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2/24/2020
12:30 PM
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Enterprise Cloud Use Continues to Outpace Security

Nearly 60% of IT and security pros say deployment of business services in the cloud has rushed past their ability to secure them.

RSA CONFERENCE 2020 - San Francisco - The majority (59.4%) of IT and security professionals are concerned about their ability to effectively secure cloud-based enterprise services as businesses continue to adopt them.

For Firemon's second annual "State of Hybrid Cloud Security" report, researchers surveyed 522 network/security engineers, IT operations managers, C-level execs, cloud architects, and cloud software engineers, among other technology pros. They learned 41.4% of businesses are deployed in hybrid cloud environments, up from nearly 40% in 2019. Protecting them is a primary concern.

"One of the biggest things that stood out was the fact that most people agree that their business has accelerated past their ability to confidently or consistently secure [cloud environments]," says Tim Woods, vice president of technology alliances at Firemon. This sentiment has remained relatively constant in the 14 months since its last survey, which he notes is significant.

"The needle hasn't moved at all in that time period," Woods points out. "I had expected that number to decrease."

Where do most professionals struggle? Seventeen percent of respondents say lack of visibility is their biggest obstacle to securing public cloud environments. Other top concerns include lack of control (13.8%), lack of ownership (13%), lack of integration with other tools (13%), lack of qualified personnel (11.5%), lack of training (11.1%), and lack of automation (9.6%).

Their concerns have not slowed cloud adoption. In 2019, 25.6% of businesses were not using a public cloud platform. That number dropped to 9.8% in 2020. Nearly half (49.4%) of this year's respondents are using two or more different public cloud platforms, slightly down from 53% in 2019.

Overall, 65.4% of IT and security pros are using manual processes in their hybrid cloud environments, and 35.4% don't have any automation. Nearly one-third say misconfigurations are the biggest threat to their hybrid cloud setup; of these, 73.5% are using manual processes. The potential for error grows as providers, assets, and rules are added, driving greater complexity.

"People are doing repetitive, mundane tasks, and my resources are already stretched too thin, and as I move to the cloud I have a lack of qualified resources pertinent to what I'm trying to achieve," says Woods of practitioners' challenges in securing the cloud. "I hear repeatedly, 'How can you help me to get back some time in the day to some of my best people so they can do the higher-skilled activities I hired them to do in the first place?'"

They only have so much time in the day, much of it spent doing low-skill tasks, he adds.

There is room for automation, Woods continues, but budgets and staffs are already stretched thin. More than 78% of respondents spend less than 25% of their total security budgets on the cloud, a marked increase from 57.5% last year. About 45% spend less than 10% of their security budgets on the cloud, including 8.2% who don't use any security budget for the cloud at all. The numbers are looking up, with 55.2% who expect their cloud security budgets to increase in the next year.

Even for companies that have the budget to invest in new security systems, there is a widespread frustration of having too many security tools in the first place. "There is no lack of technology … but if you're not empowering your people to use it effectively, you're not going to get the return on investment you're looking for," Woods adds. Now businesses think they have to buy new tools for the cloud, further driving alert fatigue and complexity.

Nearly 70% of respondents have 10 or fewer people on their security teams, researchers report. Of these, 45.2% have fewer than five people. Fifty-nine percent manage both on-prem network security and cloud security, up from 54% in 2019. Of these, 66.4% are at businesses with fewer than 1,000 people.

Organizations across verticals report differences in who is responsible for securing cloud deployments, Woods adds. It's not always the traditional IT security team, but stakeholders, DevOps, and business teams who deploy assets and resources without consulting security.

"No doubt they're getting things wrong along the way without that collaboration," he says. These teams likely don't understand the shared responsibility model that exists in the cloud. Further, it seems businesses don't follow a core unified security policy. As a result, there is nobody verifying cloud deployments or the security controls applied to them.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's featured story: "10 Tough Questions CEOs Are Asking CISOs."

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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