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Learn more about cloud security monitoring solutions in Data Protection 101, our series on the fundamentals of data security.
A Definition of Cloud Security Monitoring
Monitoring is a critical component of cloud security and management. Typically relying on automated solutions, cloud security monitoring supervises virtual and physical servers to continuously assess and measure data, application, or infrastructure behaviors for potential security threats. This assures that the cloud infrastructure and platform function optimally while minimizing the risk of costly data breaches.
Benefits of Cloud Security Monitoring
Cloud monitoring provides an easier way to identify patterns and pinpoint potential security vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure. As there’s a general perception of a loss of control when valuable data is stored in the cloud, effective cloud monitoring can put companies more at ease with making use of the cloud for transferring and storing data.
When customer data is stored in the cloud, cloud monitoring can prevent loss of business and frustrations for customers by ensuring that their personal data is safe. The use of web services can increase security risks, yet cloud computing offers many benefits for businesses, from accessibility to a better customer experience. Cloud monitoring is one initiative that enables companies to find the balance between the ability to mitigate risks and taking advantage of the benefits of the cloud – and it should do so without hindering business processes.
Challenges of Cloud Security Monitoring
As Ed Moyle notes in this article for SearchCloudSecurity, “the same forces that make cloud possible can have a negative impact on monitoring controls and erode an organization's ability to take action in response to events.” Virtualization poses challenges for monitoring in the cloud, and traditional configurations involving log management, log correlation, and event management (SIEM) tools aren’t routinely configured to adapt to dynamic environments where virtual machines may come and go in response to sharp increases or decreases in demand.
Visibility can also be a concern when it comes to cloud monitoring. Many companies rely on third-party cloud services providers and may not have access to every layer in the cloud computing stack, and therefore can’t gain full visibility to monitor for potential security flaws and vulnerabilities. Finally, shifts in scope are another common challenge when dealing with cloud environments, as assets and applications may move between systems which may not necessarily have the same level of security monitoring.
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How Cloud Security Monitoring Works
There are several approaches to cloud security monitoring. Cloud monitoring can be done in the cloud platform itself, on premises using an enterprise’s existing security management tools, or via a third party service provider. Some of the key capabilities of cloud security monitoring software include:
- Scalability: tools must be able to monitor large volumes of data across many distributed locations
- Visibility: the more visibility into application, user, and file behavior that a cloud monitoring solution provides, the better it can identify potential attacks or compromises
- Timeliness: the best cloud security monitoring solutions will provide constant monitoring, ensuring that new or modified files are scanned in real time
- Integration: monitoring tools must integrate with a wide range of cloud storage providers to ensure full monitoring of an organization’s cloud usage
- Auditing and Reporting: cloud monitoring software should provide auditing and reporting capabilities to manage compliance requirements for cloud security
Best Practices for Cloud Security Monitoring
One of the most effective ways to mitigate cloud security risks is to gain strict controls over data at all endpoints. Solutions that scan, analyze, and take action on data before it leaves the enterprise network provide a good first line of defense against data loss via the cloud and can avoiding the introduction of vulnerabilities, such as a sensitive file being uploaded to an unprotected cloud repository.
Likewise, effective cloud monitoring solutions can scan, evaluate, and classify data before it’s downloaded to the enterprise network, avoiding the introduction of malware and other malicious elements that can create vulnerabilities and leave the enterprise open to data breaches. Coupled with the scanning and auditing of data already stored in the cloud, real-time monitoring at the point of exit and entry is highly effective for enterprises that require comprehensive security while still utilizing the benefits of the cloud.