Protecting data and applications hosted in the cloud is often a complex challenge for organizations, as many misunderstand which responsibilities lie with them and where a provider ends and theirs begins.
Microsoft has developed a shared responsibility model for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS deployment models. Discover its operation and best practices for using it effectively to safeguard workloads on Azure and Office 365.
The Shared Responsibility Model offers an effective framework for allocating security responsibilities between cloud service providers and organizations that use them. It specifies each party's duties regarding specific assets, data states, or locations, helping organizations determine exactly what must be protected to remain compliant and reduce their risks of data breaches.
Cloud solutions enable businesses to utilize the cloud for deploying applications and managing data that would otherwise be difficult or impossible on-premises infrastructures. Cloud's speed, scalability and agility allow these companies to deploy these complex IT environments faster than they could be managed on their own - making cloud solutions attractive for those wishing to increase the speed of product development, deployment and launch of new products or services faster.
However, this flexibility also increases cybersecurity risks as businesses are no longer responsible for protecting the physical servers that house their software and sensitive data.
According to several reports (Cybersecurity Insiders Report and National Security Agency Top Threats to Cloud Computing), many cloud security incidents are caused by customer misconfigurations.
Though CSPs cannot guarantee that customers' apps and data are protected, they must provide the infrastructure capabilities necessary to create secure and compliant IT environments in the cloud. This may include firewalls, identity access management, patching, data encryption, as well as other critical security controls. Furthermore, they should offer compliance certifications tailored to different industries or regulatory bodies.
Customers must not only secure hardware and infrastructure in their public clouds but also guest operating systems, applications and data configurations in their public clouds. Furthermore, customers must secure tools used for application delivery, such as code repositories, Docker image registries and Jenkins orchestration tools, failing which they may introduce vulnerabilities that require careful optimization using shift-left security principles integrated into the DevOps pipeline.
The Shared Responsibility Model in Practice
The shared responsibility model helps customers better understand which aspects of cloud security fall under their purview and which belong to their cloud service provider (CSP). It also allows them to maximize their investment in security tools and technologies CSPs provide. Historically, most companies managed their data centres and infrastructure, which took up considerable resources and time - the shared responsibility model shifts these responsibilities away from in-house managers, freeing up more time for core business functions and IT security.
This model delineates the customer's versus CSP's responsibilities across services, with each different depending on which deployment model is utilized. For instance, IaaS deployment may place physical security responsibility with CSP. At the same time, applications and data on top of this service, such as network controls, and identity access management configurations, fall to customers for protection.
This distinction is crucial since most security incidents result from misconfiguration rather than direct negligence by customers. To reduce this error, customers must manage their infrastructure according to best practices and implement safeguards such as firewalls, guest operating system security posture measures, patching protocols and encryption technologies in their environment.
An Infrastructure as a Service deployment could also include dedicated hosts for specific workloads requiring extra protection to ensure performance and security; using the shared responsibility model allows businesses to leverage the cloud's flexibility with minimal impact on their IT environment.
Organizations can quickly and securely deploy applications and data with this model, taking advantage of cloud technology's agility without investing heavily in technical infrastructure or know-how. This can be especially valuable to businesses that must comply with specific regulations and requirements to operate successfully; an efficient shared responsibility model implementation may assist these firms by offering improved security and compliance flexibility to help achieve their business goals.
Shared Responsibility Model Advantages
Businesses should understand that most of the responsibility rests with themselves when it comes to cloud security. While they should entrust their CSP with their data and infrastructure, they should also implement effective security practices and monitor for vulnerabilities.
Unfortunately, many businesses struggle to grasp this concept of shared responsibility - leaving themselves exposed to data loss risks.
The Shared Responsibility Model is essential to building a robust cloud infrastructure as it defines the boundaries between cloud providers' and customers' responsibilities. This model helps identify which parts fall under CSP responsibility versus those belonging to customers, whether using IaaS, PaaS or SaaS services.
Furthermore, this model enables organizations to use AWS infrastructure without jeopardizing security requirements or compliance. For instance, organizations handling classified information may require stricter controls than offered by shared tenancy architecture; when that is the case, they can opt for Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts, which host instances exclusively on hardware dedicated for them.
Harnessing the cloud can also reduce internal IT staff burden. Since many aspects of security, such as hardware and infrastructure management, are now handled by CSPs, freeing IT staff to focus on critical business functions instead.
Businesses gain the flexibility to deploy applications and data quickly without worrying about securing their IT environment. Employees can complete their work faster while using less resources.
Shared Responsibility Best Practices
Many organizations experience security hurdles in their cloud environments, including an inadequate understanding of the shared responsibility model, renting hardware from CSPs instead of owning it themselves, and data loss risks. Data loss concerns are especially noteworthy given that businesses now store vital customer and sales lead information and project plans in software tools. It's thus vital that this crucial data remains safe.
The shared responsibility model offers a solution to these concerns. By creating clear lines of responsibility, both CSPs and customers can concentrate their efforts on tasks assigned to them while better managing resources efficiently and providing greater flexibility when implementing different security tools.
While AWS manages the physical security of its infrastructure layer and abstracted platform services, organizations must manage guest operating systems, applications, and data configurations on AWS servers. By taking advantage of AWS's comprehensive range of security features, organizations can be sure their applications and data remain safe.
Therefore, the shared responsibility model provides an effective means of maintaining security within cloud environments; however, for businesses to take full advantage of it and reap its benefits, they must understand and implement it correctly to reap its rewards.
Business leaders looking to ensure their systems are secure should invest in regular vulnerability testing and penetration tests, monitor network logs for any suspicious activity and update software regularly while performing a backup at least once daily - in addition to looking into using managed service providers for their cloud security needs.
Businesses must remember that while their CSP is responsible for the physical security of their data center and infrastructure, they cannot guarantee it won't ever be lost. Therefore, businesses need to take a proactive approach toward meeting their security needs by working with their CSP to protect their data.