Solving the security challenges of public cloud

Nick Lippis
·6-min read

Experts believe the data-lake market will hit a massive $31.5 billion in the next six years, a prediction that has led to much concern among large enterprises. Why? Well, an increase in data lakes equals an increase in public cloud consumption — which leads to a soaring amount of notifications, alerts and security events.

Around 56% of enterprise organizations handle more than 1,000 security alerts every day and 70% of IT professionals have seen the volume of alerts double in the past five years, according to a 2020 Dark Reading report that cited research by Sumo Logic. In fact, many in the ONUG community are on the order of 1 million events per second. Yes, per second, which is in the range of tens of peta events per year.

Now that we are operating in a digitally transformed world, that number only continues to rise, leaving many enterprise IT leaders scrambling to handle these events and asking themselves if there’s a better way.

Why isn’t there a standardized approach for dealing with security of the public cloud — something so fundamental now to the operation of our society?

Compounding matters is the lack of a unified framework for dealing with public cloud security. End users and cloud consumers are forced to deal with increased spend on security infrastructure such as SIEMs, SOAR, security data lakes, tools, maintenance and staff — if they can find them — to operate with an “adequate” security posture.

Public cloud isn’t going away, and neither is the increase in data and security concerns. But enterprise leaders shouldn’t have to continue scrambling to solve these problems. We live in a highly standardized world. Standard operating processes exist for the simplest of tasks, such as elementary school student drop-offs and checking out a company car. But why isn’t there a standardized approach for dealing with security of the public cloud — something so fundamental now to the operation of our society?

The ONUG Collaborative had the same question. Security leaders from organizations such as FedEx, Raytheon Technologies, Fidelity, Cigna, Goldman Sachs and others came together to establish the Cloud Security Notification Framework. The goal is to create consistency in how cloud providers report security events, alerts and alarms, so end users receive improved visibility and governance of their data.

Here’s a closer look at the security challenges with public cloud and how CSNF aims to address the issues through a unified framework.

The root of the problem

A few key challenges are sparking the increased number of security alerts in the public cloud:

  1. Rapid digital transformation sparked by COVID-19.

  2. An expanded network edge created by the modern, work-from-home environment.

  3. An increase in the type of security attacks.

The first two challenges go hand in hand. In March of last year, when companies were forced to shut down their offices and shift operations and employees to a remote environment, the wall between cyber threats and safety came crashing down. This wasn't a huge issue for organizations already operating remotely, but for major enterprises the pain points quickly boiled to the surface.

Numerous leaders have shared with me how security was outweighed by speed. Keeping everything up and running was prioritized over governance. Each employee effectively held a piece of the company’s network edge in their home office. Without basic governance controls in place or training to teach employees how to spot phishing or other threats, the door was left wide open for attacks.

In 2020, the FBI reported its cyber division was receiving nearly 4,000 complaints per day about security incidents, a 400% increase from pre-pandemic figures.

Another security issue is the growing intelligence of cybercriminals. The Dark Reading report said 67% of IT leaders claim a core challenge is a constant change in the type of security threats that must be managed. Cybercriminals are smarter than ever. Phishing emails, entrance through IoT devices and various other avenues have been exploited to tap into an organization's network. IT teams are constantly forced to adapt and spend valuable hours focused on deciphering what is a concern and what’s not.

Without a unified framework in place, the volume of incidents will spiral out of control.

Where CSNF comes into play

CSNF will prove beneficial for cloud providers and IT consumers alike. Security platforms often require integration timelines to wrap in all data from siloed sources, including asset inventory, vulnerability assessments, IDS products and past security notifications. These timelines can be expensive and inefficient.

But with a standardized framework like CSNF, the integration process for past notifications is pared down and contextual processes are improved for the entire ecosystem, efficiently reducing spend and saving SecOps and DevSecOps teams time to focus on more strategic tasks like security posture assessment, developing new products and improving existing solutions.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits a standardized approach can create for all parties:

  • End users: CSNF can streamline operations for enterprise cloud consumers, like IT teams, and allows improved visibility and greater control over the security posture of their data. This enhanced sense of protection from improved cloud governance benefits all individuals.

  • Cloud providers: CSNF can eliminate the barrier to entry currently prohibiting an enterprise consumer from using additional services from a specific cloud provider by freeing up added security resources. Also, improved end-user cloud governance encourages more cloud consumption from businesses, increasing provider revenue and providing confidence that their data will be secure.

  • Cloud vendors: Cloud vendors that provide SaaS solutions are spending more on engineering resources to deal with increased security notifications. But with a standardized framework in place, these additional resources would no longer be necessary. Instead of spending money on such specific needs along with labor, vendors could refocus core staff on improving operations and products such as user dashboards and applications.

Working together, all groups can effectively reduce friction from security alerts and create a controlled cloud environment for years to come.

What’s next?

CSNF is in the building phase. Cloud consumers have banded together to compile requirements, and consumers continue to provide guidance as a prototype is established. The cloud providers are now in the process of building the key component of CSNF, its Decorator, which provides an open-source multicloud security reporting translation service.

The pandemic created many changes in our world, including new security challenges in the public cloud. Reducing IT noise must be a priority to continue operating with solid governance and efficiency, as it enhances a sense of security, eliminates the need for increased resources and allows for more cloud consumption. ONUG is working to ensure that the industry stays a step ahead of security events in an era of rapid digital transformation.