What is cloud security? An overview + best practices

A man reading about how cloud security protection and best practices for keeping cloud data safe.

What is cloud security?


Cloud security refers to the safety guidelines, technology, and best practices used to protect sensitive data and applications stored in the cloud.

Today, cloud security is 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.

But what is cloud security exactly? We’ve created this comprehensive guide to answer that question and deepen your understanding of how to protect cloud data.

You’ll learn about the importance of cloud security, how your data is secured in the cloud, 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 safeguard your data, protect your privacy, and prevent identity theft

What is cloud security?

Cloud security refers to the safety guidelines, technology, and best practices used to protect sensitive data stored within the cloud from unauthorized access. When data is stored in the cloud, it’s stored on the servers of the cloud service provider (CSP) rather than on the user's local device.

The CSP offering the cloud service is responsible for monitoring and responding to the immediate security risks that threaten its cloud infrastructure. However, it’s a shared responsibility.

This means 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. 

Why is cloud security important?

Cloud security is important for protecting the cloud data we want and need to access daily. From sensitive remote work files to priceless home photos and videos, there’s a lot of information worth safeguarding.

It’s also important for businesses, as data breaches could lead to serious consequences such as legal action and reputation damage. As more and more organizations move their data and applications to the cloud, cloud security will continue to be a critical concern.

A graphic discusses the importance of cloud security.

Benefits of cloud security 

As you might expect, cloud security has several benefits for both individuals and businesses. Here’s just a few reasons why cloud security is so beneficial. 

Protection of sensitive data

Cloud computing involves storing and processing data in remote servers, which can be accessed from just about anywhere in the world. This creates the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information, such as your personal or financial data. Cloud security measures help protect against these risks and ensure your data is kept safe and secure.

Compliance with regulations

Many industries have strict regulations governing the handling of data. For example, healthcare industries that handle personal healthcare information have some of the strictest regulations to follow. Cloud security can help organizations ensure they are compliant with these rules and avoid any penalties or legal action.

Business continuity

Organizations rely on cloud resources to run their operations, and any disruption to those resources can result in lost revenue and productivity. Cloud security measures help ensure resources are available and protected against disruptions such as cyberattacks, natural disasters, or technical failures.

Reputation management

A data breach or other security incident can damage a business’s reputation and lead to loss of trust from customers and partners. Cloud security can help protect against these incidents and show a commitment to maintaining the security and privacy of their customers’ data.

How secure is the cloud?

It’s natural to wonder if your data is safe when it’s stored in the cloud infrastructure. After all, your files, photos, and videos are being stored on servers that are not under your control. You might wonder how vulnerable these servers are to cyberthieves.

Here's the truth, though: The data you save with cloud service providers may likely be safer than the information you've stored in your computer's hard drive. Remember, hackers can use malware and phishing emails to get the information stored on your own devices. They might freeze your computer, demanding a ransom before they'll release the files and data they've frozen.

The security measures undertaken by larger companies providing cloud services are likely to be more robust and powerful than what you have protecting your home computer and devices.

Here’s a look at some of the security measures cloud providers frequently use to protect your data.

A graphic explaining how cloud providers can protect your data

Consistent security updates

How often do you ignore those notifications to update your operating system, browser, or email service? That’s a no-no in the world of computer security. Those updates often contain tools designed to protect your devices from the latest viruses or malware.

When you store your data in the cloud, though, the companies overseeing the servers are consistently updating their security measures. You won’t have to worry about forgetting to run an update. 

AI tools and auto-patching

Cloud providers are also turning to artificial intelligence, or AI, to help protect your data. This is important: It's not easy to find experienced security professionals to oversee data. Cloud providers, though, can instead turn to AI to tackle at least the first level of security analysis. These programs rely on built-in algorithms to seek out and identify possible vulnerabilities in security measures.

Built-in firewalls

Cloud providers rely on firewalls, too, to help protect your files. As the name suggests, this technology acts a bit like a wall keeping your data safe.

Firewalls, which can be hardware- or software-based, apply rules to all the traffic coming into a network. These rules are designed to filter out suspicious traffic and to keep your data behind the wall. This makes it more difficult for hackers to slip malware or viruses past the security measures used by your cloud service provider.

Redundancy (ultra-backed-up data)

But what about hardware failures or power outages? Will you be able to access your data if your cloud provider suffers through a natural disaster or large-scale outage?

The answer is yes, because most of the largest cloud providers practice redundancy. This means they copy your data several times and store it in many different data centers. This way, if one server goes down, you can access your files from a back-up server.

Third-party security testing

Your cloud provider also hires outside security companies to test its servers and software regularly to make sure they are safe from cybercriminals and the latest malware and viruses. This outside testing boosts the odds that your cloud provider will have the defenses needed to keep your files away from hackers.

Cloud security risks and concerns

While cloud providers take many security measures to protect your data, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any risks to potential cyberattacks. With over 90% of data breaches targeting cloud-based digital assets, your best defense against these attacks is preventing them from the start.

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.

A graphic discussing common cloud security risks.

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-native breaches 

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 committing. 


Privacy is a cloud security concern for those looking to store sensitive information on cloud networks. For instance, most users don’t 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.  

 A graphic discussing cloud security best practices for individuals.

1. Backup 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 prepared with duplicates in case of an emergency.

Norton PC Cloud Backup is a valuable solution that allows you to securely safeguard copies of your computer files, ensuring you won’t lose them in the event of your computer being misplaced, damaged, or subjected to ransomware attacks.

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 like Norton 360 Deluxe 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 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 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. 

Keep your data secure

Now that you’ve found your answer to “what is cloud security?,” you can move forward knowing you can help protect yourself from the threats used to compromise the data you’ve stored in the cloud.

For advanced protection, try Norton 360 Deluxe which is an all-in-one cybersecurity solution that can help safeguard your digital life. You’ll get powerful security tools, proactive monitoring features, and secure cloud backup so your important files are safely stored and easily recoverable in case of data loss.

Take advantage of these solutions and best practices to protect your data so you can maintain the Cyber Safe lifestyle you know you deserve.

Clare Stouffer
  • Clare Stouffer
  • Gen employee
Clare Stouffer, a Gen employee, is a writer and editor for the company’s blogs. She covers various topics in cybersecurity.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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