Regular content and behavior cybersecurity audits will let you close your cloud security gaps
Recent research by Veritas indicated that pervasive cloud security gaps are leaving organizations of all types and sizes around the world vulnerable. The company reports that gaps in cloud technology (56%) and security (51%) are the most reported gaps that leave organizations open to attack.
Although Veritas tends to focus on businesses, these cloud security trends impact K-12 school districts.
Education’s shift to the cloud started well before COVID-19 hit our collective vernacular. But, as we all know, the pandemic and remote learning were like taking a double dose of Adderall® the night before a big test. As a result, the shift to cloud computing became a torrent, with vendors offering free remote learning apps fueling the frenzy.
Today, protecting your data and students is far more complex than it was back before 2020. Now, you have students, faculty, and staff accessing information in cloud applications from virtually anywhere. They’re using dozens, if not hundreds, of third-party apps and vendors that have access to various areas in your data systems. In addition, you have devices owned by the district and devices that are entirely outside of your control. And all of them are moving in and out and then back into your network.
Cloud application security isn’t going to solve all of your problems. But it can help you identify and close the cloud security gaps opened by these complicating trends.
What is Cloud Application Security?
Cloud application security is a series of defined policies, processes, controls, and technology governing all information exchanges in collaborative cloud environments. The 3 main types of cloud environments include:
- PaaS: Platform as a Service is a complete set of hardware and software tools typically used for application development that a PaaS vendor provides and the infrastructure maintenance.
- IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service is offered by vendors that manage an IT infrastructure and allow subscribers to use it on a subscription basis.
- SaaS: Software as a Service is a software distribution model. Companies like Microsoft and Google host applications and make them available to customers over the internet.
Here, we will focus on how the SaaS environment works and how to secure it. Along with all other cloud-based technologies, SaaS technology shares one critical characteristic: they don’t have a perimeter.
As a result, traditional perimeter-based cybersecurity controls, such as next-gen firewalls and MTAs, aren’t nearly as effective in securing your district’s cloud apps as they are at securing your networks.
Most technology directors we talked with were surprised by the lack of visibility and control they have in cloud apps, even with enterprise-level native app security upgrades. For example, before, all school traffic and data access had to come in through the controlled network. But now that data lives outside your network, access can be challenging to audit and control.
The result is what we’ve been seeing in the news over the past few years. More cyber incidents involving leaking sensitive, personally identifiable information are impacting K-12 information systems. And it’s not just malicious actors and ransomware that are causing these problems. More often than not, it’s an insider—someone with authorized access to the information—that exposes it either intentionally or unintentionally.
How to Identify and Close Cloud Security Gaps
Your first step is to ensure that you understand the threats you’re facing by reviewing and debunking persistent cybersecurity myths common in school districts, after that, conducting regular audits will help you reduce your vulnerability to cyberattacks.
Get a Clear View of the Risks You’re Facing
When you want to identify cloud security gaps, you first need to understand cloud security risks and dispel cloud security myths. Until you do that, you’ll never be able to understand the actual threats you’re facing.
3 common myths affect your ability to protect your district from cyber threats that we hear from district leaders all the time:
- Cloud providers are securing your data. A concerning number of district leaders believe that their providers—mainly Google and Microsoft—are obtaining access to their data for them. This is not true! Under your license with companies like Google and Microsoft, you are referred to as a shared responsibility model. They are responsible for securing the app hardware and infrastructure and when the data is transferred between you and their servers. You are responsible for securing access to the data your district is putting into the app service. This includes protecting your data against cyberattacks.
- Securing your network protects your cloud data. This is a myth because cloud applications aren’t located in your perimeter and don’t have a perimeter in the traditional sense. It would help to move your focus from network protection to protecting your data using zero trust security.
- Content filtering is cybersecurity. You can’t think of content filtering as a cybersecurity tool. Its only function is to block inappropriate content from your students’ computers. You certainly need to do that, but web content filtering is more of a cyber safety tool. It doesn’t provide a high level of security that will help you comply with regulations like FERPA, HIPAA, and the host of related state laws.
Now that you’ve dispelled the big three myths, you can concentrate on protecting your data.
Conduct Regular Cloud Content and Behavior Security Audits
If you’re in IT, you know that visibility is crucial to securing your information infrastructure. After all, if you don’t know what’s going on, you won’t know when there is a problem.
That is why conducting regular cloud security audits will allow you to ensure that your cybersecurity tools are correctly tuned to close your cloud security gaps. In addition, continuous cloud monitoring and audits will uncover several potential cybersecurity issues, including:
- Finding connected SaaS applications. SaaS applications are often connected to your systems through OAuth permissions. Since it’s so difficult to review third-party apps before people start using them, conducting regular audits is sometimes the best way to maintain control.
- Auditing your data loss prevention rules. Running a regular data loss prevention (DLP) audit will let you find DLP rules that must be modified to reflect changing conditions. You’ll also determine if new data is being stored that needs protection and if any data is being misused.
- Identifying account takeovers. Account takeovers are often ransomware early warning signs, and they need to be detected as quickly as possible. Look for indicators such as multiple login attempts, unusual file uploads, downloads, or sharing. You also need to monitor the country or IP address of logins to look for anomalies.
Auditing your cloud security status will help you identify a range of issues that need to be addressed. Unless the audit is automated, it does take time, but you will always be vulnerable to cyberattacks without knowing what’s happening in your cloud. Here are some examples of what you may find in a cloud content security audit:
- People who are either accidentally or maliciously sharing Personally Identifiable Information or payment information
- Malware and phishing content in your emails, shared drives, files, and attachments
- Student safety signals that can include signs of cyberbullying, threats of self-harm, suicide, or violence
In addition to conducting cloud content audits, a cloud behavior security audit will look at the behavior of your cloud users to find things like a sudden increase in the activity of a particular user, someone trying to change admin privileges, and more.
Often, districts don’t have the budget to hire the staff to conduct the regular audits required to keep their data safe. However, acquiring cybersecurity tools like ManagedMethods can help automate the process at a reasonable cost. Take this Chief Technology Officer’s word for it:
“ManagedMethods is like having an additional employee on my team. It’s constantly monitoring and doing tasks that we don’t have time to sit there and do all day. It replaces those labor hours and then alerts us when there’s something we need to take a closer look at. I like that I don’t have to work in it every day, and it doesn’t take up a lot of my time. It does a lot of the work for me, and it just lets me know when it needs me.”
If you want an eye-opening experience, take advantage of our 30-day free cloud content and behavior security audit offer. If you’re like the other IT teams who have completed this free audit, you’ll find many ways to close the cloud security gaps in your district…and you’ll likely be shocked by what you see.