Cloud Visibility

September 28, 2023

What Is Cloud Visibility? 

Cloud visibility has different meanings for different parts of the organization:

  • For security teams, cloud visibility is a way to understand what cloud assets exist in order to define the attack surface.
  • For operations and development teams, cloud visibility is the process of discovering how cloud resources are used, identifying potential issues that could impact application performance, and understanding resource utilization in a cloud environment.

This is part of a series of articles about cloud security

In this article:

Visibility Challenges in Cloud Computing 

Cloud computing presents different visibility challenges depending on the cloud deployment model: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, or private cloud.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

In IaaS services like Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines, customers have control over virtual machines, storage, and networking resources. While this offers flexibility, it also means that users are responsible for managing and monitoring these components. This can result in blind spots if proper tools and processes aren’t implemented for tracking resource usage and performance metrics.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

PaaS solutions such as Google App Engine abstract away much of the underlying infrastructure management from users. Although this streamlines application deployment and scaling, it may limit visibility into certain aspects of the environment. For example, developers might not have direct access to logs or other diagnostic information required for troubleshooting issues.

Private Cloud

Organizations opting for private cloud deployments often encounter unique visibility challenges. While they maintain greater control over their infrastructure compared to public cloud offerings, they must also invest in monitoring tools and expertise to ensure proper oversight. Additionally, integrating with existing on-premises systems may introduce complexity that hinders visibility across hybrid environments.

What Are Cloud Visibility Tools? 

Cloud visibility tools are software applications or platforms that provide insight and visibility into cloud-based infrastructure, applications, and data. These tools enable organizations to monitor, manage, and secure their cloud environments more effectively by providing information on the performance, security, and overall health of their cloud resources.

Some key features of cloud visibility tools include:

  • Monitoring: These tools track the performance, availability, and usage of cloud resources such as virtual machines, storage, and network services. They provide alerts and notifications when issues arise and offer insights for troubleshooting and optimization.
  • Security: Cloud visibility tools can identify potential security vulnerabilities and threats in the cloud environment. They can monitor for suspicious activities, enforce security policies, and help ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Cost management: By providing detailed information on resource usage and costs, these tools enable organizations to optimize their cloud spending and allocate resources more efficiently.
  • Governance and compliance: Cloud visibility tools can help organizations enforce and maintain compliance with various industry standards, regulations, and best practices. They provide reporting and auditing capabilities to demonstrate compliance to stakeholders and regulators.
  • Asset management: These tools offer a centralized view of all the cloud resources and assets, allowing organizations to understand their environment better, track changes, and manage resources effectively.

Best Practices to Improve Cloud Visibility 

Create a Complete Asset Inventory

The first step in enhancing cloud visibility is listing all known elements within your infrastructure. This process involves identifying resources like virtual machines (VMs), storage accounts, databases, and network components utilized across various services such as IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, or private clouds. Additionally, documenting dependencies between these resources is important for understanding their interactions.

Minimize the Attack Surface

Boosting your system’s security by minimizing the attack surface is crucial for reducing possible vulnerabilities. Eliminate unnecessary access points or weak configurations to achieve this. Using role-based permissions to apply strict access controls can prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information or making unauthorized changes. Furthermore, Zero Trust Security models, requiring continuous verification of user identities before granting access privileges, effectively protect against threats within and outside your organization.

Segment Data Flows and Networks

Another way to improve visibility is to isolate or segment different parts of a cloud system:

  • Data isolation: Separate sensitive data from less vital information using different networks, containers, or serverless functions.
  • Traffic control: Establish firewall rules that restrict traffic flow between specific segments based on the least privilege principle.
  • Microsegmentation: Split your network into smaller, more manageable segments to reduce the potential impact of a security breach.

Use Cloud Orchestration

For optimal cloud visibility and resource control, it’s essential to use cloud orchestration tools that automate application management and deployment across multiple platforms. Solutions like Kubernetes, AWS CloudFormation and Terraform allow consistent deployment of infrastructure components using templates (IaC). This makes cloud usage more predictable, and thus easier to track and manage.

Implement Automated, Continuous Risk Analysis

Implementing automated risk analysis solutions is vital for maintaining strong cloud visibility. These tools constantly scan your environment for vulnerabilities or misconfigurations and offer actionable intelligence on remediation before issues become critical.
Learn more in our detailed guide to cloud security solutions