What is cloud security? An overview + 12 cloud security solutions
January 5, 2022
Cloud security refers to the safety guidelines, technology, and best practices used to protect sensitive data and applications stored within the cloud and to prevent unauthorized access to your cloud. Today, it’s more important than ever as more people turn to cloud-based storage systems like Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive to save their family photos, videos, and remote work information.
For all these reasons, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to deepen your understanding of how to protect cloud data and answer the frequently asked question of “what is cloud security?” You’ll learn about the importance of cloud security and common cloud security risks, in addition to cloud security solutions and best practices you can use to take control of your Cyber Safety. After all, there’s no better time than the present to teach yourself how to keep your data, privacy, and identity protected.
Why is cloud security important?
Cloud security is important for the protection and cybersecurity of the cloud data we want and need to be able to access daily. From sensitive remote work files to priceless home photos and videos, there’s a lot of information worth safeguarding.
However, these cloud storage accounts are also valuable to experienced hackers because of the amount of data they can access if they use the right cyberattack. With over 90% of data breaches targeting cloud-based digital assets, your best defense against these attacks is preventing them from the start. Finding your answer to “what is cloud security?” and how it works is a great start.
How does cloud security work?
Cloud security operates on a model based on shared responsibility. Within this structure based on accountability, the cloud service provider (CSP) offering the cloud service is responsible for monitoring and responding to the immediate security risks that threaten its cloud infrastructure.
But it’s up to users — whether they’re businesses or individuals using a cloud-based service — to follow best practices to protect their data in the event of a data leakage or theft.
Types of cloud environments
Knowing what type of cloud environment holds your data can help you understand what cloud security approach you need to take. To this end, cloud environments are made up of three categories: public, private, or hybrid.
Public cloud environments
Public cloud environments — for instance, Microsoft 365 and Google Drive — are able to deliver their services via the public internet with the help of a third-party provider. Available through subscription models such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS), or platform as a service (PaaS), this cloud environment shares servers with other providers like a coworking space.
Private cloud environments
Private cloud environments, like Red Hat and Oracle, cater to companies looking for their own cloud to use for their operations. Whether you want to manage the cloud service off-site or in-house determines who manages and operates your cloud infrastructure on a daily basis.
Hybrid cloud environments
Hybrid cloud environments allow businesses to take advantage of the cost savings of a public cloud service while using a private cloud service for select business functions that require a higher level of security. For example, a business could use a public cloud for hosting low-risk applications for activities like instant messaging or email, while using a private cloud for things like logging payments and storing sensitive customer data.
Common cloud security risks and concerns
Taking the initiative to educate yourself on how to protect the data you have stored in the cloud starts with knowing what you’re protecting it from. Here is a list of common cloud security risks and concerns that threaten the Cyber Safety of your digital assets.
Internal and external threats
Some consider hackers and their malicious cyberattacks to be the primary threat to their cloud security, while others view themselves as being the most dangerous actors. Whether you’re dealing with a threat like credential stuffing or an inadequately trained employee handling sensitive data, knowing your weaknesses is key to knowing how to remedy them.
- Cloud security tip: Use tools like antivirus software, VPNs, and password managers to protect privileged data stored in the cloud.
Cloud-native breaches are just what they sound like — data breaches specifically meant for breaking into the cloud. Their three-step process distinguishes them from typical data breaches.
They begin by exploiting system vulnerabilities to make their way onto the cloud network. Once they establish access to the cloud, they expand to locate valuable data. That data is then transferred to their own storage location for further use.
- Cloud security tip: Download antivirus software to help protect your network and devices.
Visibility and control limitations
When dealing with the IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS storage models, CSPs have full control over the cloud system’s design and infrastructure, leaving the user almost entirely out of the loop. This lack of visibility and control can lead to individuals and businesses misplacing and/or mismanaging their cloud assets.
- Cloud security tip: Have a complete understanding of the design and setup of your cloud service before
Privacy is a cloud security concern for those looking to store sensitive information on cloud networks. For instance, some users might not appreciate their data being sold to third-party companies. But with the help of legislation, CSPs now have many more limitations as to how they can share the data they house for clients. And with the emergence of the CLOUD Act, the federal government now has the authority to request data from CSPs that may be pertinent to any ongoing investigation.
- Cloud security tip: Read through provided user agreements to understand if your CSP takes part in information sharing.
12 cloud security solutions and best practices
Now that you have a grasp of the different cloud security risks that could compromise your data stored in the cloud, here are a few cloud security solutions and best practices that can help fend off those unforeseen and emerging threats.
1. Back up your data
One way to ensure you’re not losing or misplacing any of your information is by performing data backups. Using tools like external hard drives and flash drives can help guarantee you’re well prepared with duplicates in case of an emergency.
2. Practice password hygiene
Creating thoughtfully crafted and unique passwords is imperative for not only your cloud security but also for the Cyber Safety of all your devices and networks. Differentiated passwords can help safeguard your information from cyberattacks like password spraying and credential stuffing — both of which use previously recorded passwords to break into user accounts.
3. Use a VPN to encrypt your data
Encryption is a cloud security tool that businesses and individuals can use to prevent unauthorized cloud network access. With the help of VPNs and other encryption tools, you are able to mask your IP address to hide your cloud traffic and network activity. This gives you a sense of anonymity, especially if you happen to be using a public Wi-Fi connection.
4. Monitor your network regularly
People at home and in the office have a responsibility to monitor the traffic on their servers and networks. This can help you identify suspicious activity and take action if you find any of your devices or cloud storage systems are compromised.
5. Enable two-factor authentication
When given the option, enabling two-factor authentication on your cloud network can add an extra layer of security for the data you want to protect. The use of biometrics — for example, fingerprint scans and facial recognition — can make forging someone’s identity incredibly difficult.
6. Download antivirus software
Antivirus software can support you in your efforts of improving your cloud security by helping you potentially spot cloud-native breaches and other infectious threats early on.
7. Regulate access to data
Using data security policies to limit who can access cloud data and where can help protect against potential unauthorized users. It also works to lessen the risk of insider threats compromising valued data.
8. Perform risk assessments
Businesses should use risk assessments to evaluate the areas of their company that are vulnerable to cyberthreats. To improve cloud security, update these assessments to include the cloud service used and evaluate how workers operate the system daily. By taking this extra step, you’ll have a deep understanding of the potential risk factors impeding on the cybersecurity of your cloud environment.
9. Incorporate application programming interfaces (APIs)
Having a full view of how CSPs manage a business’s data is valuable when it comes to cloud security because it allows them to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. An application programming interface (API) is software that allows this insight by connecting to cloud services and reporting back on certain kinds of cloud activity. With the help of APIs, companies can understand where they can locate their data in the cloud, who’s accessing data and when, along with where users download and share that information.
10. Modify security permissions
Modifying default security permissions like sharing capabilities and access controls set by CSPs can help configure your cloud network to your security needs as a person or business. It’s best to set restrictions regarding who can download and view cloud data and where.
11. Remain compliant with regulations
Before committing to a CSP as a business, it’s imperative to make sure that the cloud service adheres to government and industry standards in an effort to avoid legal troubles. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act require businesses to follow specific guidelines when it comes to the storage and sharing of customer data.
12. Automate cloud security monitoring
Businesses storing large amounts of information could benefit from automating the practice of assessing cloud security risks. You can accomplish this by investing in cloud security solutions that autonomously identify and remedy security risks for you, allowing you to focus on other critical business operations.
Now that you’ve found your answer to “what is cloud security?,” you can move forward knowing you can protect yourself from the tricks used to compromise the data you’ve stored in the cloud. Take advantage of the solutions and best practices listed to maintain the Cyber Safe lifestyle you know you deserve. Hey, protecting your precious data isn't something to have your head in the clouds about.
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