IT Technician Turning on Data Server

4 things you should look for to secure your cloud

As more services migrate to the cloud, security has become a significant issue for service providers and their clients. Existing business security solutions often need to be replaced or updated in this brave new world, from dedicated cloud security measures to novel on-site solutions.

While your cloud provider is responsible for much of this security, businesses need to be aware of their responsibilities and tackle what they can from their end. Cloud-based systems are far from equal, and businesses have a number of options regarding the specific services to implement. Experts estimate that more than half of all data breaches globally will occur in the United States by 2023.

While some organizations are happy to adopt specific applications or services, others want the benefits and challenges of a full-blown cloud infrastructure. Security is integral to every aspect of this process, with the model you choose having a direct impact on how vulnerable you are.

Let’s take a look at four things you need to look out for to secure your cloud, and therefore your entire organization.

1. Understand deployment models

There are three basic infrastructure models to choose from, with a mix-and-match approach also possible. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is the most comprehensive model, being a self-contained environment that includes hardware, software, and connectivity tools. While this model allows custom security and real-time scaling, businesses are responsible for their own configuration, management, and security.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is the fast-food version of the cloud. This delivery model is easy to use and readily available. PaaS includes pre-configured resources and security solutions, which means less customization but also a lot less work and responsibility for you.

The final model is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which is when a specific application is made available to cloud customers. Businesses have limited administrative control over SaaS and need to secure resources from their own end.

2. Take responsibility for encryption

The cloud model you adopt will have a huge influence on the security measures you need to put in place. For example, you need to ensure the privacy and security of any private data that you send to the cloud. Remember, a cloud-based service provider is just another third-party system, which means you need to follow any existing laws and policies regarding the transmission of private data.

Cloud storage systems typically use encryption to secure data, with the model you use influencing whether the encryption key is stored by the service or the end user. Even when the service takes responsibility for its own security, it’s always a good idea to use your own encryption software before uploading to the cloud. Comprehensive encryption at the file level is vital to all cloud security efforts.

3. Secure end-user devices and internal networks

Cloud services represent one end of a two-way conversation, with security efforts also needing to be applied by the end users. Whether you’re a small business with a handful of employees or a large organization with several departments, it’s crucial that you secure any end-user computers and devices (also called endpoints) that access cloud resources. According to a recent study by Dr. Michael McGuire, cybercrime is migrating to the cloud to mirror the rest of the world, with online crime making $1.5 trillion in 2018 alone.

Along with standard anti-virus and malware programs, you may need to ensure virtual private network (VPN) access for any employees who travel or work remotely. Without dedicated native security controls, your cloud is unlikely to be secure. If your company is utilizing a PaaS or IaaS configuration, it’s also important to implement a security firewall to protect your entire internal network.

4. Ensure compliance

Cloud computing service providers are always susceptible to interception and disruption, which is why it’s so important to internalize compliance measures to adequately manage risk and prevent vulnerabilities wherever possible.

Educate your team, enforce security and data handling requirements, and engage your IT service provider to make sure you have all the compliance bases covered across your network environment. There are federal government guidelines for cloud security in the United States, along with guidelines from the Cloud Security Alliance. In Europe, guidelines are set by the European Network and Information Security Agency.