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Hybrid Cloud Security Definition

Hybrid cloud security protects data, software applications, and IT infrastructure using workload portability, data processing orchestration, and management of IT environments that include at least one private and one public cloud server.

Enterprises allocate workload distribution based on compliance requirements, audits, policies, and security. Critical path processes may run in a private cloud separated from the public Internet using secured data containers. The private cloud only connects to a public cloud through encrypted application programming interfaces (APIs).

A partitioned yet connected security strategy allows an enterprise to decide what processes stay guarded in the private cloud and what workload processes are on the public cloud. This strategy helps reduce the risk of exposing sensitive data to cyberattacks and severe damage from data breaches.

Significance of a Secure Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud security is an all-encompassing term that includes the technology and best practices used to protect critical and confidential data, applications, and IT resources. A secure hybrid cloud may have a mixed configuration of on-premises data processing, private cloud processing and storage, and secured connections to public cloud systems.

Here are some of the important components of securing a hybrid cloud and how they help in the security of hybrid cloud architecture:

  • Authentication: User login credentials and the identities of authorized entities receive authentication using best practices, including complex passwords, multi-factor authentication, and biometrics.
  • Vulnerability Probing: Constant network scanning analyzes and detects cloud security vulnerabilities in real time.
  • Traffic Monitoring: Traffic monitoring includes what goes into and comes out of the hybrid cloud, where the traffic comes from, and where it goes after processing.
  • Data/Process Segmentation: Hybrid cloud data protection comes from subnetworks based on a micro-segmentation design, preventing unauthorized users from moving laterally through the IT environment.
  • Workload Defense: Workload partitions protect applications, services, data calls, operations, and cloud capability.
  • Network Configuration Management: An audit of the security process identifies and documents misconfigurations in hybrid cloud access and security policies. This audit provides information used for remediation.

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Essential Components of a Hybrid Cloud Security

The three main components of hybrid cloud security are physical, technical, and administrative security.

Physical Security

The management of physical security for a public cloud service is the responsibility of the third-party operator of the data center. Nevertheless, reliance on a third party for the physical security of the public cloud should be the subject of a due diligence inquiry and regular audit review to ensure the physical security is adequate.

On-premises hybrid workforce security is the responsibility of the enterprise where the in-house data center is located. The recommended security measures include video surveillance, locked entries with restricted access, backup power generators, and a climate-controlled environment for temperature, humidity, plumbing leaks, fires, and emergency response systems for natural disasters.

Technical Security

Technical security protocols and strategies help prevent data breaches. These measures include encryption, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other methods.

Point-to-point encryption works for data in transit. Full disk encryption and hardware encryption protect stored data. VPNs create a secure data tunnel between connected components of the hybrid environment.

Other measures of hybrid cloud security include a reliable data backup system, offsite and offline data backup storage, role-designated access controls, change monitoring, endpoint security, and multi-factor authentication.

Administrative Security

Verizon's 2022 Data Breaches Investigations Report found that 82% of data breaches involve human error or employees tricked by criminals to gain unauthorized access.

Administration security in hybrid cloud environments comes from documentation of rules and procedures combined with employee training. Data protection policies must be enforced. For example, employees should not be able to take critical information offsite or make copies of it to store on unsecured devices. Risk assessment processes need to be ongoing. Employees need training about a robust disaster recovery plan.

Hybrid Cloud Security Benefits and Challenges

Here is an overview of the benefits of a hybrid cloud architecture and hybrid cloud security challenges.


  1. Managed Security Risk: A hybrid cloud security architecture allows public and private data storage. The most sensitive data stays under the enterprise's direct control. The public cloud is useful for storing and processing less-sensitive data at a lower cost.
  2. No Single Failure Point: By diversifying data storage and processing across multiple clouds, this IT infrastructure reduces the single-point risk of a catastrophic failure caused by malware or ransomware.
  3. Reduced Attack Facing: Micro-segmentation reduces attackers' pathways to access sensitive data.
  4. Secure Access to Data and Applications: Any exposure to the Internet creates a risk. A zero-trust security solution allows users direct access to certain data and apps while not allowing them to access the rest of the hybrid network.
  5. Easier Regulatory Compliance: Privacy and other government regulations such as the CCPA and GDPR are easier to comply with while using a multi-cloud environment on different cloud service providers. Users may be segregated into groups based on compliance requirements.


  1. Governance: A hybrid cloud security solution allows for easier compartmentalization of data and processes to meet regulatory compliance issues. However, considerable work is necessary to stay current with regulatory requirements. This challenge is greater in highly-regulated sectors such as health care, finance, and government administration.
  2. Identity and Access Management: Knowing who has access to what data and processes are vital. Strict security protocols must be followed. The best practices include using the principle of least privilege to limit access on a need-to-know basis.
  3. Distributed Security Responsibilities: Know how each hybrid component prepares for audits of security standards.
  4. Incident Response: The responsibility for discovering, reporting, and managing a security incident is shared between the enterprise and the public cloud service provider. Constant communication that follows a policy of established notification rules is the best practice to inform the correct parties of a data breach.
  5. Data Commingling: Virtual servers on a public cloud, by their design, commingle data, which may cause data exposure to unauthorized parties if encryption protocols are not followed.
  6. Data Privacy: Some data privacy risk is associated with not being isolated from external cloud services.
  7. Application Security: Software from multiple vendors must be managed to know how vendors analyze their source code, what implementation guidelines exist, and how vendors provide updates and security patches.

Hybrid Cloud Security Architecture

Here is an overview of how to enable hybrid cloud security architecture functions.

Hybrid cloud security architecture starts with securing physical access to the cloud servers that hold the data and applications. A hybrid cloud may have global distribution to connect to multiple data centers. This architecture demands a zero-trust policy for all vendors.

Point-to-point encryption, server data storage encryption, and hardware encryption protect data when stored and transmitted in a zero-trust environment. Everything is encrypted, including the operating system (OS), software code, backend processes, application programming interfaces (APIs), transmitted data, and stored data.

Network intrusion protection comes from real-time packet scanning of data transmissions. This analytical process is managed by artificial intelligence (AI) programming algorithms. The algorithms undergo training by machine learning to recognize threats. The training is on computer virus pattern recognition, malware detection, and anti-denial-of-service (anti-DDOS) systems.

Edge servers provide a physically isolated or logical subnet, which separates a local area network (LAN) from any other untrusted network.

Network firewall protections, provided as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) from major IT vendors, are implemented across the software-defined wide-area network (SD-Wan) and software-defined networking (SDN) resources. Multiple firewall layers protect databases, application components, and the operating system.

Automated security Information and event management (SIEM) incidences come from complex analytical processes that generate system reports and quarantine alerts.

How Fortinet Can Help

Transitioning to a hybrid cloud architecture offers terrific benefits yet poses certain risks and challenges that require expert management for a smooth deployment. Fortinet provides a hybrid cloud security solution, which protects the hybrid cloud deployment before, during, and after migration.

Fortinet hybrid cloud security secures hybrid deployments with the auto-scale of network security efficiency and capacity planning. There is centralized management for the automatic provisioning of multi-layered workload security. Site-to-site VPN connectivity is the pathway used to migrate workloads among cloud servers. Segmentation of persistent connections delivers point-to-point security. Full visibility and control of security logs allow better compliance governance.

Use Case: Secure Hybrid Cloud


Why is hybrid cloud security important?

Using a dynamic hybrid cloud architecture allows public and private data processing and storage. The most sensitive data stays under the enterprise's direct control. The public cloud is useful for storing and processing less-sensitive data at a lower cost.

What is more secure, private or hybrid cloud security?

Generally, the most secure systems may be inward-facing private clouds that do not connect to public clouds or the Internet. However, these systems are only useful for certain types of secured data environments and offline storage. Most IT infrastructure has greater utility by having a secured connection to a public cloud or the Internet.

Additionally, not all enterprises can afford the IT staffing, technology, and data center hardware to maintain a highly secure private cloud for all data processing and storage needs. A hybrid cloud security architecture is a nice balance between being fully exposed to the Internet on a public cloud and using a private cloud that is more protected. A hybrid design allows the systems to be separate, protected, and connected.

What is the difference between public, hybrid, and multi-cloud security?

Public cloud security is provided by a third-party vendor of public cloud services.

Hybrid cloud set-up security protects data, software applications, and IT infrastructure using workload portability, data processing orchestration, and management of IT environments that include at least one private and one public cloud server.

Multi-cloud security provides protection of data and software applications across multiple cloud infrastructures and environments, which may be any mixture of private and public cloud services.