Cloud computing services have transformed businesses large and small across all sectors in recent years and this is only set to increase into the new year. IDC predicts that by 2023, public cloud spending will more than double, growing from $229 billion in 2019 to nearly $500 billion. However, despite mass adoption, the issue of cloud security remains a key concern among business leaders – especially with data breaches making national headlines on a near daily basis.
Lee James is the Chief Technology Officer, EMEA, at Rackspace.
So, what can businesses do to address this? A big part of the answer lies in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, which will drive new ways of securing the cloud in 2020 and beyond.
Challenges of securing the cloud
The accelerated technical infrastructure change, digital transformation, and increased storage adoption has significantly altered the challenges faced by businesses to secure their critical assets. The benefits of cloud are clear, from increased speed and agility to advanced cloud analytics. However, these must be considered alongside the potential for an expanded threat surface associated with a broader network.
Security is one of the major concerns for businesses looking to migrate their infrastructure to the cloud, as moving significant amounts of data opens up clear security risks. However, some businesses then fall into the trap of thinking that once the migration project is complete, the major security risks are overcome. This certainly isn’t the case, with the threat surface constantly evolving and taking on a new dimension.
Businesses must also consider the challenge of securing the cloud against internal threats. Employees can unknowingly compromise their organisation’s security, with a recent study suggesting that every four in ten cybersecurity professionals see cloud storage and file sharing apps as most vulnerable to insider attacks.
This insider threat means that an attacker can be presented with the keys to the cloud through internal access to an organisation. With threats coming from all angles, it’s clear that businesses need to be putting security first. However, with only a third of organisations employing an endpoint security-first approach to data storage in the cloud, there is still work that needs to be done.
Further compounding these challenges is the need for cybersecurity training, with the shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals across EMEA recently reaching 291,000.
Emerging technologies to secure the cloud
AI opens new ways of managing cybersecurity. For example, it recognizes, learns, and models behavioral patterns to adapt systems to the most sophisticated of threats. This enhances the role cybersecurity specialists play, allowing them to react more rapidly, allocate more manual tasks such as scanning, and focus their attention on larger, more complex threats.
Intelligence-driven automation will create a shift in the traditional detection of, and protection against, threats. It will provide deeper visibility into attacker behavior, reducing the dependency on detecting pre-configured attack alerts. It does this by learning and registering what is normal, to increase the probability of identifying abnormal behavior in an environment. This will empower analysts to triage threats such as malware and react to attacks more rapidly.
However, AI inevitably poses additional challenges for cybersecurity. When it comes to AI, we often see a game of cat and mouse, with adversaries seeking to use the technology and techniques to their advantage. AI presents an opportunity for threat actors to deliver larger scale and more complex attacks, with the ability for adversaries to confuse defensive AI models and circumnavigate them.
Therefore, adopting new technologies will need to be carefully considered. There is no doubt that automation through AI and machine learning is an enabler for analysts. However, over-reliance on technology can be the downfall of an organisation. Analysts still require deep security expertise and this should be enhanced through technologies, such as automation, rather than replaced by it, as this can have the opposite effect and actually put infrastructure at greater risk.
Cloud and security will continue to change just as they have done year-on-year. Organisations should ensure they are embedding a security-first approach as they digitally transform their business. Through adopting emerging technologies to augment security, businesses can reduce the dependency on human intervention and increase efficiency, effectiveness, and scalability. This will enable them to optimize cybersecurity resources, both human and technology, to better protect their business.
Leaning on the experts
Businesses should explore how working with a third party can provide additional expertise that augments their existing capabilities by proactively monitoring and mitigating attacks. When it comes to the “not if, but when” scenario that characterizes cloud security, a trusted partner can make all the difference.
With the ever-evolving threat landscape and data growing in volume and value by the day, organisations need to constantly adapt their security and processes to ensure their systems are not compromised. Going into 2020, businesses will need to think and evolve with security at the forefront of their plans and operations.