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Data Center Threats and Vulnerabilities

Modern data centers combine cloud-based deployments with on-premises infrastructure, taking advantage of the benefits of both environments. These hybrid data centers face significant cybersecurity risks, making a hybrid cloud security architecture essential to protecting them against compromise and other threats to data and application availability and security.

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The Role of the Data Center

The data center provides a shared infrastructure for hosting corporate applications and data. It includes components for networking, computation, and storage. To ensure the security and availability of the data and applications hosted within a data center, industry standards exist to aid in designing, constructing, and maintaining these facilities.

 

In the past, companies hosted their data and applications completely in on-premises data centers. However, with the emergence of cloud computing, companies have transitioned a growing percentage of their IT infrastructure to public or private cloud environments. These cloud environments offer the operating system as a service and provide various advantages to the business, including greater agility, efficiency, flexibility, and the potential to take advantage of significant cost savings.

However, public and private cloud environments are not perfect solutions for corporate data centers. On-premises infrastructure provides organizations with greater control over and visibility into the infrastructure hosting their data and applications. As a result, organizations commonly adopt a hybrid data center model, combining a mix of on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure. These hybrid data centers take advantage of orchestration to allow data and applications to be shared between cloud-based and on-prem infrastructures over the network. As a result, companies can achieve a better balance between the advantages provided by on-premises and cloud-based data centers.

The Importance of Data Centers

Data is the lifeblood of the modern business, and properly protecting, managing, governing, and using this data is essential to the success and profitability of the business. Regulatory compliance and business success depends on an organization’s visibility into and control over the sensitive data in their possession.

The data center is the infrastructure that hosts this data and provides an environment for deploying data management solutions. A well-designed data center ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data in its care. As organizations become increasingly data-driven, a data center can be either a significant competitive advantage or a major liability.

What Are the Main Threats for Data Centers?

Data centers are one of the most important parts of an organization’s IT infrastructure. As a result, disruption of the operations of a data center has a significant impact on the business’s ability to operate. The two main threats to the availability and security of data centers (and the data and applications hosted on them) are threats to the underlying infrastructure and cyber threats to the data and applications hosted on this infrastructure.

  •  Direct Infrastructure Attacks

Data centers are composed of three types of components: compute, storage, and network functionality. Exploits against this infrastructure impact the availability, performance, and security of the data center.

Data centers are designed to include a variety of defenses against infrastructure exploits. The use of redundancy for crucial functions helps to eliminate single points of failure and maximize uptime. This makes it more difficult for attackers to disrupt the applications hosted on this infrastructure.

Additionally, data centers have support infrastructure designed to address natural events and attacks that can disrupt access to services. These include uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), fire suppression systems, climate control, and building security systems.

  • Cyberattacks Against Hosted Services

The purpose of the data center is to host business-critical and customer-facing applications. These applications can be targeted and exploited in a number of different ways, including:

  1. Web and Application Attacks: Web applications are vulnerable to a range of attacks, including those outlined in the OWASP Top 10 and the CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.
  2. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks: Service availability is essential for a positive customer experience. DDoS attacks threaten availability, leading to loss of revenue, customers, and reputation.
  3. DNS Attacks: Data centers hosting DNS infrastructure are potentially vulnerable to DNS DDoS attacks, cache poisoning, and other DNS threats.
  4. Credential Compromise: Credentials breached via data breaches, credential stuffing, phishing, and other attacks can be used to access and exploit users’ online accounts.

These and other attacks can disrupt the availability, performance, and security of applications hosted by a data center. Companies must deploy security solutions that address all of these potential attack vectors.

What are the Main Vulnerabilities of Data Centers?

Data centers host applications that can be vulnerable to attack in a few ways, including:

  • Vulnerable Applications: Applications hosted on data center infrastructure can contain vulnerable code. This includes both code developed in-house and the third-party code imported via libraries and in externally-developed applications.
  • Remote Access Tools: As remote work became more common in the wake of the pandemic, companies deployed remote access solutions such as the remote desktop protocol (RDP) and virtual private networks (VPNs). Cybercriminals took advantage of these new access points, exploiting compromised credentials and unpatched vulnerabilities to gain access to and plant malware on corporate systems.

Supply Chain Vulnerabilities: Organizations rely upon third-party applications that are deployed within an organization’s environment. These third-party tools create security vulnerabilities because the data center is reliant upon the security of these third-party organizations and tools.

How to Secure Your Data Center

Data centers store and manage the sensitive data in an organization’s possession, making their security a core part of a corporate data security strategy. Data centers should be secured based upon the zero trust security model, which limits access and permissions to the minimum required by business needs.

Effectively implementing a data center security strategy requires deploying a range of security solutions and implementing various best practices. Nine of the most important considerations for data center security include:

  • Prevent Vulnerability Exploitation: Patch vulnerable systems and applications and deploy an IPS to virtually patch when a patch is not yet available, IPS can also detect exploits against the DNS infrastructure or attempts to use DNS to circumvent security protections.
  • Implement Network Segmentation: Network segmentation prevents lateral movement and enables enforcement of least privilege access under the zero trust security model. Deploy security that can prevent east/west movement between machines or applications in addition to security that prevents north/south movement between zones.
  • Secure Development Pipelines: Implement secure coding and DevSecOps best practices and integrate security testing and policy enforcement into DevOps continuous integration and deployment CI/CD pipelines.
  • Deploy Web Application and API Protection (WAAP): Use web application and API security solutions to mitigate OWASP Top 10 risks to web applications.
  • Use Cloud-Native Security Solutions: In the hybrid data center, secure workloads, containers, and microservices with cloud-native security.
  • Protect Against DDoS Attacks: Use on-prem and cloud DDoS protections to mitigate DDoS threats.
  • Prevent Credential Theft: Deploy anti-phishing protections such as strong multi-factor authentication (MFA) for users  to block credential-stealing attacks.
  • Secure the Supply Chain: Detect and prevent sophisticated supply chain attacks using AI and ML-backed threat prevention and EDR and XDR technologies.

Protect Sensitive Data: Safeguard data at rest, in use, and in transit using encryption, VPNs, and data loss prevention (DLP) technologies.

Data Center Security with Check Point

The modern data center combines public and private cloud environments with on-premises infrastructure. Securing this infrastructure at scale requires the use of automation and AI as part of a hybrid cloud security architecture. This architecture should be managed from a single console that provides complete visibility and control over security in both on-prem and cloud-based environments.

Check Point offers a hybrid data center security solution focused on preventing threats before they pose a risk to corporate resources. By unifying threat prevention and policy management across an organization’s entire data center – including both on-prem and cloud-based assets – Check Point enables an organization to take full advantage of the benefits of a hybrid data center without compromising on security.

Check Point’s hybrid cloud data center security solution includes the following 4 components:

#1. Next-Generation Firewalls

Check Point Quantum Network Security next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) segment north/south traffic between data center zones. They also offer scalable and redundant security when deployed in a Maestro Active-Active clustering hyperscale network security solution.

In addition to standard firewall and VPN with integrated dynamic routing features, Check Point NGFWs include Application Control, URL Filtering, IPS, Antivirus, Anti-Bot, sandboxing and Content Disarm & Reconstruction (CDR) technologies to prevent zero-day threats. Anti-phishing prevents credential loss and safeguards user credentials. 

Within the data center, CloudGuard Network Security micro-segments and secures east/west traffic in virtual environments with tight integrations with private cloud and SDN vendors including VMware NSX, Cisco ACI, and OpenStack.

 

#2. Application and Cloud Security

Web applications and APIs are protected from OWASP Top 10 threats using CloudGuard AppSec. CloudGuard Appsec is a Next Generation WAF that leverages machine learning and contextual AI to learn how an application is typically used. Each user request is profiled and the app content is scored accordingly. This approach eliminates false positives while maintaining application security. Check Point solutions deploy completely within a matter of hours, enabling companies to take advantage of security that keeps up with the rapid pace of DevOps.

Secure Hybrid Data Center cloud workloads, containers, and serverless functions with cloud-native security. Check Point CloudGuard Workload posture management provides visibility into dynamic K8s environments with Continuous Integration (CI) tools to perform security scans of container images currently in development. A central admissions controller governs all cluster operations and enforces access restrictions based on the principle of least privilege. Identify and stop incidents in real-time with active threat prevention to ensure container integrity.

CloudGuard automates serverless function security, seamlessly applying behavioral defenses, and least-privilege, with nearly no overhead in function performance. This ensures a continuous security posture, protecting the serverless functions from known and unknown attacks, while also meeting compliance and governance.

 

#3. DDoS Prevention

Check Point Quantum DDoS Protector provides real-time, perimeter attack mitigation to secure organizations against emerging network and applications DoS threats. DDoS Protector protects the infrastructure against network and application downtime (or slow time), application vulnerability exploitation, malware spread, network anomalies, information theft, and other types of attacks. The DDoS Protector hybrid solution combines cloud-based and on-premises mitigation tools in a single integrated solution, which is designed to block multiple attack vectors occurring at the same time.

 

#4. Security Integration

Organizations that implement several cyber security solutions in hope of better protections can adopt a consolidated security approach with Check Point Infinity architecture. Doing so, they will achieve preemptive protection against complex attacks while reducing security costs by 20% and increasing operational efficiency by 50%.

Learn more about reducing the costs of data centers by checking out this Gartner report. Then, see the capabilities of Check Point’s data center network security solutions by requesting a Maestro demo.

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