Updating the IT Security Playbook for the Cloud

Digital transformation has been a top priority for many organizations across all industries, including government agencies. On top of this, the rise of the remote workforce has made the traditional on-premises approach to operations and cybersecurity obsolete.

Security teams must understand that their approach to security for the cloud needs to be built from the ground up rather than bolted on to legacy solutions and strategies that were designed for organizations with on-premises-only operations and workforces that use managed devices only. In other words, security for the cloud requires a new set of best practices. Below are key changes that IT teams must take into consideration when updating their security playbooks for the cloud.

The perimeter is no longer on premises

A core issue with legacy security technologies is that they are not designed to secure data as it moves beyond the traditional on-premises perimeter and into cloud apps and services. As such, organizations must reassess the limitations of their current security approaches in order to ensure that they hold firm across all modern scenarios, including those that were not properly addressed in the past.

For example, workers are using their personal, unmanaged devices to perform their work duties more now than ever before. While bring your own device (BYOD) enhances employee productivity and flexibility, it can also lead to major security headaches if the right security tools are not put in place. BYOD has been a significant trend for some time, but it has particularly increased in prevalence in recent months due to the pandemic. Similarly, when it comes to defending their agencies against threats, government IT professionals typically focus on external third parties as the main source of danger. However, a considerable amount of data leakage comes as a result of insider threats – workers within an organization who either inadvertently or intentionally open the organization to risks like data leakage.

Agencies must beware of disjointed solutions and legacy architectures

Crucially, in building a security strategy for the cloud era, government organizations must be wary of disjointed solutions, as an un-integrated approach may harm their ability to adapt swiftly in a highly remote and dynamic environment. Additionally, the time, money, and other resources needed for deploying and managing disjointed, disparate security tools would be best invested elsewhere. One solution is to consolidate tools into a single platform, as this can be highly effective from both an operational and cost-effectiveness standpoint.

In addition to the above, organizations must consider architectural designs when evaluating security solutions that will be deployed for modern workforces that access cloud resources. Using solutions that employ legacy and appliance-based models leads to additional maintenance costs, employee time requirements, overhead expenses, and scalability challenges – for example, when an appliance experiences surge loads for which it was not designed due to an influx of users or increased traffic.

Compounding the above challenge is the fact that some security vendors may present their solutions’ architectures as cloud native when they are merely hosted in their private “clouds” or data centers. This practice still amounts to what is effectively an on-premises network model. Consequently, these security vendors must continue to maintain their data centers and grapple with the same challenges faced by organizations using on-premises appliances directly (challenges mentioned in the preceding paragraph). Ultimately, the costs associated with this model are still passed down to customers.

Security threats and vulnerabilities are changing continuously, requiring government IT teams to remain vigilant in the face of adversity. While there are many items to consider, organizations must be prepared to secure any interaction that could occur across their current and future IT ecosystems. Today, that means focusing on the fundamental shift in the way that work is done due to phenomena like cloud adoption, remote work, and digital transformation. There is no telling what tomorrow may bring, but using flexible solutions and viewing security strategies in the context of modern trends can help government agencies to update their approach and meet challenges head on – both today and in the future.

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As Chief Technology Officer of Bitglass, Anurag Kahol expedites technology direction and architecture. Anurag was director of engineering in Juniper Networks' Security Business Unit before co-founding Bitglass. He received a global education, earning an M.S. in computer science from Colorado State University and a B.S. in computer science from the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology.

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