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Multi-cloud security protects organizational data storage and computing assets everywhere - across multiple cloud services, including on-premises infrastructures that interoperate with the cloud-native components.

As organizations increasingly adopt cloud services, using multiple providers has become a preferred strategy, realizing increased options, greater flexibility, and resiliency. However, with multiple clouds comes increased complexity in ensuring that consistent security practices are applied and enforced. Automating cryptographic key, data, and workload protection and compliance, no matter where these elements reside, becomes increasingly important.

What are the main challenges?

As organizations increasingly adopt a hybrid multi-cloud model to run their businesses, they are faced with the challenge of protecting workloads to ensure compliance with growing government and industry data protection and security regulations. Protecting the growing volume of workloads on-premises and in the cloud is essential for compliance and to stay competitive. Establishing and enforcing consistent security policies across virtual machines, containers, and Kubernetes is also critical for success, as continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) methodologies with DevOps and DevSecOps software development teams become the norm.

Organizations adopting cloud services must understand that, while cloud service providers maintain responsibility for the security of the infrastructure that they make available and the reliability and service level agreement, often referred to as the “security of the cloud,” they are not responsible for the security of the data that cloud customers store and process in their infrastructure, often referred to as “security in the cloud.” The shared responsibility model puts the responsibility for the protection of the data, the cryptographic keys that protect the data, and access controls on the owner of the data.

How to secure multi-cloud deployments

An effective multi-cloud security strategy (that includes on-premises components) should be unified and consistent, and offer visibility and control for all cryptographic assets with integrated compliance management. The strategy must protect critical keys, data, and workloads anywhere they might be, or anywhere they might be going, with strong encryption and centralized key management. It must enforce security policies and conform with audit trails for reporting and remediation. Automating security and compliance is fundamental in establishing consistency and reducing human error.

While there are many aspects to consider to provide comprehensive multi-cloud security, point solutions that only address specific requirements should be avoided as their deployment will introduce additional complexities and management challenges. A centralized management with decentralized storage model will reduce risks and drive compliance.

Benefits of a multi-cloud strategy

A multi-cloud strategy will offer organizations a number of benefits:

  • Flexibility – Organizations can maintain flexibility, allowing them to scale and flex across clouds
  • Resilience – Cloud service providers are extremely resilient and have well-architected redundancy and disaster recovery schemes in place across multiple regions. However, should a workload residing in a CSP be compromised or go offline with multi-cloud you have an alternative. Why put all your eggs in one basket?
  • Choice – Allows an organization's business drivers to inform the selection of the best CSP for the job. With a single CSP you are tied to their product portfolio, performance, latency, business terms, and conditions and modus operandi.
  • Control – Ability to choose independent multi-cloud solutions such as HSMs as a service, which are not tied to a specific CSP. This provides maximum control of your cryptographic services and the freedom to integrate with whichever CSPs you choose.

Multi-cloud security best practices

Ultimately, multi-cloud security boils down to planning, consistent policy, unified management, visibility, and automation. Applying these best practices will ensure that your solution will:

  • Secure sensitive keys, data, and workloads
  • Validate authenticity and integrity of code
  • Protect against inadvertent or deliberate misconfigurations
  • Provide a root of trust for generation and lifecycle management of keys
  • Manage end-users and containers privileges
  • Ensure compliance with security regulations

To simplify the management of encrypted workloads across the hybrid and multi-cloud environments, the lifecycle of encryption keys must be automated, including their creation, storage, backup, distribution, rotation, and revocation. Where possible, organizations should leverage a bring your own key (BYOK) approach to generate, manage, and use their own encryption keys across cloud service providers. Key management solutions should always isolate keys from the encrypted data to reduce risk and ensure compliance. Hardware security modules (HSMs) provide a root of trust for the generation, protection, and lifecycle management of encryption keys.

To bring all this under a unified framework that ensures proper security posture and compliance, it is essential to have centralized authentication, authorization, and audit controls. With these measures in place, organizations will be able to reduce risk and operational overhead. Following these best practices for security and compliance, the journey to a hybrid and multi-cloud environment can be made secure.

Learn more about multi-cloud security.

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