Last updated at Fri, 12 May 2023 15:31:41 GMT

In January 2021, foreign trade marketing platform SocialArks was the target of a massive cyberattack. Security Magazine reported that the rapidly growing startup experienced a breach of over 214 million social media profiles and 400GB of data, exposing users' names, phone numbers, email addresses, subscription data, and other sensitive information across Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. According to Safety Detectives, the breach affected more than 318 million records in total, including those of high-profile influencers in the United States, China, the Netherlands, South Korea, and more.

The cause? A misconfigured database.

SocialArks’s Elasticsearch database contained scraped data from hundreds of millions of social media users from all around the world. The database was publicly exposed without password encryption or protection, meaning that any bad actor in possession of the company’s server IP address could easily access the private data.

What can tech companies learn from what happened to SocialArks?

One wrong misconfiguration can lead to major consequences — from reputational damage to revenue loss. As the cloud becomes increasingly pervasive and complex, tech companies know they must take advantage of innovative services to scale up. At the same time, DevOps and security teams must work together to ensure that they are using the cloud securely, from development to production.

Here are three ways to help empower your teams to take advantage of the many benefits of public cloud infrastructure without sacrificing security.

1. Improve visibility

Tech companies – probably more than those in any other industry – are keen to take advantage of the endless stream of new and innovative services coming from public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP. From more traditional cloud offerings like containers and databases to advanced machine learning, data analytics, and remote application delivery, developers at tech companies love to explore new cloud services as a means to spur innovation.

The challenge for security, of course, is that the sheer complexity of the average enterprise tech company’s cloud footprint is dizzying, not to mention the rapid rate of change. For example, a cloud environment with 10,000 compute instances can expect a daily churn of 20%, including auto-scaling groups, new and re-deployments of infrastructure and workloads, ongoing changes, and more. That means over the course of a year, security teams must monitor and apply guardrails to over 700,000 individual instances.

It’s easy for security (and operations) teams to wind up without unified visibility into what cloud services their development teams are using at any given point in time. Without a purpose-built multicloud security solution in place, there’s just no way to continuously monitor cloud and container services and maintain insight into potential risks.

It is entirely possible, however, to gain visibility. More than that, it’s necessary if you want to continue to scale. In the cloud world, the old security adage applies: You can’t secure what you can’t see. Total visibility into all cloud resources can help security teams quickly detect changes that could open the organization up to risk. With visibility in place, you can more readily assess risks, identify and remediate issues, and ensure continuous compliance with relevant regulations.

2. Create a culture of security

No one wants their DevOps and security teams to be working in opposition, especially in a rapid growth period. When you uphold DevSecOps principles, you eliminate the friction between DevOps and security professionals. There’s no need to “circle back” after an initial release or “push pause” on a scheduled deployment when securing the cloud throughout the CI/CD pipeline is just part of how the business operates. A culture that values security is vital when it comes to rapid scaling. You can’t rely on each individual to “do the right thing,” so you’re much better off building security into your culture on a deep level.

When it comes to timing your culture shift, all signs point to now. Fortune notes that while the pandemic-era adoption of hybrid work provides unprecedented flexibility and accessibility, it also can create a “nightmare scenario” with “hundreds (or thousands) of new vectors through which malicious actors can gain a foothold in your network.” Gartner reports that cloud security saw the largest spending increase of all other information security and risk management segments in 2021, ticking up by 41%. Yet, a survey by Cloud Security Alliance revealed that 76% of professionals polled fear that the risk of cloud misconfigurations will stay the same or increase.

Given these numbers, encouraging a culture of security is a present necessity, not a future concern. But how do you know when you’ve successfully created one?

The answer: When all parts of your team see cybersecurity as just another part of their job.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Creating a culture of security requires processes that provide context and early feedback to developers, meaning that command and control is no longer security’s fallback position. Instead, collaboration should be the name of the game. Making security easy is what bridges the historical cultural divide between security and DevOps.

The utopia version of DevSecOps promises seamless collaboration – but each team has plenty on their own plates to worry about. How can tech companies foster a culture of security while optimizing their existing resources and workflows?

3. Focus on security by design

TrendMicro reports that simple cloud infrastructure misconfigurations account for 65% to 70% of all cloud security challenges. The Ponemon Institute and IBM found that the average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.24 million – the highest average cost ever recorded in the report’s 17-year history. That same report found that organizations with more mature cloud security practices were able to contain breaches on average 77 days faster than those with less mature strategies.

Security professionals are human, too. They can only be in so many places at once. With talent already scarce, you want your security team to focus on creating new strategies, without getting bogged down by simple fixes.

That’s why integrating security measures into the dev cycle framework can help you move towards achieving that balance between speed and security. Embedding checks within the development process is one way to empower early detection, saving your team’s time and resources.

This approach helps catch problems like policy violations or misconfigurations without sacrificing the speed that developers love or the safety that security professionals need. Plus, building security into your development processes will empower your dev teams to correct issues right away as they’re alerted, making that last deployment the breath of relief it should be.

When you integrate security and compliance checks early in the dev lifecycle, you can prevent the majority of vulnerabilities from cropping up in the first place — meaning your dev and sec teams can rest easy knowing that their infrastructure as code (IaC) templates are secure from the beginning.

How to get started: Empower secure development

Get your developers implementing security without having to onboard them to an entirely new role. By integrating and automating security checks into the workflows and tools your DevOps teams already know and love, you empower them to prioritize both speed and security.

Taking on even one of the three strategies described above can be intimidating. We suggest getting started by focusing on actionable steps, which we cover in depth in our eBook below.

Scaling securely is possible. Want to learn more? Read up on 6 Strategies to Empower Secure Innovation at Enterprise Tech Companies to tackle the unique cloud security challenges facing the tech industry.

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