Consulting with a Conscience™

A cruciallogics blog

Written by Amol Joshi
on March 26, 2024

Modern technologies bring solutions, but sometimes they come with pain points that, if ignored, lead to failure. Companies moving to the cloud have (inevitably) encountered a myriad of these challenges, but the solution always lies in the small details. 

Every tiny detail brings new difficulties that threaten cloud infrastructure security. But the beauty is that navigating such risks is possible if you adopt the right framework. 

In this article, we will delve into cloud security monitoring, and by the end, you will understand why it is vital for every company. 

What is Cloud Security Monitoring?

Cloud security monitoring is observing and analyzing the security of cloud infrastructure, networks and applications. It involves collecting and analyzing data from various sources, such as logs, network traffic, and cloud infrastructure, to detect and respond to security threats. 

Cloud security monitoring helps identify vulnerabilities and provides insights that improve security posture. The cloud monitoring software monitors every activity to ensure cybercriminals don’t penetrate the system. 

For instance, a typical identity system sees approximately 1,000 sign-in attempts per hour. Therefore, any unusual increase in sign-in attempts, such as detecting 50,000 attempts within a short period, is alarming. Such a spike in sign-in attempts may suggest that a hacker is attempting to gain unauthorized access to your system.

Why is it Important to Monitor Cloud Security?

Almost everything is stored there when a business shifts its operation to the cloud; hence, even the tiniest breach may cause heavy devastation. Here is why you should monitor your cloud security

Protection Against Data Breaches

Companies often handle sensitive information that might be used against them if unauthorized individuals obtain access. This information can be about the company, its employees, or its customers. With cloud security monitoring, cybercriminals' attempts to breach your data can be detected before they become an actual problem.

Compliance Requirements

Most industries have regulations that organizations must follow for data protection and privacy. By regularly monitoring their cyber security, companies can identify areas that need improvement before they become a compliance issue.

Identifying Vulnerabilities

Cyber attackers are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities in your systems. Even the tiniest “crack” in the system can lead to data breaches. Integrating assessment tools and techniques to identify potential security gaps helps strengthen your cloud security.

Enhancing Incident Response

24/7 cloud security monitoring gives you real-time visibility into security incidents and potential threats. This means your security team can identify breaches early enough before they materialize and contain the threat.

 

Visual representation of cost saving by cloud security monitoring as a user holds a globe with money signs.

Cost Savings

While integrating a robust cloud security monitoring software has its costs, they are not comparable to the expenses of recovering from a data breach. Considering system downtime, regulatory fines, and possible lawsuits, companies that have suffered data breaches bear the brunt of massive financial losses.

Key Cloud Components to Monitor

Some key cloud components to monitor continuously to ensure cloud security include:

Infrastructure Security

  • What to Monitor: Infrastructure security requires continuous monitoring of physical and virtual servers, storage, and network resources. Look for unauthorized access attempts, configuration changes, and unusual activity patterns.
  • Why It's Important: Infrastructure forms the backbone of cloud services. Therefore, any vulnerabilities here can compromise the entire cloud environment.
  • Monitoring Approach: Use tools that provide visibility into the infrastructure layer, such as network monitoring, system health checks, and intrusion detection systems. These tools help detect and respond to potential threats in real-time, ensuring the security and stability of the cloud infrastructure.

Data Security

  • What to Monitor: Data access logs, encryption status, and data transfer activities. Pay special attention to sensitive information handling and compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Why It's Important: Frequently the main target of cyberattacks, you should take precautions to guarantee data availability, integrity, and confidentiality.
  • Monitoring Approach: Regular monitoring and auditing of data security measures help maintain compliance with data protection regulations and mitigate the risk of data breaches. Implementation of data loss prevention (DLP) strategies, encryption audits, and access control reviews will protect data from unauthorized access and breaches. 

Identity and Access Monitoring (IAM)

  • What to Monitor: User access logs, authentication and authorization mechanisms, and policy compliance. Target account creations, modifications, deletions, and any privilege escalations.
  • Why It's Important: Attackers often try to manipulate identities to access the network. IAM ensures that the right individuals have access to the appropriate resources in the cloud environment. It helps detect unauthorized access attempts and potential insider threats.
  • Monitoring Approach: Review access and authentication logs, monitor privileged accounts, and leverage user behavior analytics (UBA) tools to detect anomalies in user behavior.

Additionally, keep records of failures and not just successful actions. Document and report violations, such as a user attempting an action but encountering an authorization failure, access attempts for nonexistent resources, and other suspicious actions. This will give the security team a different perspective.

 

Cloud security monitoring: User monitoring identities and access in a cloud environment.

Cloud Network

  • What to Monitor: Traffic flow, firewall rules, and network access controls should be checked for anomalies, such as unexpected spikes in traffic or unauthorized network scans, which may indicate ongoing cybersecurity threats. 
  • Why It's Important: The cloud network interconnects all cloud resources, and even the most minor vulnerabilities can result in significant security breaches.
  • Monitoring Approach: Leverage network performance tools and network intrusion detection systems (NIDS) to monitor network security vigilantly. This helps identify and mitigate potential security threats and vulnerabilities.

Application Security

  • What to Monitor: Monitor application vulnerabilities, code changes, and authentication mechanisms regularly, and check for irregular application behavior and security patches.
  • Why It's Important: Applications are often exposed to the internet, making them susceptible to attacks.
  • Monitoring Approach: Use application performance monitoring (APM) tools and regular security assessments to detect vulnerabilities and ensure secure coding practices are followed. This will protect against unauthorized access and data breaches.

Compliance and Governance

  • What to Monitor: You must always ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations, policy enforcement, and governance frameworks. Conduct regular audits to identify gaps and ensure compliance.
  • Why It's Important: Non-compliance can result in legal penalties and damage to reputation. It also ensures cloud environments are managed and used securely.
  • Monitoring Approach: Regular audits help identify and address compliance issues, ensuring the security and integrity of the cloud environment. Implementing compliance monitoring tools can automate the tracking of regulatory requirements and internal policies. 

Cloud Security Incident and Event Management

A Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system keeps track of security issues by gathering all the security data from different places and putting it in one central spot. This system looks for patterns in the data to spot any unusual activity that could be a security threat.

SIEM systems come with built-in tools to detect threats. They can also connect to outside sources that provide information about new security risks. For example, companies like Microsoft share information about potential threats affecting your systems.

When the SIEM system finds something suspicious, it sends alerts to let you know there might be a problem. These alerts are helpful during a security incident and need to be responded to quickly.

Nonetheless, using a SIEM system has its challenges. It can be expensive and complicated to set up and manage, and you need specialized skills to use it properly. Conversely, you might have to spend much time manually checking logs and looking for signs of trouble.

Every organization needs a SIEM system because it simplifies tracking security issues and enhances response time. If the price is your concern, consider more affordable options, like Microsoft products, that offer similar security alert features without the complexity of a full SIEM system.

If getting an SIEM system isn't an option, you can use a combination of smaller tools to execute a handful of those things. However, these makeshift solutions might not be as effective as a dedicated SIEM system at spotting and responding to security threats.

Cloud Security Monitoring Tools

To successfully secure your cloud infrastructure and monitor it regularly, you will need some of the following tools: 

Azure Monitor

Designed to help you keep track of your cloud and on-premises environments by collecting, analyzing, and responding to monitoring data, Azure Monitor is a powerful tool. Its main goal is to ensure the availability and performance of your applications and services while providing insights into their performance and allowing you to respond to system events manually or programmatically.

Here's how Azure Monitor works:

  • The first step in monitoring your system is to gather data from every layer and component. This is done by collecting information using APIs from various sources like applications, virtual machines, guest operating systems, containers, databases, security events, networking events, and custom sources.
  • Once the data is collected, it is stored on a common platform optimized for different monitoring data types, which serves as a central monitoring point.
  • Azure Monitor can be integrated with other Microsoft and non-Microsoft tools to provide additional insights and capabilities. It can also correlate data from different sources to identify patterns, trends, and anomalies that may indicate potential security threats or performance issues.
  • It analyzes and monitors data using tools such as Power BI, Grafana, Metrics Explorer, Log Analytics, and Change Analysis. These tools help you better understand your resources' health and performance.
  • In addition, Azure Monitor enables proactive response to critical events through alerts and automated actions. It can generate alerts based on predefined rules and thresholds for metrics or log data. The alerts can trigger actions such as sending notifications, scaling resources dynamically, or running automated workflows using Azure Logic Apps.
  • Finally, Azure Monitor supports third-party systems, such as SIEM tools, ITSM solutions, and security platforms, to enhance threat detection and incident response. 

Microsoft Defender for Cloud

Microsoft Defender for Cloud uses its built-in threat detection and protection capabilities to ensure cloud security monitoring. It examines all the data collected and checks logs to spot any signs of trouble. While doing so, it follows special rules to make decisions based on the kinds of logs it sees. For example, it searches for bad IP addresses and sends warnings to the security team if it finds any.

This tool can be turned on to protect different parts of your cloud, such as virtual machines and databases, from unknown threats. It also checks all your workload resources in the cloud for threats, ensuring their safety.

Microsoft Sentinel

Microsoft Sentinel keeps your cloud environments safe by doing a few key things:

  • It watches how users behave in the cloud by looking at their actions. This helps it spot any suspicious behavior that could indicate a security problem.
  • It collaborates with Microsoft Defender to ensure all security aspects are covered. Even though they do similar things, having them work together strengthens security.
  • It helps identify weaknesses in a company's plans to keep things running smoothly during unexpected events, such as cyber-attacks or employee mistakes.

Best Practices for Cloud Security Monitoring

Adhere to the following best practices for cloud security monitoring to prevent cyber attacks on your systems. 

Capture All Data Trails of Activities

You can only make the right decisions when you have the necessary data. Keep a comprehensive record of all activities happening within your cloud environment, no matter how small they seem. This data trail provides valuable insights into potential security threats and helps in forensic analysis during security incidents.

Capture All System Changes

Monitor closely to ensure nothing slips through the cracks whenever changes are made to your cloud systems. Cyber attackers take advantage of such opportunities to find vulnerabilities in your systems. 

Continuous Monitoring and Real-time Analysis

Continuous monitoring allows you to view activities in real-time, giving you an advantage in case of threats. When threats are detected immediately, the security team has enough time to counter and minimize impact.

 

Representation of security layers in a keyboard.

Integrated Security at Every Layer

Don’t leave anything unprotected, even when it is insignificant. Implement strict measures in every layer of your cloud infrastructure to create a solid meshwork of defense against potential threats.

Automate Security Responses and Remediation

You are assured of quick resolutions when you automate security responses and remediation. Most threats are time-sensitive, requiring quick resolutions. Automation helps reduce response time and minimizes manual errors in security incident response.

Advanced Threat Detection Techniques

To stay ahead of threats, implement advanced threat detection techniques, such as machine learning algorithms and behavior analytics. These techniques identify and respond promptly to sophisticated cyber threats.

Challenges in Cloud Security Monitoring

Challenges are bound to occur even with the most powerful cloud security monitoring software. Some of them include: 

Data Privacy and Sovereignty

Complying with data privacy regulations can be challenging for companies. Data ownership and control concerns may also arise when using third-party cloud service providers. To avoid violations, consider where your data is stored, how it's accessed, and whether it complies with regional data privacy laws. 

Cloud-Shared Responsibility Model

The cloud-shared responsibility model dictates that while cloud service providers are responsible for securing the infrastructure, customers are responsible for the security of their data and applications. 

This can lead to confusion of responsibilities, especially regarding security controls and configurations. 

Here, you should understand your responsibilities as a company and implement appropriate security measures.

Scalability and Complexity of Cloud Environments

Cloud environments are very flexible and can grow or shrink quickly. They have many different parts and services that work together. However, keeping them secure can be difficult because regular security tools and methods may not work well for cloud-based systems. This becomes even more difficult when using more than one cloud provider or a combination of cloud and non-cloud systems.

Advanced Cloud Security Monitoring With CrucialLogics 

Your cloud infrastructure and systems are only as secure as the measures you implement. Partnering with a trusted cybersecurity consulting company like CrucialLogics can provide the expertise and support needed to navigate cloud security. As a top cybersecurity provider, we offer best-in-class support and consulting solutions tailored to your needs.  

Ready to work with the best in the industry? Contact us today to learn more about our advanced cloud security monitoring solutions and how we can help protect your organization's digital assets.

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