How to secure your multi-cloud deployments

Ensure the correct security measures are in place to have the right protection across your organisation

Multi-cloud environments have evolved over the years and as the digital landscape has changed, so too have enterprises.

This new way of managing online services has provided a number of benefits for many organisations. Using more than one cloud provider allows businesses greater flexibility in how they set up their digital environment as well as giving them the option to select the services and capabilities that best fit their needs.

By mixing and matching services from different providers, businesses can provide a better service to their customers and ensure they stay competitive in an ever-changing market.

However, with this new form of data management and sharing, there are always new challenges to keep in mind. If an organisation does choose to have a multi-cloud deployment, it must ensure it’s safe and secure.

According to IBM, 85% of organisations operate in a multi-cloud environment, so it’s paramount that security considerations are taken into account and the right controls are in place.

The challenges

Utilising a multi-cloud deployment comes with its own set of challenges. Storing data in multiple cloud platforms means there is a large environment to secure and different security issues to tackle from one provider to the next.

It's useful to synchronise security policies across the different vendors that host the data so the policies are consistent across the board. Businesses also need to have complete visibility across all products, which can be complicated if they all have different security features.

In addition, if businesses can’t monitor the whole scope of their deployments it may give attackers more space to attack or infiltrate them.

With this in mind, the security tools need to be able to view and share information across all deployments to reduce the complexity and increase efficiency. It’s also extremely important to maintain data compliance rules and have uninterrupted protection among the workloads at all times.

Identity and access management

One way of securing your multi-cloud deployment is through identity and access management (IAM). This helps to keep track of users and control access to certain data and services. It also makes life easier for IT managers to control user access to specific information across an organisation.

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It essentially enables IT managers to allow users to access specific online resources like networks, storage systems, devices and more. it's central to any directory service and helps strengthen the security of a deployment. 

Thanks to the wide variety of IT resources available, it has never been more important to have competent user management in a multi-cloud deployment to ensure the right people are accessing the right materials. Plus, by having greater control of user access, companies are able to operate more efficiently as many processes are automated instead of having to manually manage access to networks.

Regulations like GDPR also mean there is increased pressure to monitor and protect access to certain sensitive data. IAM is a great way to manage this risk and relatively low cost, meaning it’is accessible to companies of all sizes.

Identity as a service

When using IAM in the cloud, it can be complemented by using identity as a service (IDaaS) usually carried out by a third-party service provider. 

By opting to use these kinds of third party solutions, enterprises are able to manage security risks and meet legal requirements with a service that can be scaled fairly simply and extensively if needed.

IDaaS has a number of core features which are common across many providers:

Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA), also known as two-factor authentication, is a way of confirming a user’s identity by requiring two or more verification factors to gain access to an online resource. It's more secure than just having a username or password as it requires extra identifying information.

Users must have a combination of a password and something in their physical possession like a mobile phone, token keyring, or a form of biometric technology in order to gain access to an online resource.

This is a core component of IAM and helps decrease the risk of successful cyber attacks and is essential for multi-cloud deployments.

Biometrics

Biometrics uses a person’s physical attributes for identity confirmation. The most common real-world examples of this would be fingerprint unlocking on smartphones and laptops, as well as facial recognition tech like Apple’s FaceID. This also applies to retina recognition, full facial recognition, hand or even DNA usage.

This gives your deployment additional security as a user has to be physically present to gain access to the system using their biometrics and underlines the reliability of this form of authentication as it's based on unique data.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single sign-on (SSO) allows users to log into one application and then be given access to other designated applications. It helps provide a seamless experience to users as they don’t have to constantly log into different services or applications and reduces the friction involved.

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Security analytics for your multi-cloud deployments - whitepaper from IBMDownload now

An example of this is Google services where by signing into your Google account you can then access Gmail, Youtube, Drive and more without having to sign in each time.

If a cloud deployment is located on different platforms, it will help users if they don’t have to use too many usernames and passwords to access certain services. By having SSO, username and password sprawl can be reduced while improving the security at the same time. As it's harder for credentials to be compromised, there will be less of a need for multiple usernames and passwords across the services a business provides.

Making the right choice

The way businesses choose to secure their multi-cloud deployments will vary depending on how the organisation’s environment is set out and who should be able to access different parts of it.

Having the right tools in place ensures the correct security is implemented within an organisation with multiple cloud platforms. Plus, it's a good way to reduce complexity across a deployment and by centralising the security, businesses can ensure employees or users only have access to the information they are supposed to and respect data compliance rules.

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