Why Context Is King: Cloud Security with Comprehensive Visibility

The Reign Of Context: A Game Changer In Cloud Security

Cloud adoption is essential for organizations looking to deliver cutting-edge customer experiences through digital transformation. However, as you move your digital assets to the cloud, the risk levels that you manage increase significantly. While your cloud provider is responsible for the security of the cloud, your organization is responsible for security in the cloud. This means that organizations today must monitor a vast array of resources and configurations in their cloud environment.

But cloud monitoring brings its own challenges. This article explores context-aware monitoring and how it brings efficiency to an organization’s cloud security management,

Cloud security challenges

Your attack surface increases exponentially once you adopt cloud-native application architecture.  For instance, several dozen microservices alone can lead to an explosion of publicly available workloads. Most enterprise-level applications have hundreds, if not thousands, of microservices to contend with.

Additionally, your development and DevOps teams love the flexibility and agility the cloud gives them. They can (and often do) bypass security processes to spin up workloads and test data in the cloud.  Unfortunately, assets created this way may remain accessible via default configurations and passwords—making them difficult to secure.

Compromised and unprotected assets, common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs), human-caused misconfigurations, poorly encrypted data, risky permissions, and dangerous cloud service default settings— all provide cybercriminals with various attack paths to your critical assets.

Challenges with continuous monitoring

Many organizations respond to these challenges with cloud monitoring solutions that promise “complete visibility into cloud resources and services” The solutions have centralized dashboards and report on thousands of metrics and configurations, sending alerts to administrators for every single cloud activity. The goal is to create opportunities for administrators to preemptively identify and shut down security risks before they escalate.

While these solutions are designed with good intentions—unfortunately, they just don’t give the expected results. A global survey of IT security professionals revealed that 60% of respondents received more than 500 alerts a day, leading to alert fatigue and missed critical issues.

Of course, cloud infrastructure must be monitored – otherwise, you could end up exposing your infrastructure in ways you don’t know until after an attack occurs. But is there another way to do it?

What is context-aware security?

Gartner defines context-aware security as using supplemental information to improve security decisions at the time they are made. But what is context in the context of security alerts? Imagine grouping all your security alerts into three categories—priority, urgency, and achievability. Context lies at the intersection of all three sets. Let’s explore this further


Alerts can be of varying priorities. High-priority alerts need to be fixed first because of the risk they denote. For instance, an Amazon S3 bucket with public read/write permissions may be a high-priority alert, while access to S3 from an infrequently used IAM user account may be a low priority.


Urgency refers to how quickly something needs to be solved. It is about dealing with something that must be done regardless of how important it is to do that thing or its overall impact on the organization. All high-priority alerts may not be of high urgency. For instance, an upcoming release may require resolving some otherwise low-priority security issues.


Achievability refers to the fixability of an alert. Do you have the tools, time, and resources to fix the issue? An alert is more useful if someone in the team can action it immediately. In contrast, numerous non-actionable alerts can lull your team into a false sense of security.

Context adds meaning to the metric

Context-based security alerts reveal hidden information so security teams can quickly define an alert’s priority, urgency, and achievability. For example, they:

  • Filter out meaningless alerts so your team knows what to focus on.
  • Use different colors to highlight different priority levels.
  • Present a brief narrative including past incidents and impact.
  • Automatically route alerts to the business representative who can action it.

A combination of technology and human insight is used to help teams quickly identify alerts that fit in the context sweet spot.

How context-aware cloud security alerting works

Advanced context-aware security solutions use attack path analysis and root cause analysis to offer a more holistic understanding of security incidents.

Attack Path Analysis

Attack path analysis focuses on understanding the sequence of events or actions an attacker could take to compromise a system or application. For example, MITRE ATT&CK (Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge) is one global knowledge base used for understanding cyber adversaries’ behavior and actions. The ATT&CK matrix details a range of tactics (objectives) and techniques (methods to achieve those objectives) that adversaries may employ. Context-aware security uses the matrix to:

  1. Map out and understand potential attack paths.
  2. Filter out low-risk, impossible, or non-urgent paths.
  3. Send alerts for the high-risk or easily fixable branches.

Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis(RCA) is a method used to identify the initial cause that led to a given incident. Context-aware alerting will analyze the root cause of an incident and only raise alerts if it determines sufficient reason to do so. For example, it may:

  • Examine logs, system histories, and other available data to find the events leading up to the incident.
  • Identify the specific component, system, or process where things went wrong.
  • Look at past incidents to determine a pattern or recurring theme.
  • Use databases like CVE to check if the point of failure matches known vulnerabilities or attack patterns.
  • Analyze who had access to the affected cloud resource, what changes were made recently, and other similar environmental specifics
  • Examine existing security controls, policies, and processes to see if they played a role in the incident.

Benefits of context-aware cloud security

Context-aware alerting represents a paradigm shift from generic, broad-stroke alerts to those tailored based on the specifics of the environment, data flow, user behavior, and business context. Here are the benefits of this approach:

Balancing Risk and Business Goals

Security alerts are not just technical indicators but are tied to business implications. By understanding the context, security teams can identify if a particular alert represents a risk to critical business functions or sensitive data. By focusing on alerts with direct business implications, organizations can reduce the costs associated with chasing down every single alert, many of which might be false positives or low business impact.

Situational Awareness and Operational Agility

With increased situational awareness, security teams can move from a reactive stance to a proactive one. They can anticipate potential threats based on the context and address them before they become active. It results in faster decision-making and response times. For example, they can plan different response strategies if an alert indicates a potential breach in a development environment versus a production environment handling sensitive customer data.

Enhanced Collaboration  

Situational awareness means that security alerts can be communicated to other teams (like IT, operations, or even executive teams) in a manner that’s relevant to them. For instance, instead of saying, “We have a security alert,” teams can say, “we have a security alert that could potentially impact our e-commerce checkout process.” Intelligent context-aware systems automatically route alerts to the appropriate business unit with the relevant information.
Over time, as the context becomes richer and more detailed, security processes can be fine-tuned to reduce false positives and enhance security posture.  


Modern cybercriminals are well-financed, technically skilled, and increasingly cunning adversaries who constantly improve their attack processes to steal data. Traditional security approaches are ineffective against sophisticated attacks in complex cloud environments, resulting in data breaches, staff burnout, and significant productivity losses. 

In response to these evolving threats, there’s an emergent emphasis on context-aware cloud security alert systems that provide enriched data through AI-powered incident analysis. Context ensures that alerts are not just noise but valuable, actionable intelligence aligned with business objectives. Context-centric solutions like Plerion offer deep insights into potential threats so you can proactively protect your cloud assets!

Need to speak to Plerion?

More To Explore

Get a Demo

Request a personalized 1:1 live demo to see how Plerion can help you secure your entire cloud

By submitting this form you agree to our Privacy Policy.