5 Ways to Secure a Virtual Machine in Cloud Computing
Five critical recommendations to secure a virtual machine in a cloud computing environment.
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Organizations worldwide store 60% of their data in the cloud. The popularity of cloud computing will be undisputed in 2023 and is predicted to grow in future years. The main benefits of using cloud storage and computing services to run corporate VMs include data availability and the cost-efficiency of such infrastructures.
However, focusing on cloud computing as your organization’s main data storage has downsides. The main concern here is data and cloud VM security: the nature of cloud infrastructures make providing the appropriate level of protection to data challenging. In this post, we explain:
- What challenges to expect on the way to reliable cloud data protection.
- How to secure your cloud virtual machine.
Virtual Cloud Computing: Main Security Challenges
Using a virtual machine in cloud computing requires taking proper measures to make security efficient. Before we proceed with explaining the particular recommendations, let’s review the main issues that organizations running cloud infrastructures can face:
- Data loss
- Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks
- Data breaches
- Access control difficulties
- Alerts and notifications
How to Secure a Cloud Virtual Machine: Five Virtualized Security Tips
Like with any IT protection system, the most critical recommendations regarding the security of cloud VMs are basic ones. Ignoring these simple guidelines increases the risk of security failure, compromised credentials, and further improper use of data or systems by bad actors. Check these five tips on boosting the efficiency of cloud virtual machine security in your infrastructure.
1. Secure and Separate Connections
The use of virtual networks enables you to maintain flexibility in connections to different nodes of your infrastructure. However, that means a virtual network is modified frequently, and establishing an unwanted connection between machines, services, or data repositories is possible. This can result in unplanned data circulation through a VM and a leaking threat, which can remain hidden until the very last moment.
To avoid worst-case scenarios, double-check your virtual networks and keep them secure and separate. Conduct regular revisions of network routes and check the changes before and after establishing new connections to a VM.
2. Use Separate Management APIs
Isolating infrastructure management from the service itself is another important step in strengthening virtual machine security. Management APIs are there to set up and regulate functionalities, service behavior, and features, meaning that every API of that kind creates numerous risks.
All management APIs must be protected, but you should pay special attention to those controlling parts of your infrastructure. Ensure only authorized and qualified staff have access to such APIs.
3. Verify VM Components
Before implementing new features, components, and functions to a VM, you should check if those elements correlate with the security requirements, including internal policies and compliance requirements. An outsider threat is a typical case that security measures aim to counter, but insider attacks are frequently overlooked while being devastating when they happen.
Once you install an app or configure a feature or function on a VM, any element can have a security vulnerability remaining unnoticed on release. When you add an unverified component, the entire VM becomes a weak spot in the infrastructure security, providing attack opportunities to other environmental elements. Develop a template for advanced verification and lifecycle management for VMs that clearly states audit points. Then use that template every time you introduce changes to a machine.
4. Isolate Hosted Elements
Another critical point of cloud virtual machine security is isolating every new element you host. For instance, if you have services or features in the cloud that are accessible to users within the network in any way, any feature or service can be a cyberattack target.
Isolating your hosting and feature connections inside a private subnetwork is a solution here. That’s how to improve your cloud VMs’ and their applications’ resilience.
5. Regularly Back Up Cloud VMs
No matter how advanced and thorough your security measures are, a hacker intending to break through them is one step ahead and can come up with malware sophisticated enough to bypass that protection. Therefore, the only reliable way to protect your VMs with their settings and data is to regularly and correctly back up those workloads.
A modern VM backup solution can help you automatically back up cloud VMs to different destinations. Those VMs can then be recovered to their original or custom locations with minimal downtime. Consider integrating one of such all-in-one data protection solutions into your organization’s infrastructure to ensure data availability and business continuity.
Additional Recommendations to Prevent Virtualization Security Issues
The five points above are crucial to maintaining the safety of cloud VMs. However, applying other common security practices can lead to further enhancement of data protection in your organization. Below you can check three more security tips that work for any infrastructure, including virtualized environments.
1. Reliable Passwords
No matter how serious and advanced your data protection measures are, the passwords providing access to your VMs, cloud service accounts, control panels, and dashboards must be strong. Otherwise, it’s like you’d invest a lot in thick walls and armored windows while not caring about inserting a lock in a front door.
A strong password includes at least eight symbols: uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Another important feature of a reliable password is that it should be meaningless: a good password is one that does not have any logic or meaning, which a hacker could guess when attempting to break through the security. Here are two examples:
Reliable password: 2&4fkOzQ*0@8
Unreliable password: Johnny07231976hey!
Note: the more symbols are in your password, the more challenging it becomes for hackers to break through that password.
2. Encryption of Everything
Encrypting data in flight (during transmission) and at rest (on disks) can prevent unauthorized third parties from stealing or modifying critical data. Therefore, try to encrypt every piece of data that your organization sends outside the internal network and infrastructure at least. Of course, encryption of internal traffic can boost data protection even further, but in that case, you need to provide additional resources to keep performance at the same level.
3. Two-Factor Authentication and Role-Based Access
Two-factor authentication is a must for every user that has access to cloud infrastructure and especially to critical elements. Such a measure adds one more layer of security: to log in, you’ll have to provide a password and an additional authentication key from Google Authenticator, for example. Thus, you can prevent a hacker that has compromised your password from retrieving access to your cloud VMs and react in time to close that breach.
Role-based access control (RBAC) is another strongly recommended approach to strengthen any infrastructure’s security. RBAC enables you to grant particular rights per user based on that user’s role in the organization. Hence, a hacker that gets access to an employee’s account can reach, steal and modify only a limited amount of data.
Use Kubernetes to Streamline Security Management for Cloud Workloads
Originally an open-source orchestration platform for containers, Kubernetes can become a convenient security management solution for cloud workloads, including VMs. When added to your cloud infrastructure, Kubernetes enables you to utilize the controls’ flexibility and automation features for the purpose of a protection boost.
For example, you can deploy a cloud VM, then set Kubernetes to automatically manage the resources available to that VM based on the current load and security policies applied. In addition, Kubernetes can provide the required level of data protection by controlling access to workloads, setting appropriate confidentiality for the secrets you store, and also checking if the newly added workloads have proper configurations.
What’s also important is that Kubernetes can give you extra or alternative security capabilities compared to your cloud provider’s native features. You can combine the policies applied to a cloud workload, as Kubernetes sets an additional abstraction layer between the provider’s security services and your policy goals.
Securing a virtual machine in cloud computing requires a thorough understanding of threats and challenges that are relevant to cloud infrastructures these days. Setting up a cloud VM that is resilient is possible when you:
- Establish secure and separated connections between VMs to avoid unwanted data flows.
- Use separate management APIs to avoid granting too much access to one user.
- Regularly check VM components for new vulnerabilities.
- Isolate elements in a private network.
- Set a regular backup workflow for cloud VMs to keep control of your data.
Additionally, use common security approaches, such as generating reliable passwords, encrypting the data, two-factor authentication, and role-based access control. They can enhance the protection of any IT infrastructure, including cloud virtual machines and entire environments. To simplify security management, you can also consider integrating Kubernetes into your infrastructure.
Published at DZone with permission of Alex Tray. See the original article here.
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