Strengthening Cloud Defenses With the Shared Responsibility Model

Strengthening Cloud Defenses With the Shared Responsibility Model

Strengthening Cloud Defenses With the Shared Responsibility Model
Strengthening Cloud Defenses With the Shared Responsibility Model

As businesses around the globe increasingly turn to cloud computing, this technology has become a fundamental aspect of operations for companies of all scales. However, embracing cloud technology brings about specific cybersecurity issues that require thorough planning and strategic approaches.


At the heart of effective cloud security lies the shared responsibility model. This model delineates the security roles and duties between the cloud service provider and the client’s organization. By working together, they can create a more secure environment, ready to face the constantly shifting dynamics of modern cyber threats.

The Shared Security Landscape in the Cloud

The shared responsibility model lays down a blueprint for mutual cybersecurity efforts in cloud settings. It underscores the concept that effective cloud security is a collective venture, demanding engagement from both the cloud service provider (CSP) and its clients.

By separating each entity’s security responsibilities, the framework ensures clarity and helps in developing effective cloud security tactics. This model mirrors the dynamics between a landlord and tenant, where responsibilities are divided – the CSP, like a landlord, looks after the infrastructure and common security measures, while the client, or tenant, manages the security of their own digital “space” within that infrastructure.

Cloud Provider Obligations

The shared responsibility model assigns significant security obligations to cloud service providers (CSPs). Their primary focus lies in safeguarding the fundamental infrastructure upon which cloud environments are built.  Key responsibilities of the CSP include:

Safeguarding the Infrastructure

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) are committed to protecting their data centers against various threats, such as unauthorized entry, theft, local emergencies, or power failures. They use a comprehensive security strategy that typically features strong boundary defenses, including fences, secured entry points, and around-the-clock monitoring systems, to limit access strictly to permitted staff.

These data centers are also built to be resilient against natural disasters and are outfitted with emergency power supplies, improving their physical security measures. They are also often responsible for regularly completing SOC audits or conforming to industry guidelines like HITRUST in order to prove their compliance with both regulatory bodies and their clients.

Network-Level Protections

Cloud service providers undertake the crucial task of creating secure network spaces that segregate customer information while applying strict data safeguarding protocols.

Essential to their network defense plan are firewalls and intrusion prevention systems that serve as digital guardians, scrutinizing network traffic and helping to spot malicious activity. They also leverage encryption methods to secure data whether it’s stored or being transmitted.

Securing Hardware and Virtualization Layers

CSPs must ensure the security of the underlying cloud infrastructure, including servers, storage, and networking components. This includes diligently applying patches and updates to operating systems and virtualization software to address known vulnerabilities.  They also implement secure configurations for hardware components, following security best practices to minimize potential attack surfaces.

How Responsibilities Shift with Cloud Models


The particular division of security roles between you and your Cloud Service Provider will vary based on the cloud service model you adopt. Here’s a breakdown of these models:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): CSPs provide the building, but you secure what’s inside. Your apps and data are your responsibility.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): CSPs give you a construction site that is ready to build on. They keep the site secure, and your focus is on making sure your own data is secured.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): CSP manages all aspects. They handle everything, from construction to maintenance.

Your Organizations Role in Cloud Security

While the CSP plays a vital role in cloud security, the shared responsibility model underscores that customers also have significant obligations. Here’s a breakdown of key areas where you shoulder responsibility:

Prioritizing Data Integrity

The security of your sensitive information cannot be overstated. Employ stringent encryption practices for data, whether it is being transmitted or stored, to avoid unauthorized access. Classify your data based on its sensitivity to enforce suitable security measures. Additionally, maintain consistent backups, create effective disaster recovery plans, and run tabletop exercises to shield your data from breaches or unintended losses.

Robust Access Controls with IAM

It’s essential to monitor and control access to your cloud assets. Enforce strict password protocols, insist on multi-factor authentication (MFA), and apply the least privilege principle, limiting user access to only what’s necessary for their tasks. Regularly assess and modify access rights when necessary to minimize potential security threats.

Securing Your Applications

When creating and launching applications in the cloud, secure coding is critical. Defend your applications against major vulnerabilities like SQL injection and cross-site scripting with the help of secure coding practices, consistent vulnerability scans, and penetration testing. It’s also vital to keep up with the latest patches and updates for both your applications and their underlying operating systems to mend potential security gaps.

Optimizing Operating System Configurations

In IaaS models or when you have control over operating systems in the cloud, you’re often responsible for their secure configuration. This includes hardening operating systems by disabling unnecessary services, removing default settings, and following security benchmarks.

Initiating Your Cloud Security Strategy

The shared responsibility model provides a valuable framework for protecting your data in the cloud. By understanding where your responsibilities lie, and where your CSP’s begin, you can start building a robust security strategy.

Remember, cloud security is an ongoing journey. Stay updated on the evolving threat landscape, and be prepared to adapt your security practices.  Collaborate closely with your CSP, follow their security recommendations, and consider implementing additional security layers where necessary. This proactive approach will help you create a more secure cloud environment for you and your customers.

Author Bio:

Nazy Fouladirad is President and COO of Tevora, a global leading cybersecurity consultancy. She has dedicated her career to creating a more secure business and online environment for organizations across the country and world. She is passionate about serving her community and acts as a board member for a local nonprofit organization.

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