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Leveraging Architecture to Build Security into Your Cloud

As organizations accelerate cloud adoption, security is often an afterthought. The result is increased risk from misconfigurations, data exposure, and compliance gaps. The good news is a strong architectural approach can help embed security in your cloud solutions from the start.

In this post, we’ll explore how architecture enhances cloud security – allowing you to deploy secure systems faster.

Architecture Sets Needed Guardrails for the Cloud

A well-defined architecture provides guidelines and guardrails that bake security in from initial design. This ensures protections are built-in upfront rather than bolted on later.

With proper architecture, you can answer critical questions early like:

This establishes your north star for building secure systems.

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Architecture Allows Early Integration of Controls

In existing cloud environments, policy controls are sometimes missed due to rapid adoption pressures. With a new solution, you can architect in controls upfront and validate them early. For example, you could design a sandbox pre-production environment to test security policies and access patterns.

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Architecture Facilitates a Security-First Culture

Implementing architecture reviews across teams establishes security as a priority. This brings together stakeholders early to define appropriate controls for each layer of a solution. Formal reviews signal security is not an afterthought. They foster a security-first culture by ingraining practices from the start.

Architecture Reviews Require Cross-Functional Collaboration

Effective architecture requires involvement across your organization – from cloud engineers to compliance and data owners. For smaller teams, establish a security committee to facilitate thought leadership. Lean on outside experts as needed to validate your architecture and controls pre-deployment. Their unbiased assessment identifies risks you may have overlooked.

Key Areas to Focus Architecture Efforts

Though your architecture will evolve, critical areas to address upfront include:

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Adopting a Secure Architecture Reduces Cloud Risk

Developing an intentional architecture upfront puts needed guardrails in place for secure cloud adoption. This prevents having to retrofit security later at greater cost and risk.

Collaborating across teams to define appropriate controls at each layer ingrains a security-first culture. Though your architecture will evolve, these foundational elements enable secure operation in the cloud. If you need help defining a hardened cloud architecture aligned to your compliance obligations, Breach Factor can advise. Our experts help organizations integrate security into cloud workflows – from access controls to network segmentation. Reach out if your team needs a second opinion on a new cloud architecture design.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some best practices for developing a secure cloud architecture?

Some best practices include: clearly defining security roles and responsibilities between your team and the cloud provider based on the shared responsibility model; implementing centralized identity and access management with least privilege access controls; encrypting data in transit and at rest; segmenting cloud environments into isolated networks with restricted traffic between zones; automating security policies and configurations to prevent drift; enabling extensive logging and monitoring across all layers of the architecture; performing penetration testing to validate controls; and continuously scanning for vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and anomalous behavior.

How can we implement effective cloud network segmentation?

Effective cloud network segmentation involves partitioning your cloud environment into isolated zones with tightly restricted access between each segment. Segment networks based on sensitivity – for example isolating dev, test and production or segmenting by application data. Use security groups, ACLs, VLANs, subnets and other controls to restrict communication to only necessary ports and protocols. Minimize intra-zone traffic to limit lateral movement in case of a breach. Implement a zero trust approach with continuous verification of trust levels before enabling any network access.

What steps can smaller organizations take if they lack dedicated security staff?

Smaller organizations without large security teams can still make cloud security a priority by taking steps like: designating a cross-functional cloud security committee to own governance and architecture reviews; identifying a point person, like an IT manager or lead engineer, to be responsible for cloud security; leaning on outside experts like consultants to validate architecture and controls provide unbiased input; using cloud security posture management tools to establish and continuously monitor compliance with security benchmarks; taking advantage of both automation and cloud native security controls to reduce need for manual work; maintaining awareness of new cloud threats and attack techniques; and constantly training engineers on secure cloud configuration and threat response.

How does proper cloud architecture support compliance requirements?

A strong cloud architecture is essential for consistently meeting compliance obligations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, or SOC2. The architecture provides the foundation to build in controls like encryption, access management, logging, segmentation, and auditing required by major standards. It also establishes clear security roles and ownership for tasks like vulnerability monitoring, configuration management, and access provisioning critical for compliance. The architecture enables collecting necessary audit evidence and speeding reporting cycles. It also facilitates centralized policy management and automation to reduce reliance on error-prone manual security management.

What security considerations are most important for an IaaS cloud architecture?

For an IaaS cloud, important considerations include: hardening your virtual machine images and enabling host-based protections on instances; restricting administrative/root access with just-in-time elevation; implementing user access controls through directories and identity providers rather than individual VM credentials; encrypting data at rest and in transit between cloud zones; using tools like Cloud Access Security Brokers to enforce data-centric protections; ensuring extensive API security at the management plane; performing regular vulnerability scanning of VMs; collecting and analyzing network traffic logs between instances to detect threats; enabling CSPM to continuously monitor IaaS configuration risks; and using micro-segmentation to isolate workloads.

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