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Top 10 Cloud Security Best Practices

These ten essential cloud security best practices are required reading for any organization considering a move to the cloud environment. It is possible that ignoring any of these practices will result in a security disaster.

Cloud computing has, without a doubt, changed the face of business and technological landscapes alike. Today, it is unheard of for a serious company to prefer on-premises IT infrastructure over cloud-based computing services. Cloud computing, in its most basic definition, is a technology that consists of a network of remote servers that are connected. Network-based service providers provide cloud consumers with data storage units and computational software programs for processing and managing data through the use of the network. Cloud technologies are accessible via an internet connection, which means that users can access them from the convenience of their own homes or the comfort of their own offices.

At the moment, at least 90 percent of organizations make use of various cloud-based services, and experts predict that by the end of 2019, companies will be running 60 percent of their operations in cloud-based environments.

1 This demonstrates that cloud computing has already entered the mainstream. Cloud services, on the other hand, are accessed through the internet, and this has attracted the attention of all hackers. Attackers have sufficient motivation to target cloud services because of the increased reliance on them to store and manage sensitive data. Because of this, all businesses and users must be aware of the best security practises in order to ensure that their cloud environments are adequately protected. The following are the top ten cloud security practises that are widely accepted around the world.

1 Cloud Security Best Practices: Securely manage your data.

Everyone who uses the cloud should be concerned about data security as a top priority. To achieve the best possible data protection, start by identifying the data that contain the most sensitive information. Higher levels of security are required for highly sensitive data. Some, on the other hand, would prefer that all cloud data be protected at the highest level possible. Due to factors such as data size and format (audio, visual, print, etc.), this may not be sufficient in some instances. Furthermore, sensitive information such as patents and intellectual property cannot be protected in the same way that business ledgers are. Or, for that matter, any information that could be used to identify you. Depending on the value and importance of the data to the organization, certain types of data must be protected at all costs. A data classification software can assist in determining which data needs to be protected at a higher level of security.

After that, put in place a comprehensive security solution. When it comes to locating sensitive information, it should be able to do so in the company’s network, databases, endpoints, and cloud storage units. The security solution mustn’t come at the expense of flexibility or data accessibility. Despite the fact that this is true, the procedures for data access and storage should be given top priority. According to the McAfee Cloud 2019 Adoption and Risk Adoption Report, 21 percent of data managed in the cloud contains sensitive content. 2 All cloud service providers, including Office 365 and Salesforce, make no assurances that the data they store will be secure at all times. As a result, it is critical to review and update the access permissions associated with the data regularly. Some situations may necessitate the removal or quarantine of highly sensitive data by a corporation.

In addition, a company’s data-sharing policies must be strictly enforced. A 50 percent increase in the amount of sensitive data being shared through the cloud has been recorded in 2019. 3 The risks of malicious insiders or hackers gaining access to cloud data and stealing or corrupting it are far too great. A company must establish adequate access controls for any data stored and accessed through the cloud, regardless of whether it has implemented powerful mitigation strategies. For example, the number of users who need to edit data may be less than the number of users who only need to view it. Therefore, access controls should be tailored to the specific permissions of each employee.

More importantly, relying solely on the data encryption techniques of the cloud provider would be a grave error in judgement. Despite the fact that the encryptions offered prevent unauthorised users from accessing the data, the service providers have access to the encryption keys and can decrypt the data at their discretion. Therefore, implementing comprehensive access control requires the use of robust encryption techniques as well as the implementation of adequate public key infrastructures.

2 The second best practise for cloud security is to put in place endpoint security.

Using the services or applications of a specific cloud provider does not negate the need for endpoint security that is both effective and comprehensive. Endpoint protection refers to the process of protecting end-user devices such as laptops, desktop computers, and mobile devices from malicious software. Companies must protect the endpoints that connect to their corporate networks as well as the devices that are used to access their cloud accounts. Due to the fact that they serve as access points to all cloud processes, malicious actors can take advantage of them at any point in time. Endpoint security is important because it allows a company to prevent risky activities that could serve as entry points. Furthermore, enforcing endpoint protection and compliance with existing data security regulations enables a business to maintain greater control over its information security operations.

Despite this, endpoint protection has an impact on cloud security as a result of the increasing number of access points to a cloud. Organizations are increasingly improving their operations by incorporating practices that allow them to access data more quickly. In some cases, BYOD policies are implemented, which allow employees to access and modify cloud data using their devices. Endpoint security must be sufficient for the devices to prevent them from serving as easy targets for hackers looking to steal or corrupt information. Among these are the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) when accessing cloud accounts through a public Wi-Fi network.

Cyber adversaries nowadays prefer to breach a network or data security through endpoints, rather than through a central command and control system. This is in contrast to the past, when the majority of breaches were carried out through a network. In light of these concerns, relying on a centralised network security solution may be insufficient. In addition to increasing risks, the increased use of the Internet of Things in cloud management activities has increased risks because it has increased the number of possible entry points. Endpoint security is becoming increasingly important as a result of an increasing number of reports of security breaches occurring through endpoints.

But what are the various solutions that can be used to ensure that a cloud user’s data is kept as secure as possible? The first and most fundamental step is to use password protection. All users are responsible for securing their devices with strong passwords in order to prevent malicious users from accessing their information. Additionally, employees should refrain from sharing devices that are used for work-related purposes. An unintentional deletion of all data stored in the cloud can occur by an innocent user. More importantly, all devices should be equipped with malware scanning software that scans USB sticks and hard drives before they are allowed to connect to a corporate network. This reduces the likelihood of a hacker infecting a system by introducing malware through endpoints.

 3 Cloud Security Best Practices Number Three: Select cloud service providers with care.

To attract more customers, all cloud service providers make every effort to ensure that cloud security measures are adhered to. The security provided by some vendors may even be superior to that provided by the company’s own security staff. However, some companies may use the phrase “best protection” as a marketing tag while, in reality, they have inadequate security measures in place. In order to accomplish this, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) of all organisations have the responsibility of assisting their employers in selecting the most secure vendors available. Some companies may even be required to work with vendors who implement security policies to mitigate threats specific to their industry.

Organizations can use a variety of factors to evaluate the security capabilities of cloud service providers in order to select the most secure cloud providers. Among these are assessing their levels of compliance with various information compliance regulations. Different regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), advocate for organisations to implement different requirements, all of which are aimed at achieving data security. A business should require cloud service providers to provide compliance certifications in order to ensure that they are fully compliant with the law. Certification signifies that the service providers have met all of the requirements of a compliance audit. Additionally, cloud vendors should demonstrate their ability to provide data and network availability around the clock. Data is the lifeblood of critical operations; as a result, cloud service providers should maintain multiple backups.

Moreover, only cloud service providers who conduct regular risk assessments should be considered for subscription by a company. Cloud providers can mitigate security risks by assessing their servers and IT infrastructure and implementing mitigation strategies before hackers can take advantage of them. Assessment and management of risks is a critical cybersecurity operation that every cloud provider should be aware of and implement. Finally, an organisation must employ the services of a cloud vendor who clearly communicates the customer’s responsibility in terms of data security and privacy. Cloud security is a collaborative process in which both the cloud service providers and the customers must play their respective roles to ensure the highest level of safety. For example, a cloud provider should deploy timely patches in order to prevent attacks such as zero-day attacks from taking place. The development of security policies for cloud data access, sharing, and modification should be done by the customers themselves, on the other hand.

4 Cloud Security Best Practices: Keep an eye on things and prevent problems.

As previously stated, when it comes to cloud activities security, consumers and cloud service providers play different roles from one another. Their responsibilities for monitoring and responding to suspicious cloud security problems are also shared by the two organisations. To provide services to cloud consumers, cloud vendors must maintain the security of the infrastructures they use to do so. However, the customer is responsible for monitoring the applications and systems that different users use to access the services. Customers are also frequently provided with monitoring information about the services that they use by service providers. It is possible for a company to implement measures for detecting instances of unauthorised access based on the information gathered through monitoring. They can also use the information to keep an eye out for any unexpected changes in a user’s behavior when interacting with cloud data and applications.

Additionally, it is critical for a company to implement additional monitoring that is fully integrated with cloud automation systems. Automatic scaling schemes, such as autoscaling, are used by cloud providers to provide users with round-the-clock access to more resources according to their requirements. Integrative monitoring, when implemented, provides complete visibility into all cloud resources at all times. Because of this, consumers can detect and address unusual occurrences as soon as they occur to avoid security problems.

Furthermore, collaboration is essential in this operation, as it is in all others. Cloud vendors keep track of the information technology infrastructure that is used to provide services and computation resources. These include entire SaaS applications, networks, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) components such as storage units, and virtual machines. The service providers may detect activities that have the potential to negatively impact a consumer’s cloud data or applications. In practice, the provider may be required to notify a customer of the activities for them to be able to coordinate an appropriate response.

In a similar vein, a cloud user may become aware of other activities that they are unable to address without the assistance of the service providers. Responding to any security event necessitates the participation of both providers and consumers to be successful. An effective collaboration requires an understanding of the limitations of a cloud provider’s monitoring and response capabilities, so that the cloud provider is not caught off guard by a security incident.

5 Cloud Security Best Practice: Perform due diligence before deploying a cloud solution

Cloud users must have a thorough understanding of the applications and networks used by their cloud service providers. When a corporation understands them, it can deliver systems and applications hosted in the cloud with greater resiliency, security, and functionality. As a result, they must exercise due diligence throughout the whole lifecycle of the systems or applications they deploy. During the planning phase of cloud migration, businesses should identify the cloud apps or service providers that they will use in the migration. Comparisons with other firms that employ the same cloud service provider can be extremely useful in gaining insight into their operations. When it comes to first-time cloud deployments, the information can be used to verify whether a service provider has implemented security measures that suit their requirements.

Additionally, when using cloud-based applications and services, cloud consumers should always follow the instructions and document best practices provided by the supplier. For example, while designing a cloud-based application, developers should adhere to the rules and security policies established by the cloud service provider. Additionally, when migrating to an already-implemented cloud system or application, examining its documentation and cooperating with the vendor can provide valuable insight into how to operate it safely and securely.

Furthermore, cloud providers abstract services to improve resource utilization and access. Abstracted services may have characteristics that are similar to physical applications, networks, and hardware. Consumers must be aware that abstracted services or resources may have different security standards or policies in place than those for physical resources, which they should be aware of. Organizations can assess the security of virtual resources before committing to their use by analyzing and comprehending the security techniques that have been applied to the virtual resources. These should serve as guidelines for the procedures that users must follow to gain access to them.

Apart from that, firms that are installing or creating apps for cloud use must implement regulations to guarantee that users operate the applications securely. When interacting with virtualized resources, cloud users use software instead of traditional physical resources such as discs, networking devices, and servers. All cloud-access operations should, as a result, be guided by software security procedures such as patch management and vulnerability testing.

6 Implement intrusion detection and prevention systems as part of your cloud security best practices.

Intrusion prevention and detection systems, according to a survey conducted by CloudPassage, are the third most effective cloud security solution overall.

4 Detecting and preventing unwanted access to cloud and corporate networks is the goal of the systems. Added to that, they promptly notify a security administrator of the attempted breaches, allowing them to implement mitigation measures. Additionally, intrusion detection and prevention systems are capable of implementing responses in the event of an incursion. Preventing and denying access to the source of the attempted intrusion are examples of such responses.

Additionally, an organization may want to think about adding artificially intelligent preventive and detection technologies in its operations. A particular cloud environment’s artificial intelligence learns the behaviors of all user activities that reach it. Examples include gaining an understanding of the types of data an employee utilizes regularly and the types of cloud resources that the employee requires. The system marks the new user as a dangerous entity anytime he engages in odd behavior, blocking him from accessing any further requests as a result. It is less likely that a malevolent insider will utilize the identity of a genuine user to infiltrate your system.

Aside from that, intrusion detection and prevention systems work to reduce the number of false positives that are generated. A system generates false intrusion notifications when a false positive is detected. A false positive can be caused by the assignment of new roles to a user, which can result in an intrusion prevention and detection system notifying the user that suspicious actions are taking place on their computer. The usage of false positives might lead to a corporation spending money on unneeded security measures if the warnings turn out to be fake security alerts.

7 Cloud Security Best Practices: Establish regulations for cloud usage that apply to everyone on the company’s payroll.

However, even though firms create a corporate strategy for securely using cloud accounts, employees tend to use cloud services without following the policies and procedures established by the organization. When they transmit or modify cloud data, for example, they may neglect to notify the appropriate parties of the change. The monitoring of their usage actions, as a result, is an essential part of ensuring cloud security. A clear image of the services or resources that a certain employee uses, as well as their consumption patterns, can be obtained through monitoring. To prevent the introduction of security threats into cloud data and apps, users with suspect cloud usage activities may be denied access.

A company can analyze the network firewalls, logs captured in the security information and event management system, and web proxies to determine the level of danger a specific user provides to cloud security, among other factors. Therefore, security personnel can receive a value for the risk levels to improve organizational security based on the outcomes of the risk assessment process. A user’s total or partial access to an organization’s cloud accounts can be determined based on the information collected from the results of the study.

Also important for cloud consumers to be aware of is the fact that shadow usage relates not only to unlawful access to cloud services through endpoint devices but also refers to the transfer of data from trusted environments to unmanaged devices. Such methods compromise data security and have the potential to have negative consequences for data availability, integrity, and secrecy. An information security officer should, as a result, allow data flow inside the cloud and maintain track of the information obtained from certain endpoints.

#8: Keep a safe list of people to call in an emergency

To achieve the aims and objectives of the company, the majority of personnel inside an organization utilize cloud services. Organizational clouds, on the other hand, are frequently used for personal gain by a small number of personnel. A company’s risk of having its cloud security breached or facing legal tussles owing to compliance difficulties increases when cloud services are used for questionable activities. As a result, a company should create and maintain a safe list of all of the services that employees can access through their cloud accounts consistently. Compliance penalties and insecure practices can be minimized by enforcing the list and making sure all employees are aware of it.

In any event, having a safe list enables a company to identify the data that each employee is permitted to view or modify. It also guarantees that an employee is aware of the information that is permitted to be processed through the cloud. Making people aware of the data they can use and share through cloud platforms leads to more effective data management since everyone is aware of the information they can use and share. An analogous list of programs that can be used in a cloud environment is provided to all cloud users by a safe list. Finally, a safe list gives a clear overview of the security procedures that should be followed while working with cloud-based data or software.

9 Users should be trusted, but they should also be verified.

To supplement conventional security standards such as password protection, cloud users should implement additional verification procedures. A cloud environment is protected from malicious behaviors conducted by malicious users who pose as legitimate users to gain access to the cloud environment. The usage of two-factor or multi-factor authentication is an effective verification strategy. Cloud users are required to give additional elements of proof that they have been granted permission to access cloud data as part of the authentication processes. Items such as a code transmitted to a trusted mobile number or the answer to a security question known only to the user are examples of such items. Cloud security posture is improved as a result of such measures.

In addition to implementing various authentication systems, a corporation must guarantee that authenticated users have the authority to access and interact with cloud-based data and resources. Whereas a worker may pass a background check, he or she may not have the necessary authorization to access certain types of data or cloud apps. Several access controls, such as least privilege access and role-based access, can be implemented, among them. Companies should maintain tight control over data access so that they can avoid the dangers connected with illegal access. By tracking the endpoint that was utilized in the attempted intrusion, it is possible to perform an investigation into an attempted unauthorized access attempt.

10: Regulatory compliance increases the level of protection

When it comes to information security requirements, cloud consumers have a responsibility to ensure complete compliance with the rules. To avoid fines for non-compliance, many organizations comply with compliance rules; yet, many of the criteria specified by various standards increase security. Thus, putting the rules into action can be an effective strategy to deal with security concerns. However, businesses must recognize that the compliance standards developed for cloud providers are distinct from those intended for consumers. It is as a result of this that they should not disregard recommended security standards under the pretense that cloud providers have already done so.

Furthermore, even when corporate processes have been moved to the cloud, it is not suggested to outsource compliance duties. Cloud security is further enhanced by the identification of cloud providers who provide a platform that makes compliance easier. Businesses can fully comply with standards such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), among others. Understanding the compliance components of a firm can help it achieve the highest level of security. In the end, automating compliance can alleviate the difficulties involved with keeping track of new or revised compliance requirements. When cloud consumers automate their compliance processes, they ensure that they comply with all applicable requirements, including those about security. Various organizations are developing automated compliance software systems that are meant to fulfill the needs of any organization on the market today. All of the recommended procedures can aid cloud consumers in obtaining the highest level of security possible in their cloud computing environments.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.