prosperops logo

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Security: Best Practices and Tips

Originally Published May, 2024 · Last Updated July, 2024

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) operates under a shared responsibility model, which divides the security obligations between the hyperscale and the customer. This model varies depending on the type of service utilized—be it Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS). 

While GCP ensures the security of the cloud infrastructure itself, the responsibility to secure applications deployed on the cloud rests with the users. Without robust protection, these applications could become gateways for cybercriminals. Thus, to safeguard your systems effectively, a well-defined and comprehensive cloud security management program is essential.

This article will help you understand GCP security better, including:

  • Why is GCP security important?
  • Security risks to consider with GCP
  • GCP built-in security tools
  • Best practices for GCP security 

Why is GCP security important?

Google Cloud Platform provides a wide variety of solutions, from AI infrastructure, machine learning, data analytics, and database developer tools to industry-specific integration services. But, as we mentioned, unsecured tools and applications can be vulnerabilities for cyberattacks.

We need robust Google Cloud security for several reasons:

Data protection

GCP offers various controls for data security, such as encryption, which safeguards data from unauthorized access or interception. Encryption can be applied to data at rest, in transit, and in use. 

Another example of data protection is Cloud Key Management Service (Cloud KMS), which allows users to generate and manage encryption keys directly within Google Cloud.  

Google Cloud also has VPC Service Controls and Data Loss Prevention (Cloud DLP) that block access from untrusted locations and protect data from exfiltration risks. 

Besides unauthorized access, interception, and cyber threats, these Google Cloud security protocols ensure confidentiality, integrity, and data availability across all cloud services.  

Compliance and regulatory requirements

GCP security helps ensure you meet all guidelines, laws, standards, and regulations on storing, managing, and protecting sensitive data in the cloud. These requirements can be from local, state, international, federal, or other authorized regulatory bodies. 

Some examples of bodies that set compliance and regulatory requirements include the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These organizations define controls for data privacy, access management, encryption, and risk mitigation to address cybersecurity challenges associated with cloud environments. 

Non-compliance can result in significant fines and damage to your reputation. To avoid these consequences, utilize GCP’s Compliance Reports Manager to obtain necessary certifications and documentation that support your compliance efforts.

Ensuring application and infrastructure integrity

Google Cloud secures all information processing within the cloud, maintaining the integrity of applications and infrastructure. That includes the hardware, storage, identity, communications, and operation.  

For example, Google’s storage infrastructure adds an extra layer of encryption at the application and storage infrastructure layer. This prevents unauthorized modifications and disruptions while ensuring the seamless operation of cloud-based resources. 

Security risks to consider with GCP

Whenever there’s sensitive information, there’s bound to be security threats. This was the case before cloud computing and remains the case now, too. Below are GCP security risks you should be aware of:

Misconfiguration

Misconfigurations are errors, gaps, or vulnerabilities that occur in a cloud environments. This security risk can occur for various reasons, including: 

  • Misconfigured permissions
  • Inadequate security settings
  • Incorrect permission settings
  • Installation of unnecessary software features
  • Systems not upgraded or improperly configured
  • Outdated software

Misconfigurations can inadvertently expose sensitive information or systems to unauthorized access, modification, or deletion. 

Let’s say you deploy a sample application onto your Compute Engine VM. Usually, sample applications have flaws that allow attackers to compromise servers. For example, an attacker could easily log in with default passwords if the default accounts are not changed.

Without vigilant application security configuration management, cloud systems are at higher risk.

Inadequate access controls

Inadequate access controls also present a chronic security risk for organizations storing sensitive data in the cloud.

Google Cloud Account credentials are at the root of most cyberattacks. They provide access to a network, which is the first step of a successful attack.

Before cloud computing, when data was stored on local servers, controlling who could access what information was much easier. However, in a cloud environment, it’s more challenging. 

You need strong access controls on resources such as Cloud Storage buckets or highly permissioned service accounts. Otherwise, you risk unauthorized intrusion.

Data security challenges

Weak passwords, malicious internal users, and phishing can all compromise data security, resulting in leaks of financial details, personal data, and other confidential information. 

They can also lead to financial loss from theft and legal fees and damage a reputation that took years to build.  

GCP built-in security tools 

GCP has built-in security tools that provide multiple levels of defense to minimize risks from configuration errors and attacks. These include default encryption for data at rest and in transit, DDoS protection, key management, hard points, guardrails, and public access limitations. 

For GCP customers, these built-in tools are a great start, including:

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM): Allows you to grant granular access to Google Cloud resources and restrict access to others. IAM roles and permissions help ensure that you follow the security principle of least privilege—where nobody has more permissions than they need.
  • Security Command Center: This is GCP’s native solution for cloud security posture management. It helps detect, evaluate, and make sense of vulnerabilities and threats (such as software vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and posture violations) and respond to security issues, prioritizing their fixes across an entire GCP organization.
  • Cloud Armor: Provides adaptive protection for your web applications and resources to detect and help prevent DDoS attacks and other application threats, including XSS (cross-site scripting) and SQLi (SQL injection).
  • Cloud Key Management Service (KMS): Allows you to create and manage data encryption keys. You can generate software/hardware keys, import them, or use external keys in applications and compatible cloud services.  
  • Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (IAP): Enables a central authorization layer that performs authentication and authorization checks to limit the users’ ability to access applications or resources. 
  • Google Cloud Audit Logs: Google Cloud Audit Logs record administrative activities and access events (data access, system events, policy changes) within your Google Cloud resources. This provides transparency because you can determine what was done, when and where and by whom.   
  • Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Service Controls: These controls reduce data infiltration risks from Google Cloud services by creating a perimeter that protects your cloud data and resources. VPC Service controls help prevent access from unauthorized networks, data exfiltration by malicious insiders, and public exposure of private data.
  • Cloud IDS: This intrusion detection service ensures malicious actors don’t attack your network with malware, spyware, or intrusion. It conducts network detection and provides alerts on threats. 
  • Chronicle SIEM: GCP provides this feature in addition to core Google infrastructure to provide instant analysis and context on risky activity in your cloud environment. 

Best practices for Google Cloud Platform security

To secure Google Cloud developments, you need guidance. Let’s explore best practices for meeting your security objectives.

1. Regularly conduct team training

Cybercriminals constantly change their strategies, using newer and more sophisticated tactics. Thus, we need continuous learning to keep up with these potential threats and security best practices, to mitigate them. Only through such awareness and training for all team members can an organization stand a fighting chance and maintain a secure GCP environment.

2. Understand the shared responsibility model

Security in cloud computing is the responsibility of both the client and service provider. The shared responsibility model is a framework that defines who (cloud service provider or client) is responsible for which architectural component. 

Generally, Google handles security matters relating to the underlying infrastructure—software, hardware, and networks—and the client is responsible for securing cloud configuration, data applications, and data stored in the cloud. However, this can vary depending on the services in use and where they fall on the spectrum from self-managed to fully managed services.

This includes access policies, access and authentication, content, operations, network security, web application security, deployment, usage, identity, guest OS, data, and content.

Understanding and implementing the shared responsibility model is important because when each party does its part, it helps mitigate vulnerabilities that attackers might exploit.

3. Secure your Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)

Securing VPC helps segment your network by generating multiple isolated private networks to host your resources. That way, even if an illegal user succeeds in accessing a VPC, they can’t access the entire network. This controls network access, limiting exposure to your resources to protect your cloud infrastructure.

For example, in a business’s cloud infrastructure, the network is a weak link due to its various entry points. Analyzing network configurations for risks is one way to ensure your cloud network is secure.

Setting up firewall rules allows you to specify addresses that can access your resources and ports open for communication. Customers should set up sub-networks and not expose services with public IP addresses. 

4. Encrypt data at rest and in transit

To ensure the security of your cloud storage and databases, use GCP’s robust default encryption for data at rest and in transit. 

While data is at rest, Google provides a 256-bit, advanced data encryption standard (AES-256), which is considered quantum resistant. That means it has cryptographic algorithms that can withstand quantum computers’ code-breaking attempts. 

As data travels between your GCP and across networks (data in transit), Google Cloud’s encryption protocols ensure security.  

The following are some security best practices for customers when implementing encryption effectively for their own services:

  • Choose suitable encryption algorithms.
  • Manage encryption keys.
  • Regularly update and audit encryption. 
  • Encrypt in layers.

5. Implement strong authentication and authorization

Cyberattackers constantly seek ways to access and steal or exploit private information. Authentication protects data and systems from such malicious attempts. 

Implementing strong authentication as part of the Identity and Access Management infrastructure strategy can limit data breaches, manage organizational costs, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. 

Multifactor authentication, such as a token or mobile app, is a layered risk mitigation strategy. It strengthens access control so that credentials alone are insufficient for granting access. As a GCP customer, you have access to various MFA options, including mobile, text messages, and phone calls.

It’s important to protect access to user accounts, but you also need to ensure that service accounts are protected as well. Lock down service account keys or consider using workload identity federation.

Additionally, strong passwords and context-aware access controls provide an additional protection layer, helping sieve bad actors by giving you control over the apps a user can access based on their context. For example, you could set security controls that block users whose devices don’t comply with your IT policy. 

6. Regularly monitor and audit logs

Security audits act as vital checkpoints on the condition of your cloud infrastructure. But that’s only if you monitor them regularly. 

Audits help examine existing systems more thoroughly, providing valuable insights into suspicious activities, potential vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and areas for improvement. 

GCP provides logging and monitoring tools such as: log-based metrics for creating alert policies and charts, and log-based alerts for near real-time notifications. These enhance security posture and response capabilities. 

7. Plan for incident response

Incident response control is necessary after an incident has occurred. You should ensure it is well-defined, detailing steps to detect, contain, and recover from a security incident.

When you plan for incident response, you can investigate and respond better to active threats, minimizing the impact on your GCP resources. 

Make the Most Of Your Google Cloud Platform Investment

GCP has various built-in cloud security services to help you develop secured solutions in a cloud environment: something you can’t do with most traditional security products. 

But in order to effectively utilize these GCP security services and get the most out of your cloud investment, you’ll need to optimize cloud resources as well. 

That’s where ProsperOps comes in.

ProsperOps is a leading automated FinOps platform that helps FinOps teams around the world realize their cloud savings potential and simplify their cloud investment management with zero manual effort. 

We make cloud savings easier and better for you!

Schedule a demo today to learn more about how you can return the most savings to your bottom line and optimize your Google Cloud investments.

Share

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Reddit

Get started for free

Request a Free Savings Analysis

3 out of 4 customers see at least a 50% increase in savings.

Get a deeper understanding of your current cloud spend and savings, and find out how much more you can save with ProsperOps!

Submit this form to request your free cloud savings analysis.

New: Autonomous Discount Management for Google Cloud Platform. Learn more.