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How to implement enterprise-to-cloud security

Security used to be agencies’  top concern when deciding whether or not to move their data and applications to the cloud. That’s no longer the case, and in many ways the cloud itself is increasingly considered more secure than services delivered through enterprises’ own on-premise data centers. How to implement enterprise-to-cloud security, however, is still an issue.

That’s prompted the rise in the past few years of the cloud access security broker (CASB), a term created by market researcher Gartner to describe on-premises tools placed between cloud service providers and users that enforce an enterprise’s security policies.

The Center for Internet Security recently partnered with Skyhigh Networks to provide state, local and tribal governments with a pre-vetted CASB solution. CIS, a non-profit organization, offers cybersecurity advice and services to both private and public entities, but it has been particularly active with government. It runs the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-IAC), and its set of 20 critical security controls has been recommended for government use by the National Governors Association.

Skyhigh last year also became the first CASB to get a stamp of approval from the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. Unlike the federal government, which mandates agencies to use FedRAMP-certified cloud services, state and local agencies are not required to use CIS-vetted solutions.

Without a CASB, said Jon Fyffe, Skyhigh’s director of U.S. state, local and education programs, agencies must make most of their own arrangements to ensure the cloud services they use are secure and that their data is safe. With a CASB, they can be more confident about adopting those services.

“Most [chief information security officers] will now only consider cloud services if the kind of controls that a CASB provides are being applied,” Fyffe said.

In a recent report, Gartner said the features provided through pure-play CASB platforms for a wider set of cloud services are “far outpacing the features delivered by cloud service providers, as well as by other vendors that offer a subset of CASB features as an extension of their existing security technologies.”

Those CASB platforms were “born in the cloud,” Gartner said, and so have a deeper understanding of the users, devices, applications and data needs than other kinds of incidental CASB offerings.

As well as broad enterprise policy enforcement, CASB users are finding the tools useful for solving specific problems that increase the risk of security breaches. Shadow IT, for example, where users download applications or subscribe to services that haven’t been sanctioned by the IT department, is rampant in most private and public enterprises. That opens the door to all manner of malware and other attacks.

It’s a pernicious problem that most security professionals, even if they suspect Shadow IT in their enterprises, don’t fully appreciate.  In  Missouri, state CISO Michael Roling assumed Shadow IT was being used, but when Skyhigh’s granular probe turned up well over 2,500 unknown cloud services, he was taken aback.

“I was expecting the number to be high, but the results were a real eye-opener,” he said.

Even though agencies are interested in what providers like Skyhigh offer --  and know they need it --  the CASB market is still in a nascent stage, Fyffe acknowledged.  Once CISOs make sure CASB aligns with their enterprise needs, they can use it relatively easily. The biggest challenge is how to pay for it.

“CASB is not a recognized category yet, so governments and agencies have to find the dollars in their existing budgets,” he said. “We expect it to become a category they can budget for in a couple of years, however, and things should be much easier then.”

Gartner, in recognition of its potential, named CASB the top security technology of 2016 and has predicted that some 85 percent of large enterprises will be using a CASB solution for their cloud services by 2020, compared to just five percent in 2015.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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