Today, cloud computing is more than just another alternative for the business case. It has become an effective means of cutting costs, ensuring constant availability, and reducing downtime. In the past, connecting to the corporate network by accessing accounts, files, and business servers was only possible from offices and workspaces where firewalls or other security tools protected information.
However, the emergence of cloud applications has changed that by enabling users to access corporate applications, documents, and services remotely. According to an IDG survey, 92% of organizations’ IT environment are at least partially stationed on the cloud today. However, cloud services come with the challenge and risk of data security in the cloud, which has called for new security tools and practices.
For enterprises considering public cloud, security has been a major concern. As organizations move from offline to cloud networks and more sensitive data is put at risk, security must be at the forefront.
Typically, cloud service providers are responsible for the physical security of data centers and ensuring their systems are secure from cyberattacks. However, keeping data or running applications on an infrastructure not directly managed by the organization is seemingly insecure.
For organizations willing to safeguard their cloud environments, the following best practices can help ensure that critical data and applications don’t fall into the wrong hands.
Also read: The ABCs of Smart Cloud Migration
Best Practices for Cloud Security
Picking the right cloud service provider
With more external IT teams and an abundance of options, it becomes necessary to pick a cloud service provider weighted towards your set of needs. Selecting the right cloud service provider begins with conforming to their security certificates and compliances. Then, evaluate your organization’s precise security goals and compare the security measures offered by various service providers along with the mechanisms they use to protect applications and data.
Ask detailed questions that go with your use case, industry, and regulatory requirements, and express other definitive concerns. The service provider’s architectural platform should be coherent with compliance standards that apply to your industry and organization. Another essential consideration is inquiring about the level and mode of support services.
Understanding the shared responsibility model
In private data centers, the organization is responsible for handling all data security concerns. However, in the public cloud, providers share some of this burden. Clearly defining which security operations are handled by either party can lead to a successful security implementation in cloud environments.
The shared responsibility security model varies according to each service provider and differs while using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS). A clear-cut shared responsibility model ensures there is no gap in the security coverage of a system. Otherwise, obscurities in your shared responsibilities may leave certain areas of the cloud system unguarded and exposed to external threats.
Implementing identity and access management
In an increasingly heterogeneous technology environment, identity and access management (IAM) is crucial to safeguarding critical enterprise systems, assets, and information from unauthorized access. Identity and access management provides effective security for cloud environments by performing different security functions such as authentication, authorization, and provisioning of storage and verification.
This authentication system helps manage access rights by verifying if the right person with the right privileges is accessing information stored on the cloud applications. Verification mechanisms may include physical or digital methods, such as public key infrastructure. In addition, setting access levels will further help control how much data a person can change or see even after gaining access.
One of the key benefits of using cloud-based applications is that storing and transferring data becomes easy. However, organizations need to ensure that they do not simply upload the data on the cloud and forget about it. An additional step is to safeguard data uploaded on the cloud, known as encryption.
Encryption makes the data concealed to unauthorized users by translating it into another form or code. Organizations should not only encrypt their data on the public cloud but also ensure encryption during transit when data is more vulnerable. These encryption services can be aided by cloud service providers or third-party vendors.
It is ideal to find encryption options that fit in with the existing workflow so that there is no need to take any additional precautions to ensure compliance.
Also read: Best Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) 2022
Protecting user endpoints
Cloud services give rise to a larger need for endpoint security. Users are bound to access cloud services through website browsers and personal devices. Therefore, businesses must deploy an endpoint security solution to secure end-user devices. They can protect data from vulnerabilities by initiating effective client-side security and enforcing users to update their browsers regularly.
It is best to adopt a tool that includes internet security measures such as access verification tools, firewalls, antivirus, and mobile device security. In addition, automation tools also serve as a systematic solution in endpoint security concerns.
Upskilling all employees
For a secure cloud computing experience, educating users should be the prime goal to enhance protection. The way users interact with the cloud applications will either expose the environment to cyberattacks or protect it.
Therefore, organizations must train all employees with cybersecurity fundamentals to identify anomalies and respond accordingly. This high level of awareness within teams can prevent attackers from obtaining access credentials to sensitive data and cloud computing tools.
While standard practices such as generating strong passwords or recognizing phishing emails must be included in their training, users must also be aware of the risks associated with shadow IT. Consider high-level training and certification for more advanced users and administrators involved directly in implementing cloud security.
Also read: Cybersecurity Awareness for Employees: Best Practices
Maintaining logs and monitoring
With logging capabilities in the cloud infrastructure, organizations can help identify unauthorized activities. A logging and monitoring system will allow the security teams to quickly identify which individuals are making changes to the cloud environment, getting to the root of an issue faster.
When an intruder gains access to the system and meddles with any settings or data, the logs will expose who is responsible and what kind of change has been made so that it can be acted upon quickly. In case of an unusual event, make sure alerts are set to occur the moment it begins.
Keep Your Cloud Environments Secure
With the advancement of the cloud and faster connectivity, businesses of all sizes can seamlessly access tools, data, and services. The benefits of cloud-based workspaces outweigh those of traditional data centers, bringing a fresh set of challenges. However, that should not refrain organizations from using public cloud services. Businesses can minimize the risk and enjoy greater benefits by following best practices and implementing the right tools and strategies.
The cloud environment has great potential, yet it may seem unfamiliar at first. However, you will gradually adapt to this environment as you move forward. In this process, one crucial aspect is to look for weak security points and strengthen them consistently. Misconfigured cloud infrastructures can lead to several invisible vulnerabilities that significantly increase an organization’s attack surface.
Enterprises and cloud service providers need to work with transparency and show interest in building and continually reconfiguring a safe cloud computing framework.
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