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6 Tips for Improving Cloud Computing Security

By Frank D'Silva | April 12, 2021
ntiva

Almost every business you can think of is using public cloud services for many of their critical business applications. Unfortunately as we head into 2021, cyberattacks and breaches on cloud services are increasing. Here are 6 great tips that will help you secure your cloud apps and data!

What is Cloud Security?

Cloud security is a set of policies, controls, procedures and technologies that should work together to protect your cloud-based applications and systems.

How to improve cloud security - list of 6 tipsEvery business we know of has a ton of very sensitive data in the cloud, and now that most of us have moved to a remote working model, there is more data than ever stored in cloud-based applications.

When the bulk of employees are working remotely and using a mix of personal and business devices, the "attack surface" of a company spreads even wider, giving hackers even more opportunities.

Mobile device security is of particular importance. Many companies may have some sort of monitoring and management in place for corporate-supplied computers, but very few are top of managing employee-owned mobile devices.

Referred to as Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD), these devices are used daily to access cloud apps such as Microsoft 365 and others, elevating security risks.

In a recent advisory, CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) revealed that hackers have been employing successful phishing campaigns and brute force logins to exploit weaknesses in cloud security practices.

Attackers deploy emails with malicious links to try and capture login credentials for cloud service accounts. The emails look legitimate as do the links, tricking employees with these sophisticated phishing schemes.

Unfortunately it often comes down to weak cyber hygiene habits in a company that opens the doors to hackers.

 

How Secure is Cloud Computing?

There's no question that the public cloud service providers that you're familiar with, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, offer a more secure environment than you could ever hope to with your on-premises servers.

However - even though cloud service providers are terrific when it comes to protecting your data while in the cloud, what they CAN'T protect you from is stolen credentials as mentioned above, or when your company data leaves the cloud to interact with other systems.

The latter happens in every company on a daily basis, as employees access, download and transfer all that data from all sort of devices in all sorts of places to all sorts of people!

Security breaches are rarely caused by poor cloud data security -  they're caused by humans.  Stolen log-in credentials, disgruntled employees, accidental deletions, insecure wi-fi connections, and other employee mishaps are the reason that your cloud data is at risk.

 

Why is Cloud Security Important?

As more organizations migrate their data, applications and other assets to the cloud, it becomes even more important to understand how to protect this highly sensitive business information that could potentially be exposed. 

Preventing leaks and data theft is critical to maintain your customer's trust, not to mention the cost of a data breach, which can easily reach millions of dollars for many companies.

Maintaining regulatory compliance is another reason why cloud security is so important for many industries, who must comply with strict standards or risk huge fines.

For its "2020 Cloud Security Report," BitGlass surveyed IT and security professionals concerning cloud security in their organization. 

Amongst the respondents:

  • 33% admitted that they're extremely concerned about the security of public cloud
  • 40% were very concerned
  • 20% were moderately concerned
  • Only 2% said they were not at all concerned

But there ARE security measures that you can implement to reduce your risk!

 

The Six Best Ways You Can Improve Cloud Security

 

1. Deploy Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

The traditional username and password combination is often insufficient to protect user accounts from hackers, and stolen credentials is one of the main ways hackers get access to your on-line business data and applications.

Once they have your user credentials, they can log into all those cloud-based applications and services that you use every day to run your business.

Protect all of your cloud users with multi factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that only authorized personnel can log in to your cloud apps and access that sensitive data in your on- or off- premise environment.

MFA is one of the cheapest yet most effective security controls to keep would-be hackers from accessing your cloud applications.

In fact, most security experts will tell you that its now considered negligent if you DON'T implement MFA as part of your infrastructure as a service (IAAS) plan.

If you want to learn more about exactly what MFA is, take a look at our data sheet to get all the details.

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2. Manage Your User Access to Improve Cloud Computing Security

Most employees don't need access to every application, every piece of information, or every file.

Setting proper levels of authorization with an IAM plan ensures that each employee can only view or manipulate the applications or data necessary for him or her to do their job.

Assigning access control not only helps prevent an employee from accidentally editing information that he or she isn't authorized to access, but also protects you from hackers who have stolen an employee's credentials.

It should also be noted that many regulatory compliance standards, such as HIPAA, FINRA and many others, require these kinds of security measures.

If an employee who has access to EVERYTHING gets tricked by a phishing email and inadvertently provides their log in information to your private cloud - well, now the hacker has the keys to all your kingdoms!

If you don't have the in-house time or talent to manage this user visibility and control yourself, be sure to work with a qualified IT consultant to help you get this set up properly.

You can also explore on-going management of all your cloud IT services by signing up with a Managed Services Provider who can completely take the burden of user access and management, also known as identity and access management (IAM), off your plate.

 

3. Monitor End User Activities With Automated Solutions to Detect Intruders

Real-time monitoring and analysis of end user activities can help you spot irregularities that deviate from normal usage patterns, e.g., log in from a previously unknown IP or devices.

These abnormal activities could indicate a breach in your system so catching them early on can stop hackers in their tracks, and allow you to fix security issues before they cause mayhem.

There are many SOCaaS solutions that can help you out with this, starting with automated 24/7 networking monitoring and management and moving up to advanced cyber security solutions such as:

Every business has varying needs for different levels of cyber security services, so be sure to get a third party risk assessment before making any large investments.

 

4. Create a Comprehensive Off-boarding Process to Protect against Departing Employees

When employees leave your company, make sure they can no longer access your cloud storage, systems, data, customer information, and intellectual properties. This is a crucial security responsibility that often gets pushed back days or weeks after someone has left.

Since each employee would likely have access to many different cloud applications and platforms, you need a systemized deprovisioning process to ensure that all the access rights for each departing employee are revoked.

Again, if you can't manage this internally, don't hesitate to outsource this task to someone who knows how to properly set up, implement and maintain this process.

 

5. Provide Anti-Phishing Training for Employees on a Regular Basis

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Hackers can gain access to secure information by stealing employees' login credentials through social engineering techniques such as phishing, spoofing websites, and social media spying.

 

As an example, the rapid expansion of Microsoft Office 365 has made it a very attractive target for hackers - more and more threats are emerging, specifically the frequency of phishing attacks. 

Offering ongoing training is the best way to prevent employees from falling victims to these scams and compromising your company's sensitive data.

 

Keep in mind we said "ongoing" - phishing training is not one and done, it's a continual process that needs be managed by someone within the organization in order to make it effective!

 

 

6. Consider Cloud-to-Cloud Back Up Solutions

As mentioned, the odds of you losing data because of your cloud provider's mistake is very low - but losing that data due to human error is high.

Let's use Microsoft Office 365 as an example.

If an employee should accidentally delete data, a hacker obtains an account password and corrupts the data, or a rogue employee cleans out his inbox and folders - there is nothing Microsoft can do past a certain time period.

Note that most cloud providers, including Microsoft, do store deleted data in their data centers for a short period of time, including your Microsoft Office 365 data.

But be sure to check with your cloud provider to determine what this time frame is, and if there are fees to restore that data (when possible to retrieve it.)

Companies that must abide by strict regulations or are concerned with being held liable due to missing or corrupted data, are turning to cloud-to-cloud back up solutions.

There are many of these solutions on the market today that can help protect you, so check in with a reputable IT consultant to determine which solution is best for your business.

 

Minimize Your Cloud Computing Security Risks

In general, cloud computing is a much more cost effective option and it's definitely more secure if you take the right precautions. 

Following industry best practices in selecting, installing, provisioning, and managing cloud services can help you get the most out of cloud computing, while still maintaining a high level of security to protect your sensitive data.

Experienced IT professionals can help you design and budget for a comprehensive cloud computing strategy that ties all the pieces together, and even provide ongoing management to make sure you're protected. 

 

Cloud Computing Solutions

If you're interested in learning more about how migrating to the cloud can optimize your IT infrastructure and security, or need help securing your cloud apps and data, click the link below to learn more.

 

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Tags: Cybersecurity