cloud security risks

Protect Your Small – or Medium- Sized Business from Cloud Security Risks

In today’s technology-based society, a common misconception is that moving a company’s IT network to the cloud creates an impenetrable, secure computing environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. As with all developing and emerging technology, there are ever-present cloud security risks. In this case, the cloud may present as many security risks as a location-based, hardware-centric network.

Many small and medium-sized businesses begin their cloud experience with a vendor who employs the “shared responsibility model.” In this model, both the cloud service provider and the client are responsible for protecting data and applications. The vendor protects the infrastructure while the client is responsible for their data and applications. Be certain to discuss this relationship before beginning a cloud migration so that the company and its employees fully comprehend its roles and responsibilities.

Keep in mind that there are both public and private clouds. If the company has a managed service provider (MSP) or utilizes a large cloud system such as Amazon Web Services, Google, or Microsoft, they are considered public. Private clouds are completely managed by the organization on their own. In a public cloud, governed by a shared responsibility model, it is important to understand the types of security the client’s team needs to follow.

Assess These Areas to Avoid Cloud Security Risks

Below is a checklist of security measures to put in place before launching a cloud migration. A company’s MSP or IT team can help to implement these precautions to avoid cloud security risks

Require Access Control

Access control restricts who can access a company’s cloud data and resources. It is imperative that a specific set of access policies is defined.

The best way to protect the network is to create a policy based on zero-trust protocols. These protocols require anyone to be validated and configurated within and outside the network on a regular basis; there is no “trust” that anyone inside or outside of a network deserves access until authenticated.

Role-based access permissions and requiring some form of multi-factor authentication should be considered to ensure tighter security. Multi-factor authentication is frequently used to ensure those accessing networks, websites, etc. are who they say they are. There is usually an initial login, followed by a confirmation number sent by email/text or a set of security questions that the person must answer to confirm their identity. This is a strong additional layer of security to a company’s cloud-based network.

Utilize Endpoint Security

Endpoint security protects the servers, workstations, laptops, and other network equipment that access a cloud-based network. Its purpose is to help prevent cyberattacks by guarding against malware and viruses. This could be as simple as managed antivirus software, virtual private network software, and patch management. These act as another line of defense against those bad agents, which can wreak havoc on any system – cloud or otherwise.

Insist on a Password Strategy

A company’s team should use the strongest passwords possible to protect its data assets. The standard “strong” password is defined as eight characters, including a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and characters.

Teams should use different passwords for varying accounts and have the requirement of changing the passwords on an agreed-upon schedule. That schedule should be frequent enough that it adds security to the network and those on it, but not so long between changes that it gives bad actors ample opportunity to access the network.

Apply Encryption

Encryption is vital to any cloud security measure. Sensitive data should always be encrypted before it is stored or sent via a cloud platform. Encrypting a file or data simply means transforming the information into a code that can be opened by someone with the correct “key.” This hinders cyber thieves and makes the data much less accessible, and therefore, less desirable.

Establish a Data Backup Plan

Following a cybersecurity event, a reliable, tested backup system will ensure that the data is available, and the company’s operations can continue. A strong plan may include a cloud backup, a local backup, and or an offline backup. Companies are not limited to only one of those options. In fact, using a combination of them will provide additional security for backed-up items. Select and diligently follow one or more of these plans as the MSP or IT provider team recommend.

Provide Employee Training

A company’s team may be the biggest danger to its own IT network. It is vital to train every member of a team to recognize a potential cyber threat. Security awareness training is a solid first step to teaching staff to recognize malware, phishing, and denial-of-service attacks.

Teaching staff how to respond to a suspected cyber event is also a strong means of ensuring network security. They should understand how to report questionable activity or suspicious emails to the IT team. This cannot happen if a team is unaware of what these security issues look like. Ensure frequent training, assessments, and discussions with staff. Allow them the opportunity to pose questions and get clarification on a regular basis. The more a team and its individuals know, the more secure a company’s network and cloud.

Monitor the Cloud

The MSP or IT team should constantly monitor a company’s cloud presence to ensure that only authorized team members are accessing the data.

Suspicious activity may include strange, unfamiliar login attempts or random data transfers.

As with all technological advances, security has been at the forefront of cloud computing since its inception. While the cloud is a phenomenal resource, it is just as prone to security risks as its hardware counterparts.

With the guidance of a strong MSP or IT team, every organization can plan and execute a strategy against cloud security risks. The team can provide a company’s team with secure access and tools to keep data, information, and networks safe from technological threats.