As National Cyber Security Awareness month comes to a close, it seems appropriate to reflect on the state of cyber security today. The ugly truth is that the cyber threat environment has never been more volatile. Breaches are commonplace, headlines on data loss and sophisticated hacks bombard us daily and technology continues to progress and move forward, in spite of security concerns and compromise. A huge portion of the general population’s personal data is exposed and, while seemingly everyone is aware there’s a problem, few are willing to take the preventative measures necessary to stop it.

Growing businesses are increasingly trusting third parties – like Amazon Web Services (AWS) – with their sensitive data, while expanding at unregulated speed. Despite the frequency and scale of security breaches taking place, cloud adoption continues to explode as businesses realize that modern infrastructure provides unparalleled speed, scale and cost savings when compared to the traditional, on-premise datacenter approach of yesterday.

Unfortunately, many of these businesses fail to fully comprehend the shared responsibility model used in protecting their data and which security measures to apply in this new environment. The responsibility for protecting data often falls in the customer’s hands and the solutions used to protect data differ from traditional on-premise environments. For instance, security – especially cloud security – is far too complex to be monitored manually and traditional network-based security cannot provide the necessary protection against zero-day attacks. These solutions also fall far short on providing users with true “context” to diagnose and understand an issue when a company finds itself under attack. To add to the complexity, today’s security professionals are inundated with a variety of commercially available tools all designed to solve different problems. Where does one start for “security in the cloud”

A silver lining is that the problem is getting big enough that it can no longer be ignored. Whether it’s the Target data breach, Ashley Madison user credentials exposed, or cloud service providers battling government agencies – not a week goes by without a new story about sensitive data in the wrong hands. The increasing incidence of data breaches and vulnerabilities, such as Shellshock and Heartbleed, received worldwide attention and motivated businesses and their customers to start pushing towards improved security in the cloud. It’s no longer about protecting your business against threats, it’s about preparing for the inevitable attacks, whether from “trusted insiders” or motivated hackers.

The Rise of Insider Threats

One of the biggest challenges facing enterprise customers is the ability to identify threats from within. The rise of ” insider” threats, including targeted attacks from current and ex-employees, system misconfigurations and unintentional errors resulting from a culture of trust rather than trust/verify, often result in the most damaging compromises. Whether malicious or accidental in nature, these “trusted insiders,” who often have authorized access to the company’s “Crown Jewels,” can cripple business performance, reputation and corporate IP. (Click here to learn about the five markers of insider threats and the corresponding steps security teams can take to address them)

Security at Scale

Cloud security at scale requires continuous monitoring of the runtime behavior of the workload to ensure operations run as they were designed and intended. This “inside-out” approach to cloud security ensures the visibility needed to identify insider threats and attacks, safeguard against data loss, and meet compliance regulations within AWS.

Additionally, as new applications enter today’s operations tool belt – a good example being the explosion of Docker – they allow engineers to manage more systems with improved control and consistency than ever before; naturally introducing a multitude of new threats and attack surfaces.

Growing companies need scalable security solutions that allow for rapid growth, while still maintaining operational efficiencies. Security monitoring services that provide insight and visibility into containers allow companies to leverage the power of containers, without making themselves vulnerable to threats.

Looking Ahead

Looking forward, it’s exciting to see cloud computing continue to surge in popularity among organizations of all sizes. Just this week, U.S. federal government CIO, Tony Scott remarked on the superior data security offered by cloud providers, as opposed to private efforts to improve the data security of federal organization networks. It’s promising to see that leading government officials are moving in the direction of the cloud in an effort to improve unstable government networks.

So where does one start in today’s fast-paced, complex, cloud-driven world? Start with visibility. In a software-defined world, the source of truth is inside your workloads. Monitor your workloads and listen to what it’s telling you so you don’t find yourself and your business on the “reactive” side of a breach.

As companies progress down this path of better security, they will find that they don’t need to sacrifice speed and agility to address threats – with today’s modern security solutions, a company’s cloud-based assets can stay secure, compliant and operationally efficient for the life of the business.

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