resource characteristics and their purpose. This can be achieved with the help of AWS Config which provides a greater degree of visibility. The information is stored centrally with high security using IAM and encryption.

Agility: The entire architecture should be built with Infrastructure as Code (IAC) following security best practices with multiple reviews and tests. When updating the architecture, AWS security guidelines should be prioritized.

Automation: Fully automated CI/CD pipelines can deploy the application with pull requests created by developers in different environments with the use of Jenkins.

Backups: Another essential tool for information security is a comprehensive backup plan for the entire company. Not only the data on the corporate servers, but individual computers used throughout the organization as well should have a proper backup.

Virtual Private Networks: A virtual private network extends a private network across a public network. The server hosting the VPN should be secure: it should only be accessible from a specific IP range and have encryption at rest and encryption in transit (HTTPS) with SSL.

Firewalls: A firewall should be configured at every part of the Network, Compute, and Application levels with strict rules. AWS WAF solution firewall protection can be added to the application endpoint for regional and global resources where the application is served. This will protect your web applications or APIs against common web exploits that may affect availability, compromise security, or consume excessive resources.

Network Access Control Lists (ACL) should be utilized as an additional layer of security for your VPC that acts as a firewall for controlling traffic in and out of all subnets where the system resides. DDoS attacks can be mitigated at the subnet level by blocking any set of IP addresses at any time by creating rules.

Intrusion Detection with AWS Guard Duty allows for alert findings to be sent to different channels of communication including Slack.

Safeguarding Personally Identifiable Information (PII): AWS Macie uses machine learning and pattern matching to discover and protect sensitive AWS data, and PII. It provides several means of alerts for application-level threats and includes support for third-party solutions.

Assess your Audit Readiness with AWS Audit ManagerOften, organizations struggle to build well-architected environments that meet auditory compliance. They can work for months scanning the environment to find the system elements that are not compliant with the required standards. With the lack of cloud expertise and knowledge this task becomes even more challenging as the environment scales. This can be solved by using AWS Audit Manager.

AWS Audit Manager makes the audit process easy by letting you create audit assessments from the prebuilt assessment templates that contain industry-standard compliances. It automates the evidence collection which greatly reduces the time spent on manual intervention. The audit capability scales along with the growing business. The prebuilt frameworks help move evidence from cloud services into auditor-friendly reports by mapping your AWS resources to the selected industry requirements or regulations. It collects and organizes relevant evidence from the AWS accounts and resources, such as resource configuration snapshots, user activity, and compliance check results.Audit Manager continuously collects data from the AWS services used and generates reports with evidence necessary to demonstrate compliance with control requirements.AWS Audit Manager also ensures the integrity of these reports and evidence by securely storing and validating evidence in its own managed storage repository with specific user-level permissions.As demonstrated above, audit preparation is detailed and complex. Ibexlabs has deep experience with AWS cloud protocols and audits. Contact us to know how we can help you  prepare for industry aligned inspections, and remain vigilant against the innumerable cyber and related security threats.

DevOps Methodology
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Top 10 Cloud Security Best Practices

By
Swapna Mannem
|
August 11, 2022

Cloud security includes processes, controls, policies, and technologies that secure the cloud computing environment against cyber threats. Let’s look at the core set of best practices for cloud security that can guide a secure cloud infrastructure and mitigate risks.

1. Select a Reliable and Trusted Cloud Service Provider

Select a reliable cloud provider who offers in-built cloud security protocols and follows the highest levels of the industry-best practices. The mark of a trusted cloud provider is evident in the range of security compliance and certifications they hold.

Organizations can use various factors to assess the security capabilities of a potential provider. For example, evaluating their levels of compliance with various information compliance standards and different regulations, including HIPAA.

Cloud security is a collaborative process where both the providers and the customers must play their roles to ensure safety. For instance, a cloud provider should install timely patches to prevent attacks. Customers, on the other hand, should develop security policies by restricting access, sharing, and modification of cloud data.

2. Monitor and Prevent

Customers and Cloud service providers have different roles when securing cloud activities. They also share the responsibilities for monitoring and responding to suspicious cloud security problems.

The cloud service providers monitor the security of infrastructures they offer to cloud customers. On the other hand, the customer monitors the applications and the users accessing the cloud services. Information gleaned from this monitoring allows customers to implement additional measures for detecting attempts of unauthorized access.

They can also use the information to monitor unexpected behavioral changes of users and applications. It is also important to implement additional monitoring automation schemes such as autoscaling to provide users with around the clock access to resources as they need them. The end goal is to provide 100% visibility so that customers can quickly detect unusual occurrences and address them to prevent security problems.

3. Implement intrusion detection and prevention

Intrusion detection and prevention is the third most effective solution for cloud security. An organization must actively look for intrusion signs and configure alerts to detect, mitigate, and ultimately prevent unauthorized access.

Also, consider implementing artificially intelligent prevention and detection systems in the cloud. Artificial intelligence learns the behaviors of all user activities that access a particular cloud environment. For example, it builds knowledge of the types of data an employee uses frequently and the types of cloud resources the employee requests. Hence, whenever a new user performs unusual activities the system flags it as a malicious entity.

4. Implement Encryption Use of cloud services exposes data and increases risk by sending the data back and forth between network and the cloud. To ensure that data remains secure when using cloud services we recommend that companies implement the highest levels of encryption for data both in transit and at rest.

5. Enforce Least Privileges

This cloud security best practice helps to deal with the users who try to access your cloud services. Begin with zero trusts; provide users access only to the data and services they need.

To reduce complicacy while enforcing policies, form well-defined groups with specific roles to consider access to selected resources. Add users directly to groups, instead of tailoring access for every user.

6. Define cloud usage role policies

Most organizations implement a corporate strategy for secure use of  cloud accounts; it’s the right approach. However, users often do not adhere to the established strategies. It is incumbent upon the organization to monitor usage activities as another way to maintain cloud security. Monitoring provides a clear picture of the services, resources, and usage patterns of a particular individual. Users with suspicious cloud usage activities can be denied access to ensure they don’t introduce security risks to cloud data and applications.

7. Enable Strong Password Security

No matter what service you are using, a strong password security policy is always the best practice.

This policy is necessary to prevent unnecessary access. All passwords must need a lower-case letter, an upper-case letter, a symbol, a digit, and it should be of at least 14 characters. Make sure the users update their passwords every three months. This password policy will prevent users from creating easy passwords across many gadgets and protect against malicious attacks. Also, enforce multi-factor authentication as an extra layer of cloud security best practices.

8. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication Apply additional verification procedures to other security practices such as password protection for a greatly strengthened cloud security posture. Multi-Factor Authentication protects against malicious users assuming the identity of the legitimate users. The authentication mechanisms require additional levels of proof that they have authorized access. Such methods can include a code sent to a trusted mobile number or the answer to a security question only known to the user.

9. Avoid compliance violations

While moving the workloads and applications into the cloud, companies run the risk of compliance violations. Many regulations require that organizations know exactly where the data is stored, who has access to it, how it is processed, and how it is protected. Some regulations also require that cloud providers hold specific compliance credentials. Organizations can be at risk of compliance violations if the proper steps are not taken to transfer data to the cloud or when deciding on a cloud services provider.

10. Regulatory compliance check

A cloud customer has a role to ensure full compliance with information security regulations. Although many businesses adhere to compliance regulations to avoid fines, the primary intent is to keep systems secure in the first place. Therefore, implementing the guidelines is an effective way to tackle security issues and remain compliant. A cloud provider that fully understands industry specific regulations such as HIPAA, PCI DSS and others will make the security and compliance task that much easier.

A secure cloud environment can help to scale the business. However, security should not come at the cost of user experience or operational efficiency. Ibexlabs is an AWS Level 1 MSSP partner that provides baseline security services and also specializes in other areas like AWS Well-Architected Review, CI/CD pipelines, infrastructure automation, and 24/7 support.

*Photo credit: Pexels

DevOps Methodology
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SOC 2 - What you need to know

By
Kumar Gubbala
|
July 15, 2022

Summary: Every organization is concerned about information and data security. This includes those who outsource key activities to third parties (such as SaaS, and cloud providers).An audit of SOC 2 ensures that your service providers secure your data and protect your organization's interests and the privacy of your clients. When reviewing SaaS providers, compliance with SOC 2 is a minimum requirement for security conscious businesses.

What is SOC 2 compliance?

SOC 2—Service Organization Control 2—is an audit that addresses a service organization's controls for data protection and privacy. Developed by "AICPA, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants" to establish an auditing standard that meets the continuing trend of cloud computing. SOC 2 is designed specifically for service providers that store customer data in the cloud. This means that SOC 2 applies to almost all SaaS companies, as well as all companies that use the cloud to store their customer information.

Prior to 2014, cloud service providers only had to meet SOC 1 compliance requirements. Now, any business that stores customer data in the cloud must meet SOC 2 requirements to minimize risk and exposure to that data.

Why do companies rely on SOC 2?

A SOC 2 is considered one of the most conscientious reports that exist to date, which means that any company that has gone to the lengths to complete one takes security seriously. It is also the most accepted relationship when doing business with US-based companies. Completing a SOC 2 also suggests that your organization has set the right standards for the future. A SOC 2 framework doesn't just let you check the boxes and highlights your due diligence, it sets your company apart from others for future data issues. Simply put, a SOC 2 builds trust with customers and partners, especially those with strong security requirements. Show venture capitalists that you have the right protections in place and that you are serious about protecting their investments and you will be rewarded. In most cases, if you don't have a SOC 2, there's a good chance companies won't do business with you.

What are the five Trust Service Principles of SOC 2?

SOC2 defines the criteria for managing customer data according to five “Trust Service Principles”.

The five principles of trust are:

  • Security: This is probably what most people think of when they think of SOC 2 compliance. Security determines whether systems, software, and information are protected against unauthorized access, loss, or other events that may affect availability, integrity, or confidentiality.
  • Availability: Usually reflected in a service level agreement (SLA), this relates to the organization's ability to keep its software operational.
  • Processing Integrity: This principle of trust indicates whether systems and software produce valid and accurate results based on the organization's objectives and offerings.
  • Confidentiality: Confidential information that your organization receives remains confidential and is not disclosed.
  • Privacy: Personal information is used in accordance with organizational purposes, such as in accordance with the organization's privacy policy.

How dependable is a SOC 2?

SOC 2 requires long and continuous internal regulations to ensure customer data protection. This instills best practices from the start, which then creates better business opportunities. Going through the process of a SOC 2 shows your customers how serious you are about long-term security. These days cloud software companies have probably noticed security reviews, compliance, and certification requirements like the SOC 2 have become more complex even as they become more common. Think about it from the customer's perspective. When doing business with cloud service providers, they often send sensitive information that they would not like to disclose. Once this information is submitted, it is entirely dependent on security controls and processes of the receiving entity. A breach will not only affect our customers, it will also affect their customers, partners, suppliers and/or employees. The stakes are high, and companies are becoming more sophisticated in the questions they ask of cloud as a platform and SaaS providers that work in that space.

Do I need a SOC 2 Type I or a Type II report?

SOC 2 Type I – this report answers the question of whether your company’s internal controls are designed appropriately to meet your customer commitments related to the Trust Services Categories and Criteria. This report is based on a point-in-time and generally has a very low burden of producing technical evidence of control implementation.

SOC 2 Type II – this report answers the question of whether your company hires background check control is suitably designed. You will be asked to provide proof of a single new hire or new employee that had a completed background check and/or the policy/procedure documentation that prescribes this control. Whereas, in a SOC 2 Type 2, you will be asked to provide evidence for all or a sample, e.g., 25, of new employees that had background checks completed during your reporting period.

Summary: A Type I report requires much less work and effort, relative to a Type II, but savvy readers of the reports will recognize the difference in assurance each report correspondingly provides. Many companies may use a Type I report on the compliance maturity journey prior to a Type 2 report, but this is not a requirement. However, if you are starting with a Type I SOC 2, you may also need a Type II report. Enterprise customers often seek the strength of SOC 2 Type II reports.

SOC 2 REPORT TYPES

Type I describes the organization’s systems and whether the system design complies with the relevant trust principles. It is categorized in three ways:

  • Speed – Collect data for one day
  • Strength – Shows you understand the necessary security procedures
  • Cost – If you start with Type I, you must also undergo Type II

Type II details the operational effectiveness of these systems.

  • Speed – Collect data for 3-12 months.
  • Strength – Shows that you follow the necessary security procedures.
  • Cost – If you think you will eventually need Type II, it is most cost effective to start directly on Type II.

Ibexlabs is your perfect solution for SOC 2

Ibexlabs is an AWS Advanced Tier Consulting partner with multiple competencies such as Security, DevOps, Healthcare, and MSP. We are a team of passionate, technical, and motivated engineers who help customers accelerate their cloud journey. We keep your infrastructure secure and follow industry best practices. IbexIabs is your perfect partner to obtain SOC 2 certification; we are experts in SOC 2. We'll guide you throughout the process and help you tailor your security monitoring and compliance to meet your needs. Ibexlabs ensures that your company’s information security measures are in line with the unique parameters of today’s cloud requirements. As companies increasingly leverage the cloud to store customer data, SOC 2 compliance is becoming a necessity for a wide range of organizations. With Ibexlabs you will quickly achieve this important certification.

DevOps Methodology
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