In this blog we take a closer look at why segregation in cloud environments is important for security, and share some best practice tips for implementing segregation in different environments.

With more and more organisations moving their applications and data to the cloud, security is becoming an increasingly important concern. Knowing how to segregate their cloud environment is one of the key challenges that organisations face, particularly when it comes to development, testing and production. However, as we’ll see, it’s well worth overcoming the challenge as segregation offers many security benefits. 

Segregating cloud environments is important for several key reasons. Firstly, it helps prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data and applications. A developer should not, for example, have access to production data or systems as such access could lead to accidental or intentional data breaches. Secondly, segregation helps to minimise the blast radius and potential impact should a data breach occur. For example, an attacker gaining access to a development environment should not be able to use those access rights to compromise production systems; you’ll want guardrails that prevent this. Also, applying segregation can streamline compliance efforts. Different environments may have different compliance requirements; by separating them, you can make it easier for teams to manage and demonstrate compliance.

And while segregating your cloud environments, consider making the lower environments, such as testing and staging, identical to the production environment. This approach gives you an excellent way to test that security controls, such as service control policies (SCPs) in AWS, do not break functionality in pre-production environments. Being able to ensure smooth sailing in lower environments gives greater security confidence when deploying to the production environment.

Six tips for segregating and otherwise securing your dev, testing and production environments

Following these six tips will help make your different cloud environments more secure. 

1. Segregate cloud environments

It’s crucial to segregate your different cloud environments to avoid unwanted changes or interference between them. This means that each environment should have its own resources, such as computing, storage and network. Doing so minimises the risk of a malicious actor moving from low-level accounts to critical high-level production accounts.

2. Cloud Access Control

One of the most important aspects of securing a cloud environment is access control. As a cardinal rule, you should be giving users access to only the environments and resources needed to do their jobs. For example, developers should only have access to development environments, and only authorised personnel should have access to production systems. It is also highly recommended that you utilise fine-grained permission control, which enables you to grant or revoke access to critical systems and data according to multiple conditions.

3. Encrypt your sensitive data

Encryption can help protect data in transit and at rest. You should encrypt all sensitive data, using strong encryption algorithms – and take care to manage your encryption keys carefully. 

4. Network Segmentation

Network segmentation involves dividing a network into smaller subnetworks to isolate different groups of users and resources. This segmentation can help prevent lateral movement by attackers and minimise the impact of any security incidents.

5. Monitoring and logging for incidents detection

Monitoring and logging can help teams detect and respond to security incidents quickly. Try to automate monitoring of all environments for suspicious activity and retain logs for a sufficient period of time (at least six months, depending on the type of log​​) to allow for forensic analysis.

6. Patch Management

Let’s face it: no matter how tight your cloud security ship is, vulnerabilities are going to slip through. Keeping systems and applications up to date with the latest security patches is essential for preventing known vulnerabilities from being exploited.

A few final thoughts

As we have seen, segregating cloud environments is critical for ensuring the security of sensitive data and applications. By following the security best practices of access control, encryption, network segmentation, monitoring and logging and patch management, organisations can help minimise the risk of security incidents in their cloud environments and demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements. 

By segregating your cloud environments and implementing relevant security processes and automation, you can prevent unauthorised access, minimise the impact of security incidents, such as by reducing the blast radius, and streamline compliance. 

With careful planning and implementation of these best practices, as well as collaboration among all involved, you can handily navigate the rough seas to continuously secure your cloud environments from development to production.

Find out more about how 4Data and Ermetic can help you with your cloud security challenges here or get in touch by email