How Can Companies Move the Needle on Enterprise Cloud Security Risks and Compliance?

More than ever, customers understand their right to data privacy. As major brands continue to lose sensitive data to cybercriminals in high-profile cloud security failures, customer trust in companies across industries is fading. Only 25 percent of consumers believe most companies handle their data responsibly, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). As a result, secure, transparent data handling practices are more imperative than ever.

New regulations signal that governing bodies are also taking the enterprise’s responsibility for data privacy very seriously. The Brazil Privacy Act and the California Consumer Privacy Act support the consumer’s right to understand how their data is collected and used, and the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) requirements are among the first regulations to address cloud security risks. Proposed rules require financial institutions to conduct vulnerability assessments and practice data classification and safe data management, whether the data resides on-premises or in the cloud.

Misconfigurations Cause Database Security Mayhem

Despite increased pressure to protect customer data, security teams are still struggling to address database security risks. Misconfigured servers, networked backup incidents and other system misconfigurations resulted in the exposure of 2 billion data records in 2017, according to the “IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2018” — that’s a 424 percent increase in such data breaches over last year’s total.

Cybercriminals are innovating quickly to take advantage of enterprise cloud security challenges. Many are using and creating open source tools to scan the web for unprotected cloud storage and, in some cases, locking these systems for ransom. Results from a Threat Stack study indicated that the majority of cloud databases are unprotected or otherwise misconfigured. Researchers attributed the prevalence of misconfigurations to employee negligence and insufficient IT policies.

Why the Enterprise Cloud Is Vulnerable

Still, it would be unfair to blame the current state of enterprise cloud security on employee negligence — at least, not entirely. Critical misconfigurations are technically the result of inadvertent insider error, but the reality is a bit more complex. Correcting configurations and compliance risks is difficult because security teams lack actionable visibility into cloud risks. There’s a glut of security risk to deal with, and traditional approaches to assessing risk result in an abundance of data with little actionable intelligence.

The enterprise cloud environment is complex and difficult to capture with vulnerability assessment tools designed for physical network and endpoint risk assessments. The unstructured, NoSQL landscape of the big data on cloud evolves on a near-daily basis to accommodate new forms of unstructured data. It’s no wonder that trying to assess database security risk across heterogeneous environments is often compared to finding a needle in a haystack.

Layered vulnerability assessments are crucial to protect against cloud security and compliance risks. Under some recent regulatory requirements, in fact, vulnerability assessments are mandatory. However, the enterprise needs vulnerability solutions that can support the scale of cloud database-as-a-service (DBaaS), traditional on-premises databases, warehouses and big data environments in a meaningful way.

Advanced analytics are necessary to sort through complex event data to correlate patterns and find true outliers that are associated with meaningful risk of data loss or advanced threats. The sheer volume and variety of data in the enterprise cloud requires proactive vulnerability assessment. A vulnerability assessment solution should automate risk prioritization, recommend remediation and simplify complex compliance requirements.

How to Achieve Real-Time Security and Compliance in Cloud or Hybrid Environments

Reducing risk requires visibility and control with an adaptive, real-time approach to understanding exposure. In a database environment, assessments should actively examine privileges, authentication, configuration, versioning and patching. Finding and remediating advanced threats from insiders, ransomware and data breaches requires advanced analytics. Your vulnerability assessment solution should rank risks based on the importance of data and breach likelihood and recommend remediation actions.

Security and risk are convening in the enterprise, and vulnerability tools should deliver risk intelligence that can be shared with the chief information officer (CIO), chief security officer (CSO) and chief risk officer (CRO). Enterprise cloud environments are complex, but a vulnerability assessment tool can provide a consolidated and actionable view into risk, remediation, compliance and policy. To drive continued value, however, a vulnerability assessment solution must scale to new services as new applications, databases and cloud services are deployed over time.

The cloud has shifted the landscape and created the need for a new approach to assessing risks. If understanding compliance and configurations feels like finding needles in a haystack, it may be time to automate. Data privacy is now a compliance and customer imperative, and understanding the state of your databases is critical, so aim to scale your security assessments with a solution designed for the complexities of the enterprise cloud environment.

Learn more about vulnerability assessment for cloud databases

Vikalp Paliwal

Product Manager, IBM Security – Guardium

Vikalp Paliwal is Product Manager for Guardium. In prior roles, Vikalp held a variety of positions in Software Product...