Man touching virtual hybrid cloud showing privileged access management

The Unique Challenges of Securing Hybrid Cloud Access: Here’s What You Need to Know

For a growing number of organizations, a combination of public cloud services, private clouds, and on-premises infrastructure offers the best solution to the limitations of various architectures.

Furthermore, emerging technologies like virtualization and edge computing are driving further cloud adoption. Companies are choosing to design solutions that meet their business goals, which often includes an agile hybrid cloud model.

Challenges of hybrid cloud security

As more businesses embrace public cloud services and supplement with private cloud capabilities, their IT environments become more complex to manage and secure. There are more access points to secure and more security maintenance to perform.

A hybrid cloud environment offers choice and flexibility, but it also asks more of the IT department. The organization’s risk is heightened, and the needs become more complex, making visibility and control essential to security. Without full visibility and control, security gaps are likely to develop.

This also shifts some of the security responsibilities. Controlling security, infrastructure, and virtualization shifts to the cloud providers, leaving vulnerabilities. Traditional vendor tools purpose-built for the private cloud may not extend to the public cloud.

Instead, organizations need a clearly-defined shared responsibility model to manage threats appropriately. Without it, neither the vendor nor its users understand exactly what security obligations are their own and which are the cloud providers’, leaving significant gaps.

With the increased security risks of the hybrid cloud, including financial or reputational harm, compliance is critical. However, the hybrid cloud’s complexity makes establishing and maintaining effective compliance protocols exceptionally difficult. Each component needs to be compliant on its own, as well as within a unified system.

Using privileged access management for hybrid cloud security

Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions purpose-built for on-premises environments are typically found wanting in hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments, and using a combination of legacy tools and vendor solutions from multiple vendors creates vulnerabilities in a dynamic environment like the cloud. Diverse, distributed environments are more difficult to manage and secure, and each component has different risk profiles.

PAM-as-a-service has emerged as a preferable alternative where the vendor manages the cloud environment where the software resides, ensuring it is secure, updated, and current.

Modern PAM also enforces the principle of least privilege, wherein users only receive the minimum levels of access required for their tasks, and only for the amount of time needed. Instead of providing any user with full access to the network, least privilege ensures that users only receive just enough, just-in-time access. Then, whether they’re acting on their own or were compromised by a hacker, they can’t access more assets with the account.

If a user requires more privileges to run certain applications or commands, those privileges can be elevated with proper oversight and control. Once the work is completed, PAM automatically revokes the access and closes the session so there are no standing privileges left open to be exploited.

This also keeps the security policies consistent with regards to access, privilege, and multi-factor authentication across operating systems, users, and locations.

A modern PAM solution offers a consistent security framework that can handle many moving components. This solution is designed for hybrid clouds and offers broad access controls with the ability to grant privileges to the user endpoints, as needed, and for a limited time.

Why is PAM effective?

Historically, humans are a high risk and top target in security. This may be from privileged users abusing their level of access or external attackers stealing credentials and abusing privileges. PAM ensures that all members of the team have only enough access to do their jobs effectively, but without simply throwing up roadblocks at all turns. It also allows security teams to identify suspicious or malicious activities and take swift action to mitigate its effects.

Systems need to access and communicate with each other to work together effectively. Within the cloud, a number of machines and applications that require privileged access exposes vulnerabilities that are difficult to manage. A strong PAM strategy accounts for the privileges no matter where they occur, whether they’re on-premises or in a hybrid environment.

Endpoints typically have privilege by default to allow IT teams to fix issues quickly, but that introduces risk. Attackers can target the endpoints, move through the workstations, elevate privileges, and so on, eventually finding what they seek. PAM ensures that local administrative rights are removed at endpoints, reducing overall risk.

PAM is also necessary for achieving compliance. Unmanaged, unmonitored, and unprotected privileged access carries the greatest risk. PAM can be used as part of a comprehensive security strategy to monitor and record all activities that may impact sensitive information, simplifying audits and compliance.

Take control of hybrid cloud security with PAM

The hybrid cloud offers a flexible and multi-faceted solution that combines the best of the private and public cloud, but with that comes specialized security risks and protocols. Outsourcing PAM-as-a-service to the experts increases the chances your security needs are met now and as your business scales, addressing the unique challenges that come with the flexibility of the cloud.