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In 2020, it’s hard to think of a company or startup that is not using cloud computing in some way or another. From public and government services to e-commerce and banking – these industries use cloud computing because information holds a higher value than gold.
According to  , 90% of Internet data has been created in the past two years, and currently, there are almost 2 billion websites with 4.5 billion active users around the globe. With those staggering numbers, the volumes of data and the need for its storage increase in parallel. To optimize operations, almost every enterprise is opting for cloud computing platforms to minimize the risks of data loss and processing power.
In this guide, we review some of the core cloud cybersecurity challenges, and offer essential steps enterprises should take to protect their cloud resources.
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Even though it has been 13 years since the launch of Elastic Compute Cloud, the first large-scale cloud project from Amazon, the industry still has some vulnerable spots. With   using cloud computing, the risk of cyberattacks for enterprises is rising exponentially. According to  , 75 records are being stolen by hackers every second. This relatively new digital ecosystem poses new security, legal, and financial risks for enterprises that choose to store their sensitive data on third-party cloud platforms.
With so much at stake, it is mandatory to have a cybersecurity checklist to guard not just your data but also the position of your company in the market.
Core Cloud Cybersecurity Challenges
To protect your company from data losses or large-scale breaches, it is crucial to practice cyber-hygiene. To do that, let’s go through some cloud cybersecurity basics that every company should take into account before signing a deal with a cloud service provider.
Despite the sensationalist headlines about hacker attacks and security breaches, the most common reason for cloud security threats is poor access control, namely, weak password management and too many employees having access to sensitive data. Unauthorized access (42%) was named the most significant vulnerability to cloud security in the 2019  .
- 17% of sensitive data was accessible to all members of staff
- 15% of companies found more than 1 million files open to all employees
- On average, each employee had access to 17 million files ( )
With the tendency of moving workloads to the cloud, more enterprises fear security breaches. While cybercrimes are on the rise, it’s still the companies that comprise their data. A massive number of companies make elementary errors when it comes to managing cloud security challenges in cyberspace.
To protect sensitive information from any security threats, it’s imperative to encrypt all data. It’s also recommended to use a VPN when moving data between the company and a cloud service provider. It provides at least some basic level of security for authorized users.
- In May 2019, personal and contact information from 49 million Instagram users were exposed after an SMM company from India left the data unprotected on an Amazon Web Services database ( )
- The average total cost of a data breach is $3.92 million with the average downtime for the company of around 23 hours ( )
- 66% industry influencers named data security as the major challenge to moving their business to the public cloud ( )
While the abundance of information concerning customers’ private data gave rise to the economy of data, on which tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have built their empires, it has also led to privacy concerns. GDPR, SOX, HIPAA, and PCI compliance standards and regulations were introduced as mediators between companies and customers to protect sensitive data from violations and grapple with the cybersecurity compliance challenges.
- 53% of companies have over 1,000 sensitive files open to every employee ( )
- 47% of respondents updated their website’s privacy cookies in 2019 to comply with the new standards of data privacy ( )
Ensuring data and information privacy is the only way to comply with the law and guarantee customers’ safety.
Stale data, sensitive personal information kept beyond the retention period, puts the company under additional risks. This data is subject to SOX, HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR, meaning that in case of a data breach, it will cost the company a lot of money.
- 50% of user accounts are stale ( )
- 534,465 is the average number of stale files in a company ( )
Apart from costly fines, stale data could stimulate a decline in business if consumers feel that you are not protecting them.
Cloud Cybersecurity Takeaways: Essential Steps
With more businesses moving online and more users sharing their personal information, cyberattacks have become one of the most common crimes. By considering the four challenges described above and taking relevant measures, a company can prevent about 90% of cybersecurity threats. We offer you 9 essential steps that will help you ensure the basic level of cloud cybersecurity.
I. Reduce risks and exposure
- Run a network security audit to identify the weak spots and deficiencies, including device and platform identification, review of security policy, security architecture, and firewall configuration. Start from risk assessment and continue with penetration testing.
- Invest in cybersecurity by setting up a risk management team with a bold cybersecurity approach and sound response protocols.
- Create a tightly managed cloud security strategy consisting of the three major components: security awareness (understanding and knowing your vulnerabilities), risk prevention (cybersecurity procedures, tools and software), and data management (protocols concerning data access, storage, and transfer).
II. Limit passwords and user accounts
- Implement, manage and control access levels. The first step when setting up a security plan for your infrastructure is access control. Ensure only appropriate staff members gain access to sensitive information. Open access to employees who work directly with sensitive data. Consider implementing RBAC model with role-permissions to restrict access to authorized users.
- Use two-step authentication, in which a verification code is sent to a cell phone to augment a password, for apps and platforms accessed from corporate networks. Multi-factor authentication should be implemented for all company resources with the use of Conditional Access policies with simple if-then statements for access permissions.
- Remove non-expiring passwords and accounts. Passwords are the weakest type of authentication; that’s why it’s imperative to use strong passwords and change them regularly. Or you may consider implementing a password-less strategy secured with cryptographic algorithms. The 2014 Yahoo breach, when 500 million accounts were exposed, was caused by a hacker attack on a server with passwords from users` accounts. Set expiration dates on all account passwords.
III. Eliminate stale data
- Identify stale data, especially information containing personal data. ‘Ghost’ or stale accounts are a popular entry point for hackers, as they still provide access to the system.
- Remove stale data after the retention period. Apart from being a vulnerable spot, stale accounts are a critical obstacle for detecting data breaches.
- Create a fixed data retention period. Under an array of legal regulations, it’s against the law to store sensitive and personal data past its retention period.
While cloud service platforms like Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform work on improving the security standards of their products, it is primarily the enterprise’s responsibility to ensure the security of its cloud environment.
The force of habit and a relatively new concept of cloud computing give us the illusion that physical storage is more likely to be compromised. When in reality, research results point to access control and data management as the two major reasons for cloud security breaches. Even though we are used to thinking that the key to cybersecurity lies in technology, it’s more about the processes and simple steps every company should follow to protect its data along with its finances and reputation.
It’s important to remember that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between the company and the cloud provider. By including the steps above into your daily business practices, you can avoid 90% of the most common cyber risks.
Having said that, merely following these simple steps may not be enough. To ensure the full safety of your enterprise cloud operations, consider a long-term cloud cybersecurity strategy with an allocated expert team.
Should you need help with setting up the cloud cybersecurity for your enterprise,Infopulse experts are at your service. Contact us to learn how to build an in-depth protection of your cloud resources.