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Simplifying and Securing Hybrid Clouds

The Challenge: Convoluted Cloud Environments

President Joe Biden’s executive order (EO) on cybersecurity suggests the cloud will play a pivotal role in the federal government’s future; it urges agencies to maximize the technology’s flexibility and scalability rapidly and securely.

But what can happen if agencies embrace the cloud too rapidly? The answer is haphazard and insecure IT environments. These environments often occur when agencies combine on-premises and cloud-based IT in a hybrid model.

“Complexity is the enemy of security,” said Wayne Lloyd, Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at RedSeal, a cloud security provider. “It is hard to defend something when you don’t know what you’re defending.”

Take resources like apps. The good news is that hybrid environments can help agencies leverage more of these commodities, whether they are legacy or modern. The bad news is that hybrid environments can be convoluted and difficult to secure.

The plot only thickens with public- and private-cloud hybrids. Public clouds host multiple organizations, while private clouds serve one entity. Unfortunately, implementing hybrid clouds often requires agencies to partner with multiple vendors. Every cloud has unique characteristics, so managing and protecting the final hybrid environment can challenge any agency.

“Your people are going to be hard-pressed for some time to find a well-rounded cloud security team that understands all these environments,” Lloyd said.

The more IT agencies have, the harder their hybrid cloud environments can be to govern. Rising amounts of IT can mean rising compliance and security requirements. More IT frequently equals more cybersecurity vulnerabilities to manage and incidents to address. Agencies with larger hybrid cloud environments can have more on-premises IT exposed to the internet.

“If agencies don’t know the cloud vendor’s solution and all the tools it has, it can be difficult to track things down,” Lloyd said of visibility into hybrid cloud environments.

The Solution: Network Visibility

For many agencies, securing hybrid cloud environments is like reading an entire phone book. At these agencies, finding potential security flaws is taxing and time-consuming. When employees must scour sprawling on-premises and cloud-based IT, the experience can resemble reading hundreds of phone book pages. In this scenario, finding security gaps like unpatched software can take days.

Network visibility can help agencies view every part of their hybrid cloud environments by mixing the right activities and tools together in one platform. Even better, agencies with network visibility can continuously monitor what is in their hybrid cloud environments, what these assets are connected to and the risks associated with them. Perhaps best of all, network visibility can help agencies identify and address cybersecurity gaps, incidents and requirements faster.

“You see the picture and say, ‘Wait a minute, that doesn’t look right,’” Lloyd said. “Humans are much better at picking an anomaly out of a picture than reading phone books of text.”

Network visibility can also launch agencies toward two valuable cybersecurity tools: automation and zero trust security. Automation involves machines performing processes with little to no human involvement; zero trust security is the principle that anything on IT networks is immediately untrustworthy and requires constant verification. Working together, automation, network visibility and zero trust security can dramatically improve agencies’ security.

“It’s a force multiplier,” Lloyd said. “The analysts don’t have to chug through that remedial data analysis.”

Using automated network visibility, agencies can wield zero-trust security like a spotlight agencywide. Gradually, this strategy enables agencies to correct security events, holes and compliance missteps sooner and more affordably.

“There are always unknowns when networks grow and change while agencies grow and change,” Lloyd said. “With a visibility platform, you can put in these rules.”

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s report, “How to Improve Security and Workflows With Network Visibility.” Download the full report here.

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