Online security is a hot topic these days. Breaches seem to occur constantly, with many large corporations falling prey to intrusions, malware, and other threats. With most businesses adopting cloud-based operations, bolstering cloud security is more critical than ever. Ultimately, it's your responsibility to secure your applications and data. Increasing your organization's cloud security is an efficient means to accomplish this goal, but it all begins with a little bit of education and understanding of how the different processes work.
Cloud Services Explained
The odds are probably quite high that you use some type of cloud service every day. Whether you're doing so as part of your daily business operations or using a cloud-based service on your personal time, cloud services are everywhere. At a basic level, cloud services are on-demand channels for various services. Clouds don't require on-premises infrastructure and offer tremendous flexibility, scalability, and cost reduction benefits. They effectively eliminate the need for additional hardware while enabling businesses to use various services to run their operations. Think about your checking account, aspects of an email client, favorite music streaming service, or even Dropbox and some Amazon services. These are all cloud services people use every day – whether they know it or not.
How Cloud Security Works
Clouds are incredibly useful and versatile, but they're just as susceptible to security issues, breaches, intrusions, and malware as the devices on a traditional network. Cloud security and ensuring compliance with industry standards should be a top priority for any business. But navigating compliance standards can be challenging. These are the most common regulations cloud providers must adhere to:
- PCI - Payment card industry
- DSS - Data security standard
- GDPR - General Data Protection Regulation
- HIPPA - Health Information Portability and Accountability Act
- SOX - Sarbanes Oxley (covers financial data protection)
Compliance comes in all shapes and forms, so staying on top of it can prevent problems down the line. Auditing is a vital component of achieving compliance standards while enhancing privacy and security.
Understanding Cloud Architecture
Cloud architecture can seem rather complicated on the surface, but it's actually fairly straightforward. Clouds are built around three service types and four deployment methods. The three service models are infrastructure, platform, and software. Each model offers unique advantages depending on what they're being used to accomplish.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) essentially creates virtual versions of infrastructure that a company can use to create a virtual data center. Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure all allow users to deploy different types and configurations of managed infrastructure for various business applications.
Platform as a service (PaaS) is much different and it's all about customization. It helps developers build solutions through pre-built blocks rather than coding from ground up. Microsoft Azure is a PaaS development environment as well and Google App Engine is one or the better known examples of this type of cloud service.
Software as a service (SaaS) is where centrally hosted software gets licensed to an organization on a subscription basis. Salesforce, Slack, Dropbox, and many others we often use every day are all SaaS applications. The four deployment methods – public, private, community, and hybrid – have different uses depending on the organization.
Public clouds are accessible to the public, while a private cloud is unique to an organization and often integrated into its own company infrastructure. A private cloud typically offers more data security than that of a public one. A hybrid cloud is a combination of both public and private clouds. A community cloud is more like a public cloud, but with limitations on having specific users and it's operated by a third-party vendor.
Understanding Cloud Risk Management
Insecure API's, phishing attempts, and data breaches can lead to problems at any organizations. So, how can an organization manage and mitigate risk in the cloud? Start by ensuring everything is configured properly. After that, take steps to update company-wide policies for using the cloud, analyze user behavior, set up data access governance (DAG). DAG helps meditate gaps on data security regarding access and preventing unauthorized access attempts.
Use Additional Tools To Bolster Security
Security is an essential aspect of using the cloud. While there are myriad ways to secure the cloud, it's always wise to use any additional tools available to bolster and improve your security. A few excellent methods to accomplish this are to encrypt your data, constantly monitor the environment, create a backup plan, and try to improve security at the user's end of the cloud. Data encryption encrypts the data with key-based encryption as it travels along the cloud or as it's stored on a cloud-based storage device. Other security features like re-routing potentially dangerous traffic before it can get to a server are fantastic ways to bolster your cloud security now and into the future.