The cloud has become an essential part of many companies, both in the services they offer and in their internal processes. Security standards for the cloud haven’t always kept up with the rigors of usage, though, so better cloud security is important for any company which relies on that infrastructure. Companies should strive to keep their cloud data and networking as secure as possible, and should not rely solely on hosting companies to protect their data. The precise implementation of better cloud security varies depending on a company’s needs, but there are 5 key elements that every company should integrate into their security practices when dealing with the cloud. These are encrypting data, managing access, testing the cloud, creating security policies, and educating employees.
Data encryption as part of cloud security is sometimes overlooked, and failing to encrypt sensitive data can put both companies and their customers at risk. It is the responsibility of the responsible cloud user to make sure that all data which enters the cloud is properly encrypted, and that the data can be properly decrypted once it’s retrieved from the cloud. IT departments should keep the encryption and decryption keys in a secure location, and those keys should never be stored with the data on the cloud. Some cloud providers offer encryption services, but there’s nothing stopping companies from encrypting data themselves before loading it into an encrypted cloud. This doubly-encrypted data is especially hard to crack, especially if the cloud provider and company use different encryptions on the data.
Managing access to the cloud is a vital part of keeping data secure. A robust authentication protocol and restrictions on access can keep prying eyes away from data. Different types of employees in a company require access to different types of data, so companies should use access controls. Using secure sign on (SSO) utilities can keep employees accessing the level of data they need without having to worry about cumbersome passwords. Passwords are often a point of vulnerability in data access, because they can often be guessed or hacked. If a company is handling sensitive information, it may also be useful to enable two-factor
identification, which helps ensure that an authorized user is accessing the system by contacting them in multiple discrete ways for validation.
Test the Cloud. Perhaps the most dangerous assumption companies make about cloud providers is that those providers can handle all of their security. It’s prudent for companies to test the cloud provider in a sandbox that won’t compromise their data. They might find a security hole the provider overlooked. Companies are used to conducting security assessments of their own resources, but they can also perform assessments of the cloud provider’s security. It’s important not to take anything for granted, because the responsibility for a company’s data falls on that company alone. Cloud providers do their best to offer robust security, but companies should treat that security as secondary. Data and cloud security should be tested continuously, and any problems fixed as soon as possible.
Better cloud security policies involve tracking data at every step, whether it begins as a physical sheet of paper or an image on a flash drive. Unsecured Wi-Fi connections, computers left logged into the cloud, or overheard phone conversations can all undermine the security of data. Companies should strive for both physical and digital security. Digitally, virus scans, encrypted email, intranets, firewalls, and secure web access policies on browsers can prevent malware and viruses from contaminating or corrupting cloud data. The point of these physical and digital security policies should be to preserve the integrity of, and access to, data on the cloud.
Educate Employees. The most important part of better data security is to educate employees. Human error accounts for many more security breaches than companies prefer to admit, and it can be easy to accidentally introduce malicious code into a system. It’s important to train employees on security policies, but also on why those policies exist. Employees won’t care about creating a strong password or watching for phishing emails if they don’t understand why doing those things is important. Employees don’t need to know all the technical specifications of security protocols, but they need to know how to follow the security policies that impact their jobs. Companies should help employees keep their knowledge up to date by training them frequently.
Better cloud security starts with good planning, and continues through continuous education and training. Security practices should become second nature in a data-conscious company, and a company should be willing to upgrade its policies to cope with new threats. These 5 basic categories encompass everything a company needs to know about better cloud security in some form, so as long as these are kept in mind, data will be protected.
The original version of this article was first published on Inspired eLearning.