With Growing Cloud Security, Is Hardware Still Needed?

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Moving assets and critical computing to the cloud is just one way for organizations to offload precious time, money, and resources. Today, the cloud’s value provides far more than extra storage space for many. Now that Covid-19 has forced most non-essential workforces online, cloud computing has become an essential resource for organizations looking to continue operations globally.

“Following over a year of remote working, organizations have now realized that the cloud is no longer a privilege but a requirement in our new reality,” our CEO at Hub Security regularly preaches. And I’m inclined to agree. Even as we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel, post-Covid cloud reliance has become a game-changer in terms of impacting the accessibility and scalability of cloud environments.

With cloud security at greater risk than ever, organizations are turning to cloud solutions that will allow them to not only expand but also secure their growing cloud computing environments. Every tech giant under the sun from Google to Amazon is now providing far-greater cloud management solutions to organizations than we’ve seen in a decade. But with many overhyped cybersecurity features piled on to cloud SaaS offerings, companies looking to secure their cloud computing environments are lulled into a false sense of security.

In order for data-sensitive organizations to stay fully protected from ongoing threats, they must be thinking further –– beyond their cloud infrastructure. The hardware component is still missing from the equation. In this article, I’ll answer some commonly asked questions I often receive regarding the need for hardware when it comes to protecting hybrid cloud environments.

Do secure cloud environments neutralize the need for hardware security?

The answer is a resounding no. Hardware-based security is crucial for companies processing data in both hybrid and non-hybrid cloud environments. It is one of the primary reasons hybrid computing will be with us for a long time to come. While major public cloud service providers such as Google and Amazon provide excellent computing security, our most sensitive and high-value applications still continue to require zero-trust hardware computing environments.

But if my organization follows industry regulatory standards, shouldn’t that be enough?

A hardware solution provides security teams with complete control over the security of your cloud environment and its assets. While tight regulations and standards exist in financial and utility industries, many just meet the minimum legal threshold for what defines system security. Yet certain industries that handle highly sensitive data, such as finance and healthcare cannot afford to have sensitive information exposed. This rings true even to those operating these systems due to the potential, yet high risk of internal threat actors.

But we already have strong PAM and IAM policies in place, aren’t we still protected?

Any security infrastructure must be prepared to safeguard against insider threats –– ones that are both known and unknown to system administrators. Though the use of strong PAM (Privileged Access Management) and IAM (Identity Access Management) policies can add a much-needed layer of threat deterrence, there are still exposures that permit system operators to access internal sensitive company data and applications. This is something that should be considered by any security team.

What are some use cases that drive home the need for hardware-based security?

  1. Companies conducting collaborative machine learning.   

Companies who share large repositories of information with multiple organizations for the purpose of improving machine learning or AI should consider using an HSM (Hardware Security Module). For these kinds of environments, it’s crucial that each party does not have access to the information of the other parties or that of the algorithm. This includes system admins and operators running it from behind the scenes. In these cases, privacy and protection of the ML data and application are critical and any missteps can become very costly.

  1. Companies looking to protect sensitive IPs, internal data, and other digital assets.

Cryptographic currency essentially exists online with value and ownership protected through the use of cryptographic services and keys. A financial institution cannot and will not leave private keys protecting billions of dollars of assets lying around somewhere on a major public cloud provider. Usually, those dealing with the high-stakes world of digital assets and investments will need to work to keep their private keys and their associated applications in their own dedicated secure hardware environment.  

  1. Telecommunication and specialty service companies such as Fintech. 

Telecommunication companies themselves may be providing cloud services to customers and will therefore require dedicated secure computing environments. Since they are appealing to a small circle of trusted clients, and in many cases are providing the services completely within their local geography, a hardware security platform of their own would give them greater control and their customers the added layer of security they need.

  1. Companies working with edge computing.

Edge computing brings computing closer to the end device and users, such as AI control of industrial processing, feedback from medical devices––the list goes on. As data moves closer to the edge, it loses the protection of secure data centers requiring the edge computing device itself to be a comprehensive and highly secure computing environment. A secure hardware security platform must be able to protect this kind of data and ensure the components are tamper-proof so that they do not become another vulnerable endpoint to mitigate.

Solutions 

With Hub Security’s military-grade FIPS level 4 compliant hardware security platform, organizations can now secure any type of sensitive business flow and transaction with end-to-end zero-trust security. The HSM provides a master root of trust so you can sign, encrypt and protect data while it’s in motion, in use, and at rest.

Hardware security platforms safely store and manage keys, digital assets, and sensitive data, as well as run sensitive business applications in isolated and secure environments. The right hardware platform should be built for zero-trust security –– including sensitive and complex approval flows, secure access and policies, embedded hardware firewalls, and high performance and compatibility with all your CPU/GPU systems and applications.

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