Cloud Security: Best Practices and How to Implement Them

Haseeb Awan
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February 19, 2024
Modified On
February 19, 2024

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Cloud technology has ushered in a new age in IT solutions regarding data storage, flexibility, ease of access, and productivity. As shared resources are made available via the cloud, new costs associated with security concerns are also added. Concerns include the sharing capabilities and access control, identity management, and privacy aspects. Therefore, cloud security is a top concern for organizations using cloud computing and cloud service providers.

Cloud-based strategies have been adopted to varying degrees by businesses of all sizes. Although the cloud is advantageous in many ways, it also carries risks that businesses should carefully consider before putting assets there. In this extensive guide, we lay out the challenges of protecting the cloud environment and how to create best practices for managing cloud security.

Defining Cloud Security

A policy, control, procedure, or technology that safeguards every aspect of cloud computing is called cloud security (such as data, systems, infrastructure, etc.). Security requires participation from both the organizations using the service as well as those offering it.

Cloud security is designed to safeguard user information and cloud data, maintaining regulatory compliance. This entails establishing authentication guidelines for each user using the cloud service and all connected devices. According to the company's precise requirements, cloud security can be tailored, for instance, by filtering traffic (to block or minimize bot traffic) and authorizing access, among many other functions.

Based on the cloud service and security options available, we can implement cloud security using various techniques. However, the cloud solution provider and the company owner should work together during the implementation process.

Defining Cloud Computing

Before we move forward, let's also have a look at what cloud computing is.

Many businesses now operate differently as a result of cloud computing. Instead of relying on costly and restrictive on-site infrastructure, almost all major corporations and an increasing number of Small business owners are proactively using cloud solutions.

90% of surveyed businesses use at least one cloud service, demonstrating today's widely accepted cloud computing.

Their widespread use makes cloud solutions vulnerable to cybercrime, exposing companies to hackers and other online criminals. Cloud services have grown to be very appealing targets for hackers because so many companies and businesses now rely on them to manage and store confidential data, including their users' data.

Because of this, all companies using cloud solutions must be aware of the best security procedures to guarantee that their data is adequately safeguarded across all cloud environments. This guide will teach us how.

Cloud Security vs Traditional IT Security

The risks of data theft, leaks, and outages are the same for traditional IT and cloud technology. The primary distinction between the two technologies is the greater abstraction of cloud computing resources compared to conventional on-premises hardware, software, and servers.

Traditional IT infrastructure entails the purchase, configuration, management, and installation of dedicated software, hardware, and other infrastructure products. Traditional IT infrastructure gives you complete local control over your business's data, apps, and infrastructure, resulting in a secure environment. You will buy more hardware as your business expands and its data storage needs grow to meet capacity demands. The servers in your on-premises data centre can connect to hardware devices, and traditional IT environments rely on security monitoring models.

Comparing cloud computing to traditional IT infrastructure, cloud computing is ethereal. Resources for cloud computing are not on-site or physically accessible. The cloud offers businesses a virtual solution for external hosting using server space rented from a cloud service provider. With this arrangement, security is under the control of the cloud service provider. You can access cloud computing environments (APIs) using application programming interfaces. Your devices can communicate with the cloud servers thanks to APIs. The security of the cloud environment depends on these APIs.

Even though traditional and cloud security utilizes similar techniques, the complexity of cloud infrastructure and the sophistication of security threats are driving a radical shift from perimeter security to cloud computing, which employs relatively strong authentication and encryption techniques.

The differences between the cloud and traditional computing may give the impression that the cloud is inherently insecure. Still, with the proper security measures and a trustworthy cloud service provider, the advantages of cloud computing far outweigh the security risks, making cloud technology a no-brainer for most businesses.

Cloud Computing Security Risks

All businesses are concerned about security, whether or not they use the cloud. You will have to deal with risks, including data breaches, denial of service attacks, SQL injection, malware, and data loss. All of these significantly impact your company's image and financial health.

Moving to the cloud changes the nature of some risks while introducing new ones. Cloud computing is nevertheless secure. Many cloud service providers grant you resource access and highly sophisticated security tools which you would not have otherwise.

It simply means that to reduce risks, you must be aware of changes in those risks. So let's examine the particular security risks associated with cloud computing.

Reduced Visibility

Most businesses will use various devices, divisions, and locations to access cloud services. Without the proper tools, this complexity level in a cloud computing setup can make it difficult to see who has direct exposure to your infrastructure.

You risk losing track of who is utilizing your cloud services if the proper procedures are not in place. Including the information, they are accessing, sending, and receiving.

If you can't see something, you can't defend it. You are increasing the probability of data breaches and loss.

Violations of Compliance

Due to the heightened regulatory controls, you must comply with several onerous compliance requirements. If you are careless when migrating to the cloud, you run the risk of breaking compliance rules.

Your organization could violate the law due to a careless data transfer to the cloud or a switch to the incorrect provider, introducing potentially severe repercussions in terms of law and money.

Insufficient Cloud Security Architecture and Strategy

You can easily avoid this cloud security risk, but many people need help. Many businesses start operating before the security measures, and plans are in place to safeguard their infrastructure because they rush to migrate infrastructures and data into the cloud.

A robust cloud security solution realizes the significance of putting security first when using the cloud. To ensure your move to the cloud is safe and secure, and free of lengthy outages, some solutions also offer free WordPress migrations.

Develop a security strategy and cloud-optimized infrastructure before launching your systems and data.

Internal Threats

Your most significant security risks may come from your dependable workers, contractors, and business partners. These insider threats can harm your company even if they are not maliciously motivated. In actuality, carelessness or a lack of training is to blame for the vast number of insider incidents.

While already dealing with this problem, switching to the cloud alters the risk. You give the cloud service provider control of your data, adding a new level of insider threat.

Breach of Contract

Any contracts you sign will restrict shared data's storage, usability and accessibility. You could be held accountable for the contract breach if one of your employees unintentionally uploads strictly limited data into a cloud storage service without permission.

Always go through the terms and conditions that your cloud providers provide. Some service providers give them the right to share any data you upload, even if you have the approval to transfer data to the cloud. Due to ignorance, you might unknowingly break a non-disclosure agreement.

Insecure API

One option for implementing control when running systems in cloud computing are to use an API. Any API included in your website or mobile apps can provide access for customers outside the company and internal staff.

A risk to cloud security can be introduced by externally facing APIs. Any insecure external API serves as a gateway for hackers seeking to obtain data and manipulate services, allowing them unauthorized access.

Cloud service configuration errors

Another potential risk to cloud security is the incorrect configuration of cloud services. This is becoming more of an issue as the spectrum and complexity of services expand. Data can be altered, deleted, or publicly exposed due to the improper configuration of cloud services.

Primary factors include keeping sensitive data's default access management and security settings. Others include mangled data access, in which private information is accessible without authorization, and mismatched access management, which grants access to unauthorized people.

What is the Need for Cloud Security?

In the digital age, data security is a crucial concern. There is a perception that data can only be secure in the cloud, resulting in private users frequently avoiding using such services. This is among the most significant challenges. However, cloud security is not merely crucial for personal use; business owners, in particular, must deal with this problem since many organizations store a significant amount of both sensitive customer data and insider trading in the digital cloud.

The amount of data stored in clouds is constantly growing because they are very well-liked despite all the alleged security risks. Private individuals prefer to download hard drive backups to online storage because it is more convenient to have their data accessible everywhere. On the other hand, businesses can use the cloud to improve employee communication and, as a result, streamline their operational procedures. Because resources can be scaled with cloud hosting and, less infrastructure is needed, you also save money.

The so-called public cloud is the most popular type of cloud computing. Companies like Google Drive and Box offer their customers entirely configured online storage spaces that include security measures. A hybrid or private cloud can be created, though, if you'd like more autonomy over your data. These online storage spaces have been developed entirely or in part without the assistance of public service providers. As a result, they give users more control over security measures but also demand more technical work. Businesses depend on private or hybrid clouds, particularly for data security and IT security.

Fundamentals of Cloud Security

Security risks are constantly changing. Malicious software and automated bots are more advanced than ever and very effective at stealing data from cloud-based solutions and services.

Therefore, rather than going into specifics for each aspect, we must first establish some fundamental principles that will assist specify our systematic approach to cloud security.

The Platform Should Determine The Security Strategy.

Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach to cloud security is no longer viable. In addition to open-source libraries and other system-related cloud-based tools, various cloud services might call for various security solutions.

Specifying and implementing security measures as closely as possible to where data is kept is critical. But doing so requires putting in place trustworthy, uniform controls and policies, as well as putting in place security measures and maintaining data privacy.

For instance, we have to consider the consistency of attention when applying various security policies for various components of our cloud systems.

Pretend You Are The Target.

Data breaches aren't just a problem for large businesses and enterprises. Many cybercriminals are actively targeting smaller companies and even individuals because the rewards may not be as great, but security is frequently much simpler to get around. It's a good rule of thumb to always maintain the best security practices by assuming you are a target.

We should consistently check all cloud services for functionalities and our infrastructures for potential pitfalls and continuously monitor and analyze our systems for suspicious behaviour, which frequently signals a threat.

Isolating Your Network Is A Critical Component Of Security.

To keep your network separate, it's still essential to install firewalls as well as other security measures. However, setting up firewalls is currently the best practice. Even after your network has been breached and your cloud security has been compromised, you can still prevent it from having to compromise the entire network by setting up different security zones.

Sophisticated Access Controls Are Necessary For Sensitive Data.

Locating sensitive data storage systems and determining which data poses a risk is crucial (i.e. personally identifiable). This sensitive information must be recognized and appropriately labelled, and access must be restricted so that only the appropriate users can view it.

For instance, the marketing division should be restricted from accessing customer data unrelated to the current campaign. Additionally, we should restrict employee access to customer financial data.

Business Continuity And Security Ought To Work Together.

On the one hand, we must ensure that cloud security implementations don't interfere with business continuity. In the event of an attack, we must also ensure the availability alongside accessibility of the entire business workflow. The establishment of a protocol will enable quick service restarts. The entire application must be functional as immediately as possible, not just its essential parts.

Phases of Cloud Security

Phase 1: Learn about cloud computing and the risks associated with it.

Understanding your current situation and evaluating risk are the main objectives of the first stage of cloud computing security. You can complete the following tasks using cloud security solutions that support cloud screening and monitoring:

Step 1: Identify the sensitive or regulated data.

Data breach or loss, which could lead to legal repercussions or intellectual property theft, poses the most significant risk to you. Data classification tools can classify your data to evaluate this risk effectively.

Step 2: Recognize the methods used to access and distribute sensitive data. 

Cloud storage for sensitive data is possible, but you must keep an eye on who has access to it and where and to whom it goes. Examine the access context for your cloud environment, such as user location, user roles, and device type, as well as the permissions on folders and files.

Step 3: Learn about shadow IT.

Most consumers must consult their IT department before opening a cloud storage account or using an online PDF converter. Find out which cloud services use shadow IT that you are unaware of using your web proxy, SIEM logs, or firewall,  and then perform a risk profile analysis on each one.

Step 4: Examine infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) setups for Azure or AWS.

If several critical parameters in your IaaS installations are misconfigured, it may result in vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Examine your network, access, and identity management configurations first, followed by your encryption settings.

Step 5: Discover harmful user behaviour 

Both negligent staff and outside attackers may display traits that point to the improper usage of cloud data. By keeping an eye out for anomalies, user behavior analytics (UBA) can stop the loss of internal and external information.

Phase 2: Secure your cloud

You may strategically defend your cloud services based on their risk level after understanding your cloud security risk posture. You can implement the following recommended practices with the aid of several cloud security technologies:

Step 1: Implement data security policies.

Once your data has been identified as confidential or regulated, you may set policies that specify what information is stored in the cloud, quarantine or delete any sensitive material discovered there, and train users when they inadvertently violate a policy.

Step 2: Use your keys to encrypt sensitive data.

Your data will be protected from outside access by encryption offered by cloud services, but the supplier of such services will continue to retain access to your encryption keys. Instead, use your own keys to encrypt your data to have complete access control. Users can continue working uninterrupted with the data.

Step 3: Establish restrictions on the sharing of data.

Your access control policies should be put into effect across one or more services as soon as data enters the cloud. Begin with easy steps like dividing viewers or editors among individuals or teams and restricting the information that can be shared via external links.

Step 4: Prevent data from flowing to unmanaged devices you are unaware of.

Cloud services are accessible from any location with internet access. However, access from unregulated devices such as a mobile phones exposes a gap in your security posture. By demanding device security verification prior to downloading, you can stop downloads to unmanaged devices.

Step 5: Use infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) like AWS or Azure with enhanced malware protection.

You are in charge of maintaining the security of your apps, network traffic, as well as and operating systems in IaaS environments. Anti-malware technology must be set up on the OS and virtual network to safeguard your infrastructure. Implement application whitelisting, memory exploits prevention, and machine learning-based protection for file storage and general-purpose workloads.

Phase 3: Address Cloud Security Concerns

Similar to any other IT environment, as your cloud computing services are accessed and used, events will occasionally arise that call for an automated or guided reaction. For your first attempt at cloud security incident response, use these recommended practices:

Step 1: Demand further verification for circumstances involving high-risk access.

For instance, always ask for two-factor authentication when a user logs into a cloud platform from a new device to access sensitive data.

Step 2: Modify cloud access rules as new services are introduced.

Although it is impossible to forecast which cloud services will be used, it is possible to automatically update online access policies with knowledge of a cloud service's risk profile, such as the ones implemented by a secure web gateway, access may be blocked, or a warning message may be displayed. A cloud risk database can be integrated with your firewall or secure web gateway.

Step 3: Clean up any malware 

Malware could infect a shared folder that seamlessly integrates with a cloud storage service and then replicate on its own without user intervention. To stop malicious activities, run a scan on your cloud storage documents and files for malware using anti-malware software.

The difficulties and dangers you encounter when using cloud services change along with them. Keep abreast of any security-related feature updates from cloud providers so you can modify your policies as necessary. Security providers will modify their machine learning and threat intelligence models to keep up. 

The phases mentioned above and best practices can be carried out using several critical technologies, frequently in combination with native security features.

What Problems Do Businesses Face When Using the Cloud Securely?

Both private individuals and businesses must overcome unique obstacles if they want to protect their cloud access adequately. While businesses have it a little bit easier than private users when using cloud services securely, this is primarily due to general data security measures like smartly chosen passcodes or encrypted data.

Unlike private individuals, businesses use multifaceted cloud-based IT infrastructures, which are used by various employees rather than a single cloud service. The phrase "so-called cloud computing" refers to infrastructures like these that are primarily provided over the Internet rather than the company's local computers. Security is a concern that takes many forms: Several employees use various methods to access cloud services.

Additionally, cloud hosting is growing in acceptance among businesses. Cloud hosting, a component of cloud computing, denotes that data is now stored in a virtual cloud as opposed to a physical server. Cloud servers can be more easily customized to the company's requirements than physical servers.

Identity management, which controls employee access data and limits which cloud resources they are permitted to access, poses a challenge. Companies are urged to integrate all of their employees' cloud accesses into a single-user administration to improve workflow. These difficulties already exist when businesses rely solely on file-sharing services like Dropbox, allowing multiple employees access through personal access information.

Cloud Security's Advantages

Following recommended cloud security practices and putting in place sufficient preventative measures can give you confidence that your systems and data are secure, focus on ensuring visibility into security protocols, let you send alerts, and get you ready for when odd activities happen. By adhering to these procedures, you can further guarantee your availability, dependability, and security, allowing you to continue operating without interruption.

Who Depends on Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a fantastic option for organizations across all industries thanks to its adaptability, cost-effectiveness, and dependability. Leaders and IT specialists in large companies, small and medium-sized companies, startups, as well as those in the government, financial, and educational sectors, are quickly migrating to the cloud. Target and other well-known brands heavily rely on cloud computing. Target came under a significant cyber attack in 2013 due to security flaws. Using a method known as RAM scraping, the attackers stole the personal information of 70 million users and the banking information of 40 million users.

Security management techniques for the cloud

Organizations rarely have a separate cloud environment; instead, they typically have a number of them to meet different data, application, platform, and infrastructure needs. Organizations require a viable strategy that safeguards corporate assets because managing various cloud services is often challenging.

Organizations should centralize their multi-cloud environments' procurement, deployment, and management in order to prevent or restrain sprawl. By doing this, an organization can guarantee that its security guidelines and legal obligations are followed and upheld. The ability of organizations to cooperate and communicate about threats and ways to mitigate them consistently depends on centralizing as well.

Regular testing is required for cloud environments by cloud security teams. Johna Till Johnson, the founder and president of Nemertes Research, urged businesses to use specialized tools that let businesses run hostile tests against their cloud environments. These resources support securing the cloud environment. For security professionals to learn how to defend against threats and identify problem areas and disparities in the environment and their capabilities in real-time, she recommended performing live-fire training, in which cloud environments are purposefully made insecure.

Additionally, testing is crucial for the shared responsibility model, in which internal security teams and provider security teams jointly protect cloud assets. Testing the shared responsibility model, as well as the overall security of a cloud environment through cloud penetration testing, is indeed a helpful method.

Some businesses in highly regulated or risky sectors may want to use forensics techniques throughout their cloud environment to support investigations. For this objective, automation should be the top priority so that organizations will not only inspect and analyze data stored in the cloud for court proceedings (such as network packets, workload disc volumes, workload memory, and logs) but also mitigate any problems based on what is learned.

Cloud account hijacking, wherein hackers take over a subscription and perhaps another type of cloud account to carry out illegal activities, is among the most notable types of threats security teams must fend off through improved cloud security management. The three crucial tactics listed below can shield an organization from such an incident:

  • Use multi-factor authentication,
  • divide responsibilities, 
  • and trust but confirm account access.

Recommendations for Cloud Customers' Security Checklists

Security is one of the most crucial aspects you should consider when moving to the cloud and choosing a service provider. Your preferred service provider will receive and store company data on your behalf.

You must have faith in the security of your data. Numerous security factors need to be considered, such as shared responsibility and the provider's security standards. Being unfamiliar with security can make this process intimidating.

We've created a best ten security checklist for choosing a cloud provider in order to assist.

Protection Of Data At Rest And In Transit

Data security while it is being transferred between you, the end user, and the provider, is a crucial aspect of security when switching to a cloud service. This is a joint obligation between you and the service provider. In order to prevent data interception and to help stop an intruder from reading any data that has been intercepted, you'll need network protection and encryption.

Find a provider who offers you tools so you can easily encrypt your data while it is in transit and when it is at rest. This guarantees the same degree of security for any internal data transfers within the cloud service provider as well as for data transit between the cloud service provider and other services that might use APIs.

Asset Security

Understanding where your data is physically managed is essential when choosing a cloud service provider. This is especially crucial now that industry and governmental regulations like GDPR have been implemented. A decent provider will have cutting-edge physical security measures in their data centre to protect your assets from unauthorized access. 

Accessibility And Control

Possessing the ability to access and manage your data is essential for security. No matter where your data is or where you are, a satisfactory service provider will provide a solution that gives you complete visibility over who is accessing it.

Activity monitoring is something your provider should provide so you can track down adjustments to ecosystem security and configuration, in addition to assisting with compliance and integrating both new and old solutions.

Trusted Partner Network And Marketplace For Security

You'll need more than one partner or solution to secure your cloud deployment. Through a marketplace, an exemplary cloud service provider might make it simple for you to locate and connect with various partners and solutions.

Choose a provider with a consumer market that offers a carefully curated network of reliable partners with a track record of security. Additionally, the market ought to provide security products that enable one-click deployment and work in tandem to protect your data whether you use any cloud deployment.

Protected User Administration

Tools for secure user management will be available from a reputable cloud service provider. Order to ensure that applications, data, and resources are not compromised; this will help improve the security of the stakeholder management process and processes.

Additionally, the cloud service provider should offer the ability to set up security measures that isolate users and prevent any malicious user from having an impact on the information and services of another.

Integration Of Compliance And Security

Security and compliance should be taken into account when choosing a cloud service provider. They ought to adhere to international compliance standards that an independent organization has approved. A cloud service provider that adheres to industry standards for cloud security and preferably has a recognized certification is what you want.

The Security, Trust, and Assurance Registry (STAR) initiative from the Cloud Security Alliance is a reliable benchmark. Additionally, if your business is in a strictly regulated sector where GDPR, PCI-DSS, and HIPPA may be applicable, you'll need to find a provider with certification in that sector.

The cloud service provider must allow you to incorporate their security controls into your compliance so that your compliance efforts are both economic and practical.

Identification And Authentication

According to your cloud provider, any service interface should only be accessible to those who have been authorized and verified.

You want a service that offers authentication and identity verification features like login and password, TLS client certificates, two-factor authentication, and identity federation with your current identity provider when you are looking at providers.

Additionally, you need to be able to limit access to a community, business, or dedicated line. A good provider will only deliver authentication over secure channels, like HTTPS, to prevent interception.

Avoid using services with poorly enforced authentication policies. Your systems will be vulnerable to unauthorized access, resulting in data theft, service changes, or a denial of service. Authentication over HTTP, phone, and email should also be avoided.

These are incredibly susceptible to identity theft and the interception of authentication and social engineering credentials.

Operating Security 

Look for a cloud service provider that employs robust operational security to identify and stop attacks when making your choice. This should go over the following four points:

Change and Configuration Management

A provider that offers visibility in the components of the service, such as configurations and dependencies, is what you want. To prevent vulnerabilities, they must notify you of any service changes that could have an impact on security.

Vulnerability Control

In order to identify and counteract any new threats to their service, your provider requires a vulnerability management procedure in place. You should be kept up to date on these threats, their seriousness, and the anticipated timeline for threat mitigation, which covers resolution.

Monitoring for Protection

Any reputable provider will have sophisticated monitoring tools in place to detect any attack, misuse, or structural failure of the service. They will act swiftly and forcefully to address any incidents while keeping you updated on the results.

Management of Incidents

Your ideal vendor will be prepared for common types of attacks with a planned incident management procedure. They will be prepared to use this procedure in an attack.

An easy way to reach you will be provided, along with a timeline and format you can use to report any incidents.

Personal Security

Because they'll have access to your data, systems and infrastructure, you need a cloud service provider with whom you have a good trust level. Your preferred cloud service provider will use a thorough, open security screening procedure.

They must be able to confirm the identity, employment eligibility, and existence of any outstanding criminal convictions of their employees. Ideally, they should meet your country's locally established monitoring standard.

Aside from monitoring, it would be best if you looked for a service provider who guarantees their employees are aware of their existing security responsibilities and receive regular training. Additionally, they ought to have the plan to restrict who can use your services and how many people can have an impact on them.

Use Of The Service In A Secure Way

Even if you select a cloud service provider with high-tech security, you could still suffer a breach due to improper service usage. When utilizing the service, it's critical to comprehend who is responsible for what aspects of security.

Your cloud deployment strategy, how you employ any services, and any built-in features of a particular service will all impact how responsible you are.

For instance, you are responsible for a lot of security with IaaS. You would be in charge of installing a current operating system, configuring security, and ensuring ongoing patches alongside maintenance when deploying a compute instance. Any application you install on that instance will work the same way.

As a result, be sure to comprehend the security prerequisites of the service you've chosen and any security configuration options.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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