A growing number of organizations have at least one of their business-critical applications running in the cloud and an overwhelming majority of organizations store some of their data online. We are in fact transitioning toward an online-based economy with data and app security in the cloud being the primary concern for any business.
Whatever cloud solution you adopt – a private, a public, or a hybrid cloud – you need your software and data secured against unauthorized access and data breaches. With a data breach averaging from $7.9 million in the United States to $1.2 million in Brazil, you need cloud controls that include preventive measures stopping malicious third parties from accessing both your apps and data.
Those measures include basic actions like backing up your data and regularly updating your software as well as advanced preventive measures we’ll discuss below.
Cloud Data Storage and Data Backup
First of all, you should be well aware of where your business data resides and what happens with your data if you decide to terminate your contract with a service provider or a cloud platform. Checking the small print on your cloud service contract is no less important than paying attention to the smallest detail in any other business contract. Data storage details can make the difference when security and ownership of your data in the cloud is concerned.
Having a dedicated hardware that stores your and only your data can help you a great deal when data security is concerned. Moreover, this way you can have identifiable hardware space where your business-critical data resides.
Backing up your data is mandatory even though cloud service providers usually make backups themselves. You need a secure and accessible backup of your data in a good number of scenarios that may involve cases ranging from the data breach to ransomware attack to transfer of data to another cloud platform.
Protect Yourself against Force Majeure
Businesses still need to learn that these days force majeure involve not only natural disasters affecting your business operations but also digital assets. You should protect your business apps and data in the cloud the same way you protect your tangible assets.
Thus, you need to check if your cloud service provider or data center is HIPAA or PCI certified and whether they have been audited under SSAE 16, SAS 70 and SOC 2.
If you are using cloud software to run business-critical operations, you can also opt for a software escrow contract. This way you can rest assured that you have a recent and working version of the software app if the vendor goes suddenly out of business. Strictly speaking, the disappearance of a cloud service provider is not a force majeure but this can happen and can result in severe consequences for your business.
Know Who Handles Cloud Security Issues
In the case of software escrow, you have clearly identifiable obligations where the one party is a software vendor and the other party is a customer. When you are using Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions, you are getting service where each entity is responsible for different aspects of the overall IT security.
The shared responsibility model requires businesses to explore in advance each and every contract detail to know who is handling the different aspects of the cloud service security. Sometimes, you may need to adopt a managed service solution alongside your cloud platform contract and entrust them to manage essential security measures such as firewalls, security patches, and software updates.
Track Who is Accessing Your Cloud Systems
Unauthorized access and compromised accounts are by far the most common cloud security issue. Any data leakage starts with a hijacking of an account while the malicious attack may penetrate through an insecure cloud tool as unsophisticated as a cloud router.
You need an identity and access management solution that prevents unauthorized users from connecting to your systems and tracks who is accessing business-critical records online. The increasing use of personal and corporate mobile devices to access enterprise systems requires the deployment of IT security tools that enable you to track mobile access and lock stolen or lost mobile devices.
Having thorough security policies in place is a large step toward protecting your systems in the cloud, even if you operate a private data center. Role-based permissions and multi-factor identification are only the start, as you need to protect your cloud hardware as well. Large companies having detailed security policies in place still fall victim to data breaches as their employees access corporate cloud systems through unsecured end-point hardware thus exposing their login credentials.
Intrusion Prevention and Data Encryption
Communication between in-house systems and any cloud platform should be through a secure online channel. Sending and receiving unencrypted data is a bad practice even if you transfer data via a secure connection.
Keeping your business data in the encrypted format is not sufficient; you need to encrypt data in transfer and use at least 256-bit encryption to secure both your data and messages. Keep in mind that this does not protect you against backdoors in any software you may use. Nonetheless, encryption adds a good layer of security in case a data communication channel is compromised.
Furthermore, intrusion prevention and detection are key components of any secure cloud system. By using an intrusion detection tool, you get early warnings if someone is trying to get unauthorized access to your cloud data and systems or if a hacker is attempting to sniff your connection. For an intrusion prevention solution to be considered working, you also need to perform regular penetration testing, identifying possible security issues and detecting penetrable end-points.
These are the basic cloud controls you should implement while working online. On the other hand, managing all the aspects of cloud security is barely affordable for many small and medium businesses. Nevertheless, implementing all the mentioned IT security steps will result in far better cloud security for your business. Also, keep in mind that securing your cloud platforms is an ongoing battle for preventing new and increasingly sophisticated threats from stealing your business data.