Cloud computing has become so ubiquitous among today’s organizations that it now takes up a sizable portion of all IT budgets, according to some estimates. While this demonstrates just how much potential companies see in the cloud, it also belies their security concerns, with less than a quarter of organizations “completely trusting” their cloud solution. While this figure has been steadily increasing as companies become more familiar with cloud computing, the concern isn’t unwarranted. Given the threats posed by a data breach, organizations need to put a lot of thought into securing their cloud computing solution.
5 Ways to Secure Your Data in Cloud Computing
One of the most common ways to protect data is to make sure no one outside an organization can even read it. This is the core concept behind encryption, which translates otherwise readable data into coded form called ciphertext. In order to read this information, a user must have access to the appropriate decryption key. These keys are generated by extremely complex algorithms to ensure randomness and make it all but impossible for someone to decrypt the data.
Although most cloud providers encrypt data when it’s in transit, less than 10 percent of them encrypt data at rest. This creates a potential security vulnerability that could result in a costly data breach. Many cloud providers offer enhanced encryption services, but companies often turn to solutions at the data center by using hardware security modules (HSM) to better protect their valuable data.
One is good, but two is better. That’s the basic principle behind multi-factor authentication. The idea is that someone seeking access to secure data may be able to overcome one form of security, but probably not two. Multi-factor authentication requires users to provide multiple forms of identification when trying to access a system. Authentication systems typically rely on three forms of information:
Something you know: This is information that only people authorized to access a system should have. Typically, this is a password or PIN of some kind.
Something you have: An object that is not easily duplicated may be necessary to access information. This could include authorized devices with the appropriate security software in place.
Something you are: The most difficult to duplicate, this information consists of a person’s unique characteristics such as fingerprints and retinal scans. Many mobile applications now incorporate biometric scanning technology to authenticate users.
User Access Management
Not every person in an organization needs access to every part of a system or network. Cloud applications can be set up to recognize multiple forms of user accounts and profiles. Role-based access control (RBAC) ensures that only people who need access to certain types of data and systems will have it, which greatly reduces the risk of data being compromised due to human error or malicious intent. These access profiles also generate data points that allow organizations to track who accesses specific assets and when, providing a detailed record of usage patterns. This record can be especially valuable when it comes to monitoring potential security threats and securing cloud computing.
Creating different levels of access also allows organizations to use data segregation more effectively. Not all data needs to be stored in the same place, especially if the IT infrastructure utilizes a hybrid or multi-cloud deployment. Data segregation ensures that even if one component of the cloud is compromised, critical data will remain isolated and safe.
Have a Backup Plan
Cloud computing offers unparalleled flexibility, but it forces companies to put a lot of trust in the cloud provider’s SLA. No organization wants to face the costly reality of a security breach or the loss of data availability. Whether servers go down due to a DDoS attack, a ransomware situation, or a natural disaster, losing access to mission-critical data can cause irreparable financial and brand damage to a company. One of the best ways of securing cloud computing against the loss of data is to have a comprehensive backup plan in place. This could involve establishing redundancy through another cloud provider as part of a multi-cloud deployment or even through another data center as part of a multi-data center strategy.
While there is justifiable concern over the cybersecurity threat posed by hackers, the truth is the majority of server downtime is the result of human error. This means that employees within an organization form a crucial part of the security chain. If they don’t understand the risks involved, they may be leaving the company exposed to danger and liability every day, which makes securing cloud computing very difficult.
In many cases, employees do not receive appropriate training that helps them to understand how accessing and using data in the public cloud differs from accessing data on their local network or their own computers. While their training doesn’t have to make them experts on cloud architecture, it can learn to follow best practices that make it easier for the organization to maintain cloud security. By educating employees about cyberthreats such as malware, phishing scams, and unsecured devices, they can begin to take a more proactive approach to protecting data stored in the cloud.
Many companies turning to cloud computing for their data needs due to the immense power and flexibility of the platform. Whether they’re using a purely public cloud or deploying more complex solutions like hybrid clouds or multi-clouds, they need to keep security in mind to make sure that their valuable data isn’t compromised. A data breach can set a company back years, or even cause them to go out of business. By implementing through security measures using strategies like better access protocols, data segmentation, and hardware security modules, they will put themselves in the best position for future success.
About Tom Banta
Tom is the Senior Vice President of Product Management & Development at vXchnge. Tom is responsible for the company’s product strategy and development.