Introduction to hybrid cloud security

Hybrid cloud security is data and infrastructure protection that combines elements of private cloud, public cloud, and on-premises infrastructure into a unified architecture. A hybrid cloud is the computing environment that combines these elements. Hybrid cloud provides great flexibility to quickly move workloads to different environments while taking advantage of the best features provided in those environments.

There are strong motivations for using a hybrid cloud architecture, but it also comes with additional security challenges that will be discussed in this article. Let’s start with the use cases of a hybrid cloud.

Hybrid cloud use cases

The cloud is an indispensable part of the IT infrastructure for any organization that wants to thrive. When it comes to hybrid cloud, there are three common use cases for enterprises today.

Move to a public cloud

It’s okay to start a journey to the cloud using your existing on-premises infrastructure. Most organizations begin by installing virtual machines and Kubernetes in the data centers under their control. Then they convert their monolithic applications into microservices and deploy them to on-premises systems.

When managing and scaling on-premises instances becomes cumbersome, you can move a few workloads to public cloud systems. In this step, you start the hybrid cloud journey and benefit from the scalability of a public cloud provider. At the same time, you ensure that the critical systems hosted on your on-premises system continue to operate and benefit from a reliable transition to the public cloud.

Keep some workloads on-premises

Cloud providers offer flexibility and scalability, but the infrastructure is owned by another company. For example, you may want to keep business-sensitive data in your on-premises systems for regulatory reasons and company policies. With these requirements, organizations expect to store their data internally while running their workload scalably and efficiently on external cloud systems.

Use of various cloud providers

Each cloud provider differs in their services, pricing, support levels, and SLAs, which means you may want to benefit from multiple providers simultaneously. Unfortunately, all cloud providers have their own management portals and APIs, which makes it difficult to manage them from one place.

The hybrid cloud’s flexibility and mixed model make it attractive over traditional cloud architectures. However, this also comes with significant security challenges which we will discuss next.

Hybrid cloud security challenges

The hybrid cloud does not solve or improve the security problems of the mono-cloud infrastructure. On the contrary, hybrid cloud presents the following hybrid cloud security challenges.

When applications are distributed across multiple clouds, they need to connect to each other and transmit data. This means that traffic between clouds must be secure and encrypted. Creating a secure end-to-end connection between multiple cloud infrastructures becomes difficult, mainly when the networking models differ.

The security features of each cloud offering focus on protecting their own services and infrastructure. For example, you can limit access to cloud resources using AWS IAM roles, but they only work for workload running in AWS infrastructure.

Networking configurations, already difficult in a single cloud service, become more complicated when there are different cloud offerings. For example, to create private cloud environments, you must configure Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Azure Virtual Network (VNet), and Google Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) separately. Security vulnerabilities are inevitable when insufficient attention is given to these environments or certain settings are ignored.

When multiple cloud infrastructures are connected, real-time threat detection systems can trigger false alarms by misidentifying traffic between the cloud(s) and/or on-premises as malicious, or at least outside the network. ‘ordinary. When the overall infrastructure becomes more complex, monitoring and alerting systems must be configured in depth to detect real security vulnerabilities.

Cloud secrets managers like GCP Secret Manager or AWS Secrets Manager are great tools for storing passwords, keys, certificates, or any other sensitive data. However, these are designed to run on their own cloud platforms. In order to distribute and manage secrets on a hybrid infrastructure, you need to implement central and external tools like Vault.

Top 4 Cloud Security Issues

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Components and controls for a unified infrastructure

There are three essential components to creating a unified infrastructure that will work in harmony: networking, encryption, and authentication.

Networking

The connection between multiple cloud infrastructures makes it a hybrid cloud configuration. Direct network connections between premises and clouds or VPN tunnels are the most common solutions and are mostly used together where direct connection is the primary method and VPN is a fallback.

encryption

Encryption allows you to encode data so that only authorized parties are allowed to access it. When different cloud infrastructures and services connect to each other, it is easy to use an external solution, which may also be offered by one of the cloud providers in your hybrid cloud landscape, for secure and encrypted communication.

Authentication

A hybrid cloud creates an environment where applications can use services from other cloud providers. For example, suppose the workload on cloud A (or on-premises) needs to authenticate to cloud B, which is done through a set of credentials.

You should manage these credentials carefully, especially in terms of distribution. Because leaking such credentials could have potentially devastating consequences. You should also rotate them regularly. Therefore, there is a real need for hybrid cloud security architecture to connect applications living on different infrastructures.

Cloud discovery and visibility are needed to manage, configure, and monitor these components in a distributed infrastructure. Falcon Horizon CSPM focuses on Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) to detect misconfigurations and potential threats while ensuring compliance across multiple cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.

Best practices

Securing a hybrid cloud is challenging due to its multiple components and distributed nature. So it’s always a good idea to start with commonly accepted industry best practices:

  • Network and security experts should carefully examine the network topology.
  • Be sure to carefully plan the management of secrets (IDs, certificates, keys, passwords) to avoid leaks. You should also rotate certificates and secrets regularly.
  • Your team should scan container images for vulnerabilities and deploy only those that are secure. You can check out CrowdStrike Falcon Container Security to identify vulnerabilities earlier and automate DevSecOps principles.
  • Perform continuous audits for real-time visibility and compliance checks.
  • Implement a zero-trust approach for new applications, environments, and tools.

Conclusion

The hybrid cloud brings the best of on-premises systems and cloud providers. But it also comes with additional security challenges compared to running everything in a single cloud. Fortunately, the benefits of a hybrid cloud setup could very well justify the additional costs needed to secure the entire system. Nevertheless, it is important to involve general security and network experts, as well as engineers specialized in each of the cloud providers included in the design of the system.

CrowdStrike provides end-to-end cloud security solutions for workload security, CSPM, and container security. Start a free trial now and get fast and easy protection against all threats in your hybrid cloud environment.

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