When you hear the word hygiene being used it conjures up images of healthy habits relating to the cleanliness of a person’s body or household. The oxford definition: conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness. When it comes to technology and cloud environments, in particular, cyber hygiene is just as crucial as physical hygiene to mitigate the chances of malfunctioning and worse cyberattacks.

Cyber hygiene is an often-overlooked dimension of cyber security that could introduce vulnerabilities into an otherwise secure environment. One way to assist an organization to discover and address these kinds of cyber security vulnerabilities in the cloud is to employ the help of specialist third-party vendors who employ Cloud-Native Application Protection Platforms (CNAPP). Infrastructure as Code (IaC) scanning, Cloud Infrastructure entitlement Management (CIEM), and cloud security posture management (CSPM) are just a few of the overlapping technologies covered by CNAPP, which span across development and production environments.

Cyber Hygiene Problem Areas

A major problem area is that of user and service accounts. Cloud environments rely heavily on various interconnected user accounts that need to be created and accurately maintained. Without a dedicated focus on cyber hygiene the number of underutilized resources, as well as the number of resources with excessive permissions and other misconfigurations, will continue to rise over time. This is especially true if the number of administrative accounts is not kept to a bare minimum.

Monitoring access logs on a regular basis is a smart place to start. This easy method will assist you in looking for abnormalities and ensuring the appropriate amount of access, among other things. By adding rules about how people can access the services, access monitoring can help you control the balance between security and productivity. Monitoring access channels can provide a lot more benefits to an organization than just security. Giving access to resources based on device identification, identity, network location, and other constraints is another smart practice. This is just as applicable to services utilized in the cloud as it is to actual user accounts.

Services that interact with each other, internally, like Lamba for example should be segregated through adequate rights and security policies. Additionally, test and development environments should not have access to any production environment and vice versa. In these examples, it would be all too easy to simply grant omnipresent access. This is however bad practice, and a good example of where cyber hygiene is clearly lacking.

Another related issue is that of confidentiality and integrity of data transmissions. All data should be encrypted while being stored or transmitted for critical business processes. This is essential to cyber hygiene as it will safeguard the organization against, and reduce the impact of, a data breach. Organizations need to ensure that, in the event of a breach, files and data should be unreadable and therefore unusable.

Applications that are published to the cloud also need to be designed with security in mind. Through the application of methodologies such as shift-left testing security vulnerabilities can be identified early in the development process. By eliminating vulnerabilities early in the process cloud environments would be much more secure once applications are migrated to cloud environments.

Where to Start

In any new endeavor in cyber security organizations who want to improve their cloud cyber hygiene need to start with a gap analysis. This can be done effectively by utilizing a third-party vendor who has specialist knowledge about the various cyber hygiene factors that could negatively impact the security of their cloud environment. Not only could these vendors provide cloud-native scanning and analytical reporting, but they can also provide impactful advice and recommendations on how to improve the environment’s security. Monitoring their cloud environments in real-time.

Being able to quantify security vulnerabilities in your cloud environment can provide important decision-driving metrics to the management of your organization. Cyber hygiene might seem like an obvious practice on paper, but it is one that is, unfortunately, the most neglected since so many role players are involved in the maintenance thereof. It can ultimately become the weakest point in your armor and the most obvious entry point for a breach.