Tips to avoid cloud security breaches

Data Security

Cloud computing offers substantive benefits for business. Now considered a mainstay for companies to compete in increasingly tech-driven markets, new cloud technologies can help boost efficiency, enhance scalability, streamline costs and improve business operations.

The sticking point for many organizations, however, is security. Despite considerable infosec advances, the fundamental nature of off-site data storage and processing solutions makes them ideal targets for malicious actors. In fact, 43 percent of businesses report that they’ve experienced cloud data breaches despite best efforts.

Yet with cloud offerings, both evolving to meet business needs and essential for digital transformation efforts, taking a pass on the cloud isn’t possible. Your best bet is to start on solid ground with a plan to handle potential pitfalls. Here are six steps to craft better cloud security.

Ask Tough Questions

While cloud services share fundamental characteristics such as access to data on demand, enhanced workload distribution and the ability to scale up resources as required, not all cloud providers are created equal.

As the cloud market rapidly expands, new providers are constantly emerging — each offering a unique version of agile cloud services and hoping to secure your business. While some of these providers rely on robust infrastructure to deliver reliable operations and reduced downtime, others are simply looking for money.

To boost cloud security, ask tough questions upfront. Inquire about data encryption, storage locations, physical safeguards and value-added security features such as single sign-on (SSO) and zero-trust data storage models. While it’s possible to build in improved security after the fact with third-party solutions, prioritizing reputable providers helps reduce your total risk.

Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

The most important asset you’re moving to the cloud? Your data, but not all data needs to make the trip.

Better cloud security starts by identifying the nature of data currently stored by your business and then evaluating its potential value — and risk — in the cloud. For example, data collected from analytics tools about day-to-day operations that requires processing power at scale to deliver actionable insights is a good fit for the cloud.

A bad idea, though, is sensitive consumer, employee or financial information that could result in significant damage to your business if compromised. It’s also critical to consider compliance requirements before moving data to the cloud. Credit, health, legal and personal data are typically subject to strict storage and handling regulations.

The rule is simple: When in doubt, keep data secret to keep data safe.

Leverage Security Layers

Cloud providers are expanding their security offerings, but organizations are ultimately responsible to ensure due diligence is taken to safeguard data they own and collect. As a result, it’s worth considering additional security features such as virtual private networks (VPNs), two-factor authentication and next-generation firewalls to help frustrate potential attackers and shore up overall cloud security.

Don’t Cut Corners

Companies often see cloud computing as a security catch-all — a way to offload basic infosec concerns to better-equipped providers. Yet this isn’t enough in isolation. Organizations must take steps to guarantee only authorized personnel can access, modify and move sensitive cloud data.

To avoid cutting corners on cloud security, companies are well-served by budgeting for identity and access management (IAM) technologies that allow granular gatekeeping and permission controls. These tools create auditable trails of cloud access and reduce the risk of a destructive data breach.

Do a Double-Take

Even redundant, reliable clouds can fail, and highly secure servers can be hacked with enough time and effort.

To reduce the impact of potential disaster, it’s worth using provider-offered or in-house backup and disaster recovery (DR) solutions to make sure critical data is safely stored off-site or across multiple locations. This helps ensure normal operations even in the event of sudden power loss, catastrophic failure or sophisticated cyberattack.

Look for Trouble

Last but not least, always pay attention to what’s happening in your cloud. Many providers now offer active monitoring and detection solutions to help identify potentially malicious processes and resource calls. This allows you to discover who’s attempting to access your data, what methods they’re using, and how this could impact network integrity. Here, visibility is key: If you can see what’s happening across cloud deployments, you have a far better chance of defending critical data.

Moving to the cloud helps businesses stay competitive and even the IT playing field. Nonetheless, security remains a key challenge. Defend your data by asking the right questions, keeping sensitive data secret, leveraging layered security, spending where it matters, investing in disaster recovery, and actively monitoring cloud deployments. For further information, reference the accompanying guide.

Author bio: Katherine Palac is Director of Marketing at Column Information Security. Palac has focused on global B2B marketing and communications strategy for 20 years, primarily in the professional services, financial services and technology spaces. 

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