Author: Eunice Njuguna
Friday, April 21, 2023

What Are the Five Pillars of Cloud Security

Addressing the security challenges in cloud computing requires an understanding of the pillars. A company needs insight into shared responsibility in managing data, privileges, users, and resources. Cloud security requires frameworks to ensure all possible risk areas get attention. The security pillars should support the cloud strategy processes.

The pillars of cloud security are the processes, policies, controls, and technology used to protect the cloud's infrastructure, network, data, databases, and applications. The framework works around the private, public, and hybrid cloud environments.

A company's cloud security guidelines include data protection, identity and access management, incident response, detection control, and network security control. The pillars work under a shared responsibility between the cloud provider and organizations. The level of responsibility depends on risks, opportunities, and costs. 

The hosted services on cloud computing platforms face a myriad of cyber threats. There are constant breaches, internal threats, and accidental data exposure. These threats require methodological approaches to resolve. This is why the cloud security pillars are necessary for centralized incident response and policy-based controls. 

What Are the Five Pillars of Cloud Security?

What Are the Five Pillars of Cloud Security

"Cloud Computing is not only the future of computing, but the present and the entire past of computing."
Larry Ellison(Chairman, Oracle)

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The immense opportunities in cloud computing have allowed businesses to grow. But that being said, the advancements in cloud-based applications also pose a security threat to IT systems. The attacks present themselves in various cloud applications, networks, and data. The vulnerabilities are experienced through internal and external sources. 

Because of the magnitude of threats, cloud providers have devised resources to counter the attacks. The tools are available on different levels of cloud application interaction. But even with the availability of advanced security resources, organizations are expected to deploy more tactics for utmost data protection. 

In cloud computing, security is a shared responsibility. Companies and providers collaborate on frameworks to detect, analyze, and resolve attacks. The guidelines are what we refer to as cloud security pillars. They are the processes, technology, services, and controls necessary for cloud computing safety.

The Frameworks for Strong Cloud Security

What Are the Five Pillars of Cloud Security

Enterprises are reaping big from the possibilities of cloud computing. The availability of rented networks, servers, databases, and IT infrastructure boosts business operations. Many organizations benefit from the cost-effectiveness, competitive advantage, and flexibility that cloud computing delivers.

But, like with most technologies, advancements in cloud computing pose risks. There is an increase in cyber attacks, internal threats, and accidental data exposure. The constant threats, therefore, require an advanced approach to resolve. Companies need pillars to guide their cloud security journey. 

Typically, the pillars relate to each. For instance, the incident response pillar relies on data protection to ensure optimized security throughout the cloud platform. The pillars guide the techniques, controls, and methods necessary to safeguard the cloud architecture. 

1. Enhanced Data Protection

Companies collect a massive amount of data. The information ranges from customer data, stakeholder information, financials, and workflow processes. All these data are sensitive. For this reason, companies need encryption to minimize risks during exposure.

In the cloud data protection pillar, a business seeks to encrypt the data at all transport layers. This means ensuring that the data-in-transit and the data-at-rest have the right security protocols.

When encrypting the data in transit, companies consider the data moving in, out, and within the networks. On the other hand, the data at rest covers the persistently stored data. 

Data protection calls for continuous compliance monitoring. It also involves checking for misconfigurations in a cloud environment. 

2. Identity Access Management(IAM) and Authentication Control

What Are the Five Pillars of Cloud Security

Running a highly intensive cloud workflow requires managing multiple privileged users simultaneously. The users perform different roles and have access to APIs, assets, and other sensitive information. Keeping up with every group and role can be challenging in normal circumstances. The numerous permissions and access to diverse assets are the weak links between a company's sensitive data and threats. 

Organizations can map privileges based on needs and risks with the IAM and authentication control framework. The pillar requires deploying high levels of authentication for riskier privileges. This involves creating stronger passwords and timed permission for all users. 

Keep in mind that managing IAM groups and roles require advanced cloud infrastructure. For this reason, cloud providers like Amazon Web Service(AWS) and Google Cloud have come up with solutions. Tools like AWS IAM access advisor and Google Cloud IAM recommender identify the last accesses networks and highlight permissions that may be over-privileged. 

As you dive deeper into your IAM and authentication control frameworks, here are pointers to keep in mind.

  • Grant fewer privileges - To ensure a better response to cloud security challenges, grant the least permissions to a user. Fewer privileges ensure lesser data loss when the networks are compromised. It also allows for quicker shifts as the cloud environment changes. 
  • Don't use a root account - Don't use the root user for everyday activities. Only use it to perform tasks that only the root user can access. Also, keep the password and login credentials private. Ensure you have separate credentials for individual IAM accounts with relevant permissions. 
  • Create a role-per-group model - Grant permission based on the individual roles of the user. Be specific on what a user, role, and group member can access. Do not assign individual roles and add the same members to a group with overly-defined permission.

3. Cloud Network Security Control

Moving from the on-premises networks to the cloud increases vulnerability. More data is exposed, and there are extra assets to monitor. Keeping in mind that cloud technology is constantly changing, the challenge is to ensure security amid shared responsibilities.

Better cloud network security, therefore, requires a framework for operation. These can be tools or strategies for better visibility, speed, and response in cloud networks. The controls may include one or several of these practices. 

  • Zero-trust network controls - Rely on the policy of never trusting any users - even those already in the networks. Ensure all users are authorized, authenticated, verified, and periodically validated to access the system. 
  • Shared responsibility - For success in cloud network security, understand your responsibility. Stay informed on what the cloud provider should do and the company's role in safeguarding data. Monitor constantly to keep up with change.
  • Micro-segment access - Control the movement of data within the networks. Ensure that information moving from storage to applications and services is not infiltrated. Create policies to strengthen compliance.

4. Visibility, Governance, and Compliance

What Are the Five Pillars of Cloud Security

Effective and efficient security protocols are derived from standards and frameworks from governing bodies. Governing bodies like NIST, COBIT, ISO, and CSA set minimum requirements for security management competency. Based on these standards, companies can set performance expectations for value delivery. 

Organizations should incorporate models demonstrating cloud infrastructure, network processes, performance expectations, user roles, and metrics. The frameworks assist with continuous monitoring of cloud architecture for misconfiguration, compliance, and threats.  A pillar allows for better governance and element visibility across different networks.  

5. Threat Intelligence Controls

The threat intelligence framework visualizes potential cloud security incidences. The controls analyze possible risk factors using automated anomaly detection tools. The tools are further equipped to measure and report the risk profile. The team can process, analyze, and respond to threats from the risk profile. 

There are four types of threat intelligence that security pillars address; strategic, operational, tactical, and technical. Strategic threat intelligence puts the vulnerabilities in context, while tactical controls include how the attacks are carried out. Operational threat intelligence informs how an IT team can deal with threats, while technical controls, also known as indicators of compromise(IOCs), prove that an attack is happening. 


As cloud computing evolves, building frameworks for easy detection, management, and response to threats is essential. The pillars of cloud security should deliver flexibility in disaster recovery, compliance achievements, and threat management. Cloud security frameworks must offer better strategies against data leaks, targeted attacks, and breaches. They should have advanced security protocols for storage, application development, data restoration, backup, and workload migration.  

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