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In an age where shifting applications to the public cloud has become a cornerstone of digital transformation, securing these workloads demands a fundamental rethink. This shift necessitates not only a departure from traditional on-premises security strategies but also the adoption of innovative methods, frameworks and approaches tailored to the cloud's unique landscape. 

This in-depth article details these pivotal issues, offering insights into state-of-the-art protection strategies and how WWT's world-class experts and lab facilities can help you validate and deploy the best cloud security solutions for your organization. 

New Challenges Moving Applications to The Cloud 

As you plan your public cloud journey, it's essential to address these critical considerations: 

Multi-Cloud & Hybrid-Cloud Complexities 

Like many enterprises, you're probably tapping into the capabilities of multiple public cloud providers, including hyperscalers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), alongside a mix of Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 providers. This strategy, aimed at diversifying resources to mitigate risks and enhance performance, often extends to maintaining a hybrid infrastructure, with key applications hosted on-premises. 

Navigating such cloud diversity, however, introduces complexity that demands considerable time, budget and expertise. While managing a multi-cloud and hybrid environment can seem daunting, costly and unwieldy, there are efficient ways to streamline this process. 

The Importance of Securing Egress Traffic  

Customers move applications to the cloud to take advantage of cloud-first principles such as cloud's scalability, flexibility and cost-efficiency, but ultimately to drive digital transformation and operational efficiency.  

Achieving this IT nirvana requires disaggregating applications into microservices—modular, repeatable and cloud-native components—that offer the agility to rapidly adapt within the cloud environment and can be spun up and spun down.  

When applications move to the cloud, their characteristics change. They become: containerized, split into microservices, API driven and extremely chatty. To this last point, a lot of egress traffic—the communication between applications—comes out of the application because the database, compute and UI layers could be in different regions and the whole architecture of the application has become cloud native.  

It is imperative to secure this egress traffic, which was probably not present, or prevalent, when the applications were on premises. Therefore, in cloud-native environments, securing egress traffic is now a critical concern.  

Traffic Inspection of Encrypted Data at Cloud Scale 

Roughly 90 percent of public cloud traffic is encrypted, which necessitates encrypted data traffic inspections. Unfortunately,  they can present governance and compliance challenges.  

Encrypted data traffic inspections are crucial for identifying hidden cyber threats, ensuring data loss prevention and maintaining compliance within encrypted communications. They are essential for tech-savvy organizations prioritizing security and operational integrity. 

To address this issue, organizations sometimes resort to hair-pinning traffic to their on premises data centers, a solution that quickly proves unscalable due to excessive latency that adversely affects application performance. 

As applications transition to the public cloud, finding an efficient method for Transport Layer Security (TLS) inspections at cloud scale becomes essential. This process must also encompass a comprehensive way to address outcomes of inspection for threat prevention and data protection. 

Defending Against Ransomware, Social Engineering & Intellectual Property Theft 

The urgency for robust ransomware and data protection measures cannot be understated. The public cloud's dynamic and flexible nature, while offering vast opportunities, also opens the door for malicious exploits.  

This vulnerability becomes especially pronounced as organizations leverage the cloud's power for rapid expansion, exemplified by the ability to spin up 1,000 EC2 instances in AWS within seconds with just a single script, significantly increasing the attack surface for potential threats. 

Neglecting to meticulously plan your security from the beginning not only risks navigating through treacherous waters but also directly invites malicious actors into your infrastructure. Without well-defined access and security policies, every new EC2 instance becomes a potential entry point for these threats, magnifying the attack surface and facilitating unauthorized access and lateral movement within your network. The good news is the existence of strong checks and balances you can employ during application 'build time' to enhance security from the outset.  

From there, security vigilance must extend into 'runtime'—the critical phase where your fully developed application begins its operation within the cloud. This stage is pivotal as it's when the application initiates API calls, interacts with other applications and connects to the internet, necessitating stringent security measures to protect the traffic. 

Rethinking Cloud Security Strategies 

Until recently, companies have navigated three primary paths for securing cloud workloads, but each has its own deficiencies.

The Pitfalls of Backhauling 

Backhauling, or redirecting cloud traffic through on-prem data centers for security, undermines the agility and efficiency of cloud computing due to latency issues. This approach, while seemingly beneficial for utilizing established security infrastructure, significantly deteriorates the user experience, especially for remote access and cloud-first initiatives. The process of rerouting traffic to the data center only to access internet-based services or cloud workloads hampers employee productivity and contradicts the principles of a cloud-first strategy. 

On-Premises Tools in the Cloud 

Adapting on-premises security tools for cloud environments presents another common strategy. While many vendors offer cloud-ready versions of traditional tools like firewalls, this method falls short. Legacy architectures, designed for on-prem protection, struggle to adapt to the cloud's microservices-based, API-intensive, and containerized application structures.

Leveraging CSPs' Native Tools 

Using cloud service providers' (CSPs') native security tools specific to their platforms creates a security gap for microservices hosted outside the cloud environment. The need to master and manage different tools and protocols for each platform complicates security efforts, making it a resource-intensive approach. 

 Seeking a Better Way 

Today, these approaches to cloud security are impractical, especially as companies scale their cloud presence. The quest for efficiency and scalability in cloud security is leading IT leaders to seek more effective, streamlined solutions as they commit to digital transformation and migrate a larger number of applications to the cloud. 

This search for improved methods marks a critical juncture, with a growing focus on approaches that honor cloud-first commitments without compromising security or user experience. 

Redefining Cloud Workload Security: Embracing Cloud-Native, Zero Trust, & Scalability 

Central to the reimagined cloud security are three essential pillars: embracing cloud-native architectures, adopting a zero-trust framework and ensuring scalability across cloud environments. 

Cloud-Native Integration: Imagine a cloud-native platform that unifies and integrates across all your public cloud environments, revolutionizing your approach to security policy enforcement. This platform simplifies the management process, providing a central point of control for your workloads, irrespective of their location across various cloud services. It brings the advantage of setting security policies once and applying them universally, ensuring consistent protection across your cloud landscape. 

Zscaler Cloud Security emerges as a game-changer in the SaaS security platform space. Its unique ability to provide comprehensive security solutions, independent of workload locations—be it Azure, AWS, or GCP—eliminates the need for traditional on-premises security measures. With Zscaler, you gain the flexibility to establish and implement consistent security policies effortlessly across all CSPs, ensuring both workload and user protection are managed under a cohesive policy framework. 

At its core, inconsistency equals unnecessary complexity. By centralizing cloud security in a single, cloud-delivered platform, you unleash the power of simplicity. This streamlined approach not only enhances security efficiency but also significantly reduces the operational overhead associated with managing disparate systems and policies. 

Simply put, this strategy represents a better way to safeguard cloud workloads, marrying innovation with simplicity to tackle the evolving challenges of cloud security head-on. 

Embracing Zero Trust for Cloud Security 

Adopting a zero trust architecture, grounded in the principle of least privilege access, is pivotal for navigating the complexities of cloud computing. This approach transcends traditional "feature wars," urging a shift towards a fundamentally new architectural direction. 

Historically, network access, such as VPN connections, offered employees wide-ranging access within the corporate network, presenting vulnerabilities that malicious actors could exploit to access a company's most valuable assets. However, least privilege access redefines this by restricting users to specific applications, not the entire network, thus significantly reducing potential attack vectors. 

The pandemic accelerated the need for secure remote access, pushing organizations beyond traditional perimeter-based security models to adopt zero trust as a foundational principle. This model doesn't assume trust based solely on network presence but requires verification for every access request, regardless of location. 

As cloud environments grow increasingly dynamic, with the capability to launch thousands of workloads in moments, applying zero trust principles becomes even more critical. It ensures that new workloads are precisely defined with access strictly limited to necessary applications, mitigating risks of internal and external threats. 

Zscaler stands out by leveraging zero trust principles to protect workloads in the public cloud, offering a forward-thinking solution to modern security challenges. This strategy ensures comprehensive security in the cloud, where the dynamic scale and openness of the environment demand a rigorous, trust-nothing approach to access and communication. 

Scaling Security to Cloud Speed: Zscaler's Global Enforcement Capabilities 

Building on the foundation of cloud-native integration and the zero-trust model, another critical aspect to consider is cloud-scale security capabilities. This brings us to a pivotal question: Can the security infrastructure not only inspect encrypted traffic but do so at the scale the cloud demands? 

Given the nature of modern applications—small, containerized, ephemeral, and dynamically adjusting workloads that continuously spin up and down—it's essential to have the capability to access, intercept and inspect TLS-encrypted traffic efficiently, without sacrificing speed. Zscaler stands out by offering these security features seamlessly at cloud speed, ensuring that cost, latency and bandwidth do not become obstacles. 

Zscaler's approach to security is comprehensive, extending from TLS inspection to advanced data protection, all designed to operate without imposing additional burdens.  

This is a system proven in practice, with Zscaler's security policies and enforcement mechanisms rigorously tested by enterprise customers across the globe. As a result, Zscaler demonstrates an unparalleled ability to scale its security enforcement to meet cloud-speed demands, embodying the very essence of cloud-scale security. This capability ensures that organizations can fully leverage the cloud's benefits while maintaining robust security across all operations. 

Identify The Ideal Cloud Security Solution for Your Organization With WWT 

As you explore a transition to SASE or Security Services Edge (SSE), WWT is well equipped to guide you through the numerous options available for securing your cloud workloads. Here are just a few ways you can leverage WWT to make the best technology decision for your organization.  

Take advantage of WWT's on-demand labs, where exclusive access to the WWT platform empowers you to activate various internal labs at your convenience. Within this sandbox, an array of Zscaler solutions are available to trial how Zscaler integrates with your current security framework. 

Utilize WWT's comprehensive internal testing protocols to rigorously compare different security solutions side by side. This process extends to evaluating various software versions, ensuring you find the best fit for your organizational needs. 

For those seeking a more theoretical approach, WWT offers the "Paper POC" option. This method involves a detailed assessment of your specific priorities and needs, followed by a comparison of potential solutions, meticulously scored on their ability to meet your criteria. 

Finally, WWT invites you to test your chosen solution within a fully configured lab environment designed to mirror your environment. This hands-on experience ensures that the security solution you select is not only theoretically sound but also practically viable within your unique operational context. 

Integrating Cloud Security Solutions with Real-World Use Cases 

In addition to exploring cloud security solutions through WWT's comprehensive support and testing frameworks, it's crucial to consider the application of these solutions across various real-world use cases. These scenarios not only highlight the versatility of cloud security measures but also underscore their necessity in today's evolving digital landscape. 

Adapting to the Hybrid Workforce: The transition to a hybrid workforce model, an evolution of traditional remote access, demands robust security solutions to protect against the complexities of both in-office and remote work environments. 

Facilitating B2B and Agency Connectivity: Whether it's business-to-business interactions or government agency collaborations, secure connectivity is paramount, especially in sensitive governmental spaces. 

Navigating Acquisitions, Mergers, and Divestitures: The dynamic nature of acquisitions, mergers, and divestitures introduces unique security challenges, necessitating adaptable and resilient security strategies. 

Embracing Cloud Services: The shift towards Software as a Service (SaaS), along with private and public cloud infrastructures, requires a reevaluation of security postures to safeguard data across diverse platforms. 

Rethinking WAN for Remote Locations: The concept of WANless locations prompts organizations to question the necessity of traditional enterprise WAN, especially for remote offices. It explores the feasibility of securing direct access to cloud workloads without backhauling traffic to the data center. 

Addressing Specific Security Concerns 

Protecting Against Malicious Attacks: As applications migrate to the cloud, they become targets for malicious entities and require proactive defense mechanisms. 

Guarding Against Insider Threats: Insider actions, whether inadvertent or deliberate, pose significant risks to cloud applications, and underscore the importance of stringent access controls and monitoring. 

Preventing Data Leaks: The cloud's inherent openness and flexibility can lead to lax access controls, increasing the risk of sensitive data exposure. Implementing rigorous authentication and encryption protocols is critical. 

Securing Mission-Critical Applications: The migration of mission-critical applications to the cloud amplifies the potential for data breaches, necessitating advanced security measures to thwart unauthorized access and data leakage. 

Integrating these use cases into the security solution exploration process ensures that the selected measures are not only technically sound but also practically applicable. 

Learn more about SSE and Zscaler Connect with a WWT expert

About the Authors

Mark Ibrahim

Sakthi Chandrasekaran