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What is a Cloud Security Assessment? (and How to Perform One)


Compared to on-premises data storage, cloud computing comes with a lot of benefits. On-demand access to company data, flexibility, and fast collaboration are just a few. But along with these advantages come increased security risks. To manage them, companies should invest in regular cloud security assessments.

What Is a Cloud Security Risk Assessment?

A cloud security assessment evaluates the potential vulnerabilities of an organization’s cloud environment. These assessments are essential to mitigate risks and ensure the continued security of cloud-based systems.

By looking at cloud applications, services, and data, companies can better understand the biggest threats to their cloud environment. By managing these threats, businesses can avoid costly workflow interruptions.

A security assessment can be done by an organization’s internal security team or by an outside security expert. This can happen one time only, or it can be done regularly as part of an organization’s overall cybersecurity plan.

How Do Cloud Security Risk Assessments Protect Your Business?

Cloud-based systems and services are an essential part of most businesses nowadays. Unfortunately, what makes them convenient is also what makes them vulnerable to security threats.

A cloud security risk assessment helps organizations find out what might go wrong and prevent it from happening. It also helps with prioritizing and managing the most serious issues before they become full-on data breaches.

One way assessments do this is by identifying misconfigurations. Cloud misconfigurations are behind many security breaches. They result from errors introduced by network engineers working on early cloud systems. A cloud security assessment earmarks these and other outmoded security features for repair.

What’s more, cloud security assessments identify third-party risks from APIs or plugins. When your company identifies risks and manages permissions, you keep your cloud environment safe. By mitigating third-party risks, you can still benefit from outside vendors.

Of course, none of this information is valuable without employee education. Employees need to know about risks and how to stop them; this is the best way to reduce the number of security incidents caused by human error or carelessness.

To put it simply, a cloud security assessment helps your business run smoothly. When you know the risks your company faces and can manage them, you reduce the impact of security-related incidents. That means you can recover faster and get back to work sooner.

7 Benefits of Cloud Security Risk Assessments

Cloud security risk assessments provide lots of benefits. They can help you:

  • Improve cloud security posture. Understanding the ins and outs of a cloud-based system helps organizations plan better. For example, they can modify their security budget or improve their risk management strategy based on the results.
  • Uncover security vulnerabilities. Cloud security assessments pinpoint weak spots. This includes misconfigurations, access control issues, and missing multi-factor authentications (MFAs). Once identified, organizations can fix the issues and avoid security breaches.
  • Develop a more secure multi-cloud environment. Most organizations use multiple cloud platforms. Usually, this involves private or public clouds or a combination of both. This is ideal from a financial and agility perspective. But every extra layer in a cloud environment introduces potential risks. A cloud security assessment is essential in identifying these cross-cloud threats.
  • Achieve compliance with industry standards and regulatory bodies. Ensuring compliance with GDPR, PCI-DSS, and HIPAA helps protect organizations from millions of dollars of potential fines.
  • Manage your reputation. A sensitive data leak or other cloud security incident damages a company’s reputation. Think of companies like Target, Facebook, and LinkedIn. All have faced backlash after security breaches. Conducting cloud security assessments shows that organizations value customer and stakeholder privacy.
  • Detect past threats. A cloud security assessment looks for things that might be wrong with the way your cloud system is set up. It can also help you find out if there have been any past security problems. By doing this, you can see if someone has tried to tamper with the security of your cloud system in the past, which could signal a bigger problem.
  • Increase efficiency. Cloud security assessments show you which security measures are working and which aren’t. By getting rid of security tools that aren’t needed, employees have more time to work on other tasks.
  • Cost savings. The most compelling reason to run a cloud security assessment is that it helps save money. Cost savings come from eliminating unnecessary security measures and from missed work time due to breaches.

What Risks Do Cloud Security Assessments Look For?

Cloud security assessments focus on six areas to identify security vulnerabilities in your cloud infrastructure: overall security posture, access control and management, incident management, data protection, network security, and risk management and compliance.

Some specific risks cloud security assessments look for include:

Cloud Misconfigurations

Misconfigurations are one of the most common threats to overall security posture. In fact, McAfee’s enterprise security study found that enterprises experience 3,500 security incidents per month because of misconfigurations.

From improperly stored passwords to insecure automated backups, misconfiguration issues are everywhere. Because they’re so common, fixing this issue alone can reduce the risk of a security breach by up to 80%, according to Gartner.

Access Control and Management Problems

This assessment also highlights ineffective access control and management. One way it does this is by identifying excessive network permissions. Without the proper guardrails (like data segmentation) in place, an organization’s attack surface is greater. Plus, its data is at risk from internal and external threats.

If an employee has too much access to a company’s network, they might accidentally delete or change important information. This could cause unintended system problems. Additionally, if hackers get access to the company’s network, they could easily steal important data.

Cloud security assessments also look at credentials as part of user account management. A system that uses only static credentials for users or cloud workloads is a system at risk. Without multifactor authentication (MFA) in place, hackers can gain access to your system and expose your data.

Improper Incident Management and Logging

When it comes to incident management, a cloud security assessment can reveal insufficient or improper logging — problems that make detecting malicious activities more difficult. Left unchecked, the damage is more severe, making recovery more time-consuming and expensive.

Insufficient Data and Network Security

Data protection and network security go hand in hand. Without proper network controls in place (for example firewalls and intrusion detection), data in the cloud is vulnerable to attack. A cloud security assessment can identify gaps in both areas.

Based on the results of a cloud security assessment, a company can make a risk management plan to help them react as quickly and effectively as possible in the event of an attack.

The last aspect of cloud security the assessment looks at is compliance with industry standards.

7 Steps To Perform a Cloud Security Assessment

The main components of cloud security assessments include: Identifying your cloud-based assets, discovering vulnerabilities through testing, generating recommendations, and retesting once the issues have been addressed.

The steps to performing a cloud security assessment are as follows:

Step One: Define the project

Get a picture of your cloud environment. Look at your cloud service providers (CSPs), third-party apps, and current security tools. First, decide which parts of your system will be evaluated. Next, look at the type of data you’re handling or storing. Then consider the regulations your business must follow.

Step Two: Identify potential threats

Look at both internal and external threats to your cloud-based system. This could include endpoint security, misconfigurations, access control issues, data breaches, and more. Then figure out how likely each type of attack is. Finally, determine what impact each attack would have on your business operations.

Step Three: Examine your current security system

Look for vulnerabilities in your existing cloud security. In particular, pay attention to access controls, encryption, and network security.

Step Four: Test

Penetration testing, port scanners, and vulnerability scanners are used to find weaknesses in your cloud environment that were missed during the original risk assessment.

Step Five: Analyze

Look at the results and determine which weaknesses need immediate attention. Deal with the issues that will have the biggest impact on your business first. Then, focus on the issues most likely to occur. Finish by handling lower-priority threats.

Step Six: Develop an action plan

Come up with a time-bound remediation plan. This plan should spell out how your organization will deal with each security vulnerability. Assign roles and responsibilities as part of your incident response program.

Depending on the results, this could include updating firewalls, monitoring traffic logs, and limiting access control.

Step Seven: Maintain

Cloud security assessments can be done as a one-off, but it’s much better to monitor your systems regularly. Frequent monitoring improves your organization’s threat intelligence. It also helps you identify and respond to new threats in real time.

Getting Help With Your Cloud Security Assessment

Cloud security assessment tools are used to identify vulnerabilities in a cloud infrastructure which could lead to data loss or compromise by attackers.

As an agentless cloud security posture management (CSPM) tool, Prevasio helps identify and fix security threats across all your cloud assets in minutes.

Our deep cloud scan checks for security weaknesses, malware, and compliance. This helps ensure that your company’s cloud environment is protected against potential risks.

But any CSPM can do that.

Prevasio is the only solution that provides container security dynamic behavior analysis. Our technology spots hidden backdoors in your container environments. It also identifies supply chain attack risks.

Paired with our container security static analysis for vulnerabilities and malware, your containers will never be safer.

Our CSPM works across multi-cloud, multi-accounts, cloud-native services, and cloud assets.  Whether you’re using Microsoft Azure, S3 buckets in AWS, or Cosmos DB in GCP, Prevasio is the security system your company has been looking for.

But we do more than identify security threats. We increase your team’s efficiency. How? By providing a prioritized list of cloud risks ranked according to CIS benchmarks

That means no more uncertainty about what needs to get done. Our easy-to-understand results help your team concentrate on the most important things. This saves time and money by reducing the need for extra administrative work.

A Final Word on Cloud Security Assessments

Performing regular cloud security assessments helps your business spot security issues before they become major problems. When you reinforce your security controls and define your incident response plan, you make your organization more efficient. Plus, you keep things going even when issues arise. Put together, these proactive measures can save you money. Sign up today and see how Prevasio can help your team!

FAQs About Cloud Security Assessments

What are the four areas of cloud security?

The four pillars of cloud security are data availability, data confidentiality, data integrity, and regulatory compliance.

What is included in a security assessment?

Cloud security assessments include: Identifying your cloud-based assets, discovering vulnerabilities through testing, generating recommendations, and retesting once the issues have been addressed.

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