How to secure your data in the cloud

We have entered an era where hard drives are becoming less important than data transfer speed, synchronisation and remote storage. More and more end users are backing up their files to the cloud for convenience, security, and cost reduction.

However, some people still have concerns about cloud computing, especially when it comes to security. How secure are files stored hundreds or thousands of miles away on another company’s hardware? Due to these concerns, cloud data protection, security threats, outages and potential cloud data breaches are the topic of much discussion.

The reality is that data stored in the cloud is probably more secure than files, images, documents, and videos stored on your own hardware. Your security can be further assured by following some best practices for storing data in the cloud.

What is cloud data?

Simply put, “cloud” means any type of software or service delivered over an internet connection rather than hosted on your personal computer or device. Most end users are familiar with this concept having used Dropbox , MS OneDrive , Google Docs, or even Netflix.

Through cloud services , users can access these files anytime using an internet-connected device. Documents can be easily shared between devices. Files are accessible from anywhere. Many modern digital cameras even automatically transfer photos to cloud storage so they can be viewed from a phone or laptop immediately after taking them.

There are many popular cloud service providers in the market that specialise in large-scale data storage and cloud infrastructure. Among the major players are household names like Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure.

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How secure is cloud data?

In most cases, the cloud is as secure or even more secure than your own hard drive, physical server, or data centre. As long as the cloud service provider has adopted a comprehensive and robust cybersecurity strategy, specifically designed to protect against risks and threats, the modern cloud is extremely secure and reliable. 

This truth creates a small problem. Many companies haven’t realised that legacy security solutions and the steps taken before moving to cloud computing aren’t enough to protect them when they’ve migrated, even partially, to the cloud. As you might expect, the security plan must be updated to meet the requirements of this specific environment.

It is also important to remember that the cloud service provider is only partially responsible for data security. Cloud security falls under a shared responsibility model , which means that cloud data security is the responsibility of both the cloud service provider (CSP) and its customers. 

Cloud Security Risks

It is important to be aware of the risks incurred by companies that do not take the appropriate security measures:

Data Breaches

Data breaches on the cloud are executed differently than those targeting on-premises hardware. While traditional attacks make heavy use of malware, cloud computing attackers exploit misconfigurations, access controls, stolen credentials, and software vulnerabilities to gain access to data. 

Bad configurations

The primary vulnerability in a cloud environment comes from misconfigured accounts and software. Misconfigurations can lead to unnecessary account privileges, insufficient logging, and other security vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited.

Insecure APIs

End users and enterprises often use APIs to connect services and transfer data between entities, even if they are completely different applications or enterprises. Since APIs are designed to extract and transmit data, changes to policies or privilege levels can increase the risk of unauthorised access.

Privileged access management

Enterprises using the cloud should not retain default access controls from their cloud service providers. This is especially troublesome in a multi-cloud or hybrid environment. Insider threats should never be underestimated, and users with privileged access can do a lot of damage.

4 tips for securing cloud data

What steps should you take if you are partially responsible for the security of your data stored in the cloud? These tips and best practices will help you keep your information secure:

1Use encryption

A smart first step in cloud protection is to use a cloud service that encrypts your files both in the cloud and on your computer. Data-in-motion and data-at-rest encryption helps ensure that hackers or third parties, including your cloud service provider, can’t use your data, even while it’s stored on their systems. 

2) Stay on top of updates

As a general rule, you should always keep your software up to date. Keeping software up-to-date is a major cybersecurity concern, both inside and outside the cloud, as outdated applications can leave doors open to intrusions and exploits. Although your CSP is responsible for updating software in its own data centers, some of your cloud access software may need to be updated. IT service providers responsible for numerous updates on a large number of machines are advised to use patch management tools to automate the important task of updating.

3) Configure privacy settings

When you sign up with a cloud service provider, look for privacy settings that allow you to choose how your data is shared and accessed. These settings typically allow you to choose how long data is stored.  And what information a third party is allowed to retrieve from your devices.

4) Always use strong passwords

The vast majority of successful cyberattacks have taken place due to weak passwords. End users should always use strong passwords for all their accounts. But even more so when using cloud services that are designed to be accessed by anyone with the correct login credentials. 

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