Last updated at Wed, 20 Jul 2022 15:00:00 GMT

The cloud giveth, and the cloud taketh away. It giveth development teams the speed and scale to get applications into production and deployment faster than ever; it taketh away security teams' comfort that they know exactly what's going on in their environment.

Much has been said about the inherently slippery and hard-to-pin-down nature of the cloud in recent months — who thought the word "ephemeral" would appear in as much technology content as it has in 2022? The conversation has grown more critical as high-impact open-source vulnerabilities have proliferated just as fast as multi-cloud architectures have become the standard operating model in IT.

In this context, achieving cross-environment visibility — i.e., the very thing the cloud makes difficult — has become more critical than ever. While it may seem like an uphill battle, one we're fighting against the very nature of the cloud, there are some strategies that can help in the effort. Here are four ways to put visibility at the center of your cloud security approach and understand what's going on in your environment with greater clarity.

1. Take an inventory

Multi-cloud environments are now the dominant model, with 89% of organizations using this approach. As distributed architectures become the norm and the number of cloud providers in play at any given organization continues to climb, it becomes difficult to understand exactly what services are in use at any given time. This is where the problem of cloud visibility really starts — "What services are actually in our environment?" becomes a complex question to answer.

Parting the clouds of confusion and gaining visibility begins with getting a complete asset inventory, so you can understand what components are in your environment and clearly evaluate the risk associated with them.

That's why it's critical that your cloud security solution can provide a single, standardized asset inventory across all cloud service providers. This capability provides the foundation for many of the subsequent steps that help promote visibility for security teams, including consolidating policy management and spotting cloud misconfigurations.

2. Monitor from one vantage point, not many

With a cohesive inventory of all cloud assets in place, the next step is to monitor the environment — and as you might have guessed, monitoring from a centralized hub is another key way to promote big-picture visibility. But with multiple cloud providers and SaaS solutions, each with their own data and dashboards, actually achieving that consolidated view is easier said than done.

A cloud security tool that provides centralized monitoring can let you see the full picture of activity across a multi-cloud environment. This level of clarity will help you evaluate risks not just at the level of an individual cloud service but holistically, in the environment as a whole. And with developers working in a variety of platforms to innovate and iterate as quickly as possible, centralized monitoring also helps you quickly identify and remediate any issues that arise during development, such as unwanted configurations or compliance issues.

3. Prioritize risks through analytics

Alert fatigue is one of the biggest contributors to the noisiness that inundates security teams. Security operations center (SOC) analysts know this all too well when they're faced with huge volumes of alerts from a security incident and event management (SIEM) solution. Especially when there's a continued shortage of cybersecurity talent, there just aren't enough hours in the day to chase down every alert.

A similar effect can take hold when monitoring cloud environments for risks and vulnerabilities. With increased complexity thanks to a growing number of services and a multitude of endpoints, how do you know what risks to prioritize and tackle first?

Analytics can help shed light on this often-cloudy picture, utilizing algorithms to set a baseline for "normal" activity, spot anomalies, and prioritize them based on severity. It's one way to gain context into the data without actually being able to get the whole story as quickly as you need it. Some cloud security solutions provide these insights through integrations with cloud service provider (CSP) tools like Amazon GuardDuty, which continuously monitors for malicious activity in AWS environments.

4. Embrace automation

The first three steps are all about how security teams can collect and interpret data to more fully understand their cloud environments — but data is only as good as what you do with it. That's where automation comes in: It helps standardize the remediation steps that occur after a security risk is identified.

Automation is often thought of as a means to increase speed and efficiency — and that's certainly true. Being able to automatically set specific remediation actions in motion when a threat is detected can help reduce the time and effort it takes to mitigate the issue and reduce its potential impact. But automation can also be a key toward improving visibility.

When you're looking back at a now-resolved security issue, understanding the timeline and sequence of events often becomes a hazy picture, especially when your team is working with increased urgency and speed. If you've set up automated actions as a standardized part of the remediation process, you won't need to ask as many questions about what mitigation steps were taken, when, and who authorized them. There will surely be a large human element involved in mitigating cloud security issues, but automation can help provide structure and repeatability to the effort, streamlining the effort and reducing the number of places where confusion can creep in.

How are you handling cloud visibility challenges?

How to secure cloud environments effectively is an ongoing, dynamic conversation, and new difficulties surely lie ahead — but when security practitioners face challenges, they tend (rightly) to turn to their best and most reliable resource: each other.

What kinds of challenges is your team facing when it comes to achieving visibility in the cloud? Come chat with us at AWS re:Inforce on July 26-27, 2022 — we want to hear how you're tackling these issues as you work toward fully cloud-native security.