Jan 03, 2024
Sopha M. & Maisha R.
9 Cloud Security Best Practices and How to Implement Them
Maintaining the safety of a cloud environment is not just the cloud service provider’s responsibility. As a user, it’s crucial to implement cloud security best practices to prevent your website from becoming vulnerable to threats.
Why is cloud security important? It’s because failing to uphold it may result in severe consequences, such as data breaches, compromised customer trust, and financial losses.
This article will explore the top nine cloud security best practices you should implement. Following these guidelines will help you fortify your cloud environment, mitigate risks, and ensure your data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Why Use a Cloud-Based System?
A cloud-based computing model uses remote servers to store, manage, and process data. With it, you can access applications from anywhere via the internet without relying on on-premise infrastructure or traditional data centers.
There are three models of cloud deployments:
- Public cloud – a cloud-based system managed by a cloud provider and shared among multiple customers, like SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) systems.
- Private cloud – a cloud service reserved for only one customer or company.
- Hybrid cloud – a combination of public and private clouds.
Implementing a cloud-based system brings numerous advantages to businesses, such as:
- Collaboration and accessibility – cloud service providers enable users to work together on projects easily via the internet. Google Workspace is an excellent example, as you can share files and create documents with multiple people on the Google Cloud platform.
- Cost efficiency – cloud services eliminate the need for on-premise storage devices, reducing hardware and maintenance costs.
- High reliability and availability – downtime is less likely to occur in a cloud environment. When one server is down, others will take its place to keep the services going without disruption.
- Scalability – cloud service providers often offer flexible plans, letting you upgrade to a higher package or purchase resource add-ons on demand. This way, businesses can easily scale up their services to support growth.
Despite the convenience of a cloud computing environment, many people are concerned about their file and data security. With various hacking attempts reported in the industry, you may wonder how best to protect your data from unauthorized users.
Cloud Security Best Practices
Now that you know the benefits of using cloud services, let’s discuss cloud security best practices to keep your systems and data safe.
1. Select a Secure Cloud Hosting Provider
Whether you’re looking to store files or host a website on the cloud, selecting a secure cloud service provider is important. Keep in mind the following considerations:
- Reputation – look for cloud services with high reliability and an uptime guarantee of at least 99.9%. A good provider ensures that all files and data remain accessible without frequent interruptions. Check out testimonial sites like Trustpilot to read the platform’s client reviews.
- Cloud security infrastructure – check for protocols like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, encryption, access controls, and regular security updates. These cloud security measures help safeguard data and infrastructure from potential threats.
- Data centers – cloud platforms typically give information on their data center locations, so you can choose the one closest to you or your target audience to ensure low latency. Also, consider checking if the host’s facilities comply with your region’s security and privacy regulations.
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The Cloud Startup plan is ideal for individuals and businesses looking to scale their online projects, offering 200 GB storage, 3 GB RAM, and a free CDN to maintain maximum performance. It costs $9.99/month.
All of Hostinger’s cloud hosting plans come with a secure cloud infrastructure. It’s powered by CloudLinux with LVE containers to isolate hosting resources and maintain stable performance at all times.
2. Understand the Risks and Responsibilities of Using a Cloud Provider
Providers offering cloud services are responsible for maintaining their network and the physical security of their cloud infrastructure. That said, the cloud customer must safeguard their data, too. In cloud computing, this is called the shared responsibility model.
Data breaches are one of the biggest challenges public cloud providers face, which can lead to identity theft and a damaged brand reputation.
To mitigate cloud security risks, check the cloud service providers’ terms of service for the following information:
- Data ownership – understand who owns the data stored on the cloud platform and the rights and permissions granted to the provider. Regularly review these terms in the agreement to ensure they align with your expectations.
- Response to security incidents – check the provider’s procedures and responsibilities during a security incident. Note how they handle data breaches, their notification process, and their steps to address such incidents.
Important! If you find a vulnerability on a Hostinger website or hPanel, go to this knowledge base to submit a report.
- Service Level Agreements (SLAs) – these documents typically define the cloud provider’s uptime guarantee, response times for security incidents, and data recovery timelines.
- Data backup and access recovery – see what kind of backup and recovery mechanisms the provider offers. We recommend finding a host offering daily backups.
- Data management and security – look for encryption measures, access controls, and security certifications demonstrating its commitment to safeguarding sensitive data.
- Regulatory compliance requirements – assess whether the cloud service provider complies with industry standards and best practices like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
If you work with clients, make sure to communicate the risks and responsibilities of using cloud solutions. Be transparent about how you manage data and reassure them of their cloud data security.
Additionally, it’s best to conduct regular cloud security auditing to see if your cloud service provider complies with industry standards.
3. Set a Strict Identity and Access Management (IAM) System
Identity and Access Management (IAM) refers to systems and policies to control access to a cloud environment’s resources.
A strong IAM system ensures that only authorized individuals can view or manage specific data at a particular time and in the appropriate manner.
To establish proper access management policies, make sure to implement the following measures:
- Strong password policies – all users should use complex and unique passwords that are difficult to crack. Avoid reusing passwords to prevent hackers from gaining access to all your accounts. Renew the passwords regularly to strengthen your cloud access control.
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA) – this feature adds an extra security layer by requiring users to provide additional verification, like a unique code sent to their personal devices.
- Role-based cloud access control – assign specific roles and privileges to each user based on their responsibilities and job requirements. This way, only select individuals can access sensitive data.
- Log management and monitoring – track user activities to detect anomalies and identify suspicious behavior. Audit the access credentials to remove users who no longer work with you from signing in to the cloud environment.
Cloud providers like Hostinger offer an Account Sharing function, enabling system administrators to easily grant access to hosting resources for team members. You can invite them via email, choose which services they have privileges to, and select what actions they can do.
If you work with multiple clients, check out the Hostinger Pro Panel. Designed for professional developers and agencies, this feature makes it easy to manage customer websites and purchase services for them all on one platform.
See it in action in our Hostinger Academy video below:
4. Encrypt Your Data
Encryption plays a critical role in data security and data loss prevention. It converts data into a coded format that is unreadable without a decryption key, preventing unauthorized individuals from accessing sensitive data.
Here are some key reasons why encryption is crucial in cloud computing for cloud data security:
- Meeting cloud security compliance – some industry-specific standards like the GDPR or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) require encryption to protect data.
- Protecting customer trust – encrypting customer data demonstrates your commitment to their privacy and security. It fosters trust, loyalty, and business continuity.
- Preventing financial loss – data breaches can result in significant financial losses due to reputation damage and potential lawsuits. Encryption can prevent this by making the stolen data undecipherable.
One of the first steps to strengthen cloud data security is to check your provider’s built-in cloud encryption techniques. Hostinger uses database encryption with secure hashing algorithms to protect our clients’ sensitive information.
If you want full control of your cloud data security, one of the best practices is to use your own encryption key.
All websites on Hostinger include free SSL certificates that are automatically installed by default.
If your website processes payments, partner with a secure payment solution that handles encryption on their end. This helps protect sensitive data and reduce the risk of breaches during transactions.
For WordPress users, consider installing database plugins with an encryption feature – like Updraft Plus. The premium version of this extension can encrypt cloud storage transfers and database backups.
Learn More WordPress Encryption Tips
5. Implement Cloud Security Training for Your Team
Egress’ annual security report shows that 91% of organizations have experienced a data breach, often caused by reckless employee behavior and human error.
As such, educating security teams as well as other team members on cloud security best practices should be a priority. Doing this will minimize any potential negligence that can weaken your cloud infrastructure, strengthening the overall security posture.
Cover these topics in your team’s cloud security training:
- End user devices – to mitigate endpoint security concerns, discuss the risks of using personal devices at work and the best practices for securing them if they connect to a cloud environment.
- Cloud data security – teach team members how to identify sensitive data and determine what information is suitable for public sharing.
- Incident response – train your team on handling security incidents, including detecting, containing, and mitigating potential threats.
- Social engineering – educate employees about common cyber attack techniques, like phishing, and how to recognize and avoid falling victim to them.
To further raise cloud security awareness, consider implementing the following strategies:
- Establish cloud security guidelines – outline expected behaviors and responsibilities for team members to uphold cloud security best practices. Highlight what repercussions they may face if they don’t meet them.
- Conduct simulated phishing tests – this is a way to measure the likelihood of team members falling victim to phishing attacks and find ways to reduce them.
- Check team members’ password health – ensure they use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters using a password strength test.
- Use a security training platform – in the Egress report, security teams find that over half of all employees skip through training. Utilizing software like KnowBe4 can streamline the process and make it more engaging.
- Share informative cloud security news updates regularly – this helps team members stay informed about the cyber security threat landscape. Some newsletter examples include Dark Reading and The Hacker News.
6. Set Up a Monitoring System
Cloud services typically have continuous monitoring and intrusion detection systems in place.
For instance, Hostinger’s cloud monitoring tools include a web application firewall and Wanguard to watch over the network traffic 24/7. These solutions protect our systems against Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.
Our server uptime information is also publicly available. As a result, clients can get the latest updates on our systems’ statuses and anticipate scheduled maintenance.
Based on the shared responsibility model, however, the end user should also keep track of what’s happening with their services. This way, users can monitor for vulnerabilities and risks that can become cloud security incidents.
Here’s what you can do as an end user:
- Keep track of your cloud resources – conduct continuous monitoring of order usage to identify any abnormal patterns. Ensure you do not exceed the resource limits to avoid security and performance issues.
- Update the systems in your cloud infrastructure regularly – implement the latest security patches in all your software. At Hostinger, we offer automatic software updates for CMSs and a WordPress vulnerability checker to keep plugins and themes up-to-date.
- Install antivirus software for end-user devices – it will regularly monitor any suspicious files and enforce a stronger defense against cyber threats.
Learn More Ways to Monitor Your Cloud Security
7. Scan for Malware Frequently
Malware poses a significant threat to the performance and security of cloud services. Short for malicious software, it is designed to infiltrate systems, steal sensitive information, or disrupt normal operations.
Here are some signs that may indicate a malware infection:
- Increased network or server resource usage.
- Unexpected changes in your files.
- Slow loading times or frequent crashes on your website.
Using a cloud service provider with built-in malware protection is vital. This feature can detect and remove threats before they cause significant damage to the cloud infrastructure.
Hostinger offers an automatic malware scanner. Available for all clients, it scans your website’s files and cleans those that have been corrupted to stop the virus from spreading further.
If your cloud provider doesn’t offer malware-related automation tools, it’s also possible to delete affected files manually. Head to our guides on how to check a website for viruses and WordPress malware removal for more information.
After identifying a malicious file, it’s good to change all passwords on your cloud accounts, including FTP credentials. Additionally, consider restoring a clean backup to remove any potential security gaps.
Keep all the software you use up to date, too. New updates usually come with security patches that address vulnerabilities exploited by malware.
8. Conduct Vulnerability and Security Testing
Besides setting up a monitoring system in your cloud computing environment, test your current security posture regularly. Doing so helps pinpoint risks and vulnerabilities so you can mitigate them before it’s too late.
There are three main types of security testing. Let’s review each of them one by one.
This involves simulating real-world attacks to identify vulnerabilities in your systems. At Hostinger, we perform these tests regularly to evaluate the security of critical company networks and platforms hosting personal information.
If you want to conduct your own cloud penetration testing, use tools like OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy). It can test for common security issues like SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and insecure server configurations.
This type of testing assesses a web application’s performance and stability under heavy load conditions. For business owners, it’s particularly useful when preparing for a sales campaign or a traffic increase.
Tools like Loader can help simulate high traffic conditions to identify potential bottlenecks and areas for improvement.
This process entails using automated tools to scan for security vulnerabilities that cyber attackers may exploit. It can complement the monitoring system of your cloud providers to fortify your website or application.
Some recommended software examples for vulnerability scanning include Qualys and Intruder. Our article on running a website security audit goes into more detail about these tools.
All Hostinger cloud hosting clients get access to our WordPress staging feature. You can set up a staging environment in one click to test changes for any potential security issue before publishing.
9. Implement a Backup and Disaster Recovery Strategy
We’ve walked you through several cloud security best practices to protect your cloud infrastructure. That said, chances of disasters striking are always a possibility, so planning for every potential outcome is important.
This is where a cloud backup and recovery plan is useful. It involves creating and storing data copies in a separate location in case of a security incident. This will ensure business continuity, minimizing downtime and potential data loss.
Cloud providers typically offer a built-in backup feature, but the frequency of the backups varies.
Hostinger offers daily backups with all cloud services, providing an extra layer of data protection. All the files will be accessible on hPanel, though it’s also possible to download and store them in your desired location.
Remember, the cloud customer is always responsible for their data regardless of the cloud service model. A cloud service provider only guarantees its availability. They must have backup system data in place to prevent data loss.
Then, prepare a disaster recovery plan to outline the steps for handling a severe technical or security issue. Such a guideline usually includes:
- Data restoration – define the process for restoring your data from a backup, including the necessary steps and tools involved.
- Communication plans – establish communication channels and protocols for informing stakeholders, clients, and team members about the issue and the recovery progress.
- Regular testing – trial the recovery procedures to ensure their effectiveness and address potential gaps or issues.
What Are the Threats of Using Cloud Services?
After going over cloud security best practices, let’s get familiar with the cloud security threat landscape.
Cloud security breaches expose sensitive data to unauthorized individuals, leading to identity theft and financial fraud. In the US, these attacks have impacted over 422 million individuals in 2022, a 41% increase from the previous year.
Cloud data protection is crucial in mitigating these risks. That’s why we emphasize the need to implement robust security controls, such as access management and encryption, to protect your information.
Phishing involves deceptive tactics, commonly through emails, to trick individuals into revealing sensitive data. The past year saw a 61% growth in phishing, especially toward the holiday shopping season.
Recently, phishing attacks have become more sophisticated and harder to detect. To reduce these cloud security risks, prioritize security awareness and training for users to properly identify and respond to these attempts.
Malware or Ransomware
Malware refers to malicious software designed to disrupt or damage systems, while ransomware is used by attackers to encrypt data and demand a ransom for its release.
In February 2023, 42% of malware infections came from public cloud environments, particularly storage providers. Using cloud services with built-in malware protection is key to handling this issue.
This term refers to improper cloud security configuration involving cloud resources, settings, or access controls – leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. The National Security Agency (NSA) says it’s the leading cause of cloud security breaches.
Remember the shared responsibility model and avoid relying solely on the platform’s cloud security solutions. Set up a strict access management system for your cloud accounts to protect your data and resources.
DDoS attacks aim to overwhelm cloud networks with malicious traffic to disrupt their normal functioning. They can create severe consequences, with enterprises facing an average cost of $50,000 in lost revenue per attack, according to a Corero survey.
To prevent such financial losses, check what security functions the cloud service provider offers to manage DDoS attacks. Additionally, monitor your network traffic for any anomalies.
Insider threats are risks posed by individuals within an organization who have authorized access to cloud environments, systems, or data.
Such risks can arise from negligent insiders who accidentally cause the breaches, or malicious users who intentionally do so. One study found that the former accounted for more than 61% of these incidents in 2022.
Solutions include implementing strong access controls, regularly monitoring user activity, and fostering a culture of cloud security awareness among system administrators and users.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are commonly used to control and monitor cloud deployments and systems. If they lack proper security measures, they can increase the risk of unauthorized access and potential security incidents.
There are a few cloud security protocols you should consider to ensure safe APIs. These include implementing secure coding practices, conducting regular security assessments, enforcing strong access controls, and ensuring API endpoints are properly authenticated and authorized.
As more individuals and businesses undergo a digital transformation journey, they rely more on various cloud computing tools. For this reason, implementing cloud security best practices becomes all the more important.
Whether you use public or private data centers, we recommend starting with these practices first to ensure a secure cloud computing environment:
- Select a secure cloud hosting provider – choose a reputable service like Hostinger that prioritizes cloud infrastructure security and enforces strict security policies.
- Understand the responsibilities of using a cloud provider – familiarize yourself with the shared responsibility model and ensure you know your role in maintaining security within the cloud environment.
- Set a strict identity and access management (IAM) system – implement robust access controls, strong authentication mechanisms, and role-based permissions to prevent unauthorized access.
- Encrypt your data – utilize encryption to protect cloud data, such as using an SSL certificate and a secure payment gateway.
- Implement cloud security training for your team – educate your team members on cloud security best practices, ensuring they understand cloud security policies and are equipped to detect and respond to potential threats.
Additionally, keep yourself updated on the latest cloud security threat landscape. Data breaches, phishing attacks, malware, and DDoS attacks are some of the biggest dangers. Then, protect yourself by enforcing proper cloud security configurations, mitigating insider threats, and using secure APIs.
Let us know your thoughts on these cloud security best practices in the comments below.
Cloud Security Best Practices FAQ
Find answers to the most common questions about cloud security best practices here.
What Is Cloud Security?
Cloud security is the practice of protecting data, applications, and infrastructure in cloud environments. It typically involves encryption, access controls, security updates, threat detection, audits, backups, and adherence to cloud security best practices to mitigate risks and safeguard sensitive information.
What to Look For in Cloud Security?
There are several elements to consider when evaluating cloud security solutions. These include a web application firewall, malware protection, robust encryption mechanisms, strong access controls, regular security updates, backup and recovery systems, compliance with industry standards, and comprehensive monitoring and auditing capabilities.
What Is the Importance of Cloud Monitoring and Auditing?
Cloud monitoring and auditing are important in maintaining the security and integrity of cloud environments. They provide real-time visibility into system activities, network traffic, user behavior, and potential security incidents. This way, you can detect anomalies, identify vulnerabilities, and solve issues before they escalate.