With the advent of cloud computing, IT organizations are under pressure to provide applications and services faster than ever before. It often leads them to increase the number of provisioned resources for users without due consideration for what appropriate security measures must be in place to protect their assets.
The concept of least privilege defines a state where all employees have only the level of access to systems and data that is absolutely necessary for them to do their jobs.
For example, some IT organizations might be tempted to provide every employee with administrative rights on all systems to save time and money on training. But if an employee leaves the company or loses the need for such privilege, there’s no way of quickly revoking their least privilege access.
What Are the Key Challenges to Cloud Security?
As if cybercriminals and their increasingly sophisticated attack methods weren’t enough, the cloud has introduced several new challenges for IT security professionals.
The first is shared responsibility between you and your cloud provider. Just as you’re responsible for securing your network perimeter, your cloud provider is responsible for securing its own infrastructure. You might trust that they’re well-equipped to do so, but their virtual network perimeter is just as vulnerable as yours to cybercriminals and other external threats that might try to break into your data.
Moreover, the shared responsibility model shifts some of the burdens for securing your data from you onto your cloud provider. You might have a stringent security policy in place within your organization. Still, your cloud provider might not be subject to any such policy and might inadvertently open up potential security holes.
Finally, the sheer number of resources in a public cloud environment means there’s exponentially more data to protect than in traditional on-premises or colo deployments. There can be hundreds, if not thousands, of different applications and SQL databases on the same virtual machine, all of which require their own access credentials.
Without a least privilege policy in place, you risk leaving your data open to attack by not only your legitimate employees but also any cybercriminals who might get hold of their login information.
What Is Least Privilege Principle Access?
The least privilege access is precisely what it sounds like: granting employees access to the bare minimum number of resources necessary to do their jobs. It includes restricting administrator rights to prevent an employee from abusing their power or installing malware and blocking non-sanctioned cloud apps, so they remain free of any potential vulnerabilities.
The access can help mitigate some of the risks of moving to the cloud by ensuring that only authorized users have access to the systems and data they need to do their jobs. It also makes it easier to revoke access quickly when necessary.
How to Implement It for Better Cloud Security?
Implementing least privilege access for cloud computing requires knowing which data and systems you need to protect, who needs access to that data, and under what conditions. Here’s how to do that:
1. Inventory Your Systems and Data
The first step is to inventory all of your systems and data, both on-premises and in the cloud. It will help you determine which resources need to be secured and which employees need access to them.
2. Assess Risk
Once you inventory your systems and data, you can determine the highest risk for unauthorized access or other security threats. Your assessment should take into account both the potential damage that could be caused by an attack plus the probability of one occurring, so you know where to devote your most stringent protection efforts.
3. Create a Least Privilege Policy Using the Inventory
With the inventory in hand, you can create a least privileged access policy specific to your organization and its needs. The policy should include the following:
- Which systems and data need to be secured
- Who needs access to those systems and data
- What level of access each user should have
- How access can be revoked quickly and easily
- Monitor and manage access
Implementing least privilege access in the cloud requires regular monitoring to ensure that policy changes are successfully implemented. You should also have tools to revoke user privileges quickly, if necessary.
The security benefits of implementing a least privilege access policy within your organization are clear. With this type of policy, you can better secure your data without causing unnecessary disruption to your employees’ work.
It’s also worth noting that although you might be able to implement least privilege access on some of the services provided by your cloud provider, others may still require elevated security levels because they are inherently more sensitive or vulnerable to attack. To implement this policy into your cloud software, you can avail the services of a security service provider to ensure it is implemented in the best possible way to ensure good performance.