Nowadays, more and more companies are leaving their on-premise infrastructures and migrating to the cloud for its convenience and flexibility, among other reasons. 

But where companies go, cybercriminals inevitably follow. For this reason, the threat of cloud security breaches has become increasingly pertinent in our modern digital age.

For instance, in December 2017, an Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) breach exposed the private data of around 123 million American households.  What ultimately set the groundwork for the breach to occur? The AWS S3 was misconfigured. 

This disastrous breach is one of the many negative consequences that can result from companies hastily jumping onto the cloud bandwagon. 

This isn’t to dissuade you from moving to the cloud—there are undeniable benefits—but such a transition should be done properly and with a clear cloud security strategy for fending off cyberattacks. 

What is cloud security? What challenges do companies like yours face when setting it up? And what other necessary considerations must be made to best defend your business systems and the data of your loyal customers? These are some of the questions we’ll be exploring today.

What is cloud security?

What is cloud security?

Cloud security refers to the security of your cloud infrastructure and its resources, the data within your systems, and the accessibility of those systems. 

Another way to think about it is that cloud security protects your house and valuables while also keeping out unauthorized and unwanted guests.

To support your business’s cloud security, you should implement and maintain certain policies, technologies, and programs that help protect your systems and infrastructure. This is pivotal not only for the continuity of your business but also for the security of customers who rely on you. 

Adhering to good cloud security practices will also support your ability to maintain regulatory compliance. Due to the complexity of the subject, cloud security tends not to be something businesses handle purely in-house. 

The providers of any security solutions you use should offer assistance with onboarding and upkeep to help you succeed with their product. Otherwise, your IT team or MSP will be able to take the lead on these issues. 

Why does Cloud Security Matter?

Data leak

As mentioned before, wherever there are businesses and customers, there will also be criminals, and unfortunately, cybercriminals are becoming incredibly sophisticated in their approaches to breaching your security.

As the number of businesses that move to the cloud continues to increase, the amount of proprietary information attached to those businesses becomes at risk of being compromised by tech-savvy criminals. 

Additionally, as the amount of consumer data that exists in the cloud grows, so too will corresponding compliance issues and regulations. 

At this point in time, the majority of organizations are already using some form of cloud computing, whether that involves Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or G-suite. Those companies that haven’t yet moved even partly to the cloud will likely be doing so soon.

All of this is to say that cloud adoption has become mainstream for businesses, so naturally, cloud security is becoming equally important. 

Without cloud security, you and your customers have no guarantee that your data and systems won’t be compromised by unwanted entities in your system—and lacking the right internal protocols, the threats outside your company may be as serious as the potential threats within. 

It isn’t as if the data security game has dramatically changed; businesses like yours have always needed to prioritize the safety and integrity of important data, such as secret documents, financial records, health records, etc. What’s shifted is the landscape in which the game takes place. 

With all of this in mind, you might be wondering why anyone would risk moving to the cloud at all without solid cloud security in place. 

One reason this happens is that ignoring cloud security leads to lower upfront and reduced operational costs. It’s simply a form of short-term thinking that the company has to pay for when a disruptive event inevitably interferes with business continuity and can cause many problems from financial, to legal and regulatory.

Cloud security challenges

Cloud security challenges

Hosting your company’s data and systems in on-premise servers comes with its fair share of challenges, and despite its convenience and flexibility, cloud servers have their own problems as well. 

This is partly due to the fact that public clouds don’t have the clearest security parameters, and the risks/responsibilities you have to deal with vary depending on your cloud type. 

Below is a list of some of the standard challenges your business will likely face when trying to keep your cloud systems and data secure:

Cloud security responsibilities based on cloud service type

Cloud security types

Regardless of which type of cloud service your business decides to adopt, your company will in some way have to take responsibility for your cloud security, even if the service type takes care of much of it for you. 

Below are three of the most popular types of cloud services and their associated security responsibilities: 

What is Zero Trust and why it matters

Zero trust

Zero Trust, first coined by John Kindervag in 2010, refers to the networking idea that businesses shouldn’t automatically trust any person or entity within our outside of your cloud network—all incoming communication should be inspected, verified, and secured. 

This is in contrast to businesses that fail to properly vet incoming and outgoing information from their networks. As a policy, it helps to promote a least privileged governance strategy where users are only given access to specific resources they need to fulfill their duties. 

For instance, if you were to hire a freelancer to edit some of your articles, you would only give them access to specific documents they need to edit, not your entire G-suite account.

In addition to this, Zero Trust networks take advantage of micro-segmentation, which is a method of dealing with your cloud network security in a more granular way. The detailed a view you have into your cloud network security, the easier it is to accurately secure traffic. 

The 6 pillars of strong cloud security

Strong cloud security

By this point, you’ve explored how securing your cloud systems and infrastructure is going to take more than whatever default security options you get from your third-party hosts, whether you’re using Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) or others. 

A larger and more thought-out security plan is the best way to protect your business’s cloud networks, and when done properly, even SMBs like yours will be able to achieve enterprise-level protection. But you can only get there by utilizing an integrated security stack. 

Keep the following six pillars in mind as you’re building your stack.

Pillar 1: Keep your Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies and authentication controls granular across your cloud infrastructures

To make it easier to manage updates for IAM definitions throughout your business’s growth, try to work with groups and roles instead of dealing with definitions at the individual level.

When granting privileges to assets and APIs that are necessary for a group or role to carry out tasks, do so minimally to mitigate potential disruptions that result from errors or breaches. And don’t forget to enforce strong password policies, session/permission time-outs, etc. 

Pillar 2: Enforce Zero Trust network security across logically isolated networks, micro-segments, and maintain least privilege access

When deploying your apps and essential business resources, make sure to do so in logically isolated sections of your provider’s network. 

For AWS and Google, you would go with Virtual private Clouds. For Microsoft Azure, you would use vNet. You should also utilize subnets as a way of micro-segmenting your workloads and employ granular security protocols at their gateways for more secure communication. 

Pillar 3: Enforce virtual server protection protocols when handling change management, software updates, and patches

When considering a vendor for your company’s cloud security, be sure that they provide a robust option for Cloud Security Posture Management. 

Their option should consistently apply governance and compliance rules and regulations, as well as templates to help with virtual server provisioning, configuration audits, and automated remediation. 

Pillar 4: Utilize a next-generation web application firewall to protect all business applications, especially those that are cloud-native

Next-generation web application firewalls are essentially for properly monitoring and validating inbound and outbound traffic from your cloud servers. Whichever firewall you decide to go with should come with automated updates. 

Pillar 5: Utilize enhanced data protection

All transport layers, file shares, and communications should be encrypted where possible. Make it a point to continually monitor compliance risks and maintain good data storage hygiene so that it doesn’t become a pain to locate critical files when you need them. 

Pillar 6: Real-time threat intelligence

When your cloud systems encounter a threat, time is of the essence. Look for solid cloud security vendors that offer all the tools you need to visualize and understand the threat landscape and isolate any attacks. 

Any alerts and intrusions should come in real-time so that you can respond to threats as quickly as possible—some of the best cloud security tools will even have automated remediation-workflows that begin dealing with issues before you’ve even become aware of them.

Considerations when seeking cloud security solutions

cloud security considerations

Choosing to move to the cloud is not an easy decision for most companies, not least because you have more than a few cloud providers and cloud security solutions to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. 

You’ll no doubt find yourself asking your IT team/MSP questions such as: Who’s going to be using the cloud data and exactly what data will be stored there? Who will be assigned which permissions? Who will we share our data with? How will our solution fit into all this?

Those are all good and important questions to ask, but to help guide you during your search for your ideal cloud security solutions, keep your eye out for options that can handle: 

It’s been reported that 70% of organizations that utilize public cloud services have suffered through attacks by cybercriminals. With the increasing amount of companies flooding to the cloud, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your company’s private data is secure. 

To achieve solid cloud security, companies like yours must evaluate their cloud security options and be deliberate in their choice, lest they become another victim of cybercrime. 

In summary: 

When should you assess your business’s data and systems security?

cloud security assessment

Once your business is set up with a solid cloud security solution, you might be tempted to just kick back and let it do its continuous work. 

This is inadvisable as even the best security systems should be monitored to make sure they’re functioning properly. In fact, doing these types of checks should be part of the processes that build up your solid security stack. 

We recommend that you regularly make an assessment of your data and systems every 6 months to a year. These assessments can take a serious amount of time and effort, especially for larger companies dealing with unwieldy amounts of data. 

Luckily, Commprise can relieve you of that burden with our Managed Security Services. We deliver the technology, insight and oversight your organizations’ IT requires for top-notch security, and we tailor our strategy and solutions to your unique needs.