What’s Good About an Enterprise Cloud Security Governance Strategy?

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Cloud Security

In the first article in this series on cloud security, we highlighted the limitations of a traditional cloud security strategy in mitigating the cyber threats faced by modern enterprises and outlined the ‘enterprise cloud security governance strategy’, which is a more comprehensive approach. We will now explore the differences between these two strategies.

In many enterprises, confusion often arises regarding ownership and responsibility in the cloud, exacerbated by the shared responsibility model between the cloud service provider (CSP) and the enterprise. For instance, while the cloud security team may primarily focus on addressing cloud security misconfigurations, it may not have ownership of critical components such as the secured application pipeline, third-party APIs, Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, or network connections to on-premises or Active Directory. Despite the potential risk these components pose if compromised, stakeholders often assume that they fall outside the purview of the cloud environment and delegate their security to different teams. This lack of clarity poses a significant risk, as breaches in these areas can still serve as potential entry points for attackers, posing a significant threat to the entire cloud infrastructure. The fundamental distinction between a traditional ‘cloud security strategy’ and an ‘enterprise cloud security governance strategy’ lies in the approach to ownership and responsibility.

A ‘cloud security strategy’ typically dissects the different layers of the cloud and views them as separate areas of security within the enterprise. Responsibility is distributed among various teams with different roles, leading to obscurity regarding ownership in certain grey areas. Conversely, an ‘enterprise cloud security governance strategy’ takes an inclusive approach, encompassing any obscure areas within the enterprise digital landscape and ensuring that adequate mitigation measures are in place.

Through this comparative exploration, we aim to elucidate the pivotal role that enterprise cloud security strategies play in fortifying organisations against sophisticated cyber threats. These strategies ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of critical assets in today’s dynamic digital landscape and are essential for enhancing overall cyber resilience.

Comparing the differences

1. Comparing the scope: Here we compare the extent or boundaries to which cloud security measures apply in each strategy, encompassing the entirety of cloud-based systems, assets, and data.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Cloud security primarily targets securing assets within the confines of a specific cloud provider. It involves implementing security controls and practices to protect data, applications, and infrastructure in the cloud, ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the cloud assets of an organisation. Scope Enterprise cloud security adopts a broader scope by integrating with the overall enterprise security strategy. It encompasses security considerations across the enterprise cloud landscape, which may include multiple cloud environments, including public, private, and hybrid clouds.
In traditional cloud security strategy, the emphasis is on designing security capabilities by leveraging services, recommendations, and best practices provided by the CSP. This involves customising security implementations to align with CSP capabilities, while also integrating organisation-level strategies and controls utilising the CSP’s offerings. The enterprise cloud security strategy extends beyond the CSP capabilities, encompassing security governance across the entire enterprise. It emphasises the integration of security implementations across diverse business units and environments to ensure a unified approach to security.

 

2. A comparison of focus: This compares the primary objectives or areas of emphasis in cloud security efforts, such as protecting data integrity, ensuring availability, and preventing unauthorised access.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Cloud security focuses on deploying technical controls to secure cloud assets using the capabilities of the chosen CSP, incorporating platform-native security measures to mitigate immediate security risks within the cloud environment. But this approach may not seamlessly integrate with broader organisational security initiatives. Focus This strategy takes a holistic approach by integrating cloud security with organisational policies and infrastructure to establish a unified security framework across cloud and on-premises environments. It aligns with overarching security policies, integrating measures across all layers for comprehensive protection against evolving threats.
Focuses solely on implementing security controls or tools to secure individual aspects of cloud security across the enterprise. This may lead to fragmented security implementations that fail to align with overall organisational-level or compliance requirements. Converges security implementations for individual cloud components while considering their integration with broader enterprise-wide security objectives. Aims to seamlessly integrate cloud security into the organisation’s overall security posture.

 

3. How scalability and flexibility compare: This compares the ability of cloud security measures to adapt and expand in response to changing organisational needs and evolving cyber threats while accommodating growth and innovation.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Here, security measures are designed to address specific security concerns inherent to the cloud that align with the unique capabilities and offerings of the CSP, ensuring enhanced resilience. Scalability and
flexibility
Enterprise cloud security ensures consistent policy adherence and alignment with the organisation’s overarching security strategy. This approach addresses security grey areas and potential loopholes, encompassing people, processes, and technology aspects.
Offers flexibility within the CSP’s capabilities, allowing configuration of security controls based on platform features. However, it may lack adaptability for broader enterprise needs beyond the cloud or to meet enterprise-level security objectives. It is customised to align with the enterprise-level security policy/framework. Every security implementation is calibrated to meet overall security objectives, providing flexibility to implement customised security across diverse business units and environments.

 

4. How governance compares: Let’s now compare the policies, procedures, and controls that guide the secure and compliant use of cloud services across the organisation, ensuring alignment with business objectives and regulatory requirements.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
This strategy aligns with CSP or industry standards, utilising established controls and policies for cloud compliance and security. Evaluates CSP-provided security features and complies with industry regulations to enhance security posture and mitigate cloud-related risks. Governance Develops and enforces a comprehensive cloud governance framework designed to the organisation’s unique needs, aiming for consistency, compliance, and security across all layers of the enterprise platform. This involves integrating governance measures seamlessly into existing organisational policies and infrastructure, ensuring alignment with overarching security objectives, and promoting a unified approach to security management.
The absence of a convergent approach in cloud security governance may result in oversight of grey areas, leading to compliance gaps and heightened risks. Prompt, comprehensive action is essential to mitigate these risks and address regulatory concerns. The enterprise cloud security governance strategy enforces consistent governance policies across all cloud services and on-premises resources, extending beyond individual platforms. This ensures comprehensive protection across diverse environments.

 

5. Comparing centralised policy management: Here’s a comparison of the practice of centrally defining, implementing, and enforcing security policies and controls for cloud-based environments.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
This strategy utilises policy management recommendations provided directly by the CSP, designed to manage security policies within the specific cloud environment. Centralised policy
management
Develops customised policies to meet the enterprise security objectives that adopt centralised policy management, enabling consistent enforcement of security policies across the enterprise cloud landscape.
CSP-centric policy management can result in fragmented security measures across enterprises, making it challenging to ensure comprehensive security coverage, enforce consistent standards, and maintain regulatory compliance. Designs uniform enterprise security baselines across cloud services and on-premises resources, considering interdependencies for cohesive security measures and enforcement. Aligns policies, controls, and practices to establish a unified security posture spanning both environments. Addressing interdependencies enhances risk mitigation and maintains consistency in security measures.

 

6. Risk management comparison: This compares the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks associated with cloud adoption and usage.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Focuses on addressing threats identified by enterprise risk management through standalone mitigation strategies, lacking a cohesive approach aligned with enterprise-wide security objectives. Risk
management
Implements comprehensive risk management across cloud, on-premises and third-party vendors, for holistic risk mitigation.
Prioritises risk management within the confines of the cloud provider’s capabilities and recommendations, focusing on mitigating risks specific to the cloud environment without broader alignment with the organisation’s overall risk appetite or overarching risk management framework. Aligns risk management with the organisation’s overall risk appetite, integrating it into the overarching risk management framework to ensure consistency and alignment with enterprise objectives.

 

7. Comparing audit and compliance: This is a comparison of the activities and mechanisms for evaluating cloud security controls, monitoring compliance with relevant regulations and standards, and facilitating audits to validate adherence to security policies.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Audit and assurance in cloud security primarily assess controls within a CSP, with less focus on integration outside the cloud ecosystem. Compliance assurance largely centres on meeting regulatory requirements and standards set by the cloud provider, often neglecting broader organisational compliance standards. Audit and
compliance
Audit and assurance processes encompass a broader scope, including not only cloud-specific controls but also those relevant to on-premises infrastructure, third-party vendors, and the integration points between different environments.
Limited to the compliance standards set by the CSP, which may not fully cover all organisational regulatory obligations. Potential risk of overlooking or misinterpreting broader regulatory requirements outside the scope of the CSP’s framework. Consolidates diverse regulatory mandates, industry standards, and internal guidelines across multiple cloud providers and on-premises to develop a comprehensive compliance strategy. This ensures consistent adherence to compliance standards throughout the organisation.

 

8. Comparing incident response: We now compare the coordinated actions and procedures for detecting, analysing, and responding to security incidents and breaches in cloud environments, with the goal of minimising incidents and restoring normal operations.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Outlines cloud-specific incident response procedures, focusing on protocols to address security incidents within the CSP. May result in disjointed incident handling processes and challenges in maintaining consistency and coherence in response activities across the organisation’s entire IT landscape. Incident response Adopts a unique strategy of incorporating the incident response from various sources and implementing an enterprise-wide strategy. Implements incident response protocols covering incidents affecting both cloud and on-premises resources, ensuring a comprehensive approach considering the interconnectedness of enterprise infrastructure.
Coordinates incident response within the cloud provider’s framework, adhering to provider-specific procedures for addressing security incidents within their ecosystem. However, from an enterprise perspective, this fragmented approach may lead to delays in response and heightened cyber vulnerabilities due to disjointed coordination and communication among stakeholders. Establishes centralised incident coordination for cloud and on-premises incidents, managing security incidents across the entire enterprise ecosystem. This facilitates streamlined communication and coordination, enabling faster and more effective incident response across the organisation.

 

9. Stakeholder and responsibility comparison: This entails identifying individuals or groups within the organisation responsible for various aspects of cloud security, as well as clearly delineating roles and responsibilities to ensure accountability and effective collaboration. Let’s see how the two different strategies fare in this respect.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Responsibilities are often delineated between the cloud service provider (CSP) and the cloud customer, leading to potential ambiguity and accountability gaps. Stakeholder and responsibility Assumes responsibility for addressing grey areas by proactively designing security strategies through people, processes, or technology to mitigate any gaps in security. This involves aligning security measures with business objectives, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, and addressing the specific security needs of different business units.
The involvement of multiple stakeholders in defining and maintaining security strategies can lead to ambiguity, miscommunication, and delays in decision-making. This lack of clarity and coordination among stakeholders may compromise the effectiveness of security measures and incident response efforts within the cloud environment. Organisational responsibility extends to implementing and managing security measures across the enterprise IT landscape, requiring collaboration and alignment of the entire organisation with the enterprise cloud security team.

 

10. Operations: Let’s compare the ongoing activities and practices involved in managing, monitoring, and maintaining cloud security, including regular assessments, updates, and improvements to security measures and processes.

Cloud security strategy Aspect Enterprise cloud security strategy
Depends on CSP-provided incident response frameworks to enhance operational excellence and minimise risks by leveraging CSP resources and expertise efficiently. Operations Centralising incident coordination across the enterprise optimises operational efficiency and reduces response times. This approach ensures consistent response efforts, swiftly addressing security incidents, and minimising disruptions to business operations.
The strategy prioritises security operations within the cloud environment, customising measures to address cloud-specific risks and optimise operational efficiency. This targeted approach enables proactive identification and mitigation of cloud-related security risks The strategy integrates security operations with broader organisational processes, fostering collaboration and alignment across departments. This approach promotes operational resilience, adaptability to threats, and proactive risk management aligned with business objectives and compliance requirements.

 

To conclude, while a ‘cloud security strategy’ may appear adequate during the early stages of cloud adoption, it may become insufficient as businesses evolve. This approach could pose significant challenges in providing unified protection and complying with external regulatory requirements.

An enterprise cloud security governance strategy addresses the complex intersection of various layers of cloud infrastructure by implementing multifaceted security controls through a cohesive framework. This strategy adopts an inclusive approach to incorporate every aspect of enterprise security, covering various layers of enterprise cloud, and adding layered defence-in-depth protection across the enterprise infrastructure, effectively addressing security loopholes.

Security needs to be intricately woven into the fabric of operations. In the next article in this series, we will delve into how an enterprise cloud governance strategy must be defined, with security at its core, to establish a well-rounded security posture for enterprises.

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