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Cloud Success Stories

Digital transformation is now the enterprise holy grail. An important part of this journey is cloud adoption as organizations leverage new technologies like containers, Kubernetes, serverless computing, machine learning, etc. During transformation projects, companies typically follow established industry practices around continuous delivery and DevOps but overlook one key aspect: security. 


Cloud opens up a whole new world for cyber attackers to exploit data. Recently, McAfee found that post-pandemic, “threats from external actors targeting cloud services increased 630%, with the greatest concentration on collaboration services like Microsoft 365.” In fact, everyone from Alibaba to the Australian Parliament House has been breached.


One of the key reasons this happens is that organizations don’t realize that adopting the cloud will not absolve them of the responsibility of securing applications.


In a data center model, you are responsible for security across different operating environments such as your applications, physical servers, user controls and even the physical security of the building. Whereas in a cloud environment, your cloud vendor typically takes care of lower-level infrastructure, including related security. However, you are responsible for the rest.


This is called the shared responsibility model. In this article, we explore what the shared responsibility model entails and how you can protect your cloud services.


Cloud vendor-agnostic shared responsibility model


The cloud services or the workload responsibilities vary depending on whether the workload is hosted as software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or on-premise. So, it is crucial to understand how each of these differs from the other.


  • Software as a service refers to products that are available as a service managed by a vendor on the cloud, such as Salesforce, Slack and Google apps

  • Platform as a service refers to products available as software tools and hardware infrastructure such as GitHub, Kubernetes and Docker

  • Infrastructure as a service refers to a set of infrastructure tools available as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ service such as Google compute engine, AWS, Digital Ocean, Red Hat

  • On-premise refers to products hosted from your in-house resources, like a data center within your firewall


Whatever the model, there is always some share of your responsibility for securing applications. For instance, in the PaaS model, low-level infrastructure like guest OS or networking controls are typically managed by the cloud provider, whereas application-related controls like code and user access management are managed by the customer. In the IaaS model, the host operating system, storage etc. are handled by the provider, while network security, container security and application controls are managed by you. 


Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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