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Cloud Security Architecture: Methods, Frameworks, & Best Practices


Cloud threats increased by 95 percent in 2022 alone! At a time when many organizations are moving their resources to the cloud and security threats are at an all-time high, focusing on your cloud security architecture has never been more critical. 

While cloud adoption has revolutionized businesses, it has also brought complex challenges. For example, cloud environments can be susceptible to numerous security threats. 

Besides, there are compliance regulations that you must address.

This is why it’s essential to implement the right methods, frameworks, and best practices in cloud environments. Doing so can protect your organization’s sensitive cloud resources, help you meet compliance regulations, and maintain customer trust.

Understanding Cloud Security Architecture

Cloud security architecture is the umbrella term that covers all the hardware, software, and technologies used to protect your cloud environment. 

It encompasses the configurations and secure activities that protect your data, workloads, applications, and infrastructure within the cloud. This includes identity and access management (IAM), application and data protection, compliance monitoring, secure DevOps, governance, and physical infrastructure security.

A well-defined security architecture also enables manageable decompositions of cloud deployments, including mixed SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS deployments. This helps you highlight specific security needs in each cloud area. 

Additionally, it facilitates integration between clouds, zones, and interfaces, ensuring comprehensive coverage of all deployment aspects.

Cloud security architects generally use a layered approach when designing cloud security. Not only does this improve security, but it also allows companies to align business needs with technical security practices.

As such, a different set of cloud stakeholders, including business teams and technical staff, can derive more value.

The Fundamentals of Cloud Security Architecture

Every cloud computing architecture has three core fundamental capabilities; confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

 This is known as the CIA triad.

Understanding each capability will guide your efforts to build, design, and implement safer cloud environments.

1. Confidentiality

This is the ability to keep information hidden and inaccessible to unauthorized entities, such as attackers, malware, and people in your organization, without the appropriate access level. 

Privacy and trust are also part of confidentiality. When your organization promises customers to handle their data with utmost secrecy, you’re assuring them of confidentiality. 

2. Integrity

Integrity means that the services, systems, and applications work and behave exactly how you expect. That is, their output is consistent, accurate, and trustworthy. 

If these systems and applications are compromised and produce unexpected or misleading results, your organization may suffer irreparable damage.

3. Availability

As the name implies, availability assures your cloud resources are consistently accessible and operational when needed. 

So, suppose an authorized user (whether customers or employees) needs data and applications in the cloud, such as your products or services. In that case, they can access it without interruption or significant downtime.

Cybercriminals sometimes use denial-of-service (DoS) attacks to prevent the availability of cloud resources. When this happens, your systems become unavailable to you or your customers, which isn’t ideal.

So, how do you stop that from happening and ensure your cloud security architecture provides these core capabilities?

Approaches to Cloud Security Architecture 

There are multiple security architecture approaches, including frameworks and methodologies, to support design and implementation steps. 

Cloud Security Frameworks and Methodologies

A cloud security framework outlines a set of guidelines and controls your organizations can use when securing data, applications, and infrastructures within the cloud computing environment. 

Frameworks provide a structured approach to detecting risks and implementing appropriate security protocols to prevent them.

Without a consistent cloud security framework, your organization exposes itself to more vulnerabilities. You may lack the comprehensive visibility to ensure your data and applications are adequately secure from unauthorized access, data exposure, malware, and other security threats.

Plus, you may have limited incident response capabilities, inconsistent security practices, and increased operational risks.

A cloud security framework also helps you stay compliant with regulatory requirements. Lastly, failing to have appropriate security frameworks can erode customer trust and confidence in your ability to protect their privacy.

This is why you must implement a recognized framework to significantly reduce potential risks associated with cloud security and ensure the CIA of data and systems.

There are numerous security frameworks. Some are for governance (e.g., COBIT and COSO), architecture (e.g., SABSA), and the NIST cybersecurity framework. While these generally apply broadly to technology, they may also apply to cloud environments.

Other cloud-specific frameworks include the ISO/IEC 27017:2015, Cloud Control Matrix (CCM), Cloud Security Alliance, and the FedRAMP. 

1. NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) outlines a set of guidelines for securing security systems. 

It has five core capabilities: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. 

Identify – What processes, assets, and systems need protection?

Protect – Develop and implement the right safeguards to ensure critical infrastructure services delivery.

Detect – Implement the appropriate mechanisms to enable the timely discovery of cybersecurity incidents.

Respond – Develop techniques to contain the impact of potential cybersecurity incidents.

Recover – Implement appropriate measures to restore business capabilities and services affected by cybersecurity events.

While the NIST CSF is a general framework for the security of your organization’s systems, these five pillars can help you assess and manage cloud-related security risks.

2. ISO/IEC 27017:2015

ISO 27017 is a cloud security framework that defines guidelines on information security issues specific to the cloud. The framework’s security controls add to the ISO/IEC 27002 and ISO/IEC 27001 standards’ recommendations. 

The framework also offers specific security measures and implementation advice for cloud service providers and applications.  

3. Sherwood Applied Business Security Architecture (SABSA)

First developed by John Sherwood, SABSA is an Enterprise Security Architecture Framework that provides guidelines for developing business-driven, risk, and opportunity-focused security architectures to support business objectives.   

The SABSA framework aims to prioritize your business needs, meaning security services are designed and developed to be an integral part of your business and IT infrastructure. 

Here are some core principles of the Gartner-recommended SABSA framework for enterprises:

  • It is business-driven. SABSA ensures security is integrated into your entire business strategy. This means there’s a strong emphasis on understanding your organization’s business objectives. So, any security measure is aligned with those objectives. 
  • SABSA is a risk-based approach. It considers security vulnerabilities, threats, and their potential impacts to prioritize security operations and investments. This helps your organization allocate resources effectively to address the most critical risks first.
  • It promotes a layered security architecture. Earlier, we mentioned how a layered approach can help you align business and technical needs. So, it’s expected that this is a core principle of SABSA. This allows you to deploy multiple security controls across different layers, such as physical security, network security, application security, and data security. Each layer focuses on a specific security aspect and provides special controls and measures.
  • Transparency: SABSA provides two-way traceability; that is, a clear two-way relationship exists between aligning security requirements and business goals. This provides a clear overview of where expenditure is made ad the value that is returned.
  • Modular approach: SABSA offers agility for ease of implementation and management. This can make your business flexible when meeting changing market or economic conditions.


The MITRE ATT&CK framework is a repository of techniques and tactics that threat hunters, defenders, red teams, and security architects can use to classify, identify, and assess attacks. 

Instead of focusing on security controls and mechanisms to mitigate threats, this framework targets the techniques that hackers and other threat actors use in the cloud.

So, using this framework can be excellent if you want to understand how potential attack vectors operate. It can help you become proactive and strengthen your cloud security posture through improved detection and incident response.

5. Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix (CSA CCM)

The CSA CCM is a cybersecurity control framework specifically for cloud computing. It contains 197 control objectives structured in 17 domains that cover every critical aspect of cloud technology. 

Cloud customers and cloud service providers (CSPs) can use this tool to assess cloud implementation systematically. It also guides customers on the appropriate security controls for implementation by which actor in the cloud supply chain. 

6. Cloud Security Alliance Security Trust Assurance and Risk (CSA STAR)

The CSA STAR framework is for CSPs. It combines the principles of transparency, thorough auditing, and harmonization of standards. 

What CSA STAR does is to help you, as a cloud customer, assess a cloud service provider’s reliability and security posture. 

There are two ways this can happen:

CSA STAR Certification: This is a rigorous third-party assessment of the CSP’s security controls, posture, and practices. The CSP undergoes a thorough audit based on the CSA’s Cloud Control Matrix (CCM), which is a set of cloud security controls aligned with industry standards. 

CSA STAR Self-Assessment: The CSA also has a Consensus Assessment Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ). CSPs can use this to test and report on their security controls and practices. Since it’s a self-assessment procedure, it allows CSPs to be transparent, enabling customers like you to understand a CSP’s security capabilities before adopting their services.

Challenges and Considerations in Cloud Security Architecture

Before any cloud deployment, it’s important to understand the threats you may face, such as privilege-based attacks and malware, and be prepared for them. 

Since there are many common threats, we’ll quickly run through the most high-profile ones with the most devastating impacts. It’s important to remember some threats may also be specific to the type of cloud service model.

1. Insider risks

This includes the employees in your organization who have access to data, applications, and systems, as well as CSP administrators. Whenever you subscribe to a CSP’s services, you entrust your workloads to the staff who maintain the CSP architecture. 

2. DoS attacks

Direct denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are critical issues in cloud environments. Although security perimeters can deflect temporary DDoS attacks to filter out repeated requests, permanent DoS attacks are more damaging to your firmware and render the server unbootable. 

If this happens, you may need to physically reload the firmware and rebuild the system from the ground up, resulting in business downtime for weeks or longer.

3. Data availability

You also want to consider how much of your data is accessible to the government. Security professionals are focusing on laws and examples that demonstrate when and how government authorities can access data in the cloud, whether through legal processes or court rulings.

4. Cloud-connected Edge Systems

The concept of “cloud edge” encompasses both edge systems directly connected to the cloud and server architecture that is not directly controlled by the cloud service provider (CSP). 

To extend their services to smaller or remote locations, global CSPs often rely on partners as they cannot have facilities worldwide. 

Consequently, CSPs may face limitations in fully regulating hardware monitoring, ensuring physical box integrity, and implementing attack defenses like blocking USB port access.

5. Hardware Limitations

Having the most comprehensive cloud security architecture still won’t help you create stronger passwords. While your cloud security architects focus on the firmware, hardware, and software, it’s down to the everyday users to follow best practices for staying safe.

Best Practices in Cloud Security Architecture

The best practices in Cloud Security Architecture are highlighted below:

1. Understand the shared responsibility model

Cloud security is implemented with a shared responsibility model. Although, as the cloud customer, you may have most of the obligation, the cloud provider also shares some of the responsibility. 

Most vendors, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, have documentation that clearly outlines your specific responsibilities depending on the deployment type. 

It’s important to clearly understand your shared responsibility model and review cloud vendor policies. This will prevent miscommunications and security incidents due to oversight.

2. Secure network design and segmentation

This is one of the principles of cloud security architecture – and by extension, a best practice. Secure network design and segmentation involve dividing the network into isolated segments to avoid lateral movements during a breach.  

Implementing network segmentation allows your organization to contain potential risks and attacks within a specific segment. This can minimize the effects of an incident on your entire network and protect critical assets within the cloud infrastructure.

3. Deploy an Identity and access management (IAM) solution

Unauthorized access is one of the biggest problems facing cloud security. Although hackers now use sophisticated tools to gain access to sensitive data, implementing a robust identity and access management (IAM) system can help prevent many threats.

Consider access policies like role-based access control (RBAC) permissions, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and continuous threat monitoring. 

4. Consider a CASB or Cloud Security Solution (e.g., Cloud-Native Application Protection (CNAPP) and Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP)

Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs) provide specialized tools to enforce cloud security policies. Implementing a CASB solution is particularly recommended if you have a multi-cloud environment involving different vendors.

Since a CASB acts as an intermediary between your organization’s on-premise infrastructure and CSPs, it allows your business to extend security policies and controls to the cloud. 

CASBs can enhance your data protection through features like data loss prevention, tokenization, and encryption. Plus, they help you discover and manage shadow IT through visibility into unauthorized cloud services and applications. 

Besides CASB solutions, you should also consider other solutions for securing your cloud environments. This includes cloud-native application protection (CNAPP) and cloud workload protection platforms (CWPP).

For example, a CNAPP like Prevasio can improve your cloud security architecture with tailored solutions and automated security management. 

5. Conduct Audits, Penetration Testing, and Vulnerability Testing

Whether or not you outsource security, performing regular penetration tests and vulnerability is necessary. This helps you assess the effectiveness of your cloud security measures and identify potential weaknesses before hackers exploit them.

You should also perform security audits that evaluate cloud security vendors’ capabilities and ensure appropriate access controls are in place. This can be achieved by using the guidelines of some frameworks we mentioned earlier, such as the CSA STAR.

6. Train Your Staff

Rather than hiring new hires, training your current staff may be beneficial. Your employees have been at your company for a while and are already familiar with the organization’s culture, values, and processes. This could give them an advantage over new hires.

As most existing IT skills can be reused, upskilling employees is more efficient and may help you meet the immediate need for a cloud IT workforce.

Train your staff on recognizing simple and complex cybersecurity threats, such as creating strong passwords, identifying social engineering attacks, and advanced topics like risk management.  

7. Mitigate Cloud Misconfigurations

A misconfigured bucket could give access to anyone on the internet. To minimize cloud misconfigurations and reduce security risks, managing permissions in cloud services carefully is crucial. 

Misconfigurations, such as granting excessive access permissions to external users, can enable unauthorized access and potential data breaches. Attackers who compromise credentials can escalate their privileges, leading to further data theft and broader attacks within the cloud infrastructure. 

Therefore, it is recommended that IT, storage, or security teams, with assistance from development teams, personally configure each cloud bucket, ensuring proper access controls and avoiding default permissions.

8. Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements

Most organizations today need to comply with strict regulatory requirements. This is especially important if you collect personally identifiable information (PII) or if your business is located in certain regions.

Before you adopt a new cloud computing service, assess their compliance requirements and ensure they can fulfill data security needs. Failure to meet compliance requirements can lead to huge penalties.

Other best practices for your cloud security include continuous monitoring and threat intelligence, data encryption at rest and in transit, and implementing intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems.


When establishing a robust cloud security architecture, aligning business objectives and technical needs is important. Your organization must understand the shared responsibility model, risks, the appropriate implementation framework, and best practices.

However, designing and developing cloud computing architectures can be complicated. Prevasio can secure your multi-cloud environment in minutes. 

Want to improve your cloud security configuration management? Prevasio’s agentless CNAPP can provide complete visibility over cloud resources, ensure compliance, and provide advanced risk monitoring and threat intelligence. Speak to us now.

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