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Cloud Security in Offshore Software Development Projects

In the mad rush to capitalize on the benefits of the cloud, organizations are still overlooking one vital aspect: cloud security.

When considering that 49% of cloud databases are not encrypted and 83% of company workloads will take place in the cloud by 2020, the opportunity for enterprise vulnerabilities is staggering.

Breaches like this can have devastating impacts on an organization, including damaged reputation, falling share prices, costs for customer compensation, even a complete loss of data, which is why it's important to monitor and test cloud security at all times.

For organizations that experience problems with cloud security internally, the issues are amplified when partnering on a software development outsourcing project. Against that backdrop, it's vital to understand who is responsible, how to prepare for the worst, what the risks are, and how to maintain the highest levels of protection. 

Finding and Developing Comprehensive Security Expertise 

Securing an enterprise cloud environment is not only the responsibility of the cloud provider; the task rests on everybody's shoulders in a software development outsourcing partnership, so it's important to make sure that team knowledge and capabilities are up to scratch.

One common mistake we see is that companies hire or partner with DevSecOps engineers and expect them to handle development, operations, and security in one fell swoop—yes, they are commonly highly skilled in one area of expertise, but they are not masters of all three.

The best engineers display a broad understanding of the whole spectrum of cloud security, from operating systems, networking, and risk assessment to compliance and vulnerability identification. Vulnerabilities are always changing and evolving, so it's vital to understand that no one person knows everything about the topic.

While a messy developer might produce code that could be exploited, an inexperienced or careless cloud engineer will absolutely create compliance issues or vulnerabilities. Cloud engineers also require privileged access to sensitive information in order to do their jobs, which makes them high-profile targets for attacks. To prevent these risks, be sure to work with people who have hands-on experience with production environments and are actively trained in security.

At PSL, we feel that a combined approach to training and testing is the most effective for keeping people on top of cloud security. Security awareness training is the first stage of this, followed by regular refresher sessions and even staged mock attacks. These measures help keep engineers on their toes and serve as an excellent reminder that letting one's guard down can lead to disastrous results.

Prioritizing and Monitoring Security from the Beginning 

Security is often tacked on at the end of a project, with the security team having to strongarm development and operations teams into adopting different processes, making everybody's life more difficult.

With the importance of cloud security mounting, it's become good practice to build security into software products from the very beginning at the same time monitoring it constantly throughout the lifecycle, especially those hosted in cloud environments.

Part of this process is identifying and prioritizing risks. Research shows that 80% of cloud security breaches are caused by issues with privileged credentials, while an average of 51% of organizations has at least one cloud storage service publicly exposed. Risks like these must be considered and addressed in the project planning stage, as well as throughout the software development lifecycle.

If the software is already live in production, companies can use security red teams and blue teams to identify vulnerabilities and risks. Red teams attack the system, attempting to hack in and disrupt it, while blue teams work to defend it. This helps to understand who the attackers might be, what types of attacks are possible, and what they can access (sensitive info, kill the servers). With this information, the company can build a risk model and come up with a strategy to mitigate future attacks.

Monitoring the entire network is also essential for acquiring information on possible threats. You also need to ensure that data is encrypted at all times, that access is monitored and controlled closely, and that problems are found and fixed as soon as possible. Ensure that any behavior that's out of the ordinary is flagged and analyzed to avoid unauthorized access and to identify possible malicious agents.

Trusting Outsourced Partners with Cloud Security 

In an outsourced software development partnership, cloud security is often treated as a lump of hot coal, thrown into someone else's lap until a major problem occurs. While it's quite common for companies to assume that cloud security is the provider's responsibility, this approach doesn't hold any water in today's environment.

Many organizations still treat their outsourcing partners as completely separate entities, which is not the most effective strategy in our experience. To get the best results, your software development outsourcing team must be welcomed as an integral part of your company. This means applying the same cloud security best practices across the board in your organization, including your IT outsourcing team.

Companies should know their offshore software development partners and their processes back to front, including their level of security awareness, tools, and equipment. Also, they should be very aware of their partner's recruiting practices and onboarding and hiring processes. In particular, the types of people they hire and how they bring them into the company plays a huge role in the impact that person or team will have.

Trust and visibility are essential in this situation, as any new tools or existing hybrid setups can result in high complexity environments, making them much more difficult to secure without providing partners with full transparency. It also means informing them of your expectations in terms of compliance. 

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The cloud has changed the business landscape by enabling collaboration on a completely new level, which has resulted in massive leaps in creativity and innovation. Companies can now build teams of highly qualified professionals without worrying about geographical limitations.

Organizations no longer need to invest heavily in IT hardware, which implicitly leads to a reduction in associated maintenance costs. Yet, they can still take advantage of all the latest advances in software, while redirecting their savings to driving innovation.

Even with all these benefits, no system is ever 100% secure, but it can operate in a well-protected environment if cloud security is made a high priority, which is why software development partners like PSL have it built into their DNA.

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Cloud security is something we take very seriously. How seriously? Give us a call and let's discuss.

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Sunday, 08 December 2019

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