Access to the cloud has transformed the way of business processes. Almost 90% of organizations depend on the cloud these days. Although the cloud is advantageous in several ways, it has some risks also, which companies must analyze completely before distributing assets there. With current technological attacks and violations, maintaining cloud security has become a concern for global businesses.
Cloud security is a vital need for every company. According to the 2021 Cloud Security Report by ISC2, 93% of companies are highly or moderately worried about cloud security, and 1 in 4 companies reporting a cloud security violation in the last 1 year.
This blog gives a detailed guide to cloud security. You will explore the challenges, benefits, and best practices of cloud security. So, let’s get started with its brief definition!
What is Cloud Security?
Cloud security includes processes, controls, policies, and technologies that integrate for safeguarding your cloud-based infrastructure, data, and systems. It’s not just a sub-domain of computer security but also data security. In short, cloud security is a shared responsibility between the user and his/her cloud service provider.
To protect your consumer privacy, you need to execute a cloud security method. This shields your data and you from the legal, financial, and reputational complications of data loss and breaches.
Many companies employ cloud services or infrastructure, be it SaaS (Software as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), or PaaS (Platform as a Service). Every deployment model has its own critical security considerations.
Why is Cloud Security Essential?
As per the 2020 Cloud Security Report by Check Point, 52% of companies consider the higher risks of security violations in the public cloud than in the data centers, 59% believe that their cloud security budget will increase the next year, and 82% consider that security tools offer no or less functionality in the cloud environment.
As per the 2020 Statista Report on cybercrime & security, the number of data violations only in the USA grew to 155.8 million.
According to the Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023), 94% of all workloads are processed by cloud data centers. Although cloud technology has become extremely popular, many companies are still concerned about its security.
Here’s why cloud security is highly important:
1. Data Security Breaches
When it comes to running an app on a hybrid or public cloud, you will depend on a third party for your data handling. Thereby, you cannot control the data security anymore. Hence, you should make sure that the cloud service provider understands his responsibility.
However, being a client, you should always verify the data security even if your cloud computing service provider makes sure top-notch security.
2. Remote Work Management
Remote work gives you access to employ people from across the world. However, this type of arrangement has some security risks as well. Since you will use your personal gadgets, your data may get disclosed to phishing and malware attacks. If malware enters through these devices into the cloud system, your company can be at stake.
3. Disaster Restoration
Disasters like fire or flooding are unpredictable. So, if your data is not safeguarded and secured, you may experience a data loss. Moreover, your clients may lose their confidence in your company, which, in turn, can be damaging for your business.
4. Create Data Access Levels
Unexpected data leaks can put your business integrity in jeopardy and encourage your competitors. Restricting data access just to the employees who require it can hinder mistakes that cause data leaks.
5. Comply with Data Protection Regulations
Data protection rules were accumulated to make sure the security and integrity of client data. If you store your client data on the cloud, you need to ensure its security, particularly if your company belongs to a well-regulated industry like legal, banking, insurance, or finance. A data violation can spoil your reputation and brand as outsider parties will consider you responsible.
Security Risks of Cloud Computing
When you are using cloud services, security is the prime concern. You may experience some risks that can affect the reputation and profit of your business. While shifting to the cloud, you may find some new risks, but it does not imply that cloud computing is completely risky.
You may access some convenient security resources and tools to reduce the risks. Let’s have a look at the most common security risks of cloud computing!
1. Data Loss
Although a secure cloud service does not reduce every data loss threat, it provides simple and affordable solutions for disaster restoration and backup. Compared to on-premise solutions, cloud environments can offer extra flexibility of disaster recovery and store data on numerous cloud data centers.
2. Insider Threats
The worst enemy of your organization often comes from inside. This threat could be an error or malicious. Insider threats can also happen due to some other cloud security risks, incorporating credential theft, data violations, and misconfigurations.
Otherwise, people can get susceptible to some socially engineered attacks and phishing attacks that cause data compromise. They could be transferring business data from company clouds to shadow cloud formats on their personal gadgets.
3. Compliance Breaches
With the growing regulatory control, you will possibly require complying with some rigid compliance needs. If you are careless while moving to the cloud, you may experience the risk of compliance breaches. Your organization should know some regulations like where your data is located, the people who have its access, how it can be processed, and how to shield it.
Moreover, your cloud provider holds some compliance credentials also. An irresponsible data transfer to the cloud or moving to the incorrect provider can put your company in a non-compliance state. This introduces some serious financial and legal issues.
4. Credential Theft
This is a highly popular attack strategy as anybody having your credentials can get access to the cloud environment easily. Credentials are easy to be theft. Although some credential thefts involve key-logging malware, a drive-by threat can easily find the username and password written on the paper. You cannot detect unnecessary logins with genuine credentials.
5. Contractual Violations
Your contractual partnerships should incorporate some limitations on how the shared data is stored and used, and who can access it. If your employees move restricted data carelessly into cloud service with no authorization, it could make a contractual breach that may cause legal actions.
Thereby, ensure to read the terms and conditions of your cloud provider. In case you are authorized to move data to the cloud, some providers incorporate the right to share all data uploaded into their cloud infrastructure. Hence, if you ignore it, it could violate a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) accidentally.
6. Data Violations
This is the worst nightmare for any company. It causes the data compromise or loss of intellectual property, client data, and workers’ PII (Personally Identifiable Information). This, as a result, ruins the company’s reputation and causes financial loss.
Moreover, your organization may fail to comply with the industry or government data privacy standards mentioned in its contracts.
7. Misconfiguration of Cloud Services
This is another potent cloud security risk. With a wide range of complex services, this is an increasing problem. Misconfiguration of cloud services can lead data to be manipulated, disclosed, or erased publicly.
Basic reasons for this problem incorporate keeping primary access and security management settings for highly sophisticated data. Others incorporate incorrect access management providing disfigured data access and unauthorized individuals access where confidential information is open with no requirement for authorization.
8. Cloud Account Hijacking
This is a malicious holding of cloud accounts. Sometimes, hackers, hijackers, and threat actors follow extremely privileged accounts or cloud service subscriptions. Oftentimes, account hijacking helps them in identity theft.
In this particular case, thieves use exposed credentials, usually an email, for holding the cloud account. After the hijacking, thieves can manipulate the apps and data in the cloud.
9. Unstable APIs
You may employ an API to execute control while operating systems in a cloud infrastructure. Every API created into your mobile or web apps can give access externally by clients or internally by employees.
However, external-facing APIs can bring a cloud security risk. An unstable API offers unauthorized access to cybercriminals who seek to steal and manipulate data and cloud services.
10. Insufficiency of Cloud Security Methods and Architecture
You can simply avoid this cloud security risk. While moving data and systems to the cloud, many companies become active before all security strategies and systems start to safeguard their infrastructure. Ensure to execute a security method and infrastructure made for the cloud to protect your data and systems.
Best Practices for Cloud Security
Many companies operate their business systems in the cloud on the 3 prime cloud providers – Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Every cloud provider offers a large ecosystem of cloud services and infrastructure. This incorporates the best security tools and practices.
Identifying the security risks is the initial step towards fixing them. If you know what kinds of risks can threaten your cloud security, you can take some steps to reduce these risks. To help you deal with cloud security challenges, I have accumulated a list of best security practices for cloud computing systems.
1. Select a Reliable Cloud Service Provider
You should team up with a reliable cloud service provider. Select a provider who offers in-built cloud security protocols and follows the highest levels of the industry-best practices. You must make sure to confirm their security certifications and compliances.
2. Maintain Transparency in Your Partnership of Shared Responsibility
When you team up with a cloud service provider, it becomes a partnership of shared accountability for security applications. Knowing the shared responsibility includes finding which security jobs you will deal with and which your provider will manage. You must make sure clarity and transparency in your partnership of shared accountability.
3. Ensure to Train All Users
Users are your primary protection system in secure cloud computing. Their security practices and knowledge can either expose your system to cyber-attacks or protect it.
Hence, ensure to train all users like employees and stakeholders who have the system access in the secure cloud practices. Teach them how to recognize phishing emails, malware, and the risks of unstable practices. Also, consider industry-specific training and certification for more advanced users like administrators who are involved directly in executing cloud security.
4. Maintain Your Cloud Services’ Visibility
Unless you can see something, you cannot secure it. Using many cloud services across different locations and providers can reduce your cloud environment’s visibility.
Hence, ensure to execute a cloud security solution that maintains the visibility of the whole ecosystem. After that, you can execute granular security strategies to reduce many security risks.
5. Put a Strong Password Security Policy into Effect
No matter what service you are using, a strong password security policy is always the best practice. This policy is necessary to prevent unnecessary access. All passwords must need a lower-case letter, an upper-case letter, a symbol, a digit, and it should be of at least 14 characters. Make sure the users update their passwords every 3 months.
This password policy will prevent users from creating easy passwords across many gadgets and protect against malicious attacks. You can also enforce multi-factor authentication as an extra layer of cloud security best practices.
6. Analyze Your Cloud Security SLAs and Contracts
Contracts and SLAs are the only assurances of cloud services. As per the McAfee 2019 Cloud Adoption and Risk Report, 62% of cloud service providers don’t particularize that clients own their data, making a legal grey area. Review the annexes, terms & conditions, and appendices to know the owner of the data and what occurs if you abort the services.
7. Protect Your User Endpoints
Protecting your user endpoints is another best practice of cloud security. Many users access cloud services through website browsers. Hence, you should launch advanced client-side security for updating your browsers and protecting them from vulnerabilities.
Moreover, you must execute an endpoint security solution to safeguard your end-user devices. Search for a solution that incorporates internet security tools, antivirus, intrusion detection tools, mobile device security, and firewalls.
8. Maintain the Highest Encryption Levels
Your data may get susceptible to higher risk while deploying it between the cloud service and your network. Consider using your encryption solutions for data, both at rest and in the move. Encryptions basics help maintain full control over the data.
9. Enforce Strict Control of User Access
This cloud security best practice helps you deal with the users who try to access your cloud services. Begin with zero trusts, just provide users access to the data and systems they need.
To reduce complicacy while enforcing policies, form well-defined groups with specific roles to consider access to selected resources. Furthermore, you can add users straight to groups, instead of tailoring access for each and every user.
10. Employ a CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker)
Using a CASB is becoming the main tool to execute cloud security best practices. This software sitting between you and the cloud service provider maximizes security controls into the cloud.
Moreover, a CASB provides an advanced cloud security toolset to implement data security policies, offer visibility of the cloud ecosystem, keep up with compliance, and enforce threat identification and protection.
You need a rock-solid cloud security strategy if you are moving to the cloud. Hence, make sure to choose the cloud service provider carefully. Any time a hacker can attack your business. So, ensure to implement the aforesaid cloud security best practices to enhance the security of your cloud computing system.