Apr 26, 2022
Cloud Security: Best Practices and How to Implement Them
Many businesses in every sector use cloud technology. In fact, the public cloud market is predicted to be worth more than $800 billion by 2025.
However, cloud security can be one of the biggest concerns for its users.
Keeping your cloud environment secure is vital due to possible cyber threats, such as malware, phishing, and denial of service (DoS) attacks. If your cloud security is lax, your data will be an easy target for cybercriminals. That is why a good understanding of how to secure cloud data will help you to minimize any risks.
In this article, we’ll go over the best cloud security practices and how to implement them. We’ll also discuss the reason for using a cloud-based system and its security risks in more detail.
Why Use Cloud-Based Systems?
A cloud-based system processes and stores data uploaded online. By using one, companies can monitor how their data is shared and managed from anywhere.
For example, the best cloud hosting services guarantee a faster performance and 99.9% uptime for its users as your data is hosted on multiple online servers.
A cloud system can help companies of any size grow more quickly and efficiently. Examples of big companies that use cloud services are Netflix and Zoom. Both companies rely on a cloud system for their storage needs.
There are three cloud deployment models:
- Public cloud – a cloud-based system managed by a cloud provider and shared among multiple customers, for example, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) services.
- Private cloud – a cloud service for only one customer or a company.
- Hybrid cloud – a combination of public and private clouds.
Let’s discuss the benefits of using cloud services for your business or personal needs in more detail.
Save Money and Time
A business does not need to purchase any software or hardware to use cloud services. According to your needs, you can choose from many cloud products and companies like Google Cloud Platform, Apple iCloud, or Amazon Web Services.
Also, easy access control policies to cloud resources save significantly more time as cloud users do not need to install any applications or download the data. You can access your files anytime and anywhere.
Improve Data Security
Storing data in cloud storage is more secure compared to physical servers. Many cloud providers implement security measures, such as setting up authentication methods and adding custom security features to ensure that your data is always safe. Furthermore, a cloud provider holds your data on multiple servers, meaning they have data recovery protocols and backups for emergency cases.
Besides, if you use a cloud-based system, you don’t need to worry about the physical security of your devices, as your personal or corporate data will be safe online. Even in case of a flood or fire, your data will be secure online.
A business can adapt effectively and efficiently with a cloud service as it allows you to easily expand your IT resources, such as adding bandwidth or cloud storage capacity. As a result, you don’t have to worry about time or logistics when upgrading your cloud resources.
This flexibility and scalability will help you focus on your business by reducing the in-house maintenance and operational issues risks.
The easy access management in a cloud environment helps team members communicate more efficiently. They can view and share information easily when using different devices and see any changes made within a cloud application. This transparency helps avoid conflicts and confusion.
In addition, you can build many cloud environments for specific purposes such as staging, quality assurance, or a demo.
Cloud-based systems can update automatically as soon as their new versions are released, which helps speed up product innovation, delivering more features to the end-users.
Moreover, DevOps tools and logging systems integrated within cloud environments can help monitor and identify production and cloud security issues.
What Are the Threats of Using Cloud Services?
Although storing data in the cloud meets the main security requirements, such as authentication, authorization, and identification, the possibility of cyber threats still exists, especially when migrating your data to cloud servers.
Here is the list of the main threats when using cloud services.
Misconfiguration can lead to data breaches in cloud systems. It is the main cloud security risk for companies since 73% of business operations have more than ten misconfiguration issues per day. Typically, this happens due to the lack of awareness of cloud security protocols and insufficient control and supervision from the companies.
For example, if your cloud infrastructure is set to be easily accessed and shared, unauthorized parties can also enter the network. This can lead to your data being stolen or manipulated.
Security incidents are usually related to internal users who have access to sensitive data. Typically, they threaten your cloud security unintentionally. Most of these security incidents arise due to a lack of training and negligence.
Unusual activity in the network traffic could suggest an inside threat. For example, when a user signs in to the cloud environment after office hours, accessing suspicious resources, or even transferring lots of sensitive data.
Denial of Service Attacks
Since cloud systems use online servers, it makes them vulnerable to DoS attacks. They can flood the company’s cloud network with lots of traffic until the server cannot handle them anymore. As a result of this hacking attempt, an application, a service, or a network will become unavailable to visitors and administrators.
Even though DoS attacks might not cause any data loss or theft from data centers or other assets, they can cost a lot of time and money to cope with. Also, these cyberattacks can negatively affect business operations.
Despite high cloud security, data loss can still occur due to some factors, such as:
- User errors – usually, these occur when a user accidentally deletes data or opens an email containing a virus.
- Malicious actions – users can intentionally delete or corrupt your data.
- Overwriting data – SaaS users have a considerable risk of data loss as the software keeps updating large data sets. Users can overwrite new information from old data and create data sets partially overwritten in the process.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are usually used to control and monitor cloud systems by allowing users to access the cloud service. While cloud providers are continuously improving their APIs, they can still increase risks for cloud security as cloud users typically already use specific frameworks to make their systems less vulnerable to threats.
For example, if a business starts to open up access to customers, partners, and staff by using APIs, the risk of unauthorized access will increase as people will be able to use them to access business systems and data.
A data breach is a cybercrime that occurs when a user is accessing sensitive data without authorization. This can harm businesses and their consumers.
Data breaches can occur due to poor cloud security practices, such as weak credentials, vulnerable systems, and malware. Note that data breaches can also happen intentionally when a user tries to steal your information.
A major company that has experienced a data breach is Facebook, during which more than 500 million users’ data was exposed. It was caused by a misconfiguration in their contact importer.
Cloud Security: Best Practices to Protect Data
After discussing different risks and threats that might affect your business, learning how to prevent them and maintain cloud security are the best steps to take.
In this section, we’re going to show you how to keep your data more secure.
1. Understand the Risks and Responsibilities
When implementing the best cloud security practices, evaluate all risks and responsibilities with all the employees who have cloud accounts to prevent security incidents. In addition, remember that your cloud provider also plays an important role in keeping your cloud environment secure.
You should know what your security team is responsible for and which exact issues the cloud service provider will handle.
This shared responsibility model applies to any cloud services, including SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, or on-premises data centers. Check out the illustration below to see the distribution of responsibilities between your cloud service provider and the company.
Furthermore, you need to know everything about their cloud security measures, such as two-factor authentication, a backup protocol, who has access to the cloud, or a procedure for security incident prevention. It will help you to ensure your cloud security and compliance. In short, choosing a reliable service provider that offers secure cloud practices is critical.
Remember, the cloud customer is always responsible for their data regardless of the cloud service model. A cloud service provider only guarantees its availability. It is critical that they have backup system data in place so that there is no data loss.
2. Implement Cloud Security Training Among Your Staff
Users play an essential role in ensuring cloud security as they can access sensitive data from it. How well individual people identify cyber threats can determine your entire company’s cloud security. Without your employees’ sufficient knowledge to discover cyber threats, such as phishing emails or malware attacks, hackers will break into the cloud environment more easily.
Providing security training like basic cloud security knowledge for your staff will reduce your security risks.
Agree on the Endpoint Security Solution
Since most users will access the cloud through a web browser, it is vital to ensure your security endpoint. It is a practice to secure your end-users’ devices, such as smartphones, laptops, or computers. Doing so helps you to maximize your frontline protection from hackers. However, it can be difficult as the more users use cloud services, the more cyber attacks you can face.
It is necessary to create and implement a strong password security policy. For instance, you can set up a standard requirement for the password to have at least 14 characters and make users change them every three months.
Additionally, talk to your employees about what security measures they can take to improve their computer security, such as installing an antivirus program and locking the computer, and inform them to avoid using public WiFi.
Furthermore, use internet security tools, a firewall, and intrusion detection tools to prevent risky activities. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools and endpoint protection platforms (EPP) can also make your cloud security stronger.
Control User Access
To apply this cloud security practice, you need to create an access control policy. Doing so will help you manage users who have access to cloud services. For example, let users access only data and systems that they need.
Companies need to form well-defined groups according to their respective roles where they can access only the necessary cloud resources. Remember to avoid complexity when implementing policies.
For a controlling access solution, you can use an identity and access management system which combines multi-factor authentication and user access policies.
Implement Cyber Security Rules
Recently, many people have been working remotely. Although they have security tools, some users tend to use the cloud without following operational security rules.
You can avoid cloud security risks by training your staff and implementing cyber security rules. Doing so will make users more responsible for cloud usage. For example, when users receive a suspicious email, they should forward it to a cyber security specialist to determine whether it is a phishing attempt that can be dangerous for the company’s cloud security.
Anytime multi-factor requirements will help maintain accountability and configuration management.
3. Encrypt Your Data
Transferring data through the cloud network will add the risk of being exposed. To protect the data you send, save, or upload, apply one of the encryption solutions. By doing so, such data cannot be read by unauthorized or malicious users.
Encryption uses a key to turn readable data into unreadable data or ciphertext to encrypt data. Only users with matched decryption keys can decode the scrambled ciphertext into readable plaintext.
There are two types of encryption keys:
- Symmetric encryption – uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt data, making it easier to use.
- Asymmetric encryption – uses two keys: a public key to encrypt data and a private key to decrypt information.
Some cloud service providers offer encryption policies, using end-to-end data protection to and from the cloud to prevent data breaches or theft. But if you want to have full control of your cloud, one of the best practices is to use your own encryption key before uploading your data.
4. Set Up a Monitoring System
You should monitor your cloud environment to find hidden cyber threats. Monitoring your cloud infrastructure and network traffic for unusual activity, such as remote connections and after-hours access, helps evaluate your cloud environment.
Also, you can use cloud monitoring tools to help you supervise servers. They provide several advantages, including simple installation, continuous monitoring of large data amounts from many locations, inspecting and reporting capabilities to manage security compliance, as well as fast and easy configuration.
Follow these cloud security guidelines to help you implement the best security practices when monitoring:
- Choose the metrics that affect your bottom line. You can decide which activities you want to monitor.
- Report all your data using a single platform to avoid confusion from using different sources.
- Observe the user’s experience when they use cloud applications and review metrics, such as response times and the frequency of use.
- Track your cloud service usage and fees. Doing so will help you notice any unauthorized activity.
- Keep your monitoring data separate from your cloud applications and services.
- Automate rules with data. If activities go over or below certain levels, adding or removing servers is the solution to maintain the best performance.
- Test your monitoring system regularly. It will help you notice when a data breach occurs.
On the other hand, you need to maintain your cloud services’ visibility as they are widely used across multiple locations and providers. This kind of setup could create a blind spot in your cloud environment and reduce its visibility. In that case, make sure to have a cloud security solution that maintains visibility of the entire ecosystem, helping you implement granular access control to reduce security risks.
Another tool you can use to implement the best cloud security practices is a cloud access security broker (CASB). This software will help you to improve security control in the cloud. It provides visibility to the cloud ecosystem, manages compliances, applies data security policies, and implements threat detection and protection.
Cloud access security brokers help you defend your data from risks by securing it in the cloud environment. It is one of the most recommended tools to consider for your cloud security strategy. The popular CASB providers include Microsoft, Netskope, and Bitglass.
Whether for your personal needs or your business, using a cloud-based system will help you save money, be more secure, and scale your business to the next level.
However, it is critical to consider the safety and security of your cloud system. It can be vulnerable to many factors, such as DoS attacks, insider threats, and insecure APIs. Furthermore, most cloud security risks occur if you are not implementing cloud security policies.
Let’s recap four best practices for your cloud security:
- Understand the risks and responsibilities. Make sure you know the risks of using a cloud-based system, your responsibilities, and your cloud provider’s duties.
- Train your staff. Teaching your employers cloud security best practices will make them more careful when using the systems.
- Encrypt your data. Data encryption makes your information unreadable for unauthorized users.
- Set up a monitoring system. Doing so makes it easier to control what happens to your cloud ecosystem and allows you to take quick and appropriate actions when facing a cyber threat.
Good luck in keeping your cloud environment secure. If you have any more questions or thoughts, do not hesitate to share them in the comments section below.