Cloud computing may be common, but businesses of all sizes still need help navigating cloud security
The cloud is now the norm. According to Gartner, cloud data centers will process 92 percent of workloads by 2020. From data storage to better work collaboration, cloud computing is helping both large corporations and SMBs run more smoothly and cost-effectively.
While the cloud has given businesses new opportunities to optimize their productivity, data security is still a major concern for many of them. News of data breaches are splashed across print and digital publications left and right, making it seem like even the biggest and most secure cloud service providers aren’t up to par.
Nevertheless, there are simple steps businesses can take to ensure that their company and customer data stays secure.
Cloud security vs. on-premises security
For companies that have always used on-premises resources to keep their data safe, moving to the cloud can be both a relief and a challenge.
On-premise security is hands-on and very involved. From company financials to customer information, the on-site team is entirely responsible for safeguarding data. When an organization decides to transition to the cloud, it’s forced to give up some that control.
Thankfully, most cloud service providers adhere to strict security standards, but that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t check them out before making a decision. While a vendor can obtain multiple certifications, one with an ISO 27001 certification has proven it is following the international standard for information security best practice. If the provider is less known, a company can, and should also seek a third-party audit of the provider to see if it is up to standard.
Start with a secure cloud migration
A migration can begin after a company has decided to move forward with a cloud service provider. While a secure cloud migration is possible, often companies run into issues when they aren’t properly prepared, which is why it’s essential to organize a comprehensive cloud migration strategy.
Companies should also perform a thorough “cleanup” before and after the migration. To start, they should review all user accounts and access rights to make sure there are no outdated credentials or insecure protocols in use. Failure to ensure a spotless user database can lead to problems down the road.
After the migration has taken place, all on-premise systems must be wiped clean. Storing data on newly decommissioned systems is not only bad practice, but it can lead to a massive privacy breach down the road.
Of course, cloud security is not a one-and-done task. Constantly monitoring, ensuring team members know their roles, and staying informed of the latest and best practices is vital. Here are some tips to ensure ongoing cloud security:
- Take advantage of risk assessments
All companies, where they are on the cloud or not, face cybersecurity threats.
A risk assessment is a helpful tool companies can utilize to identify their potential vulnerabilities and come up with ways to combat hackers who try to take advantage of any weaknesses. This also involves prioritizing which types of data are sensitive and valuable. Personal information companies have on their employees and customers, such as social security numbers and banking information, is particularly targeted by hackers. Important business information and anything deemed “mission critical” should also be prioritized.
Depending on where an organization’s headquarters are located, a risk assessment isn’t just helpful—it’s the law. To ensure they are maintaining the property security standards, companies should check their state’s cybersecurity regulations, if any exist.
- Know your role in data security
We’ve touched on how important the role of a reliable cloud service provider is in keeping their clients’ data safe, but it’s ultimately up to a company to avoid a data breach.
The shared responsibility model introduced by Amazon has become the go-to resource for dividing responsibility between CSPs and their customers. According to the model, the cloud provider secures the hardware and software of the cloud, while the customer is responsible for the security of assets in the cloud. It’s important to point out, however, that if the CSP provider is hacked, like AWS and Dropbox have been in the past, every asset located inside could be compromised. Companies should be proactive, anticipate how they will react, and be ready to do what is necessary to improve the safety and regain trust of their employees and customers in the event of a breach.
- Keep your employees in check
According to TechRepublic, employee negligence is the leading cause of data breaches at small and medium-sized businesses. While human error is not entirely avoidable, there are steps companies can take to ensure their employees don’t accidentally leave the virtual door open to hackers.
“Bring your own device,” or BYOD, culture has allowed for companies to be more productive and collaborative while at work, but it has also opened organizations to real security risks. Stolen laptops and mobile devices, simplistic and repeated passwords, and too many team members having access to high-level information are just a few examples of episodes that can lead to cloud security problems.
To prevent these accidental mishaps, companies should secure any devices that are accessing the cloud with advanced endpoint security and deploy firewall solutions to protect the network perimeter. To further prevent issues, data security clearance should be given carefully to reduce the chance of any employee leaving a terminal open. Finally, employees must be educated on the latest cybersecurity risks such as vishing and phishing, as well as instructed on proper network security practices. With the employees being the single largest hole in the companies protective layer, Security Awareness Training and Simulated Phishing are a must for business today to minimize they threat employees pose when they are not cyber aware.
- Stay informed.
Like technology itself, cloud security evolves over time. To stay up-to-date on best practices, companies should consider joining the Cloud Security Alliance, a global community of providers, governments, customers, entrepreneurs, and others who work together to maintain the cloud ecosystem.
While operating on the cloud has benefitted many businesses, navigating cloud security can be confusing. By accessing the right tools, monitoring the cloud closely, educating employees, and assessing potential weaknesses companies big and small can ensure their data stays safe.