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Security fears as cloud-first gains traction

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As more organisations than ever before switch to cloud computing, or adopt a cloud-first strategy, it would appear that early distrust in the technology is a lesser issue today, but there are still challenges when it comes to keeping data safe in the cloud.
Intel Security has announced its second annual cloud security report, “Building Trust in a Cloudy Sky”, outlining the current state of cloud adoption, the primary concerns with private and public cloud services, security implications, and the evolving impact of shadow IT of the more than 2 000 IT professionals surveyed.
“The cloud-first strategy is now well and truly ensconced into the architecture of many organisations across the world,” said Raj Samani, EMEA chief technology officer at Intel Security. “The desire to move quickly toward cloud computing appears to be on the agenda for most organisations.
“This year, the average time before respondents thought their IT budgets would be 80% cloud-based was 15 months, indicating that cloud-first for many companies is progressing and remains the objective.”
The trust and perception of public cloud services continues to improve year over year.
Most organisations view cloud services as or more secure than private clouds, and more likely to deliver lower costs of ownership and overall data visibility. Those who trust public clouds now outnumber those who distrust public clouds by more than two to one.
Improved trust and perception, as well as increased understanding of the risks by senior management, is encouraging more organisations to store sensitive data in the public cloud.
Personal customer information is the most likely type of data to be stored in public clouds, kept there by 62% of those surveyed.
The ongoing shortage of security skills is continuing to affect cloud deployments. Almost half of the organisations surveyed report the lack of cybersecurity skills has slowed adoption or usage of cloud services, possibly contributing to the increase in shadow IT activities.
Another 36% report they are experiencing a scarcity but are continuing with their cloud activities regardless. Only 15% of those surveyed state they do not have a skills shortage.
Due to the ease of procurement, almost 40% of cloud services are now commissioned without the involvement of IT and, unfortunately, visibility of these shadow IT services has dropped from about 50% last year to just under 47% this year.
As a result, 65% of IT professionals think this phenomenon is interfering with their ability to keep the cloud safe and secure. This is not surprising given the amount of sensitive data now being stored in the public cloud and more than half (52%) of respondents reporting they have definitively tracked malware from a cloud SaaS application.
The number of organisations using private cloud only has dropped from 51% to 24% over the past year, while hybrid cloud use has increased from 19% to 57%.
This move to a hybrid private/public cloud architecture requires the data centre to evolve to a highly virtualised, cloud-based infrastructure. On average, 52% of an organisation’s data centre servers are virtualised, 80% are using containers and most expect to have the conversion to a fully software-defined data centre completed within two years.
Intel Security makes a number of recommendations:
* Attackers will look for the easiest targets, regardless of whether they are public, private or hybrid. Integrated or unified security solutions that provide visibility across all of the organization’s services could be the best defence.
* User credentials, especially for administrators, will be the most likely form of attack. Organisations need to ensure they are using authentication best practices, such as distinct passwords, multi-factor authentication and even biometrics where available.
* Security technologies such as data loss prevention, encryption and cloud access security brokers (CASBs) remain underutilised. Integrating these tools with an existing security system increases visibility, enables discovery of shadow services, and provides options for automatic protection of sensitive data at rest and in motion throughout any type of environment.
* Organisations need to evolve toward a risk management and mitigation approach to information security. They should consider adopting a cloud-first strategy to encourage adoption of cloud services to reduce costs and increase flexibility, and put security operations in a proactive position instead of a reactive one.