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Cloud Computing Security: Best Practices for Secure Cloud Deployment

Everything is on the cloud. The transition from cumbersome analog systems to having most of the data on remote servers is practically complete. Nearly every online business is doing it. It's easier, more efficient, and cost-effective. But is it safe?
Daniel Zacharias

Code Power Team

September 1, 2023

Everything is on the cloud. The transition from cumbersome analog systems to having most of the data on remote servers is practically complete. Nearly every online business is doing it. It’s easier, more efficient, and cost-effective. But is it safe?

Of course, your service provider has a reputation to maintain. They will work very hard to protect all the information you have placed into their hands. Still, you can’t expect them to do everything. Both parties ought to make an effort. You need to protect your data, infrastructure, and systems.

What are the biggest risks? What are the best policies, controls, procedures, and technologies to use? Which are the optimal methods of implementing your cloud computing security strategy? Let’s answer these questions and see how you too can reap the benefits of this constantly evolving technology.

The most common threats

Before you start implementing new procedures left and right, it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with. When it comes to cloud infrastructure, you will want to protect sensitive data from major cybersecurity threats. These include:

Account compromise. A hacker can take over the account of one of your employees or of another privileged user. This can give them access to your cloud environment to do with it as they please.

Social engineering. By pretending to be a trustworthy source, a sly attacker can trick your employees into giving them access to critical systems and data. Such phishing can jeopardize most of your operations.

Shadow IT. If you’re not careful enough, you can easily start using cloud services that haven’t passed the check of your cybersecurity team.

Unintentional insider activity. System admins are human like the rest of us. They make mistakes. An unwitting error can lead to data breaches and vulnerability exploits.

Malicious insider activity. Such security incidents include industrial espionage, data theft for personal gain, and disgruntled workers taking revenge.

The main principles

We almost can’t wait to dive into best practices but, first, there are a few principles you might want to consider. Including them in your strategy can drastically improve your cloud computing security.

  1. Stick to custom-made solutions. Do you need to focus on bot detection or perhaps malware? Know your platform and its requirements.
  2. Assume you are the target. Even a small project can come under attack. You’re never immune to threats.
  3. Compartmentalize. Divide your network into separate units. Have firewalls not just outside but also within your system. A single attack will then affect a single segment and not the whole thing.
  4. Allow limited access to sensitive data. This applies to your team members. Only allow access to information relevant to their role. Try not to go overboard. Make sure it’s enough to maintain business continuity.

6 best practices for keeping your cloud safe

Of course, your solution is bound to be a combination of different strategies. Which trends in cybersecurity are worth adopting? In this section, we’ll outline the best strategies for protecting your cloud computing environment.

1. Get a good grasp of the shared responsibility model

It’s not feasible for service providers to take on all the responsibility attached to the project. You simply have to share it.

In order for this to work, you’ll need to fully understand your contract. We mean all of it, including the small print. Know what your cloud provider will cover and what is left to you to take care of. For example, they’ll deal with cloud app development and file storage security, while you should have full control over access management. Remember that more responsibility means more control.

The better you understand your unique shared responsibility model, the closer you will be to your optimal cloud computing security solution. Sometimes, you may even be able to negotiate it.

2. Have clear cloud security policies

Moving on from your relationship with the provider to the inner workings of your business, we need to stress the importance of consistent policies. These are rules your employees (or outsourced teams) ought to follow. They must cover technologies, methods, and automated solutions.

3. Train your staff

Said security policies should be simple and straightforward. Make them make sense. If employees are struggling with certain segments, don’t hesitate to invest in their training. They ought to know how to create strong passwords, recognize phishing, and understand the risks of shadow IT. In addition, it’s good to cover types of potential attacks.

If you have a separate security department, keep it well connected with all other teams. Frequent conversations can reduce vulnerabilities, improve up-to-date practices, and boost cloud computing security.

4. Encrypt your data

Every cloud provider will have its own methods of encryption. Basically, they have pretty easy access to your data. So do the hackers if they break through the cloud’s security system.

The trick is to have your own encryption keys as an added layer of protection. The method can then serve not only to protect data on the remote server but also while in transit (i.e. in the case of cloud-native architecture). It’s also a good way of safeguarding the company’s internal communication from malicious attacks.

5. Test, detect, and prevent

Detecting security breaches and preventing attacks is a top priority, especially if you’re running a large enterprise. It may even be worth creating an Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDPS).

Hackers are coming up with new ideas on a daily basis. Regular penetration tests must be a part of your digital safety arsenal. Performing frequent audits should allow you to determine whether your existing cloud computing security practices are sufficient. You’ll also be able to tell if your current service provider continues to meet your standards. If not, change them.

6. Quickly respond to security incidents

Keeping things secure is not only about what you do. It’s also about how quickly you react. A fast response makes a difference if you encounter suspicious activity in a cloud environment. The goal is to detect, contain, and eradicate threats as soon as they arise. Such a practice limits the extent of the damage.

Having an emergency plan in place is a good way to achieve this. Give your team strict roles and robust procedures to follow.

Taking cloud computing security seriously

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Different organizations require vastly different approaches. Still, it’s possible to find some common ground. Understanding the threats and identifying weak spots will help you form your unique risk profile.

Then, it’s all about sticking to some basic principles and implementing the best practices. These include having clear policies, training your staff, and performing thorough encryption. Don’t forget to have clear response plans in the case of an actual attack. This will help you stay safe and keep your cloud computing operations running smoothly.

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