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What is cloud detection and response (CDR)?

Securing cloud threats across hybrid and multicloud environments requires new security strategies, tools, and know-how. That’s where cloud detection and response comes in.

Cloud detection and response

The benefits of cloud infrastructure and cloud-native applications are clear. By accelerating development processes and decentralizing infrastructure ownership, people and organizations can move faster. But moving to the cloud comes with a critical challenge: securing this new frontier. For security teams, the cloud isn’t just uncharted territory; it’s a paradigm shift, demanding new strategies, technologies, and processes to combat its unique and ever-evolving threats.

No matter where you are in your cloud journey, we want to make sure you feel comfortable with key cloud concepts. In this article, we’ll demystify cloud security, explore the nuances of hybrid cloud and multicloud environments, and cover all things cloud detection and response (CDR). We’ll also delve into essential cloud computing terms like workloads and containers, ensuring you have a solid foundation to navigate the cloud landscape with confidence.

What is cloud security?

Cloud security refers to the broad set of policies, processes, technologies, and controls used to protect data, applications, and infrastructure deployed in cloud computing environments. This encompasses both public clouds—like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP)—and private clouds that are typically hosted on-premises or in a third party’s data center.

Cloud security isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. This broad term describes the various approaches and technologies used in securing cloud environments. Each deployment, whether public, private, or hybrid, has its own unique security considerations. In the next two sections, we’ll take a look at some of the more complex cloud environments—hybrid cloud and multicloud—and recommend some best practices to use when managing them.

What is hybrid cloud security?

Before we dive into hybrid cloud security, let’s first define “hybrid cloud.”

Hybrid cloud combines public cloud resources with private cloud infrastructure (on-premises data centers) or edge computing environments. These environments are integrated and orchestrated to move data and applications between them, allowing organizations to utilize resources effectively, meet compliance requirements, and handle fluctuating workloads while maintaining control and security.

Benefits of hybrid cloud environments include:

  • Enhanced control and security: Hybrid cloud gives you greater control over sensitive data and applications. This is crucial for healthcare, finance, and other sectors with strict data privacy regulations.
  • Cost and performance optimization: For less critical tasks and unpredictable workloads, hybrid cloud lets you leverage public cloud services. This provides flexibility and may be less expensive than having dedicated on-premises infrastructure depending on your use case.
  • Collaboration across teams: When managed effectively, having flexible deployment options with common best practices enables efficient data sharing and collaboration across teams and workloads.

Now that you know what a hybrid cloud is, let’s talk about hybrid cloud security and its best practices.

Hybrid cloud security protects data, applications, and resources in a combination of public cloud and private cloud or edge computing environments. It allows for control over sensitive data in private spaces while taking advantage of the benefits of public cloud.

Protecting a hybrid cloud environment is a challenge even for the most sophisticated security teams. Not only are hybrid cloud environments complex, requiring security management across multiple environments with different configurations and providers, but it can be difficult to maintain consistent visibility and control over all data and activities. Compliance adds another layer of complexity, as different regulations may apply to public and private cloud environments depending on the industry.

That said, there are some hybrid cloud security best practices that can help you address the unique challenges of this complex environment. Here’s an abbreviated list to get you started:

  1. Unified security policies: Simplify your security policies by implementing consistent procedures and practices across all environments.
  2. Centralized management: Use a centralized platform to manage tools, configurations, and access controls across all cloud environments.
  3. Identity and access management (IAM): Ensure strict IAM policies to control user access and permissions.
  4. Regular security assessments: Conduct vulnerability assessments, pen tests, and tabletops across your cloud environments on a regular basis.
  5. Continuous monitoring: To detect and respond to potential threats promptly, it’s imperative that you continuously monitor security logs and events across all of your cloud environments. If you don’t have the capability for 24×7 monitoring in-house, it may be time to augment your SOC capabilities with a managed solution like cloud detection and response.

What is multicloud?

Multicloud is an IT strategy in which an organization leverages multiple cloud computing services and/or providers to run their applications instead of relying on a single cloud stack. This most often involves public clouds like Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Some benefits of a multicloud approach include:

  • Flexibility: You can choose the best cloud provider for each specific workload based on factors like cost, performance, and security.
  • Avoidance of vendor lock-in: With a multicloud strategy, you don’t have to rely on a single cloud provider. You can switch at any time. This allows you to optimize costs by taking advantage of the different pricing models and promotions offered by different vendors.
  • Improved recovery: By spreading data and apps across multiple clouds, you can boost business resiliency and reduce downtime in the event of a service outage or even a cyberattack.

As with hybrid cloud security, multicloud security describes the strategies, tools, and processes required to protect your multicloud environment. Although their architecture differs, many of the hybrid cloud security best practices mentioned previously also apply to multicloud environments. In multicloud environments, prioritize strict IAM policies, comprehensive data encryption, and regular security audits to proactively minimize misconfiguration risks.

Multicloud security encompasses the strategies, tools, and processes used to secure a multicloud environment, which most often leverages multiple public cloud resources. It offers flexibility but requires managing security across disparate providers.

What is a workload?

We’ve talked a little bit about workloads thus far. But you may be wondering, “What exactly is a cloud workload?”

A cloud workload refers to the software or data that is present in, and executed by, a cloud computing resource.

Cloud workloads are managed using cloud-native tools and services such as Kubernetes or by cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and GCP. Workloads can be simple or complex, depending on their needs and requirements.

There are two main types of workloads: static and dynamic. Static workloads run continuously. Examples include platforms, email servers, and applications that users can access throughout the day. Dynamic workloads, on the other hand, fluctuate based on demand. For instance, many e-commerce sites see a lot more traffic during the holiday season than they do in the middle of the summer. As a result, they require elastic resources that are flexible and can scale up and down based on factors like user activity, time of day, and seasonal trends.

What is a container?

In cloud computing, a container is a standardized unit of software that packages together an application’s code, runtime, system tools, library, and settings.

A container is a standardized unit of software that packages together an application’s code, runtime, system tools, library, and settings. Thanks to its lightweight architecture, it allows the application to run consistently and reliably across different environments, whether it’s a local machine, private cloud, or public cloud.

Think of a cloud container like a shipping container: portable and independent of its cargo. A cloud container holds everything an application needs to run, allowing effortless deployment across different platforms—just like a shipping container seamlessly switches ships on its journey.

Benefits of containers include:

  • Agility: Containers enable faster development and deployment.
  • Portability: Containers can be moved between cloud providers, operating systems, and hardware platforms—no code changes necessary.
  • Scalability: Containers can be quickly scaled up or down to meet changing demands.
  • Fast startup: Due to their lightweight architecture, containers are faster to start and stop than VMs.

Popular container platforms include Docker, Kubernetes (K8s), Amazon ECS, and Azure Container Instances (ACI).

What is cloud threat prevention?

Cloud threat prevention refers to the proactive measures and tools used to protect cloud environments from various cyber threats. Unlike detection and response (which we’ll cover in a moment), cloud threat prevention aims to stop threats from occurring in the first place. These include the best practices we shared for hybrid and multicloud environments, as well as measures like security configuration management, vulnerability management, threat intelligence integration, and network security controls.

What is a cloud detection and response service?

Cloud detection and response (CDR) is similar to other detection and response solutions for endpoints and networks (EDR and NDR, respectively). In the case of CDR, the detection and response focus shifts to cloud environments. By definition, CDR is a managed security service that empowers security teams to defend cloud environments from threats like account compromise, misconfigurations, and data exfiltration. It utilizes continuous monitoring, real-time threat detection, and response actions for effective threat management in the cloud.

Benefits of using a cloud threat detection and response service

Using a CDR service offers several significant benefits for organizations, including, but not limited to:

  • Stronger defenses against cloud threats
  • Reduced mean time to detect (MTTD)
  • Reduced mean time to respond (MTTR)
  • Greater visibility across environments
  • Improved SOC efficiency
  • Enhanced compliance

How cloud detection and response (CDR) works

To fully appreciate the benefits of CDR, it’s important to understand its inner workings. Here’s a breakdown of the core functionalities of CDR:

  • Data collection and correlation: CDR solutions gather data from various sources in the cloud, including user activities, access attempts, configuration changes, system logs, and network traffic. This data is then stitched together to create a unified view of activities by good and bad actors.
  • Detection: The correlated data is analyzed for behavior that deviates from the norm, potentially indicating suspicious activity. CDR solutions leverage machine learning, behavioral analytics, and threat intelligence to create detections.
  • Investigation: When anomalies are detected, the CDR solution will generate and prioritize alerts based on severity and potential impact. Depending on the vendor, either internal or external security teams will be responsible for investigating the alerts to determine if they’re actually a threat.
  • Response: Based on the outcome of the investigation, threat response may be needed. This entails actions like isolating a compromised account, installing security patches, or updating compromised credentials to prevent further damage.

Why you need cloud detection and response (CDR)

While cloud computing offers scalability, agility, and cost-effectiveness, securing it can be challenging due to its distributed and dynamic nature. Some key challenges include:

  • Increased attack surface: Unlike traditional, on-premises infrastructure, cloud environments have a vast, expanding attack surface. Resources are distributed across multiple locations and providers, with diverse configurations and tools. This complexity creates numerous entry points for adversaries to exploit.
  • Complexity: With cloud platforms, configuration options and services are seemingly endless. It can be overwhelming for security teams to ensure consistent and secure configurations across all resources and environments.
  • Data security: Protecting sensitive data in any environment is crucial, but it can be harder in cloud environments. Maintaining security across all these resources and environments is a juggling act for security teams, increasing the risk of misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.
  • Limited visibility and monitoring: Distributed resources and disparate security tools make monitoring security events more difficult. Gaining visibility often requires specialized solutions and skilled personnel.
  • Evolving threats: Endpoint security is no longer enough when it comes to cyber threats. Sophisticated adversaries, like SCATTERED SPIDER, increasingly target cloud environments, and keeping up with evolving threats can be difficult, especially with existing skills gaps and staffing shortages.

Regardless of your cloud environment—public, private, hybrid, or multicloud—CDR solutions bridge the critical gaps in your cloud security posture. By offering continuous monitoring, comprehensive threat detection, response actions, and a wealth of additional benefits, CDR keeps your cloud data and infrastructure safe.

Features to look for in a cloud detection and response solution

When choosing a CDR solution, prioritize features like:

  1. Comprehensive data collection across all your cloud environments
  2. Advanced threat detection using machine learning, behavioral analytics, and threat intelligence
  3. Prioritized and actionable alerts that provide clear investigation and response steps
  4. Automated responses that allow the solution to take actions automatically on your behalf
  5. Integrations with existing cloud security tools (e.g. CSPM, IAM, SIEM)
  6. Ability to scale as your cloud environments and security needs grow
  7. Reliable 24/7 support

By focusing on these features, you can select a CDR solution that protects your cloud environment and empowers your security team.

Cloud detection and response capabilities

CDR solutions offer a range of capabilities to defend your cloud environments from threats. Here are some key ones:

  • Continuous monitoring: By collecting data from various cloud sources, CDR gives you a holistic view of cloud activity in your entire ecosystem.
  • In-depth visibility: With a unified view, CDR enables you to effectively correlate events, predict attacker actions, and orchestrate a rapid response to security threats.
  • Automated threat detection and response: Leveraging threat intel, deep cloud visibility, and machine learning, CDR solutions identify and respond to attempted attacks on your cloud resources, minimizing potential damage and disruption.
  • Seamless integration: By integrating with other cloud security solutions, CDR enables centralized management of security events, streamlined responses, and defense optimization.
  • Scalable and adaptable security: Cloud environments are dynamic. CDR solutions are too. They’re designed to automatically adapt to your evolving cloud infrastructure, ensuring comprehensive protection as your environment grows and changes.
  • Reporting and analysis: CDR solutions provide reports and insights to help security teams understand their landscape, identify trends, and measure the effectiveness of their strategies.

While these capabilities represent core functionalities offered by many CDR solutions, it’s important to carefully vet each vendor’s specific offerings to ensure they align with your specific needs and security posture. We’ll cover some best practices later on. But first, let’s talk about CDR tools.

Cloud detection and response tools

You may hear the terms “CDR service” and “CDR tool” used interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between the two that are worth noting. While “CDR service” refers to the overall managed service offered by a third-party vendor, “CDR tool” refers to the software application itself. These tools are at the core of every CDR and are responsible for collecting and analyzing cloud alerts and data, as well as facilitating automated response actions.

Key components of cloud detection and response tools

Here are some key components of CDR tools, excluding aspects related to the vendor’s service offerings:

  • Data collection engine: Gathers data from various sources, such as system logs and network traffic, within your cloud environment
  • Threat detection engine: Analyzes the collected data, using machine learning, behavioral analytics, and threat intelligence to identify potential threats
  • Alerting and prioritization: Generates alerts when anomalies are detected and prioritizes the alerts based on severity and potential impact
  • Investigation tools: Empowers teams to understand the scope of potential threats and take appropriate action. This includes forensic tools, a unified timeline of events, and other relevant tools
  • Automation and orchestration: Supports automatic response actions like isolating compromised accounts, blocking malicious IP addresses, and enforcing access controls
  • Reporting and analytics: Provides reports and insights on aspects like overall security posture, detected threats and trends, and CDR tool performance
  • User interface: Allows security teams to access the CDR tool, manage configs, monitor threats, and investigate incidents

By combining these key components, CDR tools empower security teams to monitor, detect, investigate, and respond to threats across their cloud ecosystem.

Best practices when choosing a cloud detection and response tool

Choosing the right CDR tool for your organization is key for improving your cloud security posture. Here are some best practices to consider:

  1. Assess your cloud size and complexity to help determine the functionality and features you absolutely need in a CDR tool.
  2. Define your budget and prioritize features that meet your security needs.
  3. Evaluate the vendor’s detection and response capabilities. Do they collect all relevant sources? Are they leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and threat intelligence? Do they prioritize threats effectively? Will they help cut down on alert fatigue?
  4. Consider response options. Do you want to manually respond to every alert? Or are you open to a certain level of automation?
  5. Ensure the vendor integrates with your existing cloud security tools. Bonus points if they also integrate with EDR, NDR, security information and event management (SIEM), and software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps.
  6. Look for solutions that are flexible and scalable as your cloud environments change.
  7. Research the vendor’s experience and track record, and look at customer reviews.
  8. Consider the level of support offered. Does the vendor offer technical assistance? What about training?

Why do cloud-native resources need specialized security tools?

Traditional security tools struggle to effectively protect cloud-native environments due to their inherent characteristics. Unlike on-prem, static infrastructure, cloud-native resources are dynamic and scalable, which means they’re constantly evolving and adapting. This rapid change can outpace the capabilities of traditional tools, making it difficult to maintain a congruent security posture in the cloud. Additionally, cloud-native architectures often use distributed microservices, which fragment the environment, and in doing so, reduce visibility and control. Furthermore, containerized environments require special tools to address specific vulnerabilities. Finally, cloud-native resources rely heavily on automation and integration, necessitating tools that can seamlessly integrate and adapt.

Therefore, specialized security tools, like CDR, are essential for protecting cloud-native environments effectively.

Red Canary cloud detection and response

While the cloud delivers undeniable benefits, it also presents new and unique security challenges. Managing security across multiple cloud providers, workloads, and attack vectors requires a vigilant, proactive approach. Red Canary’s cloud detection and response capabilities empower you to do just that. We’ll help you:

  • Gain visibility into your entire cloud attack surface. See what’s hidden, understand your risks, and prioritize threats effectively.
  • Prevent account compromises. Proactively stop adversaries from gaining initial access and compromising workloads.
  • Catch misconfigurations before they become exploits. Remediate accidental exposure and tighten your cloud posture.
  • Detect and respond to data exfiltration attempts: Identify and monitor potential data exfiltration paths and secure your sensitive data.
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