7 Cloud Security Best Practices
Are you concerned about cloud security best practices for your enterprise?
You are not alone. More than two-thirds (68%) of CEOs and business leaders express concerns regarding cloud security preparedness, and 54% of companies said their IT department was not equipped to handle cloud attacks. Without regular optimization and updates to your cloud infrastructure, cloud security can fall apart quickly.
With threats such as DDoS attacks, code injection, or data breaches on the horizon at all times, keeping your organization secure can be a challenge. Truly effective cloud security relies on teamwork and shared responsibility between the cloud vendor and the end user. It takes a standardized approach to cloud security and a secure cloud host with excellent processes and practices.
Below are the top 7 cloud security best practices to keep your IT estate safe. Leveraging these tips and tactics will ensure you and your cloud hosting provider are well equipped to handle whatever today’s digital landscape might throw at you.
What Is Cloud Security?
Cloud security defines the procedures, protocols, and software applications IT admins leverage to ensure cloud data or user information receives the necessary level of protection. Sensitive information is submitted and shared on the web on a daily basis. Additionally, specific industries handle personally identifiable information (PII) protected by compliance legislation. For these industries, the slightest chink in their ”cloud armor” could cost them severely – they can lose money, time, and even their reputation.
Cloud security best practices usually entail security measures like setting authentications or permissions, installing and updating antivirus and antimalware tools, and more. An organization’s cloud security policy can be as individual as the organization itself. There’s no shortage of apps, tools, and techniques available, and IT admins can completely customize their own internal security best practices to meet their organization’s needs.
Although there is a lot of flexibility regarding how your cloud security can be structured, one thing remains constant. To be effective, cloud security needs to be a team sport. Both you and your cloud hosting provider need to be on the same page and working toward the same goal to stop some of today’s complex digital threats.
How Cloud Security Works
The more time spent in the digital world, the more opportunities digital threat actors have to infiltrate and corrupt important customer or company data. According to Cisco and Cybersecurity Ventures 2022 Cybersecurity Almanac, financial damages from data breaches are predicted to hit $10.5 trillion by 2025. This statistic should be enough to take a good, hard look at what you’re currently doing for cloud security and what you could be doing better.
To improve your cloud security, you first need to understand how effective cloud security works. IT admins who implement cloud security guidelines for their organization have several tricks and tools at their disposal. They may manipulate user permissions, so employees only have access to the data they need. Stopping employees from “wandering” into other parts of the network prevents important, “mission-critical” files from being accidentally deleted or shared with the wrong parties.
Technicians may also provide training resources to company employees to prevent social engineering attacks. For example, phishing remains one of if not the most common digital threats cybersecurity professionals face. Teaching end users within your organization what a suspicious email looks like, how to spot “spammy” email addresses, and what links they shouldn’t open can stop many threats in their tracks.
Your cybersecurity team may also take a network protection approach. This involves using tools like firewalls to isolate your network from outside influences and essentially lock down the data.
More important than the tools and techniques you use is your mindset toward cybersecurity. Savvy IT professionals need to stay one step ahead of clever digital threat actors. To do that requires an adaptable, flexible cloud security policy.
Cloud networks have grown too big and intricate to be protected by a one-size-fits-all solution. IT admins need to consider the platform they’re protecting and work to implement cloud security protocols on the lowest level as close to their data storage points as possible. Whatever approach to cloud security you take, approaching it with the “you’re always a target” mentality is the best way to go.
Why Is Cloud Security Important?
Collaboration is how things get done. While cloud storage and cloud computing have been amazing tools toward that end, it also creates more opportunity for hackers.
Some of our most essential organizations – banks and hospitals – are notoriously large, and so are their networks. These bloated cloud infrastructures are a veritable playground for hackers who want to pirate sensitive data to hold for ransom, steal login information to sensitive financial accounts, and much more.
Security best practices can also help big organizations gain visibility of their infrastructure. When cloud networks grow along with your company, they may get out of control. Certain parts of your cloud infrastructure and the data people access can slip under the radar. Implementing the proper tools and data security measures can increase visibility and prevent dangerous data breaches.
Regulatory compliance and business continuity are two more reasons for the importance of cloud security. By law, industries like hospitals and banks must keep their data safe. This task becomes nearly impossible without proper cloud security guidelines.
DDoS attacks are one of the main culprits when it comes to interrupting business operations. Having a cloud security plan helps prevent these attacks from taking your business offline, interrupting your business, and upsetting your customers.
What to Look for on Cloud Security?
Now that you have a better understanding of cloud security, how it works, and why it’s important, it’s time to provide some solutions for improving your own internal security best practices. So here are 7 tips you can implement within your own infrastructure to boost cloud security, manage mission-critical digital assets, and give you a better idea of what to look for in cloud security.
1. Choose an Established and Secure Cloud Provider
Choosing the right cloud provider is often about going with an established name. You should choose a cloud service provider with an established reputation focused on security. Big-name providers often have been in the industry longer and have had the time and resources to enhance their security and access control features.
Here are a few key considerations you should consider when choosing a provider:
Has the cloud provider suffered any serious breaches? Usually, a quick Google search can tell you if the provider you’re considering has had any security breaches or has been the target of numerous Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks. Most companies respond to attacks like these by bolstering their security and the security of their clients, so don’t just knock them off your list if they have been breached. Instead, do a bit of research to find out more about their security practices.
Security Features and Add-on Offerings
What security-related features come out of the box? What add-on features or services are available to you? Don’t get caught short-sighted by purchasing what appears to be a superb host only to require specific add-ons that the host doesn’t offer down the road.
Does the prospective provider have specific public policies and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) relating explicitly to security and data responsibility? If there isn’t one available publicly, ask for one before committing.
Does the provider offer fully compliant servers? PCI, HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, and SOC have very particular security configurations and practice requirements. Instead of working harder with multiple cloud hosting providers, work smarter by consolidating your infrastructure with one cloud host.
Liquid Web has recognized these compliance needs and can provide sophisticated solutions that satisfy HIPAA Compliant Hosting and PCI Compliance requirements. We also offer Vulnerability Assessment and PCI Scanning services.
2. Understand Security and Compliance Responsibilities
When you begin using a cloud provider, it is important to understand that security and compliance responsibilities are shared between the provider and the end user. You should fully understand where your end-user responsibilities begin and end. Once you know this, you can focus your security efforts on the areas for which you are responsible.
Here are a few helpful things to remember when assessing security and compliance responsibilities:
Cloud Service Provider Policies
Your organization must understand what data will be placed on the cloud service provider’s platform. It is not uncommon to partner with several different providers for specific needs. It is critical to track what providers’ systems comply with regulations on particular data types and which ones do not.
There are a handful of regulations that can impact what data you should put in the cloud. It is critical to know what types of information you’ll be putting into the cloud and if any data protection and encryption are necessary according to regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and PCI.
3. Harden Security and Access
Before you or your organization starts uploading data to a cloud provider, you should perform a thorough review of any and all security and access settings. You should clearly understand who needs access to which data types within your organization.
Enhanced or privileged permissions to your cloud infrastructure should be restricted. Everyone interacting with your cloud infrastructure should only have enough access to perform their tasks. Ensure you have commonplace security settings enabled, such as multi-factor authentication and role-based access control.
Perform an annual review (at a minimum) of access and sharing settings to understand who can access and share your cloud data and how.
4. Understand Data Encryption for Your Cloud Provider
Understanding a cloud provider’s encryption policies is very important. In today’s modern world, there is no excuse for data to be transmitted unprotected. Instead, it should be encrypted in transit via SSL. This prevents the data from being intercepted on the networks as it traverses between the end user and the cloud service provider.
You should also determine if your data is encrypted at rest. This means the data is encrypted on the storage device in the cloud provider’s data center. Encryption is required for some types of regulated data and will prevent a potential malicious actor from accessing the data if they get physical access to the server on which it is stored.
Liquid Web offers Self-Encrypting Drives for Dedicated HIPAA Hosting.
5. Develop Policies and Training
It is crucial to develop clear policies on who can access cloud services, how they can access them, and what data can be stored within the cloud. Train yourself and your staff on these policies and the security settings to ensure an end user doesn’t accidentally become the source of a regulatory compliance violation or a data breach in the cloud.
It is also important to impress upon end users the importance of strong passwords and multi-factor authentication. Additional security measures often frustrate end users, but they are more likely to follow along if they understand the motives and reasons behind the policies.
6. Audit Access and Usage
You should perform regular audits of your cloud service to determine who has been accessing it and what they’ve been doing. Be on the lookout for unauthorized access by users and/or data sharing, and promptly follow up on any irregularities.
Creating the best cloud infrastructure security policy is an important start, but you shouldn’t automatically assume that your cloud presence is your weakest link. Take time to inventory and assess how much damage a malicious insider could do.
Take the opportunity to set up a policy that holds those with access accountable. At the very least, set up a policy of least access and control and regularly audit permissions and access to your critical data.
7. Respond to Security Issues
In the world of cybersecurity, it is not about IF an incident happens, but when. The most important thing you can do is to plan for this eventuality.
It doesn’t matter if you or your cloud hosting provider is breached. You should know your exposure and have a predefined action plan to manage these eventualities.
Create a disaster recovery plan that handles a data breach of both your infrastructure and your provider. Be sure you know your compliance requirements and act accordingly when such a breach occurs.
Avoid Cloud Mistakes With These Best Practices
Security best practices are becoming more essential as our dependence on the cloud to live, work, and play continues to grow. There are many opportunities for security blunders as these services and company networks become more complex. Following these cloud security best practices will help you avoid a few common mistakes.
Need Help Securing Your Entire Infrastructure? Download your Security Infrastructure Checklist for SMBs
Nick is the Senior Director of Security & Compliance at Liquid Web. He has over 20 years of experience in Technology and brings a wealth of knowledge and a strong understanding of data security to help safeguard our customers' environments.
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