According to a recent survey conducted by Statista, 83% of organizations identify cloud security as the biggest challenge with their cloud computing adoption. This is significant as the number of organizations which have migrated to the cloud have increased through the years.
Some of the common cloud security issues are caused by malicious softwares, data loss or leakage of data, account hijacking, service hijacking and traffic hijacking, vulnerabilities caused by shared technology and insecure application programming and bugs.
Before we discuss some of the best practices to deal with them, let us first understand what is cloud computing.
Understanding Cloud Computing
In technical terms, cloud computing is defined as the delivery of computing services such as data storage and processing power over the internet on a pay-to-use basis. Some examples of cloud computing that most of us are familiar with are Google Drive and OneDrive, which are cloud-based storage services
Organizations across use cloud computing to capitalize and take advantage of storage and virtual services through the internet, thereby making money on support and infrastructure. In recent years, we saw that most businesses are rapidly integrating cloud computing into their business models. This is because:
● Cloud computing can be used to rapidly set up different environments for driving business priorities depending upon the objectives of the business model.
● Cloud computing systems and environments can be scaled up to meet peak demands, or even scaled down to save costs during times of recession
● Cloud computing systems increase daily activities/output, increase efficiency and reduce the operating costs
Three Basic Types of Cloud Deployments
Let’s now explore the three basic types of cloud computing systems or cloud deployments, that are categorized according to the business needs they address.
● Public Cloud – Here, the private cloud service provider bears all the expenses related to infrastructure and bandwidth. This is the most economical option for users, but it is not suitable for larger organizations who handle sensitive information due to data security concerns and limited configurations. The cost of operating public cloud systems is determined by the usage capacity.
● Private Cloud – Private cloud systems are built by multinational corporations, government agencies and larger organizations for storing and managing their own data centers of specific business operations and IT needs. Private cloud systems are more flexible and offer more control to the user when it comes to customizability and scalability.
● Hybrid Cloud – Hybrid cloud systems are a combination of public cloud systems and private cloud systems. These systems combine the improved flexibility of private cloud systems with the cost efficiency of public cloud services. These systems are usually used by businesses that require more control over critical financial operations and other assets.
Now that we have a basic understanding of cloud computing, let’s get into the world of cloud security.
The Fundamentals Of Cloud Security
Before utilizing any type of cloud technology, you as a user need to be aware of several aspects of cloud security, such as
● In cloud computing, data or information is transferred from one point to another via the internet, so one of the major concerns is protecting this data while it is being transferred or stored. So, you need to understand the data storage mechanism and data transfer mechanism that is being used by the cloud service provider
● You need to analyze the sensitivity to the risks of the user’s resources
● You need to consider the type of cloud deployment that is being used by the cloud service provider
● Most cloud service models require the customer to be responsible for some of the security protocols at various levels of service. You need to be aware of these responsibilities before coming to a service agreement with any cloud service provider.
The Four Cloud Security Aspects
The four main aspects of cloud security that you should focus on as a user are:
● Access Control – Access control is a way of regulating and monitoring permissions or access to information and data by formulating different policies that suit you or your organization’s business needs
● Auditing – Auditing is the process of determining if a cloud computing system and its service providers meet the legal expectations of your business organization as well as the customer data protection standards of your organization.
● Authentication – Authentication is one of the primary and most important security protocols of cloud computing. It prevents shared information from unauthorized access by hackers or other malicious entities. Authentication can be done via username-password combinations, physical items such as a smart card or security tokens and biological markers such as biometric scanning or retina scanning.
● Authorization – Authorization is what follows after authentication, thereby giving the user full access to different computing resources such as stored data, files, databases and financial funds. It is the process of verifying your rights in order to gain access to cloud computing resources after determining your ability to access the system and the level of security clearance that you have.
The Controls available for Cloud Security
● Preventive Control – These controls are designed to be implemented before a threat event. It reduces the potential impact of the threat event or avoids its likelihood completely.
Examples: Data encryption, Firewalls.
● Deterrent Control – These controls are designed to deter or discourage hackers or malicious entities which might be looking to violate security controls and gain unauthorized access to the cloud servers.
Example: Laws, regulations, government policies
● Detective Control – These controls are specifically designed to detect threat events and malware that have already infiltrated the system and provide assistance during audits and maintenance investigations after the threat event has already occurred.
Examples: Security event log monitoring, network intrusion detection and antivirus detection systems.
● Corrective Control – These controls are designed to limit the impact of a threat event after it has already occurred. The primary objective of corrective controls is to recover the normal operational ability of the cloud computing system.
Examples: Business continuity and recovery plans, automatic scanning and removal of malware by antiviruses.
Precautions To Take For Cloud Security
● Make sure that all your data is stored in a physical location such as a remote server or a data center as a contingency in case of any disasters
● Document your data in the form of data logs or screenshots
● Choose your cloud service provider carefully
● Make sure that the service provider meets all your security validations and data security expectations before forming any service agreements with them.