What is a Cloud Security Assessment?

What is a Cloud Security Assessment

Cloud computing makes digital infrastructures more agile and less expensive, yet also presents new security threats. Lack of permissions, misconfiguration or control mechanisms makes it easier for malicious actors to gain unauthorized access to systems and data stored in the cloud.

After an inventorying of cloud assets is conducted, the next step should be vulnerability testing. Testers with hacker mindsets perform these tests to detect flaws within cloud infrastructure and applications.

What is a Cloud Security Assessment?

Cloud security assessments help organizations detect and address gaps in cloud security. Assessment techniques used include identifying threats, testing for vulnerabilities and creating remediation plans.

Utilizing the data gathered through this process, the security team will create an inventory of your company’s cloud assets – including cloud infrastructure and applications as well as any forms of data stored within them – with which to assess risk levels across assets and applications and identify any compliance or regulatory concerns that might exist.

One of the key elements of conducting a cloud security assessment is identifying and correcting misconfigurations, which often form the source of cyber incidents. An efficient evaluation should reveal any vulnerable spots that need fixing to protect company-sensitive data.

Other components of a cloud security assessment include reviewing security configurations of platform services, storage systems, and workloads. Furthermore, an assessment will evaluate threat management in the cloud environment such as multi-factor authentication or other precautionary measures taken against cyber attacks.

Benefits of a Cloud Security Assessment

Conducting a cloud security assessment can assist organizations with addressing security gaps by reviewing past configuration issues, comparing their current security posture with industry standards, and offering recommendations that align with business priorities. Furthermore, such an evaluation can serve as the basis of future activities designed to better protect against attacks and mitigate risks.

Misconfiguration is often at the root of data breaches. Whether caused by an unskilled employee or outdated security features, misconfigurations expose sensitive information to attackers and incur significant financial costs. A cloud security assessment helps detect such errors and recommend customized configuration changes to prevent them from being exploited by criminals.

CSA teams then review documentation and deploy automation tools to test the cloud environment, testing for errors and vulnerabilities caused by misconfigurations such as access control management (key management, user accounts, firewall policies and roles), storage security and network security. After each round of retesting is conducted to confirm that any identified issues have been corrected before creating a detailed report to provide insight into infrastructure and application security status.

5 Steps to Perform Cloud Security Assessment

Dionach’s Security Assessment Team conducts a manual review of cloud environments, identifying misconfigurations, vulnerabilities and gaps in cybersecurity to reduce the risk of security breaches. They identify issues and recommend remediation solutions in order to minimize security breaches.

Vulnerability scanning targets cloud infrastructures exposed to the internet, such as web apps, firewalls, network security systems and storage. Test results are then used to generate reports that detail their security status as an overview.

Once the initial scan has been conducted, the security assessment team takes an in-depth look at specific components of the cloud environment. They scrutinize identity and access management policies closely in order to detect overly permissive settings that allow attackers to gain entry, move data around freely, exfiltrate it with impunity and exfiltrate more data out. Finally, they review logging practices so as to be able to detect security incidents quickly in real-time.

The Security Assessment Team reviews cloud accounts and subscriptions, assessing IAM policies and privileges as well as exposure scope in each instance. In addition, they review Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) templates deployed onto cloud environments to see if they contain critical configuration items.

Step 1: Initial Scoping

As more data moves into the cloud, companies find it increasingly challenging to maintain an effective security posture across various environments. A cloud security audit (CSA) is one way a business can detect misconfigurations and vulnerabilities before adversaries do.

At the outset of a Cloud Security Analysis (CSA), an organization gathers data about their cloud environment. This may involve documents and interviews with IT team members as well as automated scans performed on infrastructure and applications using special tools.

Initial assessments are critical in establishing the scope of any cloud service agreement (CSA). They should focus on key areas of cloud use such as encryption and other security measures for sensitive data protection, access restrictions on authorized users only, two-factor authentication for user accounts and two-factor verification to protect against unauthorized login attempts.

As part of its task, this audit should ensure firewalls and network segmentation are configured correctly. Furthermore, any Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) templates in deployment should also be evaluated since these may contain essential configuration items and services which were overlooked during manual reviews.

Step 2: Reconnaissance

Attackers who know more about their target are better equipped to breach its system, making reconnaissance an integral component of cloud pen testing assessments. During this phase, hackers gather as much information on the infrastructure – its configuration, security settings and sensitive data as possible.

Information gleaned from this reconnaissance stage will be used in later phases of a pentest to identify vulnerabilities & attack surfaces in subsequent stages. Common methods of reconnaissance may include brute force attacks, privilege escalation testing, or trying to exfiltrate data from target environments.

Misconfiguration in cloud environments is an all-too-common source of data breaches and one of the primary contributors. Misconfiguration can result from human error or automated attacks like phishing, password guessing or using weak or compromised credentials for authentication, as well as insecure APIs or unrestricted virtual machine access being an issue. To reduce false positives, Dionach consultants review automated scan results manually in order to spot anomalies and focus on critical misconfigurations; this enables them to gain a clear picture of their security status in order to recommend solutions that will address them effectively.

Step 3: Vulnerability Testing

An effective cloud security assessment should include a vulnerability testing phase. This step involves running specialized tools against discovered assets to identify any vulnerabilities or misconfigurations; then reporting this information back to the organization with advice for how best to remediate it.

A cloud environment can be more easily breached than on-premise systems, exposing data through stolen credentials or hardcoded scripts uploaded to public GitHub repositories, while threat actors may infiltrate uploaded files with malware and gain entry. To protect yourself and ensure data remains safe from breach, take the following steps.

At this stage, the assessment team will employ a “hacker mentality“, reviewing cloud infrastructure manually to uncover security issues. They will also review documentation and interview stakeholders to gain a fuller picture of the environment; this allows them to detect potential attack chains or gaps compared with an ideal architecture design; they may also review user permissions and look for opportunities to limit access to unnecessary resources and data that reside on the cloud.

Step 4: Reporting

At this phase of cloud security assessment services, an in-depth report is produced outlining all vulnerabilities identified. This includes an inventory of assets with their levels of risk and any misconfigurations or weaknesses identified during assessment.

Example scenarios could include ineffective user account management such as using static credentials, lacking logs or relying solely on single-factor authentication – making it easier for attackers to pose as authorized activity and access, modify or exfiltrate data. It also encompasses security posture rating that provides organizations with a clear picture of the overall strength of their cloud environment.

Once their cloud security assessment results have been returned, companies can work with their provider to identify any security gaps or weaknesses they need to address. They then devise a remediation plan which prioritizes issues based on likelihood and impact to business, setting specific actions with assigned responsibilities as well as deadlines for completion. Once implemented, retests should be conducted to make sure that all vulnerabilities have been eliminated.

Step 5: Retesting

Retesting of the cloud environment is crucial in order to verify that any issues identified during initial evaluation have been properly addressed. This step may be conducted either by the security team of the client, or independently by a third-party who can act as another pair of eyes to eliminate bias and gain fresh perspective during assessment.

Document review and interviews enable an assessment team to understand the business purpose, intended architecture, and changes planned for a cloud architecture environment. With automated and manual tools at their disposal, they identify misconfigurations, gaps between ideal architecture and actual implementation and any possible attack chains that need further evaluation.

Dionach employs the information gathered during this phase to produce a comprehensive report outlining its findings and remediation recommendations, with risk scores assigned based on each finding’s impact and likelihood. These scores allow prioritize mitigation activities based on resources available and potential business impact; additionally, this report includes details of an organization’s overall cloud security posture as well as any areas requiring further consideration.

Cloud Security Assessment – Identify Risks and Vulnerabilities in Your Cloud Environment

Learn to identify security risks and vulnerabilities in your cloud environment and mitigate common exploitation techniques across six core focus areas.

Identity and Access Management: Are user accounts secured with strong passwords and multi-factor authentication? Is data access restricted based on job roles and responsibilities?

Network security: Review firewalls, segmentation and network architecture as well as documentation such as security architecture documents, configuration standards and vendor best practices.

Why Do You Need a Cloud Security Assessment?

Cloud Security Assessment helps organizations evaluate their security posture and gain a comprehensive overview of their enterprise’s cloud maturity, risks and how to strengthen cybersecurity above industry best practice standards. By engaging a third-party firm that offers in-depth cloud security assessments, companies will receive the most extensive evaluation possible.

Starting off by reviewing internal tech documentation and interviewing key stakeholders to gain a comprehensive view of a company’s current technology stack, cloud services and SaaS apps, this process identifies assets stored in cloud environments according to their sensitivity, such as customer data, financial records, trade secrets or employee credentials – this information helps determine which assets require additional protection in terms of threats from being exposed.

Next, the assessment team will employ penetration testing and vulnerability scanning tools to analyze the security of a company’s current infrastructure. By employing hacker tactics to uncover any gaps that need closing. Unnecessary services like web, proxy and file share servers typically become vulnerable during this phase, which helps reduce risks and attack surfaces while password and multi-factor authentication protection is strengthened as part of this phase.

Benefits of a Cloud Security Assessment

Cloud security assessments provide organizations with a comprehensive view of their current security posture and can guide future decisions about security. In addition, an assessment can reduce cyberattack risks while improving business continuity.

Starting off, CSA teams conduct document reviews and interviews to understand a client’s infrastructure and architecture. With automated tools, the team then locates vulnerabilities and misconfigurations within the environment before conducting manual reviews based on vendor and security best practices in order to eliminate false positives and negatives. Furthermore, assessment teams simulate certain attack patterns used by hackers in order to identify weaknesses prioritizing remediation activities accordingly.

The Cloud Security Analyst also conducts an assessment of an infrastructure’s network security, such as firewall policies, network segmentation and virtual private networks for secure remote access. They assess cloud storage security by looking at aspects like block-level and object-level storage configuration and how these affect disaster recovery and business continuity in case of an incident.

This evaluation also considers the logging capabilities of an infrastructure. Without sufficient logging capabilities, incidents may go undetected or escalate into large-scale breaches more easily; finally, the CSA assesses ways to prevent data leakage through encryption and access controls.

Final Thoughts

Cloud security assessments are an integral component of migration or enhancement projects; whether that means moving existing deployments onto the cloud or simply improving current ones. They reveal risks and vulnerabilities that could compromise your company’s cyber defenses; with their results you can create an action plan to address any gaps that remain and ensure your cloud environment remains as safe as possible.

Beginning any comprehensive cloud security evaluation is with an inventory of all current data residing in your organization’s cloud applications, including SaaS and IaaS services. This inventory allows you to understand what type and amount of sensitive information resides there as well as implement a policy of least privilege that ensures employees only access resources needed for their job duties.

Once your inventory is complete, perform a threat model analysis and draft Non-Functional Security Requirements (NFSRs). These documents will serve as the foundation for performing a structured audit against these components; gap analyses highlight any discrepancies between your company’s current configurations, settings and detection capabilities and those specified in Step 1, as well as vulnerabilities within their cloud architecture that must be addressed.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.