Cloud Security: 10 Ways to Better Protect Data in the Cloud

According to 451 Research, 90% of organizations are using cloud storage and services. Cisco projects that, by the end of 2021, cloud data centers will represent 95% of all data center traffic. Chances are good that your organization is using the cloud for some or all of your data storage.

The question is: How secure is data stored in the cloud, and what can you do to improve your organization’s cloud security? 

Understanding Cloud Security

Cloud storage services store data in “the cloud,” a collection of servers connected by and to the Internet. Instead of storing data on local servers, companies upload that data to cloud servers where it can be accessed by multiple users from multiple locations.

Data stored in the cloud needs to be at least as secure as data stored on-premises. Just as cloud storage is an outsourced solution for storing digital data, cloud security is an outsourced solution for securing that data.

Cloud security involves several technologies and processes designed to ensure that only authorized users have access to the specific data stored in the cloud. These best practices include file-level encryption, advanced firewalls, intrusion detection, and physical security that provides 24/7 monitoring of cloud data centers.

10 Ways to Improve Cloud Security

As popular as cloud storage has become, not every company is completely comfortable with the concept. According to LogicMonitor, two-thirds of IT professionals see security as the biggest concern in their adoption of cloud computing. To improve cloud security, your company can implement the measures listed here.

1. Don’t Store Sensitive Data in the Cloud

Cloud security is not perfect. According to the McAfee Cloud Adoption and Risk Report, the average organization registers 12.2 incidents of unauthorized cloud access each month.

If there is even the slightest chance of your company’s most secure data being compromised in the cloud, don’t put it there. If you have data that could seriously damage your organization if stolen, you should store it on an ultra-secure local server instead of exposing it to the world via the Internet.

2. Create Local Backups

What would you do if the data you stored in the cloud got corrupted or accidentally deleted? The possibility of data loss is why it’s wise to create local backups of all data you store in the cloud. If something happens to your cloud data, you have a replacement copy nearby.

3. Require Stronger Passwords

According to a LastPass report, 59% of people use the same passwords across multiple accounts. If left to their own devices, your employees are likely to create a single easy-to-remember password that they use for all of their accounts – including access to your organization’s cloud data. Easy-to-remember passwords are easy to hack, so you should require your employees to use stronger passwords that are unique to your cloud access. They should also be required to change their passwords regularly.

4. Employ Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) improves on password concerns by requiring employees to input a code sent to their phone or computer in addition to using a normal password. Microsoft reports that MFA stops 99.9% of automated hacking attempts.

5. Apply Rigid Access Controls

Not every employee needs access to everything your company stores in the cloud. You can limit your exposure by limiting access to only those employees that need it. This means applying rigid access controls based on actual need, not on position or location.

6. Encrypt Data Before Uploading

What happens if cloud data is accessed by an unauthorized third party? Nothing – if that data has been encrypted. By encrypting all data before it’s sent to the cloud, anyone accessing that data without the appropriate decryption key won’t be able to read it.

7. Utilize Anti-Malware Tools

When remote workers access cloud data from their personal computers, tablets, and smartphones, security suffers. These personal devices are often less secure than work-supplied devices, which makes them attractive penetration points for hackers. According to the Verizon Mobile Security Index, 39% of organizations have experienced a security compromise caused by the poor security of mobile devices. The best defense is to secure all connected devices, corporate and personal, with strong anti-malware tools.

8. Test the Security

Don’t assume that your cloud provider’s security is performing as promised. Scholarly research has long proven that security can (and often does) decay over time. Do periodic testing to see if your provider’s security systems – as well as your own – are still working as they should.

9. Educate Users on Cloud Security

Human negligence can defeat even the toughest security systems. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report, 24% of data breaches are caused by some sort of human error. Moreover, MediaPRO found that 7 out of 10 employees lack the training required for basic cybersecurity awareness.

Make sure your employees are properly trained on proper security techniques, including how to recognize phishing scams. Regular training sessions can also help keep security top of mind.

10. Use the Right Cloud Provider

Not all cloud storage providers are equal, especially where cloud security is concerned. Look for a provider that offers strong, state-of-the-art cloud security, including file-level encryption and sophisticated credential management tools. You should also compare your existing service to others in the industry once a year or so, just to make sure they’re keeping up with the latest developments.

Improving Cloud Security: A Constant Challenge

Ensuring strong cloud security takes work. You can’t solely rely on your cloud provider to carry the burden – your company’s IT staff and employees have to do their part, as well. It’s a constant but necessary challenge. As part of your cloud security efforts, consider employing a secure cloud-based communications platform, such as AWS Wickr. AWS Wickr utilizes end-to-end encryption to secure all cloud-based communications, including text, voice, and video messaging and collaboration.