How Secure is Cloud Computing?
There’s no shortage of concerns when it comes to cloud security. For example, a survey conducted by Savoy Stewart found that 92% of health care professionals, 88% of financial services professionals, 67% of insurance professionals, and 35% of tech sector professionals expressed distrust in cloud computing. Primary concerns relate to data leaks and lack of control.
But are those concerns warranted?
No System is Inherently Secure
Let’s start with that premise – no system, cloud-based or on-prem, is inherently secure. Let’s face it; security doesn’t just happen. You make something secure through best practices and due diligence. And that’s an essential starting point when it comes to answering whether cloud computing is secure or not.
A great deal rests in the hands of your cloud provider. If they fail to take the necessary precautions to secure their infrastructure, their cloud security will be suspect. Just as if you fail to take precautions in your on-premises infrastructure. Take shortcuts on security, and you won’t be secure. But that doesn’t make cloud computing any more or less secure than an on-prem infrastructure.
The takeaway is that cloud services are only as secure as the provider you use. If they don’t take care of their own house, they certainly won’t be able to take care of your house.
Cloud Security Challenges
All that said, cloud computing has its share of challenges. The public cloud has no clear perimeters, which makes it more challenging than protecting four walls. As such, you face risks from any number of areas:
- Larger Attack Surface: The public cloud is significant. So, it faces a much larger attack surface for hackers.
- Lesser Visibility: Regardless of the cloud platform, you have reduced visibility and control over the infrastructure and data security. On top of that, cloud service access goes through multiple devices, departments, and even geographies. Without processes in place, you can lose sight of who is using your cloud services.
- DevOps CI/CD: With an automated structure like DevOps CI/CD, security controls are identified and embedded in code and templates early in development. Otherwise, security-related changes after workload deployment can undermine security.
- Environment Complexity: Hybrid and multi-cloud environments require security methods that translate from public to private clouds and on-prem solutions.
- Compliance: Most cloud services providers align themselves with established programs like PCI, NIST, HIPAA, and GDPR. Responsibility for workload and data compliance, however, falls to the organization. Most regulations require your company to know where data is stored, who has access to it, how it’s processed, and how it’s protected.
- Application User Interface: Cloud services often use an API for control. Unfortunately, external-facing APIs introduce security risks. Any insecure external API opens a gateway to hackers.
- Misconfiguration: As the ranges and complexity of cloud services increase, misconfiguration issues become more commonplace. Those misconfigurations open doors for data access and manipulation by hackers. Examples include default security and access management settings, mismatched access management, and unauthorized data access.
Regardless of the security challenges themselves, make sure you tuck this fact away – cloud security is a shared responsibility.
Sharing the Burden of Cloud Security
Even though you may be using a third-party cloud services provider, cloud security falls on you as well. Responsibilities may vary depending on the service model, but generally, here’s how things break out. Make sure you understand roles and responsibilities to avoid security issues and oversights.
Your cloud services provider safeguards the cloud infrastructure. It also covers the configuration of the network and hosts. Responsibilities extend to maintaining resources, including patches, storage, licensing, updates, and more.
Your organization’s responsibilities include user management and access privileges. On top of that, you’re on the line for compliance, including encryption and protection of your cloud-based assets.
7 Security Best Practices
You can overstate it. No system or infrastructure is safe from a cyber-attack. But you can significantly reduce the exposure of your cloud-hosted platform with some best practices.
At the very least, you’ll want to make sure your cloud services provider has taken the following steps to secure your environment. If not, you might want to consider talking with another provider.
- Data Encryption: Before moving to cloud storage, encrypt data. And it should be encrypted at all transport levels. It’s your best initial line of defense for protecting your data. So, talk to your cloud services provider to determine their guidelines for encrypting your data.
- Access Management: With an Identity and Access Management (IAM) system, you can control policies control who enters your cloud environment. And those controls apply to internal and external users—the more detailed and granular, the better. It’s best to grant minimal access to assets and APIs. Greater access requires more extensive authentication. In addition, make sure you implement a firm password security policy.
- Zero-Trust: As the name implies, a zero-trust network assumes no device or user is safe. Consequently, it demands repeated confirmation of credentials and protections. In addition, the framework segments your network into zones with independent access, each protected by a security perimeter. It also incorporates multi-factor authentication (MFA) for an added layer of security.
- Threat Intelligence: The best way to prevent a security breach is to identify the threat before it happens. User behavior analytics (UVA), for example, monitor anomalies. And do so in real-time. You should also incorporate an Intrusion Detection System (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention System (IPS). These tools, for example, uncover hidden malware and mitigate potential issues, thus avoiding a breach. Intrusion alerts and policy violations also shorten remediation time.
- Malware Protection: Anti-malware protects your OS and virtual network. You can also deploy whitelisting, and memory exploit prevention for single-purpose workloads. Machine learning protects general-purpose workloads and files.
- Penetration Testing: In short, attack your cloud infrastructure to identify weaknesses or exploits. Once uncovered, you can patch the vulnerabilities to enhance security.
- Next-Generation Firewall: Traditional firewalls include packet filtering, stateful inspection, proxying, IP blocking, domain name blocking, and port blocking. Next-generation firewalls add intrusion prevention, deep packet inspection, application control, and encrypted traffic analysis for more comprehensive threat detection and prevention. Any IT solution should also include endpoint security best practices.
Ensuring Your Own Cloud Security
Realistically, cloud services are no less secure than on-premises services. Quite the contrary, as many cloud service providers deliver advanced security and hardware that many SMBs couldn’t access otherwise. In the end, it comes down to choosing the right cloud services provider.
As a local IT company, we support our cloud solutions with advanced cybersecurity services using best practices. We virtually eliminate your threats of a cyber breach. If you’re looking for cloud services near you or looking to switch your provider, check with us.