Managing Identity in a Hybrid and Multi-Cloud World

Managing Identity in a Hybrid and Multi-Cloud World

Controlling who has access to an organization’s resources and data assets remains a challenge in 2021. With a vast majority of network compromises involving the use of stolen credentials, organizations must employ identity, access and authentication management to protect the access to their enterprise environment.

In a mobile and cloud world, security that is mainly focused on protecting the network perimeter has limited effectiveness, as people and devices access critical applications and services in a broad range of public cloud and private data centers.

Getting clear visibility into the behavior of users and devices across the complex ecosystem of the hybrid cloud can be challenging, but it is critical to identify early warning signs of malicious activity and compromise.

To make matters more challenging, different security policies and enforcements are applied for the different cloud service providers, offices, and private data centers, and when employees are mobile. This complexity presents an even greater challenge given the increasingly sophisticated and varied threat landscape.

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Stealing and using valid account credentials is much more common today than zero-day exploits. Privileged accounts are especially prized by threat actors, for the freewheeling access they deliver. Ransomware and email compromises have surged in every industry and are capable of doing considerable damage.

In a hybrid and multi-cloud environment, traditional network security can no longer offer the protection required. With identity becoming the new perimeter, it has become the sought after attack surface for bad actors.

Increased Focus on Identity

Information can leak out of clouds, and quite often, it’s the consumers and not the cloud providers, who fail to manage controls to protect their data. These kinds of lapses are why Gartner predicts at least 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault through 2025.

With the cloud allowing users to access software and services from any device, threat actors can take advantage of weak authentication to seek out critical applications and, ultimately, data. With increased data, applications, devices, and users, enterprises need a more effective way to manage identities, align roles and permissions, and effectively enforce access controls.

The foundation for a well-managed use of external clouds is identity and access management (IAM). IAM helps enterprises ensure that only authorized persons are using organizational accounts and can access confidential data. To secure and protect the enterprise, security leaders must secure their clouds with a robust identity and access protocol.

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Building Trust and Resilience in a Cloud-First World

Organizations need to establish identity at the security perimeter. It must be done not only for human users but for any entity trying to access a system, including a bot, IoT device, or a machine.

As soon as identity is established, the next aspect dictates what resources a specific user can access. Many supplemental products also play a role here, including endpoint detection and response, unified endpoint management, and cloud access security brokers.

These products have to be tied to a source of trust that resides within the identity layer. This layer is also where security leaders need to develop protocols for automated elements, as many authorization requests need to be resolved in real-time without user intervention.

The last aspect is the security of the applications and the data. When it comes to applications, enterprises should determine its criticality and adjust user access accordingly. In the case of data that is confidential, enterprises need to classify access based on certain data elements.

Instead of providing users access to an entire application, they need to grant access to specific files and not others. User behavior can also be taken into account for added context. This can lay the foundation for continuous and adaptive trust assessment.

Role of Identity in Securing the Cloud

These three layers together bring in a new security paradigm for organizations. Identity is not the only element of cloud security, but it is one of the most critical elements. As the foundation of a cloud security program, strong IAM governance paves the way for more advanced security solutions. With an increased focus on identity first, enterprises will be better equipped to carry out a hybrid and multi-cloud digital transformation securely.

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