Cloud computing isn’t new | Why protect it now?

Since its inception in the 1960s, cloud computing has gone through many iterations and has empowered the modern enterprise as an integral part of how operations and solutions are delivered. While cloud computing has evolved over the past 60 years, when did businesses start thinking about its security?

This post explores a timeline of the contributing factors that lead to the security issues that many hybrid and cloud-based organizations face today. While attacks on the growing cloud surface will continue to develop, Organizations can learn how to set up the right defenses to start protecting one of the most critical business platforms in use today.

How cloud computing came about

Slowly moving into the post-pandemic world, more businesses than ever are moving from purely on-premises environments to cloud or hybrid environments. The use of the cloud is unprecedented, and our reliance on it has become a favorable target for opportunistic attackers.

While cloud computing seems ubiquitous now, its predecessors date back to the 1950s and 1960s. Originating in the military, mainframes were first developed to connect computer terminals through an internal matrix to reduce the cost of purchasing and maintaining individual terminals. The development of a technology to provide shared access to a single resource became the ancestor of cloud computing as a technical concept.

The 1970s saw more advancements in operating systems, storage, and networking. By then, multiple operating systems could run in an isolated environment, changing the way operators interact with data. Away from punch cards and teleprinters, they could interact with the screen terminals of mainframe computers connected to private networks.

By the 1990s, with the advent of the World Wide Web, the adoption of non-local storage technologies exploded. A large number (by the standards of the time) of personal computers were connected, the technology became more pervasive, and companies began to offer applications over the Internet, paving the way for the birth of Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

While available bandwidth was negligible at first, enterprises began to embrace the web and the infrastructure hosting industry was born. Demand for data centers has exploded, and many businesses have come to rely on shared hosting and dedicated servers to run their businesses. In the 90s, the word “cloud” was used to describe this new virtual environment, and the competition between tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon was about to begin.

Tech giants join the fray

In the early 2000s, everyone was accessing the cloud, including governments, financial institutions, healthcare providers, and more. This cultural shift has spawned an arms race for tech giants, with the ultimate goal of gaining more market share in the cloud provider space.

First came Amazon Web Services (AWS), its public cloud launched in 2002. The public cloud is a boon for a generation of small and medium-sized businesses, easing the burden of expensive server maintenance and upfront investments in hardware computing resources, while helping them address efficiency and scalability issues.

The emerging success of AWS has prompted Microsoft and Google to act. In response, Google launched the Google Docs service, followed by Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure and Office 365 package. Each tech giant brings a unique offering, and each continues to compete to become the new standard in cloud services.

Afterthought: How safe is it?

In the cloud provider market’s race to develop new capabilities and grab space, security becomes an afterthought, most clearly manifested in the sheer number and increasing severity of cyberattacks on the surface of the cloud.

The features that make cloud services beneficial to businesses are the same features that are often used maliciously by threat actors. Cloud services, while achieving significant improvements in scale and efficiency, are particularly vulnerable to misconfigurations, insider threats, supply chain attacks, and Active Directory-related weaknesses. Consider the following statistics from the Thales Cloud Security Report 2022:

  • With 72% of organizations using multiple IaaS providers, up from 57% in 2021, multi-cloud adoption is accelerating.
  • Nearly two-thirds of businesses store up to 66 percent of their company-critical data in their cloud.
  • 45% of businesses experienced a cloud-based data breach in the past 12 months, up from 40% the year before.
  • 51% of IT professionals share a common concern about the increasing complexity of cloud services and agree that managing privacy and data protection in the cloud is more complex.

While businesses and end users have benefited from the tech giant’s race to become the new cloud provider standard, threat actors are noticing the technology’s growing popularity and reliance and are starting to take advantage of it. Every tech giant claims their cloud offerings are secure, when in reality, they’re still trying to figure things out. Microsoft later started pushing their Azure Sentinel service, Amazon AWS acquired some security companies, and Google launched their security arm Chronicle, which was later merged into Google Cloud.

Shared Responsibility and Security in the Cloud

While these tech giants and other cloud service providers have tried to add cloud security to their offerings, this approach poses significant risks for businesses as it narrows everything down to a single-vendor reliance.

Sales productivity, collaboration, and now security increase the odds of favoring threat actors who only need a successful attack vector to impact all capabilities of a cloud service provider.

Some cloud vendors themselves have recognized that their responsibility for security cannot go beyond protecting their own infrastructure, and cloud customers must take care to protect what they put into the cloud. This shared responsibility model means that cloud customers are responsible for managing the operating system, application software, and utilities on their cloud instances. Cloud customers must also protect the network configuration of each cloud instance and the data and assets they store in the cloud.

As more organizations move to hybrid and cloud environments and understand the need to own cloud instance security, security professionals are looking for more advanced ways to protect their cloud workloads from cyber threats. In addition to employing basic cybersecurity best practices, cloud security includes security measures for serverless workloads as well as Kubernetes, containers, and virtual machines.

A successful cloud security strategy requires professionals to look at their enterprise environment and understand risks across all parts of the enterprise. That’s why enterprises are increasingly turning to extended detection and response solutions to protect their cloud.

The advent of XDR secures the cloud

Choosing the right security solution for the cloud is a multi-part task. The right solution must be easy to manage, scalable, and capable of defending against sophisticated and novel cloud-related threats. An end-to-end cloud security solution should meet the following key requirements:

  • Automatic detection and response – Attackers rely on one thing most during an attack – time. The more time they have, the more successful they will be in reaching their goals. This makes detection and response speed critical for environmental defense. Fast detection times make all the difference before actors can establish a foothold and disrupt the cloud.
  • Visibility of assets and configurations – Clouds are popular among organizations because of their ability to scale to ever-growing amounts of data over time. However, lack of visibility and misconfiguration can expose cloud workloads to potential vulnerabilities. Having deep visibility in the cloud helps eliminate unnecessary risks and limit exposure levels.
  • Integrate with existing technology stack – While infrastructure vendors do have some responsibility for providing security, many security professionals will introduce separate security solutions into their technology stacks to provide advanced protection. It is critical that the security solution is compatible with other tools and software so that data flows seamlessly across all platforms.

The concept of an open XDR (Extended Detection and Response) platform provides advanced security coverage that traditional point solutions cannot. A point solution is one that solves only one problem at a time. In contrast, open XDR platforms can integrate existing solutions, analyze incoming data, receive alerts in real-time, and automatically send responses as needed.

Fully integrated, open XDR harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to combat threat actors targeting the cloud surface. By interpreting attack signals and automatically prioritizing alerts and security incidents, AI and ML provide adaptive responses based on the specific characteristics of attackers. Behavioral AI and ML are able to detect unknown cloud-based threats such as zero-day attacks and indicators of compromise similar to new strains of ransomware.

generalize

Cloud computing has undergone nearly seven years of transformation.Started with the first mainframe computers in the 1950s, then accelerated to become a This The next standard in cloud provisioning, cloud technology is now ubiquitous in all key sectors, modern workspaces and our homes.

Cloud security may have been overlooked in the unprecedented advances of the early 2000s, but it is now pushed to the forefront of every cloud-related discussion. As organizations continue to embrace new advancements in cloud technology, security solutions need to be able to assess risk across the cloud surface and any digital entities connected to it.

SentinelOne’s Singularity™ Cloud ensures that organizations have the right security to continue operating securely within their cloud infrastructure. Contact us today or book a demo to see how we can help you improve your cloud defenses and bring together autonomous threat hunting, EDR capabilities and security to fit your business.

Singularity™ Cloud

A home to protect virtual machines, servers, containers and Kubernetes clusters across multiple clouds and data centers. Prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to threats in the cloud in real-time without sacrificing performance.

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