Ihor
Feoktistov
CTO at Relevant

How to Protect Your Cloud: Guide to Cloud Security Assessment and Solutions

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It’s no secret that cloud offers more accessibility and control over data than on-premise solutions. But there’s a catch. You must incorporate reliable cloud security solutions to reap this technology’s benefits.

Let’s look at why you need to secure your environment first thing after migrating to the cloud. We will also talk about how cloud security assessment mitigates the risks of unauthorized access. In addition to that, we’re going to look at some security solutions you can implement to improve your cloud security right now.

Risks of an Unsecured Cloud

More businesses are moving their workloads from on-premise into the cloud. Unfortunately, hackers aren’t falling behind. Small and medium-sized companies remain the major targets for malware and ransomware attacks. In most cases, these breaches happen due to lackluster cyber-protection and irregular cloud security assessments.

Risks of cloud security: regulatory compliance violations, phishing, data exfiltration, disrupted business continuity, money loss, bankruptcy

So, what dangers await organizations that don’t implement proper cloud security measures?

  • Regulatory compliance violations. SaaS public cloud services don’t absolve users from the need to maintain data security. It poses serious risks for companies that own tons of personally identifiable information. Companies must analyze the service agreement to understand roles and access permissions.
  • Phishing. Over 2/3 of small and medium-sized organizations experience data breaches and cyberattacks. Phishing makes up a significant chunk of breaches and stolen cloud credentials, which leads to data leakage.
  • Data exfiltration. Unsecured cloud systems raise the risk of unauthorized file transfers and data removal. Surveys tell that hackers are responsible for over 45% of data breaches, which they usually carry out via malware attacks and DNS tunneling.
  • Disrupted business continuity. Organizations that don’t have a cloud security assessment framework risk compromising uptime. An average company experienced about 16 days of unplanned downtime due to hacker attacks in Q4 of 2019 alone. But how much is it in figures?
  • Money loss. A mere hour of downtime costs up to $8,000 for a small company in the US. As for larger businesses, sixty minutes can be worth anywhere from $70,000 to $700,000.
  • Bankruptcy. Major data loss incidents can disrupt the business for many days or weeks. Insufficiently secured cloud infrastructure can result in the loss of sensitive corporate information. The statistics are not encouraging as well. About 60% of companies that experienced a critical data breach go out of business six months after the incident.

Most companies with cloud in their workflow understand these risks. But why are so many of them not putting enough effort into securing their data? Well, implementing proper security measures isn’t easy.

Cloud Security Challenges

Most cloud infrastructures are quite complex and have built-in security solutions in place. But let’s not forget that even the most protected systems are not immune to user errors. When hackers fail, harmful working practices can do the work and expose critical data. As a result, the company will suffer from unauthorized access.

cloud security challenges

What are the most frequent challenges administrators face during cloud management?

Сloud storage misconfiguration

Unsecured cloud storage buckets are regular sources for stolen data. For instance, Amazon S3 service caused over 36 thousand records about US’s dispensary customers to leak in 2020. Hackers have a broad pool of utilities to exploit misconfigured cloud environments. However, proper access management enhances cloud security and helps prevent data leakage.

Improper access management

Most companies are still plagued with poor management issues. The most widespread problems include a lot of distributed workforce and administrator accounts. In addition to that, many organizations forget to revoke access permissions from former employees. As a result, companies get a whole lot of inactive user accounts with too many privileges. All of them create potential cloud security vulnerabilities.

Vulnerable APIs

Insecure APIs are frequently exploited to target sensitive information. Nevertheless, about 70% of enterprises open their APIs to the public. Why? Because it helps business partners and third-party developers to embed various cloud solutions.

Unfortunately, companies often neglect to create sufficient authentication controls in APIs. Consequently, hackers can access back-end and enterprise data via the open Internet channels.

Inadequate control

Private clouds offer limited capabilities for visibility and control. Therefore, you must verify how much security control you have over the cloud environment before adding it to the company’s workflow. Otherwise, it will affect your ability to analyze information about access patterns.

DDoS attacks 

Сloud environments have long become a target for DDoS attacks. If you don’t want your servers to get disrupted by hackers, a regular cloud security assessment should be mandatory.

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Insider threats

Employees can pose even more of a danger to cloud security than outside attackers. Over 68% of CTOs and CIOs consider their organizations to be much more vulnerable to insider threats than to hackers. Therefore, it’s crucial to assess cloud security solutions to account for insiders.

You’re probably wondering how to get around these challenges. The best way to expose your system’s vulnerabilities and fix them before it’s too late is by performing an in-depth audit. How do you do it? Here’s our checklist.

Cloud Security Assessment Checklist

Implementing a secure cloud infrastructure requires comprehensive analysis. Organizations need to address all risk management measures to determine how protected they are.

Cloud security assessment is the optimal way to perform an in-depth security evaluation. Here’s what should be reviewed to improve data protection in your organization.

Access management

Access and identity management is the first crucial step in cloud security risk assessment. At this stage, you need to check for the following:

  • Who has access to your cloud system?
  • What devices can access the system?
  • Do you allow guests to access the cloud account?
  • What permissions do guest accounts have?
  • Is multi-factor authentication enabled (and does it have at least two steps)?

Directory service

It’s crucial to maintain credentials for identity and access in a secured directory. To achieve this, you need to answer these questions:

  • Do you have an LDAP-compliant directory to keep the identities?
  • How often do you update security protocols for this directory in a way that leverages the latest technologies and practices?
  • Are security specialists who manage this directory adequately vetted?

Data loss prevention and backup policies

Data loss can put your business at severe risks, so you need to make sure key information is easily recoverable. You can do this by addressing these points:

  • Do you have a comprehensive recovery plan?
  • Does your provider have a default data backup functionality?
  • Does your cloud environment support third-party data backup software?
  • What are the existing plans and procedures for data recovery (physical storage locations, local area networks, cloud backup, and other solutions)?
  • Do you perform regular check-ups of these physical storages and supplementary cloud infrastructures?

Security team

Make sure your cloud infrastructure is in the hands of competent specialists. Pay attention to the following:

  • Is the security team properly trained?
  • Does a senior cloud security specialist at your company have relevant experience?
  • Did the security team incorporate a proper cloud data security strategy?
  • Did your organization adapt security governance into the cloud?
  • Is everyone in the team aware of their responsibilities concerning cloud security?
  • Do you have in-company guidance on how to remain secure within the cloud infrastructure?

Encryption

Good encryption will leave the leaked information useless for hackers. The type and number of encryption services required vary based on the organization’s size and type. We recommend considering the following:

  • Have you determined what files, databases, and networks require encryption?
  • Is all key data on your servers encrypted?
  • How many encryption services do you have? Do you use a different service for databases, files, certificates, and public keys?

Security updates

The security systems must always be up-to-date to maintain a secure cloud environment. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • How often do you install security updates and patches?
  • Does the IT team test security updates before deploying them?
  • Can you do a rollback change to the security systems in case of an emergency?
  • Does the security team scan the system for vulnerabilities regularly?

Monitoring

The worst thing about security breaches is that you can’t identify all of them. 49% of US-based companies have suffered from a data breach in 2020. However, some organizations learn about unsanctioned access weeks or even months after it had occurred.

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Do you want to know about every loophole in your cloud system? Then, it’s important to implement a proper logging system from the get-go. Here are the things to check:

  • Can your cloud system log alterations to policy assignments, security policies, and admin groups?
  • Can you monitor applications that work with sensitive data?
  • Does the security team manually check the system for potential security breaches?
  • How long has the monitoring system been in place?

Answering these questions can help you look at your сloud security more objectively and critically. As a result, you will know what measures and tools to implement to protect your data more effectively. 

cloud security assessment checklist

Cloud Security Solutions

How can you improve your company’s cloud security capabilities? Here are the solutions you can implement right now to make your business safer.

Create a data governance network

Your organization must have a clear framework that defines who controls data assets and how this data can be used. This framework will provide you with a streamlined approach to managing and securing information.

After you create a proper data governance policy, you will have to maintain it. Here are some useful tools that can help you automate data operations and management:

  • Talend. A great solution for cloud security and API integration with plenty of data management capabilities.
  • IBM Data Governance. A flexible tool that provides data cataloging, governance strategy management, and information protection.
  • Collibra. An advanced service for automating data operations and cross-functional team control for larger enterprises.

Double-check cloud security configurations

This step is often overlooked, especially when companies move large volumes of data into the cloud at once. Double-checking can be done either manually during the configuration of the cloud server or by using cloud security assessment tools. These applications can automate and streamline the check-up to expose security vulnerabilities.

Some of the cloud security configuration tools you can use are:

  • ExoPrise. A security management and troubleshooting tool that works with many SaaS applications (Dropbox, Box, and Office 365, to name a few).
  • Sumo Logic. A cloud infrastructure monitoring service that uses advanced analytics software to find and fix security issues before they negatively impact your business.
  • Cloud Custodian. A tool for verifying cloud security configurations, governance management and cost optimization.

Implement data loss prevention software

Data loss prevention policy is crucial for all enterprises. Correct DPL software will tighten cloud data security and ensure valuable information won’t be stolen.

But you shouldn’t confuse DLP with other cloud security solutions. DLP goes a step further from disaster recovery and endpoint security software. It uses AI to monitor abnormal behavior and attempts of unapproved access. As a result, this software can prevent data loss incidents altogether.

Here are the most popular DLP tools to enhance your company’s cloud security:

  • McAfee Total Protection for DLP. A scalable program that simplifies system monitoring and management with a centralized dashboard.
  • Check Point Data Loss Prevention. A straightforward system that helps prevent data leaks and unwarranted access.
  • SolarWinds Data Loss Prevention. An advanced DLP software that allows automating activity and access policies and makes it easy to examine potentially harmful events.
  • Teramind DLP. A tool that uses OCR and programming languages to scan and prioritize documents to help identify the best DLP strategy. It also allows companies to perform basic cloud security assessment and audit.
  • Digital Guardian Endpoint DLP. A flexible data and intellectual property loss prevention platform. It covers up to 250,000 active users and can immediately block unauthorized user actions.

Implement data backup solutions

Even the most secured cloud infrastructures aren’t entirely immune to cyber-attacks. Therefore, you must prioritize critical data and back it up routinely. We recommend you to start with files that affect business functionality. This can save you from disastrous consequences that await companies without reliable data backup.

Some of the most popular cloud backup providers in the US are:

  • Acronis. A reliable data protection and backup provider for medium-sized companies and larger enterprises that boasts myriads of innovative security features.
  • IDrive. An excellent solution for SMBs that protects data on computers, servers, and mobile devices.
  • CrashPlan. A cloud backup service that offers ransomware recovery solutions and continuous protection of sensitive information without file size restrictions.

Enable multi-factor authentication and anti-phishing measures

You can boost cloud security by implementing additional authentication. Even two-factor authentication might be enough to repel most data breaches. This can be done by enabling such measures as:

  • Fingerprint authentication (for mobile apps)
  • Email address or SMS code confirmation
  • Security questions

The next step is to use a custom email provider with anti-phishing capabilities. Remember: no anti-phishing tools can guarantee 100% safety, however, they can significantly reduce the risks of unauthorized access.

Perform an in-depth cloud security assessment

The best way to improve your system’s safety is to perform an exhaustive cloud security audit. Conducting a complete evaluation of the cloud system is undoubtedly a time-consuming process. However, it allows organizations to get a realistic picture of security capabilities. It also helps them fix loopholes and enhance data protection.

Let us secure your cloud

Securing the cloud is an increasingly challenging task for any company. The good news is that you can outsource it.

Relevant Software offers a variety of managed IT services and cybersecurity solutions. Since 2013, we’ve worked with over 200 organizations from all over the world, offering them a variety of managed IT services and innovative cybersecurity solutions. 

Our vetted team of security specialists can perform a comprehensive cloud security assessment to help you:

  • Implement the ultimate security practices and proper access management solutions
  • Mitigate risks of data breaches and credential-stealing
  • Protect crucial information, networks, and databases
  • Decide on the most fitting cloud security strategy for your company

Do you want to migrate to the cloud or secure your existing infrastructure? Feel free to contact Relevant to get on a call with our cloud security experts.

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Written by
Ihor Feoktistov
CTO at Relevant
I make sure our clients get the highest code quality and the best tech talent on the market. I am also a Software Engineering Advisor for startups. Let's connect.

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