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What Is Hybrid Cloud Security?

Hybrid Cloud Security Definition

Hybrid cloud security is the sum of the technologies and practices in place to protect an organization’s sensitive data, apps, and resources in a hybrid cloud environment that uses any combination of on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud platforms.

Effective hybrid cloud security models unify protection and strengthen security posture across complex cloud deployments, enabling security teams to manage security policies, permissions, and more from a single pane of glass.

Before we look at securing hybrid cloud infrastructure in more detail, let’s go over the nature of these environments in general.

Understanding Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid cloud models are characterized by orchestration between different platforms, allowing workloads to move between private and public clouds as computing needs and costs change. This gives organizations greater flexibility and more data deployment options because of the way their unique cloud offerings work.

Public cloud services from third parties like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud make resources such as storage and software as a service (SaaS) applications available remotely, either for free or through various pricing models. Public cloud providers are responsible for securing the infrastructure while customers are responsible for data security.

Private clouds are hosted on infrastructure accessible only to users in one particular organization. This can be third-party infrastructure or an organization’s own proprietary infrastructure (more often just called a data center). Private clouds offer organizations more control than public clouds, but they’re more expensive and harder to deploy.

Cloud data is often categorized by sensitivity, generally based on data type and relevant industry or government regulations. Less sensitive data is often stored in a public cloud, while highly sensitive data is stored in a private cloud.

Most enterprises will adopt a hybrid cloud strategy, as almost no company can afford to put everything in a public cloud or do everything itself.

David Smith, Distinguished VP Analyst and Gartner Fellow, Gartner

Security Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud Solution

Hybrid environments are secret weapons in the world of cloud computing, offering benefits like lower operational costs, better resource accessibility, options for scaling and deployment, and more. But what about cybersecurity? 

A hybrid cloud architecture can improve your organization’s security posture by helping you:

  • Manage your security risk: Having public and private storage options lets you lock down your most sensitive and/or highly regulated data in infrastructure under your control while saving on overhead by storing less sensitive data with a third party.
  • Avoid having a single point of failure: Like with any investment, there’s safety in diversifying. Storing your data across multiple clouds makes it far less likely that you’ll lose it all at once to ransomware or another malware attack.
  • Navigate international data governance: By taking advantage of a hybrid cloud, especially a multicloud environment hosted on different cloud service providers, your organization can more readily comply with privacy and sovereignty regulations like CCPA and GDPR.

When you have the right cloud setup for your organization, an effective hybrid cloud security solution can help you:

  • Reduce your attack surface: An improperly secured hybrid cloud gives attackers more ways to access your most sensitive data. Modern solutions like microsegmentation can help you close gaps without having to reconfigure your network.
  • Offer secure access to data and apps: Making specific resources more accessible is great, but exposing them to the internet is risky. With the right zero trust security solution, you can offer users direct access, still governed by your policy, without them ever touching your network.

Hybrid Cloud Security Challenges

Securing a hybrid environment is quite different from securing a traditional one, posing challenges especially for organizations with stringent regulatory requirements and/or more entrenched processes. Here are some common areas where you can expect to see issues surface:

Shared Security Responsibility
Make sure you understand what aspects of security fall to your providers and which fall to you. It’s important to ensure your providers can hold up their end of the deal and meet your compliance needs. Make business continuity plans part of any SLA to ensure the providers meet their uptime obligations, and have a disaster recovery plan in place to ensure your data and applications are protected.

Incident Handling
If an incident occurs within a cloud service provider's infrastructure, you'll need to work with them to resolve it. Other issues—such as potential commingling of data in multicloud environments, data privacy concerns that complicate log analysis, and how a provider defines an incident—can add to the challenge.

Application Security
Cloud apps can be exposed to a wide spectrum of security threats, and there are dozens of products built to solve individual pieces of the problem: software development life cycle security; authentication, compliance, app monitoring, risk management, and more. Managing all these individually is a massive logistical challenge, so you’ll want to look for an offering that combines as many of these functions as possible.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)
IAM is key to controlling access to resources, apps, data, and services. Its use changes significantly in the cloud, which often requires multifactor authentication to ensure secure access to resources. As you begin or extend your transition to the cloud, make sure you have the right management solution in place to avoid frustrated users and a deluge of trouble tickets.

Components of Hybrid Cloud Security

Security in hybrid environments isn’t the job of one technology, but rather a latticework of solutions that work together to secure your clouds, help you manage them, and make it easier for your organization to work with them.

Some key components provide:

  • Authentication to verify user and entity identities and confirm access authorization
  • Vulnerability scanning to find, analyze, and report on security vulnerabilities across clouds
  • Visibility into who and what goes into or out of your clouds and where the traffic comes from or goes
  • Microsegmentation to create subnetworks that minimize an attacker’s ability to move laterally throughout your environment
  • Workload security to protect apps, services, operations, and capabilities in your clouds
  • Configuration management to identify, audit, remediate, and document misconfigurations in your cloud access or security policies

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Hybrid Cloud Security Best Practices

From one organization to the next, no two hybrid cloud environments look the same. Your needs and procedures will differ by industry, geography, and your specific hybrid architecture. That being said, a few general best practices hold true in any environment:

  • Encrypt what you can, and inspect all encrypted traffic. Encryption is a powerful way to protect sensitive traffic, but it’s an equally devious—and extremely common—way for threats to sneak into your systems. Strong encryption and inspection capabilities will protect you in both directions.
  • Monitor and audit configurations for all your clouds and data centers. Most misconfigurations stem from user error, and they’re the leading cause of cloud vulnerabilities. Relying on automation, rather than manual management, is an effective way to keep configurations in check. 
  • Run regular vulnerability scans to identify weak points. Use an automated solution built to triage your vulnerabilities by risk profile. This way, your teams don’t have to waste time fixing issues that don’t pose real danger.
  • Apply security patches as promptly as possible. The time between a patch release and your update can be a window of opportunity for attacks.
  • Enforce zero trust security. The tenets of zero trust, built on least-privileged access and strong authentication, are critical protection in our digital age, where data, applications, and users can be anywhere and everywhere.
  • Have a recovery plan in place in the event of a breach. Separating your backup storage from the original data source helps avoid a single point of failure and speeds up remediation.
  • Secure your endpoints, including mobile and IoT devices. Cloud computing has changed enterprise security immeasurably, but endpoints remain the weakest link in the chain. With mobile and IoT data so vulnerable, it’s critical to protect the cloud data traveling through and between these endpoints.

Zscaler and Hybrid Cloud Security

Zscaler secures your hybrid cloud environment  with a cloud native zero trust architecture through Zscaler Private Access™ (ZPA™), part of the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange™ platform. As the world’s most deployed ZTNA platform, ZPA applies the principle of least privilege to give users secure, direct connectivity to private apps while eliminating unauthorized access and lateral movement.

Our leading ZTNA platform offers you:

  • Peerless security, beyond legacy VPNs and firewalls: Users connect directly to apps—not the network—minimizing the attack surface and eliminating lateral movement.
  • The end of private app compromise: First-of-its-kind app protection, with inline prevention, deception, and threat isolation, minimizes the risk of compromised users.
  • Superior productivity for today's hybrid workforce: Lightning-fast access to private apps extends seamlessly across remote users, HQ, branch offices, and third-party partners.
  • A unified ZTNA platform for users, workloads, and OT/IoT: Securely connect to private apps, services, and OT/IoT devices with the industry’s most comprehensive ZTNA platform.

Zscaler Private Access is zero trust network access, evolved.

Want to see for yourself? Start your ZPA test drive here.