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You don’t have to be mature in order to be more secure – cloud, maturity, and micro-segmentation

Whether you’ve transitioned to the cloud, are still using on-prem servers, or are operating on a hybrid system, you need security services that are up to the task of protecting all your assets. Naturally, you want the best protection for your business assets. In the cybersecurity world, it’s generally agreed that micro-segmentation is the foundation for truly powerful, flexible, and complete cloud network security. The trouble is that conventional wisdom might tell you that you aren’t yet ready for it.

If you are using a public cloud or VMware NSX-V, you already have a limited set of basic micro-segmentation capabilities built-in with your cloud infrastructure, using security groups and DFW (NSX-V). But security requirements, the way that you have built your network, or your use of multiple vendors require more than a limited set of basic capabilities.

The greatest security benefits can be accessed by enterprises that can unleash the full potential of micro-segmentation beyond layers 3 and 4 of the OSI model, and use application-aware micro-segmentation. Generally, your cloud security choices will be based on the cloud maturity level of your organization. It’s assumed that enterprises that aren’t yet fully mature, according to typical cloud maturity models, won’t have the resources to implement the most advanced cloud security solutions.

But what if that’s not the case? Perhaps a different way of thinking about organizational maturity would show that you can enjoy at least some of the benefits of advanced cloud security systems. Take a closer look at a different way to assess your enterprise’s maturity.

A different way to think about your organizational maturity

Larger organizations already have a solid understanding of their maturity. They constantly monitor and reevaluate their maturity profile, so as to make the best decisions about cloud services and cloud security options. We like to compare an organization learning about the best cloud security services to people who are learning to ski.

When an adult learns how to ski, they’ll begin by buying ski equipment and signing up for ski lessons. Then they’ll spend some time learning how to use their skis and getting used to the feeling of wearing them, before they’re taught to actually ski. It could take a few lessons until an adult skis downhill. If they don’t have strong core muscles and a good sense of balance, they are likely to be sent away to improve their general fitness before trying something new. But when a child learns how to ski, they usually learn much faster than an adult, without taking as long to adjust to the new movements.

Just like an adult needs to be strong enough to learn to ski, an organization needs to be strong enough to implement cloud security services. While adults check their fitness with exercises and tests, organizations check their fitness using cloud maturity models. But typical cloud maturity models might not give an accurate picture of your maturity profile. They usually use 4, 5, or 6 levels of maturity to evaluate your organization in a number of different areas. If your enterprise hasn’t reached a particular level in enough areas, you’ll have to build up your maturity before you can implement an advanced cloud security solution.

At Guardicore, we take a different approach. We developed a solution that yields high security dividends, even if the security capabilities of your organization are not fully mature.

Assessing the maturity of ‘immature’ organizations

Most cloud security providers assume that a newer enterprise doesn’t have the maturity to use advanced cloud security systems. But we view newer enterprises like children who learn to ski. Children have less fear and more flexibility than an adult. They don’t worry about falling, and when they do fall, they simply get up and carry on. The consequences of falling can be a lot more serious for adults. In the same way, newer enterprises can be more agile, less risk-averse, and more able to try something new than an older enterprise that appears to be more mature.

Newer organizations often have these advantages:

  • Fewer silos between departments
  • Better visibility into a less complex environment
  • A much higher tolerance for risk that enables them to test new cloud services and structures, due to a lower investment in existing architecture and processes
  • A more agile and streamlined environment
  • A lighter burden of inherited infrastructure
  • A more unified environment that isn’t weakened by a patchwork of legacy items

While a newer enterprise might not be ready to run a full package of advanced cloud security solutions, it could be agile enough to implement many or most of the security features while it continues to mature. Guardicore allows young organizations to leapfrog the functions that they aren’t yet ready for, while still taking advantage of the superior protection offered by micro-segmentation. Like a child learning to ski, we’ll help you enjoy the blue runs sooner, even if you can’t yet head off-piste.

Organizational maturity in ‘mature’ organizations

Although an older, longer-established organization might seem more cloud mature, it may not be ready for advanced cloud security systems. Many older enterprises aren’t even sure what is within their own ecosystem. They face data silos, duplicate workflows, and cumbersome business processes. Factors holding them back can include:

  • Inefficient workflows
  • Long-winded work processes
  • Strange and divisive infrastructure
  • Awkward legacy environments
  • Business information that is siloed in various departments
  • Complex architectures

Here, Guardicore Centra will be instrumental in bridging the immaturity gap: It provides deep visibility through clear visualization of the entire environment, even those parts that are siloed. Guardicore Centra delivers benefits for multiple teams, and its policy engine supports (almost) any kind of organizational security policy.

What’s more, Guardicore supports phased deployment. It is not an all-or-nothing solution. An organization that can’t yet run a full set of advanced cloud security services still needs the best protection it can get for its business environment. In these situations, Guardicore helps implement only those features that your organization is ready for, while making alternative security arrangements for the rest of your enterprise. By taking it slowly, you can grow into your cloud capabilities and gradually implement the full functionality of micro-segmentation.

Flexible cloud security solutions for every organization

Guardicore’s advanced cloud security solutions provide the highest level of protection for your critical business assets. They are flexible enough to handle legacy infrastructure and complex environments, while allowing for varying levels of cloud maturity.

Whether you are a ‘young’ organization that’s not seen as cloud-mature, or an older enterprise struggling with organizational immaturity, Guardicore can help you to get your skis on. As long as you have a realistic understanding of your organization’s requirements and capabilities, you can apply the right Guardicore security solution to your business and enjoy superior protection without breaking a leg.

The Cloud Security Issues You Don’t Want to Ignore on AWS

According to Gartner, through 2022, 95% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. Using the cloud securely on AWS means building a cloud security strategy that faces the challenges head on, with a full understanding of the shared responsibility model and its blind spots.

Securing Containers in AWS

One of the biggest issues when using AWS is securing the container network. This is due to the lack of context that the VPC has for any overlay network running on top. Amazon Security Groups can apply security policies to each cluster, but are unable to do this with individual pods, making this technology insufficient. When your business is attempting to troubleshoot or to gain better visibility into communications, insight will stop at the traffic between the hosts in the cluster rather than the pods resulting in security blind-spots.

As a result, you need two solutions to control your cloud hosted network. One handles your VM policies, while another governs your containers. As such, creating network policies for a single application that includes both containers and VMs requires using separate solutions.Your business now has two sets of controls to manage, with all the maintenance and administration that comes with it. This adds complexity and risk, when your move to the cloud was probably meant to make your infrastructure and security easier, not more complicated.

Lack of visibility in AWS

62% of IT decision makers at large enterprises believe that their on-premises security is stronger than their cloud security. On premises, these security experts feel that they have control over their IT environment and the data and communications within, and by moving to the cloud, they lose that control and visibility.

With smart micro-segmentation, this doesn’t have to be the case. Going further than AWS security groups, Guardicore Centra provides enhanced visibility, automatically discovering all applications and flows down to process level (Layer 7). It includes an AWS API that can pull orchestration data and labels to get valuable context for application mapping, and allows you to baseline your infrastructure in an intelligent and informed way, understanding how your applications behave and communicate, which in turn enables detecting and alerting on changes. As the Centra solution works across multiple cloud vendors, businesses can use it to gain visibility and apply policy controls across a heterogeneous environment without being tied to any one cloud vendor or infrastructure.

Application-Aware Policy Creation and Control

On premises, companies are used to being able to utilize NGFWs (Next-Gen Firewalls) to protect and segment applications. In the cloud, AWS doesn’t provide the same functionality. Segmenting applications can be done using AWS security groups in a restricted manner, only supporting controlling traffic down to Layer 4, ports and IPs. With Centra, you can benefit from application-aware security policies that work with dynamic AWS applications down to process level. Rather than manage two or more sets of controls, Centra works across any infrastructure, including multi-cloud and hybrid data centers or multiple IaaS providers, physical servers on premises, containers and microservices. As the policy follows the workload, enterprises can enjoy dynamic flexibility without compromising security.

One solution across all of these environments promotes an atmosphere of simplicity in your data centers, with smart labeling and grouping that provides one ‘single pane of glass’ view into the most complex of infrastructures. Your staff have easy navigation and insight into problems when they occur, and can define segmentation policy in a matter of minutes, rather than relying on trial and error.

Navigating the Blind Spots to Securely Benefit from AWS

Using AWS securely means understanding that it is your role as the customer to stay on top of securing customer data, as well as platform, application, identity and access management, and any OS, network or firewall configuration. Cloud users need to be prepared to go above and beyond to ensure that their workloads are safe, especially when working across multi or hybrid-cloud environments.

When implemented correctly, micro-segmentation offers a simple way to secure a hybrid environment, including solving the unique challenges of containers on AWS and providing the ability to create dynamic application policies down to process level. We believe the best solutions start with foundational visibility, automatically discovering all network flows and dependencies. This allows your business to take advantage of the latest technological advancements without increasing risk or complexity for your security teams.

AWS Security Best Practices

AWS is the biggest player in the public IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) market and a critical component of the hybrid-cloud infrastructure in many enterprises. Understanding how to secure AWS resources and minimize the impact of any breaches that do occur has become more important than ever. For this reason, after closing 2018 with Infection Monkey & GuardiCore Centra’s integration into AWS Security Hub, we decided to open 2019 with a crash course on AWS security best practices.

In this piece, we’ll dive into some of the basics of AWS security, provide some tips to help you get started, and supply you with information on where you can learn more.

#1 AWS security best practice: Get familiar with the AWS shared responsibility model

Understanding the AWS security paradigm at a high level is an important part of getting started securing your AWS infrastructure. AWS uses the shared responsibility model to define who is responsible for securing what in the world of AWS. To help conceptualize the model, the public cloud infrastructure giant has come up with succinct verbiage to describe what they are responsible for and what you (the customer) are responsible for. In short:

AWS is responsible for “security of the cloud”- This means select software, hardware, and global infrastructure (think racks in physical data centers, hypervisors, switches, routers, storage, etc.) are AWS’s responsibility to secure.

Customers are responsible “for security in the cloud”- This means customers are responsible for ensuring things like customer data, applications, operating systems, firewalls, authentication, access management, etc.

Worded differently, AWS gives you the public cloud infrastructure to build upon, but it’s up to you to do so responsibly. It is expected that not everything you need will be baked into any given AWS solution. Third-party security tools like Centra can help fill those gaps. Understanding the shared responsibility model and what tools can help will allow you to ensure you’re doing your part to secure your infrastructure.

#2 AWS security best practice: Use IAM wisely

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a means of managing access to AWS resources and services, and is built-into AWS accounts. In a nutshell, IAM enables you to configure granular permissions and access rights for users, groups, and roles. Here are a few useful high-level recommendations to help you get started with IAM:

  • Grant least privilege – The principle of least privilege is a popular concept in the world of InfoSec and it is even more important to adhere to in the cloud. Only grant users and services the privileges necessary for the given set of tasks they should be legitimately responsible for, and nothing more.
  • Use IAM groups – Using groups to assign permissions to users significantly simplifies and streamlines access management.
  • Regularly rotate credentials – Enforcing expiration dates on credentials helps ensure that if a given set of credentials is compromised, there is a limited window for an attacker to access your infrastructure.
  • Limit use of root – Avoid using the Linux “root” user. Being conservative with your use of root access helps keep your infrastructure secure.
  • Use MFA – Multi-factor authentication (MFA) should be considered a must for users with high-level privileges.

#3 AWS security best practice: Disable SSH password authentication

If you’re familiar with Linux server administration in general, you’re likely familiar with the benefits of SSH keys over passwords. If you’re not, the short version is:

  • SSH keys are less susceptible to brute force attacks than passwords.
  • To compromise SSH public-key authentication used with a passphrase, an attacker would need to obtain the SSH private-key AND determine (or guess) the passphrase.
  • While SSH keys may require a little more work when it comes to key management, the pros far outweigh the cons from a security perspective.

#4 AWS security best practice: Use security groups

First, to clear up a common misconception: AWS security groups are NOT user groups or IAM groups. An AWS security group is effectively a virtual firewall. If you’re comfortable understanding the benefits of a firewall within a traditional network infrastructure, conceptualizing the benefits of AWS security groups will be intuitive.

AWS security group best practices

Now that we’ve clarified what a security group is, we’ll dive into a few AWS security group best practices to help you get started using them.

    • Minimize open ports – Unless there is a highly compelling argument to do so, only allow access to required ports on any given instance. For example, if you’re running a cluster of instances for a web-server, access to TCP ports 80 and 443 makes sense (and maybe 22 for SSH), but opening other ports is an unnecessary risk.
    • Don’t expose database ports to the Internet – In most cases, there is no need to expose the database to the Internet – doing so puts your infrastructure at risk. Use security group policies to restrict database port (e.g. TCP 3306 for MySQL) access to other specific AWS security groups.
    • Regularly audit your security group policies – Requirements change, rules that were once needed become liabilities, and people make mistakes. Regularly auditing your security rules for relevance and proper configuration help you minimize the likelihood that an outdated or misconfigured security group creates a network breach.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AWS security group best practices. For more information, check out the AWS Security Groups User Guide and our Strategies for Protecting Cloud Workloads with Shared Security Models whitepaper.

#5 AWS security best practice: Leverage micro-segmentation

One of the most important components of securing public-cloud infrastructure, particularly in hybrid-cloud environments, is micro-segmentation. Micro-segmentation helps limit both north-south and east-west movement of breaches when they occur, which helps mitigate the spread of threats from one node to another. Further, Guardicore’s intelligent micro-segmentation solution can limit one of the biggest drivers of breach impact: dwell time. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this blog post for a crash course on micro-segmentation best practices.

How micro-segmentation complements AWS security groups

Security groups are an important part of AWS security, and micro-segmentation is excellent way to complement them and round out a hybrid-cloud security plan. A micro-segmentation solution like Guardicore Centra helps ensure you are able to implement micro-segmentation seamlessly both on-premises and in the cloud. Specific benefits of using Centra to complement AWS security groups include:

  • Enhanced visibility – Centra is able to automatically discover applications and flows, use its AWS API integration to pull labels and asset information, and provide granular visibility and baselining for your entire infrastructure.
  • Application aware policies- Next Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) are a big part of on-premises security, and Centra helps bring the same features to your AWS cloud. You wouldn’t compromise on application-aware security in a physical datacenter, and with Centra you don’t have to in the cloud either.
  • Protection across multiple cloud platforms & on-prem- It is common for the modern enterprise to have workloads scattered across multiple cloud service providers as well as physical servers on-premises. Centra is able to provide micro-segmentation for workloads running in AWS, other IaaS providers, and on physical servers in corporate offices and data centers. This helps enterprises ensure that their security is robust across the entirety of their infrastructure.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Centra for AWS, check out this solution brief (PDF).

Putting it all together: a holistic approach to AWS security

As we have seen, there is no single magic bullet when it comes to securing your AWS infrastructure. Understanding the AWS shared responsibility model enables you to know where to focus your attention, and leveraging built-in AWS features like security groups and IAM are a great start. However, there are still gaps left unaccounted for by AWS tools, and 3rd party solutions are needed to address them. Guardicore Centra provides users with micro-segmentation, breach detection & response, and application-level visibility that help round out a holistic approach to AWS security.

Want to learn more?

For more on how Guardicore Centra and micro-segmentation can help you keep your AWS resources secure,  contact us today or sign up for a demo of the Centra Security Platform.

Interested in cloud security for hybrid environments? Get our white paper about protecting cloud workloads with shared security models.

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Guardicore Integrates with AWS Security Hub

Today at re:Invent, Amazon revealed the AWS Security Hub, a security service that provides AWS cloud customers with a comprehensive view of their security state within AWS. Guardicore has worked with AWS over the past weeks to provide support and integration to this service. While AWS provides some built-in security capabilities, customers require additional capabilities that can only be provided by third-party companies like Guardicore.

Both Guardicore Centra and Infection Monkey now integrate with the AWS Security Hub. This integration provides a lot of value to customers. Early feedback is extremely positive and AWS customers would find it interesting to test both integrations:

GuardiCore Centra Integration with AWS Security Hub

GuardiCore Centra, our flagship product, secures any cloud-private or public. Security Incidents will be forwarded to the AWS Security Hub and can be managed through the console or consumed by other security products.

Infection Monkey Integration with AWS Security Hub

The Infection Monkey is an open source Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) tool that assesses the resiliency of private and public cloud environments to post-breach attacks and lateral movement. Its integration with the AWS Security Hub allows anyone to verify and test the resilience of their AWS environment and correlate this information with the native security solutions and benchmark score.

Working on the integration was fun. Since both Centra and Infection Monkey have integration points and can run on AWS, adding reporting interfaces to the Security Hub was a straightforward task.

We believe that the AWS Security Hub represents a good approach, allowing for more shared security insights from more vendors in order to improve the overall security posture of your environment. It detects security findings and alerts generated by other AWS security services, other security solutions (like GuardiCore Centra and Infection Monkey) and aggregates those findings and alerts within each supported AWS region.

During the beta period the service provided integration with Amazon GuardDuty, Amazon Inspector, and Amazon Macie and added new capabilities by running CIS benchmark check for AWS workloads. We are looking forward to your feedback. Tell us- what do you think about the integration?

What is Micro-Segmentation?

Micro-segmentation is an emerging security best practice that offers a number of advantages over more established approaches like network segmentation and application segmentation. The added granularity that micro-segmentation offers is essential at a time when many organizations are adopting cloud services and new deployment options like containers that make traditional perimeter security less relevant.

Micro-Segmentation Methods

The best way for organizations to get started with micro-segmentation is to identify the methods that best align with their security and policy objectives, start with focused policies, and gradually layer additional micro-segmentation techniques over time through step-by-step iteration.

Harness the Benefits of Micro-Segmentation

One of the major benefits of micro-segmentation is that it provides shared visibility into the assets and activities in an environment without slowing development and innovation. Implementing micro-segmentation greatly reduces the attack surface in environments with a diverse set of deployment models and a high rate of change.

Time to Transform Data Centre Security?

Digital transformation is by its very definition redefining how data centres are designed and services managed and deployed. In fact, much like the long-maligned ‘perimeter’ security model many once datacentre-centric workloads are evaporating and re-forming as more agile and elastic cloud-based operational models.

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Security Features of the Hybrid Cloud (OpenStack and AWS)

Everyone knows about the many benefits of the cloud: it is infinitely scalable, developer-friendly, and easy to use. However, we often avoid addressing the reality that the cloud is not perfect. The truth is that, despite the cloud’s many merits, it presents a significant challenge from a security standpoint. Security concerns might make you hesitate to deploy your workloads in any cloud, be it public or private – and understandably so.

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GuardiCore Named Info Security Product Guide’s Gold Innovative Company of the Year in 14th Annual 2018 Global Excellence Awards

Also Wins Bronze in Cloud Security and Deception; Honored at Info Security Products Guide Awards Gala at RSA Conference 2018

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