Cloud Computing and Privileged Access Management

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The Cloud remains a somewhat enigmatic entity, yet organizations of all sizes, all over the world, are migrating seemingly everything to the Cloud. As expected, there is some uncertainty as it is still a relatively new concept and many organizations are wary of embracing the use of the Cloud to handle their critical assets. Despite the fact that many (less technically-sound) executives gesture to the sky when they discuss the Cloud, it is not some magical place in the heavens — it is a virtual idea and the name is figurative. The Cloud is essentially just someone else’s servers that you and your organization can use from remote locations.

Simply put, it’s an on-demand, shared network.

Many organizations are adopting a cloud-first approach. This means that every time a new idea or technology is discussed, the initial thought is how to manage that idea or technology from the Cloud. Though often misconstrued, this perspective is different from all-cloud approaches where all services are delivered from the Cloud.

Cloud-based strategies offer many benefits to the adopting organizations. These organizations get to be dynamic and agile, meaning they can obtain new resources quickly with any operating system or application requirements. In addition to increased flexibility, Cloud-first organizations deal with more cost-efficient financial requirements. By using Cloud services, organizations are renting resources instead of owning them — which avoids maintenance, upgrades and depreciation costs, sometimes even avoiding or limiting the cost of decommissioning.

Most organizations that don’t embrace Cloud computing are required to double-up their resources in order to handle their business-critical systems — servers, backups, software, databases, etc. That often means double the cost. Alternatively, Cloud services have built-in disaster recovery which limit worry and required resources.

One major pain point for organizations is dealing with software updates — which can result in downtime, failures and resource costs. A second frustration for organizations is dealing with data protection laws. While these laws help ensure that personal data is protected, some legislation can bottleneck organizations. Some of these laws prevent countries and companies from adopting Cloud with legal obligations. Some countries don’t allow the placing of citizens’ data outside of the country’s borders. This means some governments and companies can’t access cloud services that aren’t available within the physical borders of the region.  Many cloud providers have alleviated this issue by making data centers available in more regions and provide dedicated locations where the cloud services run, helping organizations stay compliant with the new security requirements.

Speaking of security, this is another significant challenge for organizations. Cybersecurity has become a dominant concern for all major organizations. Many organizations struggle to patch systems, apply security best practices, and block attacks from data thieves. IT teams struggle with staying up to date on threats and their shortage of resources has made them overwhelmed. There is also a troubling skills shortage in the security space, meaning that experts aren’t always available to lead security programs. However, there has been a trend of organizations becoming more confident in deploying cybersecurity solutions from the Cloud, allowing them to focus on other activities and leave the responsibilities of deploying and maintain security solutions to the provider.

The increasing amount of organizations that are adopting Cloud-based security is likely due to the rising worldwide awareness of cybersecurity. Following the numerous data breaches of the last few years, organizations are realizing the necessity to protect their data from cybercriminals.

The #1 target for these attackers is organizations’ privileged access and credentials: access to devices, networks, applications, documents and other digital assets that executives, IT admins and service account users possess. This access allows more controls and permissions than standard business users have. The compromising of this enables access to valuable and confidential information, such as customer identities, financial information and personal data.

These privileges used to be only secured with on-premise deployments, but security is also being migrated to the cloud. Privileged Access Management (PAM) is now available from the cloud, increasing options and flexibility for organizations worldwide.

Two of the primary reasons that cloud PAM is such a high priority is that it saves time and money, and it enables security leaders and IT teams to accomplish more with the same budget. Most cyber security solutions only reduce risk, meaning finances are somewhat wasted on products that typically add no additional business value. Meanwhile, cloud PAM solutions are more productive by enabling access to applications and systems quicker and more securely. Implementation of a cloud PAM solution secures access to sensitive systems and reduces the risk of being compromised by stolen passwords.

The top cloud PAM solutions are, unlike other security products, also built to be easy to use. No employees talk about enjoying using security tools because they are usually complex and disruptive to daily work, not to mention the overwhelming cyber fatigue they cause. Unfortunately, in many cases, employees get so frustrated that they give up and avoid trying to use security tools and proper security strategies to manage their credentials safely. They then regress to the same archaic practices, such as using the same passwords for multiple accounts.

Security leaders are in search of ways to seamlessly empower their employees with security tools. The best method is to implement a strong but simple and straight-forward PAM solution, which will help remove a frequent cause of cyber fatigue and end the demotivation of employees’ security practices. Cloud PAM solutions will also generate new passwords and change them when users allow them to be compromised — which these days could be as often as every week.

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