Cloud data security means - securing your data assets and resources running on the cloud. The adoption of cloud technologies offers flexibility and benefits that were never possible with traditional computing. For this reason, almost 83% of enterprise workloads are currently running on cloud platforms. Unfortunately, due to this radical shift, we also see a steady increase of cybercriminals focusing their efforts on compromising cloud infrastructure and data.
Many regulatory and governing bodies have introduced strict guidelines for protecting customers and sensitive data on the cloud to mitigate these risks. They also enforce mandatory disclosure policies and fines to ensure that organizations provide their best efforts to establish the proper security postures. Violating regulations such as GDPR means that companies are required to pay millions of dollars in fines alone, not to mention the reputational damage that a company goes through after a data breach.
We will look at some of the best practices that help organizations with cloud data security.
Why is Cloud Data Security important?
Unlike the old days when an attacker would attack a particular set of IP addresses or a specific localized data center, the data centers in the cloud may include multiple data centers dispersed across regions, broadening the attack surface. These attackers tend to exploit any weakness found in code, configurations, and deployments, thus leading to catastrophic consequences for the organization.
Customer data and other sensitive information are the most important assets that any organization could have, and sometimes competitive organizations employ cybercriminals to gain an advantage over their competitors. The organization's responsibility is to keep all attackers away from their crown jewels by using a combination of state-of-the-art technology and experienced cyber security teams.
One common mistake all organizations make is assuming that a cloud service provider guarantees cloud data security is far from the truth. Most cloud service providers work on a shared responsibility model where the cloud provider is responsible for providing security to the underlying infrastructure and networking components. At the same time, the customer is responsible for securing the applications, servers, and other components that they build on the cloud.
The following diagram demonstrates the shared responsibility model at Azure.
The challenges of securing your Cloud data
The limitless possibilities of cloud services ensure that business applications can reach new heights and cater to complicated use cases. However, the magnitude of risks data presents in the cloud also increases.
Next, we'll explore some of the most significant challenges when securing your cloud data.
Insecure access control points
The nature of cloud services is that they are accessible from anywhere and from any device. The constant ability to access components such as API endpoints from anywhere poses a tremendous risk to its security posture.
Compromising these API endpoints could allow an attacker to gain access to the data and potentially allow them to alter the data, thus compromising its integrity.
Constant scrutiny is essential to ensure data security since it is easy to lose track of the amount of data you are storing.
In some instances where the users do not have proper controls, this can lead to data loss. Data loss in the cloud does not always mean that the data is lost. It could also mean that the user will not have access to this sensitive data for many different reasons. Data loss in the cloud can happen due to inadequate data backups, automated data loss controls, audits, and risk assessments.
Excessive or insecurely configured access control is one of the main reasons behind data breaches on the cloud. Of course, data breaches are not unique to cloud infrastructure. However, the vast resources and configurations present within the cloud infrastructure make it a prime target since any misconfigurations could introduce vulnerabilities into the cloud environment that inadvertently leak data to unauthorized users.
Data breaches in the cloud have seen a significant increase in 2022, with almost 79% of companies hosting their data on the cloud experiencing at least one data breach. Considering the rise of data breach incidents, they remain one of the most prevalent cloud computing issues.
5 best practices for Cloud Data Security
Even though there are numerous ways attackers can get into and compromise data security in the cloud, users can still use security best practices to keep their data safe, making it harder for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities. To ensure you've done everything you can, you should cover all basis, including;
- Identifying sensitive data
- Risk profiling and setting up infrastructure protection
- Implementing response plans
Here are best practices to get started on implementing cloud data security.
1. Evaluate built-in security
All major cloud providers have built-in security controls that allow users to customize the level of security required by their applications. Unfortunately, these security controls may have undesirable default settings allowing security misconfigurations to affect the applications and infrastructure running on the cloud platform.
However, to make configurations easy, these cloud providers introduce functions that allow users to manage all these default settings and retrieve a "Security Score" to keep track of the built-in security features.
Microsoft introduces this in the form of the "Microsoft Secure Score." It is a feature that allows users to configure their Azure tenant according to the best practices set by Microsoft to fine-tune these built-in security controls.
Users may use security best practices highlighted by trusted entities such as CIS (Center for Internet Security), which provide guidelines to maximize the security of the cloud entities by using the built-in security controls.
Users can leverage automated tools such as Polar Security to implement continuous data security posture management while helping prevent security loopholes and ever-changing regulatory and compliance violations by introducing continuous monitoring and evaluation.