Best Practices for Cloud Security
We’re beginning a new and advanced chapter in cloud security, and it is evident that public clouds will continue to evolve at exciting speeds requiring enterprises to reconsider the ways they develop and manage their applications. The availability and user-friendliness that cloud computing offers has enabled organizations to be more agile and deliver higher business value. However, along with this accessibility and ease of use comes the possibility that most traditional security and governance models will be rendered ineffective.

This requires security teams to re-look at existing processes and tools to ensure they are able to keep up with growing business demands. Security threats from cybercriminals continue to rise both in terms of volume and sophistication, thus accelerating the number and volume of data breaches and data theft. According to a Cloud Security Report 28% of businesses experienced a cloud security incident 2019.

Cloud data security threats continue to increase

A McAfee report states that between January to April 2020, the work-from-home situation led to a 630% increase in external attacks on cloud accounts. Even before the pandemic security threats were high. In 2019 alone, the Emerging Threat Report from Norton revealed that more than a whopping four billion records were breached, resulting in significant legal, financial, and reputational implications, and also impacted business continuity.

Another critical security risk is that of denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks where hackers overload an enterprise data center with unlawful incoming traffic, which eventually leads to unplanned outages and system downtime, interrupting the organization’s business continuity. Gartner calculates the average cost of downtime at around USD 5600 per minute for an organization. In addition to this, a major cause for worry is when an enterprise is non-compliant with security and privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA and HIPAA. It is vital that organizations follow stringent governance policies to control access to cloud data. The unfortunate reality is that many organizations fall short of full cloud computing security compliance.

Follow best practices to maximize cloud data security

Migrating to the cloud must be coupled with a robust cloud data security plan that monitors its usage and access. Executing stringent cloud computing security practices in tandem with cloud migration, or even before, greatly reduces cybersecurity and regulatory compliance risks.


Here are some best practices organizations must follow to ensure optimal cloud app security.


Create a shared responsibility model
While selecting a cloud partner, you must evaluate the partner’s policies about shared cloud data security and understand what security aspects the partner will be handling. One engagement model option is that of shared responsibility which allows the enterprise to define specific responsibilities to both the vendor and the client, and prevents security incidents that could occur due to oversight.


Continuous monitoring for cloud computing security threats
Organizations must perform audits regularly and conduct routine vulnerability tests to ensure that their existing cloud network security efforts are sufficient to protect their data and applications. The cloud service partner also needs to perform diligent and strict vulnerability testing and ensure the efficacy of incident response tools. This knowledge will help you strengthen the security posture and minimize your vulnerability.


Strict cloud access control
As unauthorized access to the cloud data is a potential risk, organizations must deploy a high-quality identity and access management solution to define and enforce access policies. They must also look at multi-factor authentication and role-based access to reduce the risk of credentials being compromised or data landing in unintended hands. They also need to ensure that your cloud service provider offers role-based access control features that allow you to set user-specific access. It’s important that multi-factor authentication is used wherever possible in order to combat phishing attacks and lost or compromised credentials. A user of Azure Active Directory (AD) with administrative rights, i.e. the ability to create and/or change resources must have multi-factor authentication enabled.


Foster a culture of awareness and suspicion
Employees have to be made aware of the security threats looming over the enterprise, as well as emerging threats and the required counteractions. A pivotal best practice to ensure cloud security is to enforce the most stringent security policies.


Use Azure’s Security Center
The Microsoft Azure Security Center comes equipped with multiple security features that too can be applied. The SOC team should allow for virtual machine security data collection as a default function because it allows the organization to incorporate a variety of cloud network security settings.


Secure user endpoints
In most organizations with their data centers in the cloud, the data and applications are accessed by multiple users spread across the globe. This means that enterprises must constantly re-evaluate and upgrade user endpoints, and secure them against emerging threats by installing and updating firewalls, threat alert systems, anti-malware, access control and such.


Consider a virtual private cloud
A public cloud is definitely more open, and prone, to security breaches, which is why a virtual private cloud is a more secure option. Obviously, when you’re deploying cloud infrastructure that only you use, you can execute better control over the private cloud, and hence will be more tuned into anomalies and any unauthorized or suspicious activity.


Data encryption
Encryption should be a critical part of an organization’s cloud app security strategy. Several cloud service partners offer encryption policies as well. If the data in the cloud storage service is well encrypted, it will be harder for hackers to figure out weak spots and cause a breach.


Conduct Regular Audits
Proper auditing and monitoring, based on how complex your data environment is, by your cloud deployment team will help you to identify gaps in the cloud infrastructure. You need to make sure to consistently perform the audits on a regular basis so that you can safely use cloud technology. The most efficient way to audit configurations is to use automation tools that have the ability to scan your resources and identify inconsistencies in security settings and protection measures. There are tools available to help IT teams evaluate data for higher priority protection and take appropriate action.


Use AI for Threat Prevention
There is a growing number of organizations that have started using AI/ML technologies to detect suspicious behavior and single out threats present in their cloud infrastructure. AI algorithms are useful cloud security tools that improve cloud computing security and actively take preventive measures to secure your data. It can also identify patterns in threats and attacks allowing you to solidify your security measures. But any ML systems and processes implemented must work seamlessly with other security technologies to ensure that your cloud data remains protected all the time, and your cloud network security is not compromised.


Stock-up on Key Certifications
A principal measure for improving cloud security is obtaining the necessary compliance certifications as well as checking the certifications owned by the cloud provider. There are several other new security certifications that are quite comprehensive, including:

  • (ISC)2 – Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  • PCI DSS and SOC Type II
  • Cloud Security Alliance – Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate
  • Google Cloud – Professional Cloud Security Engineer
  • Alibaba ACA Cloud Security Certification
  • Cloud Credential Council – Professional Cloud Security Manager Certification (PCS)
  • Oracle Cloud Platform Identity and Security Management 2019 Certified Associate
  • SANS SEC524: Cloud Security and Risk Fundamentals
A hassle-free and beneficial implementation of cloud computing requires the right planning and a deep knowledge of potential and existing risks, threats, vulnerabilities, and the necessary countermeasures. In a cloud implementation, a data center could be situated anywhere in the world faraway from the control of users and admins, resulting in miscellaneous security and privacy challenges that can’t be ignored. Remember that there could be many challenges that need to be managed with respect to security and privacy in a cloud computing environment. Each and every layer between the network and application data security management must be analyzed, understood and considered for airtight security.

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