It’s safe to say that the cloud has transformed the way most businesses operate. So much so that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a company of any size that doesn’t rely on at least one or two cloud-based software applications.
But as businesses reap the benefits of cloud computing, which include cost reduction, flexibility and scalability, increased collaboration, and more, they must also realize that storing sensitive data on someone else’s servers isn’t without unique cybersecurity challenges.
Cloud Computing Isn’t a Magic Bullet for Cybersecurity
Enhanced security is frequently touted as one of the main benefits of cloud computing. The argument goes something like this: Leading providers of cloud infrastructure and services, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Dropbox, and Salesforce, have access to far more resources and expertise than regular businesses do, and they use both to protect their customers against the latest cyber threats.
That’s, of course, true, but it’s important to realize that cloud security doesn’t depend solely on the provider. It also depends on the customer’s ability to identify and implement the right level of information security controls to protect all cloud entry points, which include everything from local servers to workstations to smartphones and tablets.
The problem is that many businesses were so eager to take advantage of cloud computing that they have ended up playing catchup with their security programs, doing their best to survive in an increasingly complex threat landscape.
In fact, a study by security firm McAfee revealed that 1 in 4 businesses using public cloud services had experienced data theft by a malicious actor, while an additional 1 in 5 had experienced an advanced attack against their public cloud infrastructure. These figures become even more alarming in light of the fact that 83 percent of surveyed businesses store sensitive information in the cloud.
Clearly, it’s in the best interest of businesses to evaluate their approach to cloud security as soon as possible to avoid a potentially devastating data breach and the reputation damage associated with it.
Overcoming Cybersecurity Challenges in Cloud Computing
In its Cloud Security Intelligence Report, Coalfire, a cybersecurity advisor that helps private and public sector organizations avert threats, close gaps, and effectively manage risk, identified data loss and leakage (64 percent), data privacy/confidentiality (62 percent), and as the top cloud security concerns of cybersecurity professionals. Unauthorized access through misuse of employee credentials and improper access controls ranked as the single biggest perceived vulnerability to cloud security (42 percent).
Overcoming these and other cybersecurity challenges in cloud computing does require some effort, but even a few simple actions can effectively prevent most attacks. Here are some examples of what businesses can do to thrive in the cloud:
- Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA): Requiring users to present two or more pieces of evidence when logging in to cloud-based applications, such as a password and a PIN, can counter as much as 99.9 percent of attacks, according to research by Microsoft. This makes MFA the most cost-effective security measure any business can take to strengthen its cloud defenses.
- Monitor user activity: Businesses need to know exactly which employees are accessing cloud-based resources and how to prevent hackers from taking control of an employee’s device and using it steal closely guarded private information from the company’s cloud.
- Control user access: One of the biggest benefits of the cloud is that it dramatically enhances collaboration, making it possible for employees in different geographical regions to seamlessly share files and work on the same documents in real-time. Businesses should take advantage of identity and access management technology to ensure that users get access only to cloud resources they actually need to get the job done.
- Create backups of all critical data: Not all cloud service providers offer an equally robust data backup solution. In some cases, it might be a good idea to manually back up cloud data to a local server so essential files can be quickly recovered even after a successful cloud ransomware attack or a major natural disaster.
- Provide ongoing employee training: The human factor tends to be the weakest link in most cybersecurity strategies, and implementing an ongoing security awareness training program is a sure-fire way to strengthen it. When employees are familiar with the latest cybersecurity threats, such as business email compromise, they are far less likely to fall victim to it.
Each of these cloud security measures doesn’t take much effort and resources to implement, but the benefits they provide are substantial. If you need help with their implementation or are merely looking for someone who can assess your current cloud security posture, don’t hesitate to contact us at Aligned Technology Solutions via phone or email.