Cloud applications and services have become essential for many businesses. From increasing productivity, improving collaboration and storing your data, your organisation probably uses at least 1 cloud-based service every single day. But, did you know that nearly half of all data breaches last year happened on the cloud?
This is why securing your business in the cloud has never been more important.
Cloud applications – what’s all the buzz about?
The adoption of cloud based applications is now taken for granted in the business environment. Cloud or SaaS applications provide a number of advantages over private hosted or on premises applications. Some of these include:
- Low or no upfront costs – at most, businesses pay for onboarding services
- Monthly or annual subscriptions help cashflow
- No technical expertise needed – the provider develops and supports the applications
- This approach definitely makes a lot of sense for most business both in terms of economics and resources.
One responsibility and major potential problem that it does not solve, however, is the security risk.
What are the security risks of cloud applications?
Business security risks are often increased on the cloud because the digital footprint of the business has increased and there are now more opportunities for security to be breached and confidential or private information compromised.
Some of the common security threats as a result of cloud hosted services are:
- Unauthorised access to application data or functionality
- Exposed applications due to cloud misconfigurations
- Hijacking of user accounts due to poor encryption or identity management
- Data leakage from insecure APIs
Even though data may be hosted in the cloud, businesses are still responsible for ensuring that the data is secure. Businesses are also responsible for ensuring that users accessing the data are authorised and handle the data in compliance with relevant governance requirements.
In order to meet the business obligations and mitigate the security risk, it is important to check the cloud service provider have the necessary compliance and controls in place to secure the data and verify the users who are accessing it are indeed who they say they are.
The infographic below shows why it’s important that we take these risks seriously, and some of the main concerns business owners have.
How do you secure access to the cloud?
A good approach to managing cloud security is to create a cloud strategy that could initially just comprise a checklist of best practices that ensures that all bases are covered. A good place to start is with the following:
It’s important to establish a policy and share it with all employees. The policy will state what is allowed and what isn’t allowed. For instance, are employees allowed to save confidential data on private Drobox accounts? If they are not told, they don’t know.
Did you know that 99% of cloud security failures will be due to the customers’ faults, according to Gartner predictions for 2025. The same report predicts that 90% of businesses that fail to enforce cloud policies will inappropriately share sensitive data.
Shared Responsibility Agreement
Work with the cloud service provider to fully understand what they are responsible for and what the business is responsible for. Typically, the cloud service provider is responsible for the cloud infrastructure, applications and access control. The business is responsible for the data and the users.
It is important to ensure that the cloud provider has a resilient platform and that backups are taken on a regular. In addition, they should have a business continuity plan.
Understand the risks
Data held in the cloud is at risk as much as, if not more than, data held on premises. It is important to classify data in terms of confidential and sensitive or private data.
- Where is it being stored?
- Who has access to it?
- Who is managing the access privileges and
- How are privilege escalations approved?
Cloud data should also be subject to regular risk assessment to understand the risk of the data being compromised, stolen or inaccessible. What would the impact on the business be and how high a priority would it be to recover the data.
Implement Access Management
It is critical that only authorised individuals have access to information. Also, admin privileges to change settings must be highly restricted. Two factor authentication is a must for cloud application access and is now a part of Cyber Essentials certification so an essential component if you plan to get certified.
Protect the Data
Cloud data must be encrypted using strong encryption techniques. Encryption should be undertaken while in transit, at rest and while in use, which is when it is at its most vulnerable.
Users’ restrictions are equally important. Users must have explicit access rights based on their role such as read only, read/write, download privileges. Also, users should be restricted from moving data onto unmanaged devices, which could be more vulnerable to compromise. Users’ access privileges should be governed by the cloud security policy that is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure its continued relevance.
Backups and Recovery
It is important to review the cloud services providers backup and recovery plans. If necessary, these should be augmented to ensure it meets the business’ risk management plans.
Good backup practices include backups being kept in multiple locations as well as the 3-2-1 rule – keep three copies of data on two different machines, one of which is off site.
Logging and Monitoring
Comprehensive logging is another important aspect of securing the cloud environment. Logs should contain as much details as possible but, as a minimum, all security events as well as user activity should be logged. Logs will be invaluable in determining what occurred during a cyber security breach and will provide information that can identify normalised user activity and anomalies.
Security vulnerability scanning can help identify vulnerabilities in near real-time. Cloud systems should be subject to regular updates and patches installed by the administrator of the systems. New software patches can sometimes introduce new vulnerabilities. Conversely unpatched systems can be subject to exploits from unpatched but known vulnerabilities. Continuous security vulnerability scanning will help to identify current threats which can then be mitigated before they are exploited.
I am sure you will agree with the fact that most applications that we use today are on, or being migrated to, the cloud, which makes securing these workloads even more important. This is no longer an option but a compliance obligation and therefore a business necessity. We are creating a list of resources that you can use to secure your cloud workload. Just drop us a line and we would be happy to share this with you.
If you would like to discuss your needs in this area in more detail, feel free to get in touch for a no obligation quote.
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