You might have seen a Cloud Security Researcher in the news recently. They're the ones who work to prevent data breaches and other cyber attacks that can put your personal information at risk. No two days are alike for a Cloud Security Researcher. They may spend one day conducting vulnerability assessments or penetration tests, and another day researching new threats and developing mitigation strategies. But what does a cloud security researcher actually do? And what kind of skills do they need? In this article, we'll take a closer look at the job and explore some of the key responsibilities involved.
What is Cloud Security Research?
Cloud security research is the process of finding and fixing vulnerabilities in cloud-based systems. As more and more businesses move their data and operations to the cloud, the need for researchers who can identify and mitigate security risks has never been greater.
This is a relatively new and evolving field, so there are still many unknowns about the role of the cloud security researcher. But some things are clear. First, researchers need to have a deep understanding of both cloud and information security. They also need to be comfortable working in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment.
The goal of cloud security research is to identify and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by hackers. Researchers work with developers to identify potential problems and come up with solutions. They also work with customers to help them understand the risks involved in using cloud-based systems.
What Skills Does a Cloud Security Researcher Need?
Well, the first thing you need is a good understanding of computer security. This includes everything from malware and viruses to network security and data privacy. You also need to be well-versed in cloud computing technologies and how they work.
But that's just the beginning. A cloud security researcher also needs to be able to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions to complex security problems. They need to be able to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical staff, and they need to be able to work independently or as part of a team. They have to keep up with the ever-changing technology in order to make sure their policies are airtight and effective. They also ensure compliance with regulations and other standards, such as PCI-DSS or HIPAA.
Overall, security researchers play an important role in keeping our data safe in the cloud environment. They are constantly searching for new threats, evaluating systems for weaknesses, testing the effectiveness of solutions, and working with system administrators to ensure all systems are properly secured and compliant.
Recent Trends in Cloud Security Research
In the past few years, cloud security research has become more complex. The cloud is now being used by businesses of all sizes, and the security threats have become more sophisticated.
A cloud security researcher needs to be able to identify and respond to these threats quickly and effectively. They need to have a deep understanding of how the cloud works, as well as of the various security risks involved. The role of a cloud security researcher is constantly changing and evolving, so it's important to stay up to date with the latest trends and developments. So what kind of projects do cloud security researchers work on to protect users from cyber threats? Well, there are a lot of directions that research can take, but here are a couple of examples.
First, cloud security researchers may be looking into how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to detect and prevent cyberattacks. By using AI-driven analytics, the researcher can detect potential threats before they happen and take steps to stop them.
Another example might be researching how best to secure sensitive data stored in the cloud. This is especially important for companies that store large amounts of data across multiple cloud services and need to ensure it is safe from attackers. In this case, the researcher would need to look into techniques such as encryption and other security measures that can secure the data and make sure it is safe from unauthorized access.
What About the Future of Cloud Security Research?
When it comes to the future of cloud security research, the sky is really the limit. Cloud security researchers need to be able to stay on top of changing trends and technologies, as well as up-and-coming threats. They also need to be able to think outside the box and come up with new ways to keep cloud data secure.
In order to do this, cloud security researchers must have a deep understanding of coding languages and development frameworks, be able to develop and code applications that are secure from attack, and know how to design robust security architectures. They'll also need knowledge of encryption techniques, identity management systems, and network architecture in order to protect an organization’s data assets.
These are just a few of the skills that make a successful cloud security researcher—but with all this knowledge comes great responsibility. With so much power comes great liability; it’s up to researchers to be sure that their work is keeping everyone safe from potential cyber threats.
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This blog will explore some of the best practices for protecting against cloud-based attack vectors.
Cloud-based systems offer a lot of convenience to users. They allow for remote access and collaborative work, which can be very beneficial in many scenarios. However, they also come with their own set of risks that must be considered before using them in any type of environment.
Cloud attacks are becoming more common with the rise of cloud computing. The security measures for cloud computing systems are still in progress and there is a lack of understanding on how to protect them. This blog will explore some of the best practices for protecting against types of attack vectors.
Attack Vector 1: Cloud Network Breach
The idea of a "Cloud" is that it is a network of servers with access to data and resources that can be accessed remotely. However, there are many risks associated with this type of setup. One major concern is the lack of control over what happens on these networks. There are many publicly accessible resources on these networks that are not secured. This means that anyone who finds the right path can access them and potentially steal information or cause damage to the network itself. There are various ways in which hackers can exploit cloud networks. They can use brute force attacks, denial of service attacks and phishing techniques to gain access to these networks and steal data from them.
Cloud Network isolation is the process of isolating a cloud-based network from other networks. This process can be done for a number of reasons, but one of the most common is to ensure that data cannot be transferred from one network to another without authorization.
One way that this can be done is by using a firewall. The firewall will only allow traffic to pass if it has been authorized. This means that any traffic coming from an unknown source will not be able to get through the firewall.
As more and more businesses move to the cloud, it's important to have a robust security solution in place to protect your data and applications. Prisma Cloud's Network Security Solution from Palo Alto Networks is a great solution for cloud-based networks. It protects your network from threats and provides real-time visibility into your network traffic.
Example of AWS EC2 publicly exposed Network Path Analysis
Attack Vector 2: Unauthorized Resource Access
The cloud has drastically changed the way we access and store information. In the past, access to information was typically limited to those who had physical access to the data. However, with the advent of cloud computing, access to information is now much more accessible. This increased accessibility has led to new challenges in terms of security and control.
Identity access management is a process that helps to control and secure access to information in the cloud. This process typically includes authentication, authorization, and auditing. However, It’s important to understand the risks of overly permissive access and Wild card permissions. Granting access to all resources, can leave your data and resources vulnerable. Cross-account access is another risk factor if one account is compromised, all of the accounts with access to that account are also at risk.
Access Controls and RBAC
Access control is the process of determining who is allowed to access what resources. Access controls should be based on the principle of least privilege, which means that users should only have the permissions they need to perform their job.
Role-based access control (RBAC) is an authorization system that provides fine-grained access management powered by Identity and Access Management (IAM). RBAC provides complete visibility and oversight into application permissions and the ability to easily manage who has access to resources, what areas of the network can be accessed by users, and what types of actions users can perform with the resources they are permitted to use.
If you're looking for a great Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) tool, Prisma Cloud's CIEM is a great solution. With Prisma Cloud, you have complete control over permissions and can detect unauthorized access so that your cloud infrastructure is safe and secure.
IAM Policies with public exposure
Attack Vector 3: Cloud Data Exfiltration
Data exfiltration from the cloud is a serious security concern. Enterprises are storing more and more data in the cloud, and this data is often sensitive. hackers are well aware of this, and are increasingly targeting cloud data in attempts to steal it.
Data exfiltration from the cloud can have serious consequences. sensitive data may be leaked, and companies may be subject to regulatory penalties. To protect against data exfiltration, enterprises should carefully control access to cloud data and monitor for suspicious activity.
As data becomes increasingly digital, organizations must take steps to protect their information from unauthorized access. One way to do this is through encryption, which encodes data so that it can only be read by those with the decryption key. Cloud data encryption is the process of encoding data so that only authorized users can access it.
When data is stored in the cloud, it is often encrypted by the service provider. However, organizations should also encrypt their data before it is uploaded to the cloud to ensure that it is protected from unauthorized access.
Prisma Cloud's Data Security is a great solution for organizations that want to keep their data secure. It provides a number of features that help to protect data, including data classification and malware detection.
Cloud sensitive data accessible to public and malware affected
Attack Vector 4: Cloud Security Misconfigurations
A Cloud security misconfiguration is a type of security vulnerability that arises when a cloud resource is incorrectly configured. Such misconfigurations can leave data and systems exposed to attack, and can happen at any stage in the cloud computing lifecycle. The most common cause of cloud security misconfigurations are human error, default configurations, architectural design issues, and lack of understanding of security services are all potential sources of problems.
Cloud Posture Management
Cloud posture management is the prime mitigator of cloud security misconfigurations. By automating security audits on change, implementing strict network rules and designing well architecture, an organization can keep its cloud environment secure.
Using Cloud posture management, they can perform regular audits of their cloud environments, and put processes and controls in place to prevent accidental or unauthorized changes. following are a few key things you can do to help mitigate these misconfigurations:
Implement a security audit on all changes made to your cloud environment. This will help ensure that any changes made are done in a secure manner.
Implement strict network rules. This will help prevent unauthorized access to your cloud environment.
Make sure your architecture is well designed. This will help ensure that your environment is secure and scalable.
Prisma Cloud’s Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is a great solution for keeping track of your cloud security posture and ensuring compliance with various security standards. It can help you identify and fix misconfigurations that could lead to breaches, and it can also monitor for compliance with various security standards.
Security Policies and Compliance Governance
Attack Vector 5: Vulnerability Exploits
Cloud Vulnerability exploits are becoming more and more common. With the rise of cloud computing, many businesses are moving to the cloud to store their data. While cloud computing has many benefits, it is important to be aware of the vulnerabilities that exist.
Unfortunately, many companies are still using vulnerable software and leaving themselves open to attack. One of the most common ways for attackers to gain access to a system is by exploitation of vulnerabilities in out-of-date or unpatched software. Often times, attackers will use malware or viruses to exploit these vulnerabilities, which can be difficult to detect and protect against.
Vulnerability management is a critical part of mitigating the risk of cloud vulnerability exploits. Keeping systems up to date with the latest patches and versions is the best defense against attacks. However, sometimes patches are not released in a timely manner, or they are not applied properly. This can leave systems and applications vulnerable to attack.
To help protect against these types of attacks, there are a few things you can do. First, use a good antivirus and antimalware program and keep it up-to-date. Second, use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to detect and block malicious traffic.
With Prisma Cloud’s Cloud Workload Protection you can secure hosts, containers and serverless applications across the full application lifecycle. Prisma Cloud delivers a centralized view to help prioritize risks in real time across public cloud, private cloud and on-premises environments for every host, container and serverless function.
Cloud Host vulnerability
Cloud-Based Attack Vectors and Preventions: Conclusion
By understanding the cloud attack vectors and how to prevent data breaches, organizations can keep their data safe and avoid costly security breaches. Palo Alto Networks Prisma Cloud can help you increase your cloud security and prevent breaches.
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Palo Alto Networks Live Community reveals how the Google Kubernetes Engine brings our latest innovations to accelerate your time to market. Learn how to secure your Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) on GCP in five critical areas.
Google Kubernetes Engine is a managed, production-ready environment for deploying containerized applications. It brings our latest innovations in developer productivity, resource efficiency, automated operations and open source flexibility to accelerate your time to market. Google launched the Kubernetes Engine in 2015. Kubernetes Engine builds on Google’s experience of running services like Gmail and YouTube in containers for over 12 years. As enterprises create more containerized workloads, security must be integrated at each stage of the build and deployment lifecycle. In this blog, you can learn how to secure your Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) environment on GCP in five critical areas.
AUDIT LOGGING & MONITORING
Enable Stackdriver Logging
Stackdriver Logging lets Kubernetes Engine automatically collect, process and store your container and system logs in a dedicated, persistent datastore. By enabling Stackdriver Logging, you will have container and system logs. Kubernetes Engine deploys a per-node logging agent that reads container logs, adds helpful metadata and then stores them. The logging agent checks for container logs in the following sources:
Standard output and standard error logs from containerized processes
Kubelet and container runtime logs
Logs for system components, such as VM startup scripts
Stackdriver Logging is compatible with JSON and glog formats. Logs are stored for up to 30 days.
Enable Stackdriver Monitoring
Stackdriver Monitoring helps in monitoring signals and building operations in your Kubernetes Engine clusters. Stackdriver Monitoring can access metrics about CPU utilization, disk traffic metrics, network traffic and uptime information. By enabling Stackdriver Monitoring, you will have system metrics and custom metrics. System metrics are measurements of the cluster's infrastructure, such as CPU or memory usage. For system metrics, Stackdriver creates a deployment that periodically connects to each node and collects metrics about its pods and containers, then it sends the metrics to Stackdriver. Metrics for usage of system resources are collected from the CPU, Memory, Evictable memory, Non-evictable memory and Disk sources. AUTHENTICATION & AUTHORIZATION
Disable Legacy Authorization
The legacy authorizer in Kubernetes Engine grants broad, statically defined permissions. To ensure that role-based access control (RBAC) limits permissions correctly, you must disable the legacy authorizer. RBAC has significant security advantages. It can help you ensure that users only have access to cluster resources within their own namespace and is now stable in Kubernetes.
Disable Basic Authentication
Basic authentication allows a user to authenticate to the cluster with a username and password, and it is stored in plain text without any encryption. Disabling basic authentication will prevent attacks like brute force. It's recommended to use either client certificate or IAM for authentication.
Enable Client Certificate
A client certificate is a base64-encoded public certificate used by clients to authenticate to a cluster endpoint. Use client certificates to authenticate a cluster instead of basic authentication methods that are without any encryption and might lead to brute force attacks.
Default Service Account is Not Used for Project Access
By default, Kubernetes Engine nodes are given the Compute Engine default service account. This account has broad access by default, making it useful to a wide variety of applications, but it has more permissions than are required to run your Kubernetes Engine cluster. You should create and use a minimally privileged service account to run your Kubernetes Engine cluster instead of using the Compute Engine default service account.
Kubernetes Clusters Created with Limited Service Account Access Scopes for Project Access
If you are not creating a separate service account for your nodes, you should limit the scopes of the node service account to reduce the possibility of a privilege escalation in an attack.
Disable the Kubernetes Web UI (Dashboard)
Dashboard is a web-based Kubernetes user interface and is backed by a highly privileged Kubernetes Service Account. The Kubernetes web UI (Dashboard) does not have admin access by default in Kubernetes Engine. The Cloud Console also provides much of the same functionality, so you don't need these permissions.
Enable Authorized Networks for Master Access
Authorized networks are a way of specifying a restricted range of IP addresses that are permitted to access your container cluster's Kubernetes master endpoint. This provides you the flexibility to administer your cluster from anywhere. However, you might want to further restrict access to a set of IP addresses that you control. You can set this restriction by specifying an authorized network. Kubernetes Engine uses both Transport Layer Security (TLS) and authentication to provide secure access to your container cluster's Kubernetes master endpoint from the public internet.
Enabling Master authorized networks can provide additional security benefits for your container cluster, including:
Better Protection from Outsider Attacks – Authorized networks provide an additional layer of security by limiting external, non-GCP access to a specific set of addresses you designate, such as those that originate from your premises. This helps protect access to your cluster in the case of a vulnerability in the cluster's authentication or authorization mechanism.
Better Protection from Insider Attacks – Authorized networks help protect your cluster from accidental leaks of master certificates from your company's premises. Leaked certificates used from outside GCP and outside the authorized IP ranges are still denied access (e.g., from addresses outside your company).
Enable NetworkPolicy for Pods Secure Communication
A network policy is a specification of how groups of pods are allowed to communicate with each other and other network endpoints. NetworkPolicy resources use labels to select pods and define rules that specify what traffic is allowed to the selected pods. By default, pods are non-isolated. They accept traffic from any source. Once there is any NetworkPolicy in a namespace selecting a particular pod, that pod will reject any connections that are not allowed by any NetworkPolicy.
Kubernetes Cluster is Created with Alias IP Ranges Enabled
With Alias IPs ranges enabled, Kubernetes Engine clusters can allocate IP addresses from a CIDR block known to Google Cloud Platform. This makes your cluster more scalable and allows your cluster to better interact with other GCP products and entities. Using Alias IPs have several benefits:
Pod IPs are reserved within the network ahead of time, which prevents conflict with other compute resources.
The networking layer can perform anti-spoofing checks to ensure that egress traffic is not sent with arbitrary source IPs.
Firewall controls for pods can be applied separately from their nodes.
Alias IPs allow pods to directly access hosted services without using a NAT gateway.
Kubernetes Cluster is Created with Private Cluster Enabled
A private cluster is a cluster that makes your master inaccessible from the public internet. In a private cluster, nodes do not have public IP addresses, so your workloads run in an environment that is isolated from the internet. Nodes have addressed only in the private RFC 1918 address space. Nodes and masters communicate with each other privately using VPC peering. With a private cluster enabled, VPC network peering gives you several advantages over using external IP addresses or VPNs to connect networks, including:
Network Latency – Public IP networking suffers higher latency than private networking.
Network Security – Service owners do not need to have their services exposed to the public internet and deal with its associated risks.
Network Cost – GCP charges egress bandwidth pricing for networks using external IPs to communicate even if the traffic is within the same zone. If the networks have peered, however, they can use internal IPs to communicate and save on those egress costs. Regular network pricing still applies to all traffic.
Private Google Access is Set on Kubernetes Engine Cluster Subnets
Private Google Access enables your cluster hosts, which only have private IP addresses, to communicate with Google APIs and services using an internal IP address rather than an external IP address. Internal (private) IP addresses are internal to Google Cloud Platform and are not routable or reachable over the internet. You can use Private Google Access to allow VMs without internet access to reach Google APIs, services and properties that are accessible over HTTP/HTTPS.
IP Rotation for Master
You can perform an IP rotation to change the IP address that your cluster's Kubernetes master uses to serve requests from the Kubernetes API. IP rotation also changes the SSL certificate and cluster certificate authority, so there is no externally-visible connection between the previous address and the new one.
Ensure Kubernetes Cluster Master is Configured with Credential Rotation
You can perform a credential rotation to revoke and issue new credentials for your cluster. Google recommends that you use credential rotation regularly to reduce credential lifetime and further secure your Kubernetes Engine cluster. In addition to rotating credentials, credential rotation also performs an IP rotation.
Ensure HTTP Load Balancing is Enabled
Enabling HTTP/HTTPS load balancing provides global load balancing for HTTP/HTTPS requests destined for your instances. It also has a security advantage since HTTP/HTTPS load balancers will let the Kubernetes Engine terminate unauthorized HTTP/HTTPS requests and make better context-aware load balancing decisions. NODE SECURITY
Enable Automatic Node Repair for Kubernetes Cluster Nodes
Kubernetes Engine's node auto-repair feature helps you keep the nodes in your cluster in a healthy, running state. When enabled, Kubernetes Engine makes periodic checks on the health state of each node in your cluster. If a node fails consecutive health checks over an extended time period, Kubernetes Engine initiates a repair process for that node.
Enable Automatic Node Upgrades for Kubernetes Cluster Nodes
Node auto-upgrades help you keep the nodes in your cluster or node pool up to date with the latest stable version of Kubernetes. When the upgrade is performed, the node pool is upgraded to match the current cluster master version. Some benefits of using enabling auto-upgrades are:
Lower Management Overhead – You don't have to manually track and update to the latest version of Kubernetes.
Better Security – Sometimes new binaries are released to fix a security issue. With auto-upgrades, Kubernetes Engine automatically ensures that security updates are applied and kept up to date.
Ease of use – Provides a simple way to keep your nodes up to date with the latest Kubernetes features.
Container-Optimized OS (cos) is Used for Kubernetes Engine Clusters Node Image
The Container-Optimized OS node image is based on a recent version of the Linux kernel and is optimized to enhance node security. It is backed by a team at Google that can quickly patch it for security and iterate on features. The Container-Optimized OS image provides better support, security, and stability than previous images. Enabling Container-Optimized OS provides the following benefits:
Run Containers Out of the Box – Container-Optimized OS instances come pre-installed with the Docker runtime and cloud-init. With a Container-Optimized OS instance, you can bring up your Docker container at the same time you create your VM, with no on-host setup required.
Smaller Attack Surface – Container-Optimized OS has a smaller footprint, reducing your instance's potential attack surface.
Locked-Down by Default – Container-Optimized OS instances include a locked-down firewall and other security settings by default.
Automatic Updates – Container-Optimized OS instances are configured to automatically download weekly updates in the background. Only a reboot is necessary to use the latest updates.
PodSecurityPolicy Controller is Enabled on the Kubernetes Engine Clusters
A PodSecurityPolicy is a cluster-level resource that controls security sensitive aspects of the pod specification. The PodSecurityPolicy objects define a set of conditions that a pod must run with in order to be accepted into the system as well as defaults for the related fields. PodSecurityPolicy specifies a list of restrictions, requirements and defaults for pods created under the policy.
Unsupported Master Version
The cluster master runs the Kubernetes control plane processes, including the Kubernetes API server, scheduler and core resource controllers. The master's lifecycle is managed by Kubernetes Engine when you create or delete a cluster. This includes upgrades to the Kubernetes version running on the cluster master, which Kubernetes Engine performs automatically or manually at your request if you prefer to upgrade earlier than the automatic schedule.
Unsupported Node Version
Kubernetes Engine does not support running node versions more than two minor versions behind the master version. For example, if the cluster master is running version 1.8, nodes should be running at least version 1.7 or 1.6. Nodes may not run a newer version of Kubernetes than your cluster master.
Ensure Kubernetes Cluster Version is Updated
It is recommended to use the latest supported Kubernetes version currently available on Kubernetes Engine in the cluster's zone or region.
Kubernetes Clusters are Configured with Labels
A cluster label is a key-value pair that helps you organize your Google Cloud Platform resources, such as clusters. You can attach a label to each resource, then filter the resources based on their labels. Information about labels is forwarded to the billing system, so you can break down your billing charges by the label.
The CIS benchmark includes several important security controls including authentication, network security controls and Pod Security Policies amongst other things. The RedLock security research team played a pivotal role in influencing the CIS committee to include GKE in the benchmark. RedLock supports a majority of the GKE-related security benchmarks and is first in the industry to provide a security benchmark against a fully-managed Kubernetes service in the cloud.
For a demo, visit RedLock - Palo Alto Networks to see how RedLock can help you with:
CIS Compliance assurance
If you’d like to learn more about our support for GCP CIS, please contact us for more information.
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