Understanding Cloud Identity Security and How to Manage it

Apr 3, 2023

Apr 3, 2023

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6 min

Get a full understanding of cloud identity security and how to use it to enhance security and stay ahead of the game with this comprehensive guide.

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Josh Mayfield
VP Product Marketing
Understanding Cloud Identity Security and How to Manage it
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Understanding Cloud Identity Security and How to Manage it

Today, countless companies rely on cloud computing to do their work. Instead of configuring locally hosted resources, they can use cloud services to access critical business tools, like software and servers, over the internet. 

While this offers cost-savings and efficiency for your enterprise, it also means that your data could be at risk and compromised in a cyberattack. Comprehensive cloud identity security is important if you want to use SaaS applications safely. Learn more about cloud identity security and the best ways to protect your organization.

What Is Cloud Identity Security?

Cloud computing services generally fall into three categories, including the following:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): These are on-demand hardware services like network equipment and data center space. 
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): In this service, an outside vendor provides both software and hardware services for an organization.
  • Software as a service (SaaS): This is any web-based software that is centrally hosted and accessed by the client, usually through a browser.

Cloud security is the practice of protecting these cloud computing environments from cyberattacks. Because cloud computing services may host or have access to company data, it is mission-critical to have procedures in place to safeguard sensitive information, as well as avoid the disruptive consequences a cyberattack can bring. 

How Cloud Identity Security Works

While cloud computing services are delivered by a third-party vendor, cloud security is the responsibility of the customer. If your company uses cloud computing, you need to keep track of who is using these services and what level of access they have. Otherwise, you run the risk of security breaches. An intentional or accidental data leak can negatively affect your reputation, interrupt your business operations, and result in financial and legal consequences.

Cloud identity management is a tool for controlling access to cloud-based services such as SaaS applications. Under an identity and access management (IAM) policy, a company’s IT team puts protocols in place to authenticate end users and authorize their access to certain services.

Authentication and Authorization

Before an end user like an employee or contractor can access cloud computing services, an IAM policy requires that they verify their identity. There are several authentication methods, including:

  • Identity Provider (IdP): An IdP is a separate application that lets a user access multiple cloud computing tools with one set of credentials.  It does not require IT to set up every application explicitly.
  • Password Manager: This type of third-party service offers a secure storage location where users can save their passwords.
  • Single sign-on (SSO): An SSO framework lets end users create a single username and password to log into a set of SaaS applications. SSO allows a company to monitor and control SaaS usage and requires setup by IT.

Even if a user has authenticated their identity, they may not have full authorization to use certain services. For example, if your company uses Salesforce, you may want to let every employee have access to the environment but limit modification privileges to certain managers or your IT staff. 

Ideally, a strong IAM framework allows your IT team to monitor each end user, manage their access to specific services or tools, and set permission levels within individual applications. They can then provide ongoing access management as needed, such as adjusting permissions when an employee changes departments or is promoted.

Best Practices for Implementing Cloud Identity Security

A comprehensive cloud security framework can help you minimize your company’s risk exposure. Recommended practices include:

  • Data protection: Encrypt your data before transferring it to cloud storage so that if an attack occurs, private customer or employee information can’t be leaked.
  • Cloud Identity Access Management: Use a strong IAM policy that employs zero-trust architecture, and consider requiring two-factor or multi-factor authentication.
  • Monitoring: Continuously monitor data storage and access, and set aside time to review security settings regularly across the entire SaaS layer.
  • Staff training: Invest in robust employee training to ensure that end users are not using weak passwords or sharing credentials.
  • Review onboarding and offboarding processes: Conduct a thorough evaluation of HR policies to ensure proper authorization. For example, offboarding policies need to ensure that former staff cannot retain any access to SaaS applications.
  • Discover shadow IT: Too often, employees or teams begin using new SaaS tools without the explicit review and approval of an IT department. Make sure that your IT staff has a complete view of your SaaS layer.
  • Secure the SaaS perimeter: Ensure you have control over every endpoint device. Explicitly control whether you allow employees to access the company’s cloud computing tools from a personal laptop or phone.
  • Thorough vetting: Before taking on any new cloud computing service, carefully review the service-level agreement (SLA) and make sure the vendor’s privacy and security controls comply with your existing security framework.

Future of Cloud Identity Security

As the industry moves forward and cloud computing technology advances, the need to eliminate security silos is increasingly apparent. Thought leaders like Gartner have directed chief information security officers (CISOs) to move towards cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA). 

This framework aims to create a comprehensive ecosystem of security tools and solutions, applying a central policy to different applications and programs. The goal is to minimize the attack surface, eliminate security gaps, and use a cloud identity manager to provide a granular level of access control. Hackers don’t think in silos, so your company’s security strategies need to be unified.

Conclusion: Understanding Cloud Identity Security and How to Manage It

For the strongest cloud identity management posture, partner with Grip. Providing unparalleled levels of password security, Grip Access secures passwords, controls authorization, and provides detailed reporting. 

Plus, Grip’s SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP) offers complete visibility across the enterprise SaaS layer, including shadow IT. With our SSCP, you can prioritize SaaS risks, secure credentials, and quickly remediate issues. For additional insights into cloud identity security, request a free SaaS security risk assessment from Grip today.

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