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The rise of cloud computing has come with numerous benefits. Organizations gain the ability to store large amounts of data, something that previously wasn’t possible (or was very expensive) on a local hard drive, and access that data anywhere, anytime. Given the mass adoption of remote work in 2020, and its continuation in 2021, the necessity of cloud computing is crystal clear.

However, companies migrating to the cloud often carry with them a fear of how their information will be secure when hosted on third-party servers such as AWS, Microsoft, or Google.

This fear is valid, but it’s also 100% addressable. Cloud security is a shared responsibility. To put it simply, cloud service providers, such as those listed above, are responsible for the security of the cloud environment – that much is handled. The organization (you) is (are) then responsible for securing the data and information in the cloud, something that most always seems more difficult than it really is.

In this blog, we will address the security in the cloud and discuss how you can take steps to ensure your organization is best protected.

Understanding Your Role in the Shared Responsibility Model

One key aspect of security in the cloud is delivering on your responsibilities within the Shared Security Responsibility Model (SSRM). As an organization, you’re responsible for security of everything in the cloud including configurations, applications, upkeep, etc. This is critical because if you incorrectly configure an application, it won’t matter if the public cloud provide has secured their portion of shared responsibility, you’ve created a vulnerability that could compromise the security of your environment.

Is Cloud Storage Reliable and Safe for Storing Sensitive Data?

In short, yes, but only when you’ve done your due diligence.

Storing information in the cloud as opposed to on-prem brings with it a feeling that you’re relinquishing control, and to some degree, you could argue that’s true. But in truth, it’s a misplaced assumption, as you can ensure the safety of your stored data using some effective measures.

The best practice to store data on the cloud is to encrypt and use strong passwords. Check with the cloud provider on how the data is managed. Encrypt the data before it leaves the local storage, as it may not save the encrypt/decrypt keys in the software.

On top of that, cloud storage providers usually have robust security measures in place. For example, their servers are commonly placed in warehouses to avoid employees getting access, and there are strong firewalls to deny easy accessibility of the stored data. Cloud computing’s safety and security is a communal responsibility of both the user and the provider to safeguard the data while storing and retrieving it.

Explaining Cloud Computing Safety and Security

Generally, organizations place a lot of weight on how safe the data in the cloud is, and rightly so. To achieve peace of mind, they can formulate policies that address all the below guidelines:

Limit access

Determine who has access to the data stored in the cloud — and who does not. As a general rule, it’s best to follow the least privilege concept whereby the level of access is limited to the least access required to perform one’s job. Limit access to only those who absolutely need it, then add further protection by issuing privileges for each individual. Use access control tools to monitor and remove access when needed.

Secure credentials

Educate users not to expose their access credentials, create unique keys for every service, and restrict access to only those who need it. Ensure credentials are updated regularly to avoid attackers seizing any compromised keys.

Two-factor authentication

Add extra layers of protection, such as two-factor authentications, to provide an additional security barrier if ever an attacker breaches the first.

Logging access and activity

Turn on secure login and monitoring to detect unauthorized access. Authorize only the devices which need to have access to the data. Additionally, logging and monitoring activity (both authorized and unauthorized access) is necessary to detect activity that may be outside the norm. For example, off-hours access, from IP addresses outside the network, etc., can be indicative of compromised credentials.

Who are the Top Cloud Providers?

Among the top cloud providers for 2021 are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, and Oracle.

Though the top providers stand apart from the rest of the pack, they too come with their own set of risks. The primary risks can include insider threats, data loss, compromised accounts, malware infection, and regulatory violations. It’s recommended you comprehensively analyze the above risks before getting into an agreement with the provider.

Misconfiguration is another top threat that comes just behind data breaches. Cyberattackers can easily exploit such vulnerabilities, which are often difficult for the business to track. According to McAfee’s IaaS Adoption and Risk Report, only 18% of businesses identify and address misconfigurations within minutes, 60% of them take hours, 20% take days, and the rest 2% take months.

Avoid misconfigurations by restricting access to the least privileged, disabling regions and resources that users do not need, blocking unintended uploads, safely storing and rotating encryption keys, and implementing data governance.

Probability of Cloud Computing Being Safe

How secure is the cloud? Is the cloud trustworthy? Is cloud storage safe?

These are some fundamental questions that a user or organization should anticipate and evaluate when considering a cloud migration. While cloud provides excellent flexibility, scalability, and ease of access at low cost, it also comes with a few security threats.

Cloud infrastructure is vastly different from on-premises infrastructure, and traditional security tools and methods cannot secure it effectively. Further, the level of security needed for true protection is often beyond the capabilities of an individual organization, either due to resource constraints or a lack of expertise.

This is where you may consider partnering with a cloud security provider to take some of that responsibility off your shoulders. Of course, cloud security is a shared responsibility, so organizations must first have effective strategies in place and educate all employees on how to keep all of your data secure, but with the help of a security partner, you can focus on your business priorities while knowing you have experts as your eyes and ears in the cloud landscape.

If you’d like to learn how Alert Logic Managed Detection and Response (MDR) may be the best security solution for your cloud environments, click here.

Angelica Torres-Corral
About the Author
Angelica Torres-Corral
Angelica Torres-Corral is a product marketing expert at Alert Logic. She brings over 15 years’ experience in security, ranging from data loss prevention and user and behavioral analytics to cloud technologies. Prior to Alert Logic, Angelica held roles at Forcepoint and Schneider Electric in product marketing, solution selling and corporate branding. She holds an MBA from California State University, Fresno and a bachelor’s degree from University of Chicago. Angelica is passionate about solving problems, and helping customers enhance their security posture.

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