The adoption rate for cloud technology is rising, and companies of all sizes have data hosted in the cloud. With this rise in adoption, focusing on aspects such as security and data protection on the cloud is essential to avoid potential breaches and theft.
We’re all connected by the cloud, and most of our data is hosted there. Hence, the need for companies to prioritize the privacy and security of users’ data.
What is Cloud Data Protection?
Cloud data protection is a strategy that involves the securing of data that is stored in the cloud. It doesn’t only focus on securing the data against incidence like theft but also ensuring that the data are backup and recoverable in the case of a system failure and ensuring that system-level permission is granted adequately to avoid exposing sensitive information to unauthorized personnel.
Why is Cloud Protection Important?
Companies worldwide are gradually moving to cloud computing due to its ease and flexibility for scaling and getting the job done with fewer resources and workforce.
A key factor to note is cloud computing is a service that allows users/companies to access a vast number of shared resources managed by cloud providers, emphasizing the word shared services, which includes SaaS (Software as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), and PaaS (Platform as a Service).
Cloud service providers have security measures to ensure their systems and services are secure and stable. Since today’s systems are built to integrate with multiple third-party applications, every company accessing the cloud storage or hosting must ensure that their data are protected from being exposed to these third-party services and malicious actors.
Ways to Ensure Cloud Data are Protected
You could implement the following best practices to ensure that cloud data are protected and kept secure.
Encryption is the process of translating original information or data (plain text) into ciphertext, making it unreadable to unauthorized parties. Only the intended reader can decipher the information. Ensuring that data is encrypted in use, in motion, and at rest is a best practice. This will ensure that unauthorized individuals find your data hard to make sense of.
#2. Access controls
Identity and access management (IAM) helps companies assign roles and responsibilities to users within their system, as well as ensure that users only have access to a section of the system and the data they require, creating a layer of security against a network-wide data breach.
Strong credential policies and permission should apply to all company system levels. These will ensure that attackers find it difficult to gain access to your company’s system.
#3. Data loss prevention (DLP)
Data loss prevention is the process of detecting potential data breaches and ex-filtration and preventing them by monitoring, detecting, and blocking sensitive data. Several data loss prevention software can help you protect different categories of data, including data in use, data in transit, and data at rest.
#4. Backup and disaster recovery
Regularly copying and storing files in a specific location to be recovered if disasters occur is a great way to secure your cloud data. You can do this by leveraging the 3-2-1 data backup strategy, which rule as follows, maintain at least three copies of your data backup, keep two copies stored at separate locations, and store one copy at an off-site location.
The rule helps companies always have a backup to their data ready for recovery in case of disasters.
#5. Data masking
Data masking is a process of modifying data that would look like the original data but take out the sensitive part, making it unusable by unauthorized persons while still being usable by authorized personnel. This could involve the process of tokenization, which helps link back sensitive data when accessed by authorized persons.
#6. Auditing and logging
Carrying out regular system audits will help mitigate lapses that may have occurred during a given period. Logging of activity on systems should also be put in place to ensure that the system administrator can always check through issues that may have occurred and what authorization led to the data breach. This will help companies plan ahead when they notice lapses.
#7. Data residency and sovereignty
Data residency refers to the location or country in which the company’s data is located. At the same time, data sovereignty refers not only to the site where the data is stored but also to the laws that bind the access and storage of user data in the given location.
This is important for companies because data can be at rest, in motion, or in use. The location of your data determines how long it has to travel to get to storage; it is worth noting that data in transit are usually vulnerable to attacks if not well protected.
#8. Cloud security services
Cloud security services include all the protocols, tools, and best practices made available by cloud providers to help in data protection, such as IAM, data security, governance, and legal compliance. Although cloud providers provide security and tools to their service, it is still a best practice for companies to take extra steps to avoid data breaches and loss.
#9. Secure data transfer
The data transfer that uses secure protocols and encryption to ensure that the data being transmitted is safe is called secured data transfer. Using HTTPS over HTTP provides web services with an extra layer of security, such as encryption, authentication, and data integrity. Secure data transfer makes it possible to monitor who accesses what data and revoke and grant permission if required.
#10. Security monitoring and threat detection
Real-time security and threat detection mechanism should be implemented to allow for early detection of abnormality in data access or an attempted breach of a company’s system.
These will enable the companies to act fast in case of an occurrence, minimize data breaches, address security vulnerabilities before they get exploited, reduce downtime due to data breaches or loss, and help companies ensure they always comply with regulations and standards.
Benefits of cloud data protection
Data must be available to ensure the smooth running of companies services. A break in data communication could lead to potential damages and loss of revenue for companies and trust from users.
Companies must implement measures to ensure that there is no theft or loss of data, which could create a break of service for customers. Situations where these data are not restored on time or lost without backup could lead to customers losing trust in the service provider.
Data integrity means that nothing is tampering with your company’s data and ensuring that data is accurate, authentic, and reliable by putting policies to ensure that data are well protected from the point of transmission to storage and retrieval.
Companies handle user-sensitive information – they must avoid leakage in transferring this data to and fro from storage. A break in the transfer could lead to sensitive user information being exposed to bad actors, leading to lawsuits and financial losses for companies.
Let’s take the case where a customer entered their credit card information on your company website to pay for a subscription service, and shortly after; they noticed unauthorized transactions on their account due to a lack of proper encryption. This may spell doom for an organization.
Companies must ensure that customers’ data should be only accessible to authorized persons. Access rules and role-based permission should be put in place to ensure that users’ sensitive data are not accessible by other non-authorized persons, which could lead to serious security issues and damage to companies.
Different countries are putting up policies to ensure that their citizens’ data are kept safe and treated right.
Companies must also ensure that they comply with various standards like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), and Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).
Challenges in Data Protection
While there has been a significant increase in cloud service adoption, it is worth noting that there is also a surge in threat against cloud data. Here are some challenges companies operating with the cloud could encounter.
Increased security threats
Cloud database has since seen increased attacks by malicious actors over the years. While cloud service providers are increasing efficiency and reducing company costs, they have also become an ideal target for malicious actors.
Companies need to ensure end-to-end security and protection for their systems. From the point of data transfer and storage, adequate tools and measures must be implemented to detect any leakages and prevent these attacks before they happen.
Data confidentiality issue
Insufficient identity and access management (IAM) by providers could lead to exposure to companies’ cloud data. Enterprises must implement a confidentiality level restricting public data access on a server.
A simple rule of thumb should be that “user A” should only have access to what “user A” needs and nothing else. This will reduce the exposure of sensitive data to unauthorized persons.
Generally, cloud services are managed and provided by cloud providers such as Google, Amazon, and Azure, among others. These companies maintain the physical infrastructure in which the cloud runs. Unlike the traditional systems where every company owns its physical infrastructure, the era of cloud computing has taken away the burden.
The shared responsibility between the cloud infrastructure provider and the customer means knowing who handles what and when. If not correctly handled, the approach may also introduce a gap in data security and protection. Hence, companies (customers) need to know what aspect of their data security they are responsible for.
With the growing threat to data security and how companies handle users’ data, more strict measures are being placed by regulatory bodies to ensure that users’ data are well protected. Companies must ensure that the provider they use adheres to the regulations of where their services are being provided.
For example, if Company X deploys its service in Country Y and uses Cloud services from Provider Z, then Company X decides to expand to Country W, and the regulations and policies required by W are not factored in with Provider Z.
It creates an extra layer of responsibility for the company to either manage two platforms or find a fix around the issue.
Trends and Technologies in Cloud Data Protection
Companies are taking authentication and IAM seriously; the rise in the adoption of two-factor authentication and biometric identification ensures that every user has required permission beyond just providing a username and password before accessing data.
Adoption of AI
Companies are increasingly using AI to detect threats and identify possible attackers. This helps to reduce the response time and to adequately provide real-time monitoring around the clock, which would have been difficult to achieve with just human resources.
Improved encryption method
More data are being encrypted, unlike the use of encryption for only certain data classes in the past. This ensures that all possible backdoors are shut from unauthorized individuals. Also, by eliminating outdated encryption ciphers and using the longest possible encryption keys, organizations can further make it difficult for malicious actors to crack their cyphertext.
Increased partnership and collaborations
Companies no longer rely primarily on their cloud provider’s security measures. They partner with other security vendors to provide their data with an extra layer of security. They are also responsible for distributing their data across different locations for easy restoration in case of a breach.
With more and more services moving toward cloud computing services, priority should be placed on cloud data protection to ensure the longevity of your business.
Cloud data protection methodology is not one-size-fits-all. Every security and protection technique must be customized for a business use case.
Finally, before selecting a cloud provider, research the vendor’s solutions extensively, including security, SLA, user experience, and customer satisfaction ratings. This information will help you determine if the cloud provider is the best for your specific use cases.
Aminu Abdullahi is an experienced B2B technology and finance writer and award-winning public speaker. He is the co-author of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook, and has written for various publications, including Geekflare,… read more
Narendra Mohan Mittal
Narendra Mohan Mittal is a versatile and experienced digital branding strategist and content editor with over 12 years of experience. He is a Gold Medalist in M-Tech and B-Tech in Computer Science & Engineering.