Protecting data in dispersed, multi-cloud environments

Protecting data in dispersed, multi-cloud environments

Russell Poole (1).jpg

Russell Poole, managing director of Equinix, UK, discusses the various security threats that exist on multi-cloud environments and how businesses can mitigate these risks

Multi-cloud is set to be the enterprise IT architecture of the future. A report by Gartner reveals that 70% of enterprises are planning multi-cloud deployments by 2019, up from 10% today. Whilst 90% of enterprises are currently using some sort of cloud service, the progression towards multi-cloud is the next step in allowing enterprises to build truly dynamic infrastructures. 

What multi-cloud offers enterprises is the flexibility, scalability and security benefits that businesses demand. But with millions of transactions going through this cloud environment every day, and new modes of digital transaction processing such as blockchain moving into the mainsteam, data security is increasingly becoming the key focus for banking, trading, payment processing, retail and insurance companies. 

Equinix’s Global Interconnection Index forecasts over the next three years, enterprises will require 50% more data traffic capacity, due largely to the rising popularity of multi-cloud. Are enterprises ready for the security challenges that this could present? 

Cybersecurity is a critical challenge for many of today’s businesses. It has moved from being an issue for the IT team to a vital board-level agenda item. Security disruptions can have a long-lasting reputational damage and impact customer experience which if not handled properly can result in business revenue loss.

PricewaterhouseCoopers singled out the UK as hotbed of cybercrime in its 2016 global economic crime survey. According to the report, more than half of all UK firms have fallen victim to cyber-crime. Online accounts are being hacked aily, and the sensitive personal data of hundreds of millions of people have been exposed through attacks like WannaCry. We are seeing the concerning rise of nation-state cyberattacks that governments and business are struggling to control. 

Unsurprisingly, security challenges are currently one of the main barriers to enterprise cloud adoption. A McAfee report reveals that 49% of businesses are delaying cloud deployment due to a perceived cybersecurity skills gap. The report shows that by industry, utilisation of cloud services is lowest in government (27%) and education (19%). This appears to be related to trust and control issues in both industries. Governments are least likely to consider their data safe within public cloud, and educational institutions are least likely to think that public cloud is secure from hackers. 

From a security perspective, a multi-cloud strategy can potentially negate the possibility of a cyber-attack, as cloud services do not sit with one single provider. This spreads the risk of interruption across multiple parties should there be an outage or performance issue. However, as long as cloud data access points operate via the public internet, an inherent security threat remains.

With a multi-cloud approach, the challenge can be complex. Enterprise applications spread across diverse cloud service providers can be difficult to monitor. Each CSP will have its own unique technology architecture, service structure and management interfaces, meaning it will be difficult for businesses to build an integrated overview of how their data is being stored. It’s this lack of visibility and integration that can lead to problems if enterprises don’t take the appropriate steps.

Critical encryption

Many businesses are turning to encryption as a way of protecting their critical information in multi-cloud environments. We recently launched SmartKey – a new encryption SaaS offering that securely host encryption keys separate from, but in close proximity to, the data located across networks, hybrid and multi-cloud environments. It was designed to protect enterprise data wherever it resides while keeping it under the enterprise’s control, by locating data and encryption keys locally but separately. This solves a range of data sovereignty issues, ensuring the enterprise, not the external service provider, is in control of both the enterprise data and its keys. Data encryption and identity key management services for multiple clouds such as this is vital to an enterprise’s data protection plans.

The immediate future

By the end of 2018, we’ll have seen increasing numbers of enterprises embracing multi-cloud architectures as users continue to demand optimised experiences. It’s a business’ ability to move workloads across clouds that enables this optimisation, but it also opens that information up to more and more threats. 

The best defence against cyberattacks is a “trust nothing” approach. Companies must ensure multi-cloud environments are secure and protect their data spread across distant networks by using encryption management keys. They also need to reimagine how they manage data and decide on operational models that fit their business needs – especially with GDPR now coming into force.

Establishing globalmanageable security control points that can scale quickly and securely is vital. Like an international airport, companies must erect security checkpoints in all the places where their data is being exchanged, whether that’s inside or outside of their organisations. With the right planning and using tools like SmartKey, businesses can achieve the protection they need in a multi-cloud environment and continue to give their customers the best possible experience, without compromising security.

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