3 Essential Steps for Implementing Robust Cloud Security in Your Organization

Apr, 2024 - by CMI

3 Essential Steps for Implementing Robust Cloud Security in Your Organization

There’s a tendency to assume that as soon as you offload mission-critical apps and data to the cloud, you’re also putting the responsibility for protecting these assets into the hands of a third party. The reality is that while cloud-based infrastructures can be better protected than on-premises setups, cyber threats are still very real, and breaches can and do occur in this context.

Given that this is the case, it’s a good idea to have a robust cloud security strategy in place - so here are the steps that will get you to this goal.

Understanding Your Cloud Environment as Minimum Requirement

A data breach will cost an average of $4.45 million, and when the cloud is involved the primary point of vulnerability you need to be aware of is not having a clear, unified overview of what the environment actually looks like. 

This can be exacerbated if you’re using a gaggle of different solutions, which not only leaves data siloed but also confounds efforts to implement security steps consistently. Here’s what it takes to wrap your head around the current state of play:

Grasp the Scope

Identify all cloud services and resources under your organization’s umbrella. It could range from SaaS applications to IaaS environments.

Take Inventory of Assets

Catalog what data exists on these platforms and classify them based on sensitivity. Consider financial records higher priority than marketing materials, for instance.

Identify Access Points

Who has permission to cast lines into your cloud? Detail user accounts and access privileges as part of a broader risk assessment process. You can go further by getting third party experts to carry out this assessment for you - and if you lack the in-house means of handling this, then it’s advised to call in the pros. 

So why do this? Well, the idea is that you can ensure you’re following best practices for cloud security by having an expert outline the critical risks associated with each facet of your cloud environment - both giving you peace of mind and catalyzing this process.

Enacting Strong Access Controls

The principle here is simple yet powerful: minimize “who” can touch “what” in your cloud environment. This is significant because insider threats, including accidental breaches by employees, account for 44% of all cyber incidents, according to PwC. This means you need to keep access control up to scratch with the following strats:

Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Assign permissions based on role necessity, not individual preference. The intern doesn’t require the same access as the IT director - and the marketing team doesn’t need the same access as the HR team. Given the growth of the remote access solution market, RBAC is a more significant requirement, as not all users will be sharing the same physical site, or the same set of devices.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Ensure that multiple pieces of evidence are required to validate user identities. This can include something as simple as setting up SMS-based authentication codes to go along with strong passwords, or extend to the use of biometrics as a means of additional access control - so long as your team members are comfortable with this.

Regularly Audit Permissions

Permissions need regular checks and rebalancing - as circumstances within a typical organization are always changing, and someone who had a legitimate reason to access cloud resources in the past might no longer be eligible for the same degree of trust. 

This should not only apply to permanent team members, but also to third parties like any contractors or freelancers you work with on a temporary basis. Small slip-ups can cause a cascade effect on security, so it’s not worth taking chances here.

Even major platforms have been caught out here - for instance, WhatsApp had to rethink its security practices after being criticized for a flaw in its desktop app. Smaller businesses with fewer resources at their back cannot afford this type of scandal.

Encrypting Sensitive Data

Worryingly, in spite of the rapid uptake of cloud storage solutions, the proportion of businesses actually encrypting sensitive information housed at remote data centers run by external vendors is small - with less than half stating that they’d encrypted just 40% of this, or less. If encryption is not enacted, stolen or leaked data can easily be interpreted by anyone - so here are some steps to avoid this scenario:

Adopt Encryption Protocols

Use advanced encryption standards such as AES or RSA to turn sensitive data into unreadable code without the proper key.

Manage Your Keys

Implement robust key management practices. Store keys separately from encrypted data, like keeping a treasure map apart from the treasure chest.

Embrace End-to-End Encryption

Ensure that data is encrypted not only when stored but also as it moves through the network. Interception of unencrypted data in transit is one of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to steal sensitive info, so don’t give them this window of opportunity.

Wrapping Up

The points for implementing robust cloud security we’ve covered are not the end of the story, and so you need to take a good hard look at your specific infrastructure and assess the risks you face, while finding ways to circumvent them. 

Failure here could mean disaster for your business, as customers and clients have little tolerance for security snafus, even if you’re not directly to blame.