Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud! Cloud Security Basics

Lately, it seems like everyone is “in the cloud”; big corporations, small businesses–you name it. But as we’ve learned time and time again, great technological advances don’t come without security risks. Though it’s quickly been adopted by organizations all over the spectrum, cloud computing is still a fairly new concept and, as with anything new in our technological age, it can take a while for security measures and legal policies to catch up. For now, that means it’s your job to make sure your information, and that of your customers, is protected.

Defining the Cloud and its Security Concerns

At its core, cloud computing involves using a network of remote Internet servers to store and manage data. Working in the cloud allows multiple users to access the same information and pool resources in real time. It eliminates the much greater security risks of thumb drives or email attachments and makes data and documents easily accessible from anywhere, unlike information stored on a PC or local server.

The cloud isn’t without its drawbacks, though. Of the top nine cloud security threats identified by the Cloud Security Alliance, or CSA, three threats top the list as the greatest concerns: data breaches, data loss, and account hijacking. Fortunately, there are ways to protect your valuable data.

Defense Tools

While all cloud security threats can’t be 100% eradicated, there are ways to mitigate and help prevent potential damage or loss. Here are the best options to protect your data:

Encrypt Your Data

The first line of defense is data encryption. Encrypting your data makes it unreadable…so even if there is a breach, the intruder won’t be able to use what they find. Check out some encryption standards, like AES-256, to familiarize yourself with best practices. Also, do not store your encryption keys in the same location or in the cloud, and don’t share your credentials or encryption keys with anyone–not even your cloud provider. You wouldn’t give away the combination to your safe, would you?

Split Key Management

Consider using split key management if possible to further minimize the risk of a data breach or hijack of your services. With split key management, your encryption key is split into two parts – your cloud security service has one part and you have the other. Both parts are needed to decrypt your data. Which means even if someone gets your key, they won’t be able to read your data.

Back Up Your Data

Another concern is general data loss, which can be caused by user error, a breach, or a natural disaster. To guard against data loss, be sure to backup your data regularly. You can do this in the cloud as well, provided you encrypt. Most quality hosting solutions offer backup service.

Anti-virus, Firewalls, and Password Policies

These may seem like no-brainers, but they are absolutely worth mentioning. In addition to making sure your cloud provider pulls no punches when it comes to security, it pays to install a good anti-virus software, understand firewalls, and implement strict password policies among your staff.

Do Your Due Diligence

Another risk to be aware of is simple lack of understanding. When a company embraces cloud computing and dives right in without understanding how it works and the potential risks associated with it. Hopping into the cloud without considering any legal or security ramifications can get you into hot water. For example, a company that works with sensitive client information such as medical records could run into major issues for violating patients’ HIPAA rights. And every company is obligated to protect employee information.

Do your due diligence to know what implications cloud computing can have on your organization. It may not directly protect you from hackers and breaches, but it will help preserve your company’s integrity and keep you out of trouble.

If you decide to integrate a data service that works in tandem with your cloud provider, make sure their security standards are up to snuff. For example, when using DataHero with Google Drive, your data and files are automatically imported and when you delete a file, it’s deleted. Some services only offer a less-secure manual process, and you need to understand file deletion policies–when you delete data, is it really gone?

Data security can be a serious concern for companies large and small, but if you do it right, cloud storage and computing can be a huge boon to your business…and not a threat. Arm yourself with the tools needed to help stop an attack or loss before it happens so you can focus on the reason you hopped on the cloud in the first place: to open the door to streamlined, cost effective collaboration and data management, and, ultimately, your company’s success.