Cloud Security

What is Cloud Security?


Over the past decade, cloud adoption has seen explosive growth at both consumer and enterprise level, and it is easy to see why. Cloud-based applications have significantly changed the way we work and share information more efficiently. Cloud-based computing has transformed IT infrastructures making them more flexible, scalable, and cost effective. According to Gartner, cloud-first strategies are a way for organizations to ‘transform, differentiate, and gain competitive advantage’ and many are progressing on their digital transformation journeys.  

When moving to the cloud, organizations have several deployment options including:  

  • Public Cloud – where all infrastructure is owned and managed by a cloud service provider such as AWS or Microsoft Azure. 
  • Private Cloud – where a cloud computing network is used exclusively by one organization, either located at on-site data center, or hosted by a third-party.  
  • Hybrid Cloud – where data and applications move between both public and private clouds, allowing organizations to reap the benefits from both environments.  

Whichever option an organization chooses, they all have implications for security and when migrating to the cloud, a key consideration is ensuring that data, systems, and applications are fully protected from cyber threats and unauthorized access. An organization needs to ensure it can apply its security policies to the cloud and that they are consistent with those applied to any of its on-premise infrastructures. To achieve this, organizations use cloud security solutions and services, which protect data in the cloud and keep the organization compliant with data privacy laws and industry regulations.  


Threats and Challenges to Cloud Security


Any IT infrastructure is susceptible to cyber-attacks and the cloud is no exception. Organizations use cloud-based applications daily, whether it’s Office 365, Google Drive, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Salesforce or one of the many sanctioned (and unsanctioned) Shadow IT applications used on an ad-hoc basis.  

Adding cloud-based email or web services exposes the organization to potential threats such as data breaches, DDOS (denial-of-service) attacks, or account hijacking. Data breaches are caused by unauthorized individuals accessing or exfiltrating confidential or sensitive data stored in the cloud, this could be by a malicious insider or by a well-meaning, but careless employee. Regardless of how it happens, the implications of data breach are the same – a potential fine for non-compliance and a damaging loss of reputation.  

Another challenge is availability of services in the cloud. Organizations need their products, services, and tools always available to employees or customers from any location. Any downtime can cause disruption for organizations, especially if it impacts essentials services such as those offered in Office 365.  

The first step towards a cloud-based security strategy is understanding how the cloud is used and being aware of the challenges that usage presents. This will help organizations identify the cloud security solutions needed to minimize the risks and allow them to accelerate their cloud adoption strategies with confidence.

Best Practices for Achieving Security in the Cloud

According to IDG’s 2020 Cloud Computing Study, 81% of organizations now have at least one application or a portion of their infrastructure in the cloud, up from 73% in 2018. Cloud environments are different from traditional networks and continually change, which means any approach to cloud-based security must be adaptable.  

As organizations move to the cloud, incorporating a ‘Zero Trust’ security model is considered best practice. The model works on the premise that no user or device is trusted until verified by multi-factor authentication (MFA) and closely controls and limits who has access to the data. While not 100% effective, the approach minimizes data breaches perpetrated by bad actors both inside and outside the organization. 

The ‘Zero Trust’ approach to cybersecurity in the cloud is also effective for compliance with data privacy laws. Cloud-storage can be segmented into small perimeters, each with its own strict authentication measures which means that if someone does gain entry, they can’t roam undetected or freely access any sensitive data.

Another best practice consideration is reviewing the native capabilities offered within the online versions of popular services, such as email in Office 365, to establish if they are sufficient to provide enough security, protection, and availability.  

Email remains a business-critical function and any continuity issues could cause a major problem. Additionally, when it comes to cloud email security many organizations take a zero-compromise approach on threat protection and data loss prevention (DLP), and elect to enhance the basic controls with complementary third-party solutions – a best practice approach recommended by security analysts at Gartner.  

Using Clearswift’s Secure Email Gateway alongside Office 365 allows organizations to embrace the cloud without sacrificing security or compliance.

Cloud Security Resources

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