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Critical Guide to Conducting Cloud Security Assessments

Conducting Cloud Security Assessments: Why They're Critical and How to Do Them Right As cloud computing adoption has skyrocketed, with over 98% of businesses now […]

Conducting Cloud Security Assessments: Why They're Critical and How to Do Them Right

As cloud computing adoption has skyrocketed, with over 98% of businesses now using cloud infrastructure, cloud security has become a major concern. Recent research indicates that around 57% of companies find it very challenging to protect data across their multiple cloud environments. This struggle is happening against a backdrop of stringent industry regulations that mandate rigorous data protections.

To test the effectiveness of their cloud security measures, many businesses are conducting cloud security assessments, also known as cloud risk assessments. These evaluations help reveal any vulnerabilities or gaps in cloud security postures so companies can take corrective actions.

In this article, we'll explain what a cloud security assessment entails, why it's absolutely essential today, and walk through the key steps for conducting an effective one.

Critical Guide to Conducting Cloud Security Assessments

Critical Guide to Conducting Cloud Security Assessments

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What Is a Cloud Security Assessment and Why Is It Critical?

A cloud security assessment involves methodically evaluating the potential risks and vulnerabilities associated with using a cloud computing system.

The importance of doing these assessments regularly stems from the fact that companies need to be 100% confident their sensitive data is properly secured when stored on remote, third-party servers.

Key benefits of a cloud security assessment include:

  • Testing existing security configurations to uncover weaknesses
  • Understanding how data is accessed and shared in the cloud
  • Ensuring compliance with any regulatory requirements like HIPAA, PCI DSS, or GDPR

Without assessments, companies could suffer serious data breaches, as well as regulatory penalties for non-compliance. For example, inadequate cloud security controls could allow hackers to infiltrate systems and steal customer data. The consequences might be leaked Social Security numbers, credit card information, and other sensitive personal records. Besides damaging an organization's reputation and customer trust, this can lead to massive fines for violating regulations like GDPR.

Regular assessments are the only way to validate that security controls are working as intended and sensitive assets are truly protected. They also demonstrate due diligence to auditors and regulators.

5 Steps for Conducting a Cloud Security Assessment

Follow this checklist to perform a complete cloud security assessment:

1. Identify All Cloud Assets

  • Catalog all assets - from customer data to financials - currently stored in the cloud environment. This provides an inventory of what needs protection.
  • Be exhaustive by including everything from databases, file storage, and backups to operating systems, applications, and network configurations.
  • Use cloud service provider tools like AWS Config that track resources. You can also utilize a cloud security posture management (CSPM) platform to automatically inventory assets across cloud accounts.

2. Classify Data by Sensitivity

  • Once assets are identified, classify them based on sensitivity levels. This highlights which assets are highest risk such as personally identifiable information (PII) or protected health information (PHI).
  • Categorize data as high, moderate or low sensitivity based on the potential impact if it was compromised. For example, customer credit card numbers would be high sensitivity.
  • Consider any regulatory obligations for protecting data types like HIPAA and PCI DSS.

3. Identify Potential Threats

  • Pinpoint external and internal threats that could target sensitive data, such as hackers or malicious insiders.
  • Research common attack methods like phishing, malware injections, man-in-the-middle attacks, and denial of service.
  • Vet cloud infrastructure comprehensively to find potential access points for attackers. Double check configurations for weaknesses.
  • Look at the OWASP Top 10 application vulnerabilities as a starting point.
  • Perform network scans to identify misconfigured security groups, too-permissive role policies, and vulnerable ports.
  • Consider an expert cloud penetration test to simulate real-world attacks in your environment. Ethical hackers can exploit gaps before malicious actors do.

4. Evaluate Risks Associated with Threats

  • Analyze risks connected to each identified threat, judging likelihood to occur and potential business impact.
  • Consider risks like data theft, service disruption, financial fraud, and more.
  • Consult risk assessment frameworks like NIST 800-30 or the ISO 27005 standard.
  • Rate risk levels objectively based on tangible factors like existing controls and threat history.

5. Implement Safeguards

  • Mitigate risks by instituting preventative controls like encryption, employee security training, and incident response plans.
  • For high probability, high impact risks, implement layered controls for defense-in-depth.
  • Continuously monitor the environment and respond swiftly to any detected threats.
  • Conduct recurring assessments to verify controls are working and adjust them as needed.

Key Focus Areas for Cloud Security Assessments

Some key aspects to evaluate closely during a cloud security assessment include:

  • Identity and access controls - Review authorization policies, password requirements, MFA, key rotation, and principle of least privilege.
  • Network security - Assess firewalls, segmentation, encryption in transit and at rest, remote access restrictions.
  • Configuration management - Check system hardening, OS patches, disabled unnecessary ports/services, and more.
  • Application security - Test for OWASP Top 10 flaws like injection attacks and improper access controls.
  • Logging and monitoring - Ensure continuous visibility into user activity, anomalies and threats.

Best Practices for Effective Assessments

Follow these tips for maximum impact when conducting cloud security assessments:

  • Perform assessments frequently - at least annually along with major cloud changes
  • Leverage automated tools for continuous monitoring of configurations
  • Retest previously vulnerable areas to ensure proper remediation
  • Work with a certified cloud security expert for an outside perspective
  • Create action plans for prompt remediation of uncovered risks
  • Report assessment results to executives to spur cloud security investments

Partnering with a Leading Managed Service Provider for Security Assessments

As cloud security experts with decades of experience, LK Technologies is an ideal partner for cloud security assessments and ongoing infrastructure protection.

We safeguard client data and ensure regulatory compliance while optimizing cloud performance. Our certified professionals leverage leading tools and proven methodologies to thoroughly evaluate cloud environments. We also provide 24/7 monitoring and response to combat today's sophisticated threats.

To examine your infrastructure's security posture, schedule a free consultation with our team today. We'll tailor recommendations to your unique environment and goals.

With LK Technologies as your strategic security advisor, you can focus on your core business knowing your cloud environment and data are secure. Contact us to get started fortifying your cyber defenses.


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