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Best Kept Security Secrets: How VPC Service Controls can help build defense in depth

While cloud security skeptics might believe that data in the cloud is just one access configuration mistake away from a breach, the reality is that a well-designed set of defense in depth controls can help minimize the risk of configuration mistakes and other security issues. Our Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Service Controls can play a vital role in creating an additional layer of security while also making it easier to manage your data in a way that most cloud services can’t do today.

Organizations across industries and business models use cloud services for activities such as processing their data, performing analytics, and deploying systems. VPC Service Controls can empower an organization when deciding how users and data can cross the perimeter of the supported cloud services, if at all. While VPC Service Controls are designed to help stop attackers, they can also enable contextual trusted data sharing (similar to how Zero Trust allows contextual access).

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What are VPC Service Controls

VPC Service Controls help administrators define a security perimeter around Google-managed services, which can control communication to and between those services. The Service Controls isolate your Google Cloud resources from unauthorized networks, including the internet. For example, this can help you keep a clear separation between services that are allowed to run in production and services that are not.

VPC Service Controls can help you prevent mistakes that lead to costly data breaches because they control access to your data at a granular level. They add context-aware access controls on these services, and can help you achieve your organization’s Zero Trust access goals.

Example of the fine-grained policies based on access context that can be implemented with VPC Service Controls.

Like wearing two layers of clothing made from different fabrics to protect you from winter weather, VPC Service Controls may appear similar to Identity and Access Management (IAM) but they come from a different approach to implementing security. IAM enables granular identity based access control; VPC Service Controls create a security perimeter that protects your cloud resources and sets up private connectivity to Google Cloud’s APIs and services. While it’s recommended to use both, VPC Service Controls have an added bonus: They can support blocking data theft during a breach. 

The additional layer of security that VPC Service Controls offer customers is challenging to achieve with on-premise systems or even with other cloud providers. You can think of it as an firewall for APIs that also adds a logical security control around three paths that data can take: 

From the public internet to your resources

Inside your VPC and the cloud service perimeter

For service-to-service communication (for example, denying access to someone who wants to load data to BigQuery or exfiltrate data from a BigQuery instance.)

How VPC Service Controls can help stop attackers

VPC Service Controls are used to enforce a security perimeter. They can help isolate resources of multi-tenant Google Cloud services, which can help reduce the risk of data exfiltration or a data breach.

For example, a bank that migrated financial data processing to Google Cloud can use VPC Service Controls to isolate their processing pipeline from public access (or any unauthorized access) by defining a trusted service perimeter.

How VPC Service Controls can enable trusted sharing

VPC Service Controls are used to securely share data across service perimeters with full control over what resource can connect to other resources, or outside the perimeter. This can help mitigate data exfiltration risks stemming from stolen identities, IAM policy misconfigurations, some insider threats, and compromised virtual machines.

Returning to our bank example, that same bank using VPC Service Controls may securely share or access data across Service Perimeters and Organizations. They may allow access to specific partners and for specific operations.

Example of allowing an authorized device plus authorized access.

How VPC Service Controls support Zero Trust access

VPC Service Controls deliver Zero Trust access to multi-tenant Google Cloud services. Clients can restrict access to authorized IPs, client context, user identity, and device parameters while connecting to multi-tenant services from the internet and other services.

A bank can use moving its services to the public cloud as an opportunity to abandon outdated access management approaches and adopt Zero Trust access. VPC Service Controls let them create granular access control policies in Access Context Manager based on attributes such as user location and IP address. For example, it would allow an analyst to only access Big Query from a corporate device on the corporate network during business hours.  These policies can help ensure the appropriate security controls are in place when granting access to cloud resources from the Internet. 

Next steps with VPC

Check out these pages to learn more about VPC Service Controls for your sensitive cloud deployments, especially for regulated workloads. This blog is the third in our Best Kept Security Secrets series, which includes how to tap into the power of Organization Policy Service and how Cloud EKM can help resolve the cloud trust paradox.

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