5 Essential Tips for Securing the Cloud

In recent years, companies have made significant progress modernizing their IT infrastructure with cloud technologies. Cloud computing has been firmly established as the norm for enterprise-wide IT, according to Gartner, and it continues to be one of the fastest-growing components of overall IT spend. And not surprisingly, the pace of cloud adoption has actually increased since the beginning of the global pandemic. McAfee reports that there has been a 50 percent increase in cloud adoption since early 2020 as companies sought to solve the challenges of remote work and network access. 

However, there has also been a darker side of this new phenomenon: the rapid growth has led to a 630 percent increase in cyberattacks on cloud infrastructure during that time, according to McAfee. The rise in cyber risk is forcing CIOs to rethink how they are securing the cloud as they grow their infrastructure.

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Common Cloud Security Risks

Securing IT infrastructure is in itself a very challenging problem, but the nature of the cloud (and how people access information) makes security a particularly complex proposition. Cloud security risks often fall into three categories:  

  1. Data Breaches: Cybercriminals know the value of data stored in the cloud, making data breaches a primary concern. Confidential data loss can come from any number of threat vectors, but the most common is simple misconfiguration of IT assets.
  2. Business Disruption: Particularly in the era of Covid where more people work and access information remotely, there is a growing danger of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.  Cybercriminals overload datacenters with illegitimate traffic that can lead to outages, downtime, and impaired business continuity.
  3. Privacy and Compliance: Regulatory compliance is a key challenge CIOs face when securing the cloud, including data protection mandates such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. Companies must have effective governance policies to limit cloud access and mitigate risk. 

Securing the Cloud Tip #1: Ensure Proper Access Control

There are two primary avenues for user access-based cloud threats. The first is the external threat of malicious account hacking, where hackers compromise access credentials in an attempt to take over a cloud account and manipulate data and applications. The second is the insider threat from employees, which oftentimes if not intentional. The security solution for both of these vectors is practicing hardened access control. Anyone who has access to the cloud should go through a screening process, multi-factor user authentication should be used, and access should be limited to only apps and data that are needed. Former employee accounts should be promptly deactivated, and cloud data should always be encrypted and backed up frequently. 

Securing the Cloud: Tip #2: Understand the Shared Responsibility Model

Securing the cloud is a two-party responsibility: the internal security teams (your company) that own data, apps, containers, and workloads; and the cloud services provider (CSP) that owns the physical security of cloud architecture. This Shared Responsibility Model revolves around people and trust. Customers must understand where their responsibilities and the CSPs start and end, but the details vary greatly based on type of infrastructure, platforms, and cloud deployments such as IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and FaaS. Companies must outline expectations that encompass data classification and accountability, endpoint detection, identity and access, app and network controls, and many more elements. Cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure and AWS each have respective shared responsibility models that customers should fully understand. 

Securing the Cloud: Tip #3: Constantly Monitor Activity

With the high level of threats looming, it is important to regularly and systematically scan for irregular user activity. Companies should conduct real-time analysis of behavior that deviates from normal usage patterns, such as new devices or IP addresses accessing a cloud application or network. Real-time monitoring can be enabled with endpoint detection solutions, intrusion detection and response, and cyber vulnerability assessments. Once suspicious or irregular activity is identified, the damage can be quickly addressed and mitigated.

Securing the Cloud: Tip #4: Implement Endpoint Security

Of course, end user devices themselves such as PCs, laptops, and mobile phones represent a significant threat to cloud security. Hackers are adept at exploiting device vulnerabilities to gain access to a cloud infrastructure, so it’s a vital best practice to implement stringent endpoint security protocols, especially when individuals use personal devices to modify cloud data. Companies can place filter controls on network traffic that it receives, and defense-in-depth can also be applied to supplement endpoint protection if the primary vehicle fails. 

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Securing the Cloud: Tip #5: Choose Reputable Cloud Providers

There’s no question that the cloud provider you choose to work with can make a big difference on how you generate your cloud security architecture and implement a shared responsibility model. Among the most popular cloud providers, where technical training is readily available, are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.  

With cloud deployments booming in the business world, cloud architects must take the time to rethink their security measures to keep pace with the corresponding cyber threats. By following these simple guidelines, you can be off to a strong start in the battle to protect your comprehensive cloud infrastructure. 

That was all about the process of securing the cloud through simple tips.

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About the Author

Karin KelleyKarin Kelley

Karin has spent more than a decade writing about emerging enterprise and cloud technologies. A passionate and lifelong researcher, learner, and writer, Karin is also a big fan of the outdoors, music, literature, and environmental and social sustainability.

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