Tips on Creating a More Secure Cloud Environment

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As businesses move their data and applications to the cloud, owners face new obstacles, with security being one of the most significant. While the cloud isn’t built for insecurity, it does offer unique challenges that must be addressed.

The cloud is designed to work with minimal intervention, but the human touch is still required in some places. That’s led to increased skepticism in the sector, as many professionals believe that cloud-based infrastructure and services can never be truly secure. Here, we’ll discuss some guidelines and security DevOps best practices used to create a more secure cloud environment.

Threats and Challenges

The issues surrounding cloud security are complex, but they tend to fall into a couple of categories:

  •   Issues faced by providers (companies providing platform-, infrastructure-, or software-as-a-service in the cloud)
  •   Problems encountered by customers (organizations storing data or hosting apps in the cloud)

Many believe that cloud computing is significantly less secure than conventional approaches, and these beliefs are largely due to the fact that customers’ data is stored in systems and on servers they don’t control. However, cloud computing offers multiple ways to store data safely and ensure that it’s encrypted.

The level of security a vendor provides depends on the nature of the cloud services used. For instance, companies using infrastructure-as-a-service are responsible for middleware, OS, and other runtimes, while the cloud vendor is in charge of the supporting structure.

With SaaS (software as a service), vendors manage, host, and provide infrastructure and applications for others to buy and use. With numerous computing categories to consider, however, clients are responsible for all data involved. Generally, companies that rely on cloud infrastructure must prepare for security challenges like:

  •   Access management
  •   Data encryption
  •   Data visibility
  •   DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks

In the sections below, readers will learn which areas to focus on when securing commercial cloud environments.

Data Encryption

In cloud computing, encryption is the process by which data is encoded or transformed before it’s stored in the cloud. Most providers offer some sort of encryption service—ranging from simple encrypted connections to the specialized encryption of sensitive information—and offer keys that decrypt that data when needed.

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While data encryption won’t always result in a secure cloud environment, it does mitigate the effects of data breaches. According to some industry experts, however, over 40% of storage volumes and 80% of relational databases are unencrypted, with large portions of these cloud services being widely accessible because of other security lapses.

Encryption poses unique performance problems in the cloud environment, and there’s always the chance that storage volume encryption keys will be targeted by intruders—which negates the purpose of encryption. Nevertheless, if cloud security is a top priority, data encryption is a must.

Access Management

Although it might not be practical to encrypt all data, it’s important for companies to apply access controls on an as-needed basis. Poor credential, access, and identity management has been at the root of several recent data breaches. To reduce the risk of such issues, users should be assigned privileges in line with their function or role within the company.

Because the cloud allows workers to access a company’s data from anywhere there’s an internet connection; owners must ensure that access to that data is restricted. This is accomplished through policies and digital fences that allow legitimate users in while keeping hackers out.

Preparing for Potential DDoS Attacks

DDoS or distributed denial of service attacks has one goal: to stop a targeted site from functioning so users cannot access it. The targeted host’s services are, in most cases, stopped temporarily. In rare instances, the damage is permanent.

The typical DDoS target is a website hosted on a high-profile server, such as a government entity, a bank, or a payment gateway. Most commonly, target machines are so overwhelmed with outside communication requests that they respond slowly—or worse yet, fail to respond at all.

A site under such an attack is generally considered unavailable. There are several ways to mitigate the effects of DDoS attacks, but the most effective strategy is to use a dedicated security provider.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Strong, frequently changed passwords are great, but they’re just not enough to stop a determined hacker. The speed at which bad actors use brute force attacks to crack passwords increases by the year, and when hackers use botnets and algorithms to speed things up, the complexity of the password just won’t matter.

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Multi-factor authentication may be tedious and time-consuming for users, but it is a crucial security mechanism for all with privileged access. Ideally, those accessing private information should use multi-factor authentication PINs rather than SMS messages, as anyone can use their own device to receive a PIN by text and access a sensitive account.

Security Intelligence

With every wide-scale cyberattack and small strike, the information technology community expands the breadth and depth of its security expertise. Every day, existing vulnerabilities are identified, and fixes are implemented.

By using advanced diagnostics tools and advanced monitoring, companies can keep bad actors away from customers’ sensitive data. Best practices are great when they’re developed, but they improve even more when they are tested and shared.

Staff Training

Human resources are at the core of every successful company—and as the business world becomes more dependent on technology, it’s also become more reliant on trained workers. If a company owner plans to make their cloud environment more secure, they must train their employees well.

After workers receive the right training, they’ll be better equipped to identify suspicious and malicious behavior in the cloud. Many companies skip over this aspect, which renders them unable to maximize the value of cloud technology. With proper training, company owners can empower their workers to put up a good fight against cybercriminals.

Cloud Security: It’s Not a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

There’s no hard and fast way to secure a cloud environment, simply because every company’s setup is unique. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes, which means their cloud requirements and goals are different.

In this guide, we’ve listed some of the most effective ways to ensure cloud security, but companies often encounter issues of their own. If there are any questions about how we can help optimize and secure your cloud, call us or click today.

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