What is cloud data security? Benefits, risks, & more

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Keeping your data secure isn’t as simple as putting it in the cloud. That’s why 95 percent of organizations are concerned about cloud security in public environments. There are security advantages to using the cloud for your data storage, but you must follow best practices to protect your data.

Whether you’re looking for a provider to manage your hosting or how to do it yourself, we have a guide to help you. We’ll cover what you need to know about cloud data security, including its benefits, risks, and the best practices for securing your data.

Let’s get started. 

What is cloud data security? What sets it apart?

Cloud data security is the set of policies, technologies, and services you use to protect data stored in the cloud. It’s how you ensure your data’s integrity, confidentiality, and availability across its entire lifecycle in the cloud environment. 

This type of data security offers many unique challenges and benefits of cloud infrastructure. Part of what sets cloud-based data security apart is the dynamic nature of cloud environments, where you can share resources and data across multiple users, storage locations, and even countries.

This requires a more flexible and scalable approach to security than traditional on-premises infrastructure. Secure cloud data uses advanced encryption, Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM). They keep everything as secure, private, compliant, and accessible as possible.

Cloud data security also focuses on shared responsibility, where both the cloud service provider and the customer play integral roles in protecting your cloud computing data security. Cloud vendors are responsible for securing the entire infrastructure and platforms, while customers must protect their data, applications, and access. This shared responsibility model ensures a holistic approach to cloud security.

Security benefits of cloud-based data storage

Cloud data security offers numerous benefits that can enhance data protection while enabling flexibility and scalability in its management. Here's a closer look at some key advantages.

Data encryption

Data encryption is a fundamental aspect of cloud data security, ensuring data is transformed into a coded format that’s only accessible with the correct encryption key. This means data remains unintelligible and secure, even if unauthorized individuals intercept or access the data.

Cloud services providers offer robust encryption for data at rest and in transit, providing high cloud data protection.

Improved agility in data security for cloud computing

Cloud environments allow organizations to adapt and implement new security measures as threats evolve quickly. The flexibility of cloud services means providers can update or expand security protocols and configurations without the need for physical hardware changes, enabling a more agile response to new threat intelligence.

Hybrid, multi-cloud, private, and public IT environments

Cloud data security is adaptable across various cloud environments, including hybrid cloud (a mix of cloud and on-premise), multi-cloud environments (using multiple cloud services), and private clouds or public cloud services

Each cloud model has unique security considerations, and cloud data security practices can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each, ensuring comprehensive cloud data protection regardless of the configuration — multi-cloud, hybrid, or otherwise.

Data loss prevention with automatable security updates, maintenance, and backups

Cloud hosting providers offer automated solutions for security updates, maintenance, and backups, significantly reducing the risk of data loss. These automations ensure security measures are always up-to-date, maintained without manual intervention, and backed automatically. That all adds up to a strong defense against data loss.

Access control and authentication

Effective access control and authentication mechanisms are crucial for cloud data security. Cloud services often employ advanced authentication methods, including multi-factor authentication (or two-factor authentication), to verify users’ identities. 

They also use the Zero Trust security model and the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP) to ensure users (and the tools and systems they use) can access only the resources necessary for their role. That minimizes the potential impact of a breach. This can also prevent an insider threat from getting privileged access to sensitive information.

Threat detection and monitoring

Cloud providers incorporate sophisticated external threat detection and monitoring systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to identify and respond to security threats in real time. This proactive approach helps recognize potential threats before they can cause harm, enhancing the overall security posture.

Helping you stay compliant

With regulations and compliance standards constantly evolving, secure cloud data is vital in helping organizations meet these requirements. Cloud providers are often well-versed in regulatory standards and offer tools and configurations that help ensure compliance, reducing the burden on organizations to navigate these complexities independently.

Expertise and resources of cloud providers

Why is it better to have a separate hospital than a team of onsite doctors in every office? Because you don’t need every kind of medical specialist all the time, but you want them available just in case.

It works the same way with cloud data security. Your provider invests heavily in a team of experts with the best tools on the market, and you only need to pay for a fraction of that. The result is 24/7 access to a team of specialists equipped with everything they need to do their jobs at a world-class level.

Key cloud computing data security challenges

Cloud computing can also introduce specific security challenges, particularly prominent in unmanaged cloud solutions. That’s why many people choose managed cloud security solutions for cloud computing data security, so they can let specialists make sure none of these become major issues.

Complex setup and implementation

Setting up a secure cloud environment requires technical expertise. Unmanaged cloud services often leave this complexity to the user, increasing the risk of errors. Managed cloud security solutions simplify this process, ensuring security measures are correctly implemented from the start.

Multi-tenancy security

In cloud environments hosting multiple tenants, ensuring strict data separation and preventing leakage between tenants are crucial. Managed services prioritize robust security protocols to maintain privacy and integrity for each tenant.

Visibility and monitoring challenges

Unmanaged hosting can mean you’re dealing with a highly complex hosting situation. That complexity can hinder complete visibility into security and operations, making detecting and responding to threats difficult. Managed solutions offer higher levels of centralized visibility and continuous monitoring, enabling quicker identification and mitigation of potential security issues.

Lack of endpoint security

Without comprehensive management, endpoints remain vulnerable to attack. One advantage of cloud services is you can access them from your phone, laptop, or office computer. But the downside is attackers can reach each of those devices.

Overall, that presents many more opportunities for others to attack. That’s why managed cloud platforms include endpoint security as part of their offerings, protecting devices connected to the cloud from various threats.

Risk of exposure through misconfiguration

Misconfiguration is the main cause of security incidents in the cloud. The risk is higher in unmanaged cloud services where users are responsible for their configurations. 

Managed solutions reduce this risk by overseeing the configuration process with experts. They can ensure their settings are optimized for security and compliance, significantly mitigating the risk of unauthorized access due to misconfiguration.

Cloud data security best practices

Secure cloud data isn’t something you can just set and forget. Instead, there are some cloud storage security best practices to follow to ensure your data stays free from unwanted access.

Shrink the attack surface

Implement workload micro-segmentation to minimize the attack surface. This process involves dividing your cloud environment into distinct security segments down to the workload level. 

By applying specific security policies to each segment, you effectively isolate systems and applications from one another. This isolation helps limit an intruder’s ability to move laterally across your network, reducing the potential impact of breaches. Implement this by identifying sensitive data or critical applications and segmenting these from less sensitive areas, ensuring tighter control and monitoring of suspicious activity.

Conduct regular security assessments

Conduct cloud data security assessments regularly to identify vulnerabilities within your cloud infrastructure and applications. For example, use automated tools for continuous scanning and back those up with manual assessments to ensure comprehensive coverage. 

In your manual assessments, you’ll need to determine what kinds of data you’re working with — that means finding what’s the most sensitive and confidential and how to categorize it. Next, identify what you’re currently doing to secure that data and compare it against the standards you need to meet (HIPAA guidelines, for example).

This proactive approach helps in patching vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. Make it a routine part of your security strategy to update and patch systems in response to the assessments’ findings. Using both automated and manual assessments will help you control for human error while catching anything an automated system may lack visibility into.

Use your provider's security features and tools

If you’re using a managed hosting solution, part of what you’re paying for is access to their cloud data security features and tools. You might be surprised by how many customers don’t use those parts of the package.

Leverage the full suite of security features and tools your cloud provider offers. Managed hosting solutions like Liquid Web offer:

  • Proactive scanning and monitoring for threats to detect and respond to suspicious activities swiftly.
  • Infrastructure redundancy ensures greater resiliency against disasters, keeping your services up and running even during unforeseen events.
  • DDoS protection, firewall, and integrated backups to safeguard against various threats while ensuring data integrity and availability.

Implementing each of these features yourself can be expensive and time-consuming, which is why we offer those services at a much lower total cost.

Just like everything else, security is more efficient at scale.

Use encryption for data at rest, in use, and in motion

Encrypt all sensitive information within your database and regularly audit your encryption strategies to ensure they meet current best practices. This encryption should extend to data at rest, in use, and in motion, creating a comprehensive veil of protection that ties directly into access controls. Doing so ensures data remains unreadable and secure if there’s unauthorized access.

Secure endpoints and applications against vulnerabilities

Identify and secure all endpoints in your cloud data, including work computers and mobile devices, with strong access controls and encryption. Mobile devices, which often move in and out of secure environments, pose a particular risk and should be managed with dedicated mobile device management (MDM) solutions. 

For applications, two of the most common attacks you should protect against include cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injections. XSS attacks happen when an attacker injects malicious scripts into web pages. These scripts can then execute in the victim's browser, allowing the attacker to steal cookies, session tokens, or other sensitive information. 

SQL injections attack the application itself, inserting or "injecting" malicious SQL queries into input fields like signup or lead capture forms. This allows malicious actors to access, modify, delete, or create new data within the database without permission.

To prevent these kinds of attacks, you should make sure you:

  • Sanitize inputs to ensure data received from users cannot execute malicious scripts or SQL queries.
  • Implement a content security policy (CSP) to reduce the risk of XSS attacks by specifying which dynamic resources are allowed to load.
  • Adopt dynamic application security testing (DAST) as a regular part of your development cycle. DAST tools simulate attacks on your applications from the outside, identifying vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.
  • Keep applications and CMS running on the server updated for their core, plugins, and themes. Running outdated applications and CMS is one of the most likely attack vectors that would be used.

Where DAST makes your applications secure before they reach production, CSP and input sanitization ensure they aren’t exposed to attacks on an ongoing basis. 

Adhering to these cloud data security best practices can help organizations improve their cloud security posture, mitigate the risk of data breaches and other security incidents, and protect sensitive data.

How to identify secure cloud providers

When identifying secure cloud providers, consider these three key qualities: 

  • Positive ROI: This measures whether the cloud services offer a return on investment through cost savings and improved efficiency.
  • Quality of service: High performance, reliability, and customer support to meet your business needs.
  • Validating your needs: Assessing and understanding your specific requirements to offer tailored solutions.

Ensure complete cloud data security with Liquid Web

Securing your data in the cloud is a complex but crucial process that involves understanding the benefits, risks, and best practices of cloud data security. By choosing a secure cloud provider like Liquid Web, you ensure your data is protected with top-notch security measures, from encryption and threat detection to compliance and endpoint security. 

Take the first step towards comprehensive cloud data security by contacting us for secure cloud hosting and to keep your data safe.