As more payments organizations make the move to the cloud, many are leveraging GCP cloud services for its breadth of tools, processes, and technologies — including those around security. Here’s what you need to know about GCP cloud security.

Digital transformation (DX) initiatives have been given a jolt of life from the after shocks of the pandemic. While some payments organizations were slowly heading in the DX direction before COVID-19 hit, many more are now focused on modernization efforts to evolve alongside customer preferences in an increasingly digital world. As a result, cloud migrations are ramping up and many are looking to reputable providers like Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to facilitate DX and modernization.

Making the move can yield near-immediate increases in efficiency, agility, scalability, and cost savings. Cloud computing also transforms the way organizations store, share, and use data, apps, and workloads — a change that is often met with a cautious eye when it comes to security and governance. While security remains a top concern for payments organizations in the public cloud, there are ways to mitigate risk, particularly for those leveraging GCP cloud services.

GCP Cloud Security Basics

Most GCP customers are pleased to find that cloud security is a top priority. Not only do the network architecture and data center builds meet security requirements, but they do so at a fraction of the cost that typically accompanies facility and hardware maintenance of physical servers and storage devices.

GCP and its customers can rely on software-based security tools to help monitor and secure information that flows in and out of cloud resources. At the ground level, customers benefit from GCP best practices as applied to architecture, processes, and policies while simultaneously enjoying flexibility when it comes to security controls.

GCP also includes automation as a feature in some of its services, helping organizations to simplify often complex cloud environments. When companies must quickly scale up due to sharp upticks in traffic and data, administrators have significantly more they are responsible to protect and monitor. Automation allows software to handle resource-draining tasks so administrators can monitor the overall cloud environment and security.

Security From the Ground Up

GCP has created collaborative tools, models, and support systems to ensure that customers can rest assured knowing that they are secure both on and in the cloud. These are reviewed in greater detail below.

Monitoring and High Visibility

Visibility into every aspect of the cloud environment is critical to maintaining security and mitigating risk. GCP offers services to enhance visibility, enabling organizations to detect threats and attacks faster and more accurately. One of the main ways this happens is through active log monitoring, which can help identify anomalous behavior.

GCP’s Security Command Center is a security and risk management platform that gives organizations access to centralized visibility and control so that vulnerabilities and misconfigured security functions in virtual machines (VMs), storage buckets, networks, and applications can be identified faster. The Security Command Center also enables compliance reporting, so organizations can be sure they are maintaining compliance. Finally, the platform allows companies to detect any threats that may be targeting its Google Cloud assets.

The Cloud Monitoring service from GCP Offers visibility into the overall health of cloud-powered applications by collecting events, metadata, and metrics from Google Cloud and other providers. The data collected is transformed into insights that are viewable through dashboards, alerts, and charts. The service also integrates with Slack, PagerDuty, and other tools to facilitate collaboration. The dashboards and data visualization tools enabled by Monitoring helps organizations identify trends via patterns and anomalies that could require attention and prevent emergent issues.

Identity Access Management

GCP security is founded on the critical principle of least privilege. This principle is the concept of only providing employees with access to applications and resources they need to properly do their jobs. For example, G Suite administrators can control how employees share files and folders in Google Drive. GCP allows administrators to limit employee access to the cloud via identity management and context-aware access tools.

Cloud Identity and Access Management (Cloud IAM) allows administrators to abide by the principle of least privilege to authorize what actions specific employees can take on specific cloud resources. This highly automated access control allows administrators to manage resources easily once roles for individuals and groups are established. This protects organizations from accidental disclosures of confidential information and prevents the intentional or accidental manipulation of resources.

VPC Service Controls from GCP allows administrators to create a secure perimeter around cloud resources so that only a limited number of users can access the cloud environment within the public cloud. VPC Service Controls enables administrators to create more detailed access control policies using user attributes like IP address and user identity. By enabling context-aware access, administrators can set specific criteria to determine whether a group or a single user can access cloud resources.

Augmenting GCP Security With Additional Expertise

While the tools and support provided by GCP lay the foundation for securing the cloud, each business has unique requirements that must be adhered to in order to avoid security breaches and other issues. Payments organizations, in particular, face a slew of regulatory requirements and compliance considerations.

Ensuring ongoing security and compliance in the payments space requires adherence to stringent regulations. Compliance is an ongoing endeavor that relies on an IT team that has expert knowledge of compliance issues and emerging industry regulations that are continuously being updated.

Some payments organizations may choose to outsource this element, leveraging the expertise of a specialist or team to act as an extension of internal resources. These specialists can aid in the maintenance of the infrastructure — including running backups, patching, maintaining security and compliance, and overseeing new projects.

As IT environments grow increasingly complex and the adoption of multi-cloud environments increases, security must remain a top priority. Securing data in IaaS platforms can often turn into a game of catch up rather than a proactive journey, largely due to the difficulty in monitoring and correcting misconfigurations across all cloud services.

Nonetheless, most security leaders believe that the cloud is more secure than on-premise. Those partnering with GCP for cloud services are starting on the right foot, though going above and beyond the basic security requirements continues to be an ongoing challenge for most payments organizations in 2021.

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