Over 90% of companies use data cloud storage services. Odds are, you store data in the cloud too. It’s no wonder: doing so provides you with an efficient and affordable way to handle files. If that’s the case, you need to know about the cloud data security best practices you never want to violate.
Cloud data security best practices include encrypting data, setting the right policies, and training users. Restricting privileges, isolating your network, and auditing your compliance are necessary too. Doing so will prevent facing certain challenges, such as data breaches and data loss.
Aren’t cloud services inherently safe? They’re fine – but it’s easy for hackers to gain unauthorized access unless you’re smart about your cybersecurity. For that reason, it’s necessary to understand cloud data security now, so you can better follow best practices later.
- What’s Cloud Data Security?
- Cloud Security Challenges
- What Happens if You Have Poor Cloud Security?
- Why Trust the Cloud?
- 8 Cloud Security Best Practices
What’s Cloud Data Security?
Cloud data security prevents data breaches or data loss and any other mismanagement that happens with files you upload and download to cloud storage.
You need strong cloud security to keep hackers at bay. At the same time, not following best practices means you’re not complying with certain rules and regulations, which leads to having trouble with the law.
Cloud security isn’t about protecting the data in the cloud (data at rest) alone. You must also make an effort to protect the data in motion (i.e., the one you or your employees are downloading or uploading) and data in use (files or information accessed by an API or user). Doing so brings up a lot of challenges.
Cloud Security Challenges
- Compliance Issues. The first thing you have to do when you try a new tech approach is to see how you fare when it comes to compliance. As we have discussed before, not complying makes you an easy target for governments and criminals alike – and you want to stay safe from both of them. The rules and regulations you must follow depend on what type of business you run and where you’re doing business.
- Data Breaches. A breach sounds like a small issue if you don’t know its consequences. How much damage losing a few files can do? A lot! Losing credit card numbers or medical information puts you in the way of the authorities and lawyers, who’ll do their best to hand you huge fines and heavy lawsuits that’ll give you never-ending headaches.
- Data Loss. Having tight data security on the cloud isn’t about fending off external attacks. Sometimes, you have to deal with insider threats. Other times, lack of training will be what makes your company lose enough data to bankrupt you – or create a scandal if you lose millions of police files in one swift motion. Data loss is a big problem with cloud storage. Regular training is the best way to fix it.
- Malware Infections. Do you know how easy it is to spread malware via the cloud? A threat actor needs your login credentials and one second to upload malware you’ll soon download, inevitably infecting your entire network in the process. Scanning everything you download, including files from seemingly-secure places, is a must because of that.
- Misconfigured APIs. The cloud could have multiple access points, which puts you in danger. You could solve that issue by creating an access bottleneck. In other words, launching an API. However, APIs are inherently unsafe unless you take the time to configure them the right way. Restricting access is key when using one of these apps.
What Happens if You Have Poor Cloud Security?
It’s easy to understand why cloud security is a must. However, painting a picture of what happens when a hacker outsmarts your cybersecurity efforts is far from easy without sounding alarming.
Truth be told, it’s never easy to deal with having poor cloud security. Data breaches (caused by external or insider threats) will always be around the corner. In consequence, lawsuits will be plenty – and bankruptcy a real possibility.
At the same time, users tend to shy away from companies that are not careful with their data.
One data loss or leak could have your customers turning their back on you and running towards the competition: studies show one data breach can make you lose at least 50% of customers – but does that mean you should never trust the cloud?
Why Trust the Cloud?
- Affordability. One of the best things about storing your data in the cloud is how cost-effective this service is. Sure, you could store your files using your own servers, occupying your company’s space and increasing your utility bills – or you could pay someone else to store the servers and split the bill with thousands of other users, making everything more affordable.
- Efficiency. Cloud services are a billion-dollar industry (mostly) shared by three tech giants, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. All three compete to get the biggest market share possible, always looking to upgrade their services and offer lower fees to make that happen. Fortunately, that helps users get a very efficient service at a very affordable rate. You could set up your own servers – but you’ll enjoy little benefits and a lot of challenges because of that.
- Scalability. Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to cloud services. You could pick one service for your small company – or choose to use multiple ones for multiple projects spanning throughout the world. You could increase or decrease your cloud storage as you see fit, adapting to different issues (such as seasonal demand changes) without losing money.
- Straightforwardness. Using the cloud is as easy as counting to three. You don’t need much information to do so because engineers and developers spend a great deal of their time looking for ways to simplify the process. That doesn’t mean you can take a leap without looking: you have to follow data cloud security best practices to stay safe.
8 Cloud Security Best Practices
1. Access Security
Who can access your storage? The more people that can, the riskier it gets. Of course, restricting access is impossible if you’re using an API for users to get data, but that doesn’t mean you should allow everyone to use it.
In other words, you can use your API to authenticate users and authorize them to do certain actions – and forbid them from doing others.
We’ve talked about the risks of using APIs in other posts, so you probably know the main gist of it all: restrict permissions, put a cap on requests (to prevent DDoS attacks), and have it properly configured to avoid having issues.
2. Cloud Audits
Compliance is another subject we have talked about before. Yes, compliance is tough. Absolutely, compliance is difficult. There’s no doubt about it: you have to comply unless you want to have trouble with the law.
More often than not, tech-related rules and regulations have to do with handling and storing data securely, so you can probably guess cloud security and compliance go hand-in-hand.
Are you unsure about your compliance rate? Have a long talk with the people in your legal team and IT department to see how you’re doing – before something bad happens.
3. Data Encryption
We’ve briefly mentioned the three types of data you must protect in the first half of this article: data at rest, data in motion, and data in use.
Simply put, you have to keep data safe, no matter if someone (or nobody) is using it or whether you’re uploading or downloading it.
The best way to deal with all those scenarios is to encrypt your files. Encrypt them before uploading them so (in a worst-case scenario) a threat actor can do nothing but try to decrypt them before leaking them.
4. Employee Monitoring
You should worry about external threats: hackers are always lurking around the corner to try and penetrate your defenses. However, you may have an issue wandering within your walls: insider threats could hurt you just as much (or more) than threat actors attacking from the outside.
For that reason, taking the time to monitor your employees for suspicious activity is a must. For example, an employee trying to access files they don’t need or never accessed before means they’ve turned into an insider threat or someone compromised their login credentials.
5. Network Isolation
It’s easy to fall prey to malware. Following the previous example, an insider threat can let a virus loose within your network. At that point, it’ll be a matter of time before your entire company is compromised – unless you know isolation is key.
When an infection takes place, you have to isolate infected devices. Otherwise, the virus will continue to spread.
Your network works the same way: if another network (e.g., your cloud storage) becomes compromised, you need to have a plan in place to prevent a virus from spreading.
6. Policy Setting
Security guidelines should be easy to follow, understand, and update. Of course, making that happen is difficult – but necessary.
Your security policy will prevent employees and users alike from making a mistake that’ll cost you money in the long run.
The government forces you to comply with certain rules and regulations if you want to handle sensitive data – and that’s okay! You can do the same with those who want to work for or do business with you. That way, you keep everyone safe from harm.
7. Threat Prevention
Your infrastructure is safe from harm as long as you keep software and hardware updated – or so you believe. Hackers are fast at finding new exploits or unpatched vulnerabilities you’re unaware of.
For that reason, you need hackers of your own to test your defenses before threat actors do so for real: In the first scenario, pen testers find vulnerabilities and tell you how to patch them; in the second scenario, you end up facing a data breach.
8. User Training
You could have the best infrastructure, an amazingly well-drafted security policy, and the best pen testers in the game coming up with ingenious ways to find and patch exploits – but that will mean nothing if your customers and employees continue to make mistakes.
In fact, experts believe users are to blame for most issues with cloud storage. That comes as no surprise because we know the human factor is often the biggest cybersecurity risk of all.
For that reason, training customers and employees alike will drastically reduce any issues you have with the cloud, drastically reducing the chance of suffering a breach or similar.
Cloud data security best practices are all about protecting your data, devices, and employees from harm. Paying attention to compliance as well as threat prevention is the first step to keeping threat actors at bay. Training users and setting the right policies will give you an important edge over criminals who want to access your data. Here at U.S. Cybersecurity we have many cloud security solutions to assist your business.