What is Cloud Security? A Complete Guide

Cloud computing is one of the best technologies the world has been blessed with. It is the primary force behind the digitized world. Come to think of it, you are watching your favorite TV series while munching on your favorite pizza, all from the comfort of your couch.

You were able to do all that just by tapping the screen of your phone. You didn’t touch your wallet for payment or step out of your house to get the pizza. Such is the impact cloud technology has in the real world.

We can go on and on while listing the benefits and utility of cloud technology. It is, in fact, beyond the scope of this article or even a book for that matter. Not to forget, how it has helped millions of businesses all across the world survive one of the toughest times in human history – the COVID-19 pandemic.

While cloud computing was, is, and will continue to be one of the most beneficial technologies, its security has been a concern ever since it begun to take its shape. And why not? There are people out there trying to hack your systems and servers.

Cloud security is a real deal. So much so, that organizations invest a significant amount of money to avert data breaches. If you are a business owner using the cloud in some form or the other, you would be knowing just what we are talking about here.

And that is the reason we have come up with this piece of writing to help you ensure cloud security in 2021. We will be shedding some light on some of the biggest risks that are involved in cloud security. We will also discuss the best practices for you to avert those risks. So, let’s begin!

What is Cloud Security and How Does It Work?

Before going into the risks and ways to avoid them, it is important for us to understand what exactly is cloud security and how does it work. Cloud security is a sub-branch of information security. It is a combination of technologies, processes, and policies meant to safeguard your cloud data, application, and server. It is an integral part of modern businesses.

Security is a responsibility that is shared between you and your cloud service provider. It involves implementing effective strategies that protect your data and identity, help you adhere to various regulatory compliance, and safeguard the privacy of your customers. It is of great importance. Not only for the protection of your data but also for your organization’s reputation and economy. It also protects you against other legal consequences.

The 2021 Cloud Security Report by (ICS)2 reveals that one out of every four organizations reported some cloud security incident or the other, during the last 12 months. The report further points that about 93% of organizations are reasonably or extremely concerned about cloud security.

Now, how does cloud security work? Well, it is a process that will vary from organization to organization. There are a lot of parameters involved. Hence, the practice of cloud security is highly personalized to the unique requirements of your business. In particular, there is no specific set of rules or a single explanation that explains how cloud security works.

That said, there are some obvious strategies that help you realize a robust cloud security setup. They are:

  • Authentication
  • Access control
  • User behavior analytics
  • Secondary approval
  • Logging and reporting
  • Asset and data classification
  • Data discovery
  • Key management
  • Encryption
  • Boundary enforcement
  • Logical segmentation
  • Configuration Hardening

Top 5 Risks Involved in Cloud Security?

Risk analysis is one of the most important aspects of building an effective cloud security strategy. As soon as you move to the cloud, you are welcomed with a whole new set of risks and challenges. And if that isn’t enough, the risks that your business was already facing will be there in some new form. Upgrade, you see!

However, that should not be a discouraging factor as far as cloud adoption is concerned. All the modern cloud service providers are equipped with highly sophisticated security tools and strategies that help you avert all sorts of risks.

It is just about you being aware of all the risks that are involved. It helps you identify and avert them before they damage your business.

So, the following are the top 5 risks involved in cloud security:

1. Insider Threats

As seen in most cases, your employees, contractors, and professional partners pose some of the biggest security threats. They do not have ill intentions to cause damage to your organization necessarily. It is mostly because of the lack of awareness and training.

When you choose a cloud service provider for yourself, you introduce a new layer of insider threat in the form of the service provider’s employees.

2. Compliance Violations

With increasing regulatory control, there are various stringent compliances like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that you need to adhere to. Most of these compliances need you to know exactly where your data is, who can access and process that data, and most importantly, how it is being protected.

A compliance violation or a state of non-compliance can cause serious financial and legal damages to your organization.

3. Loss of Visibility

Your business may require you to access a wide range of cloud services via multiple devices, in different departments and locations across the world. It can create great complexity in your cloud infrastructure and you may end up losing the visibility of access to your system.

It is important to have appropriate tools in place that will help you maintain visibility into what is happening with your data. Or else, you would not know who is using your services and what data they are accessing, uploading, or downloading.

It is simple. If you cannot see it, you would not be able to protect it.

4. Lack of Architectural Resources

This is one of those risks that can easily be avoided. However, most organizations don’t. The principal reason behind their negligence of this risk is the sheer urgency they show to move everything to the cloud. It is important for you to assess your security systems and strategies to protect your infrastructure. 

You must have a security-first mindset when you are migrating to the cloud. Or else, you would end up risking the security of your entire system just because of the haste.

5. Insecure APIs

When you have to operate various systems in cloud infrastructure, you may be required to use application programming interfaces (APIs). An API built into your mobile or web application will offer internal access to your staff and external access to your consumers. 

Mostly, an external-facing API poses a cloud security risk. Cybercriminals are on a constant lookout to steal your data or identity by unauthorized access via the insecure API gateway.

The infamous Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scandal is one of the greatest examples of an insecure API risk.

What are the Best Practices for Cloud Security?

To ensure the security of your cloud-based data and systems, it is important for you to adopt certain processes and practices.

We are listing here, the top 10 practices for you to ensure cloud security. Let’s discuss them.

1. Trusted CSP

The most important step towards a secured cloud infrastructure is choosing a trusted service provider.

2. Understanding your role

Cloud security is a shared responsibility between you and your service provider. It is important to understand and play your role to the fullest.

3. Contracts and SLAs

Service level agreements and contracts are very important for ensuring cloud security. Therefore, they must be studied and reviewed carefully.

4. User training programs

Your users constitute the first line of defense against cyber-attacks and other security risks. It is important for you to introduce training programs that educate them about the dos and don’ts of using a cloud service.

5. Controlling user access

Controlling user access through robust policies is an important step in implementing tight control over your system.

6. Maintaining visibility of your services

Implementing a cloud security solution that seals your blind spots and provides visibility into your entire ecosystem is one of the important practices for an effectively secured system.

7. Securing endpoints

It is equally important for you to secure user endpoints. You can introduce advanced client-side security or endpoint security solutions for protecting your end-user devices.

8. Implementing data encryption

Implementing strong data encryption, for both in transit and at rest data, proves to be extremely beneficial for the protection of your data.

9. Strong password policy

For averting any unauthorized access, it is critical for you to implement the strongest possible password security policy. Not only have strong passwords but keep changing them frequently.

10. Using a CASB

A cloud access security broker (CASB) is one of the central tools for cloud security in the 21st century. It sits between you and your CSP and extends your security controls into the cloud.

Conclusion

As cloud services are evolving, so are the threats and challenges surrounding them. It is extremely critical for your business to have a comprehensive cloud security plan. You can only achieve that by identifying various risks that are involved. Once you are aware of all the challenges, you will be able to mitigate them effectively.

Above all, it is important for you to know that cloud computing is the way forward. Looking at the risks and challenges may discourage someone from dropping their plan to move to the cloud. But that shouldn’t be the case. You can always implement the best cloud security practices to safeguard your data and infrastructure in 2021.

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About Vishwa Deepak

As a content strategist and writer associated with Sagenext, I do more than just stringing letters together into words. My core competency lies in producing useful and amazing content related to technology trends, business, cloud computing, Quickbooks hosting, and finance.
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