The internet has revolutionized the way we interact with and manage information. Be it any topic, tons of multi-faceted information is just a few taps away from us. It is also a matter of personal preference whether we want that info in the form of text, audio or video.
Now, fast forward to the cloud revolution that has further simplified and accelerated the way data is stored, accessed, managed and transmitted over the internet. Given the short, medium and long term advantages of cloud solutions, embracing the cloud is no more an option for businesses, rather a compulsion.
Without doubt, the biggest deterrent for organizations in deploying cloud solutions is security. These concerns are further cemented by the regular influx of news regarding data breaches involving both sensitive and personal information.
It would be unfair to rest the entire responsibility of securing a cloud based solution solely on the shoulders of the Cloud Service Provider (CSP). The organizations availing cloud solutions must also assume the fair share of their responsibility.
A CSP may deploy industry leading security measures on a cloud solution but if the employees or other key stakeholders of that entity are not sensitized about cyber security concerns, the entire effort would go in vain. A cloud deploying company and the CSP will have to work in tandem to fully secure the cloud.
Types of Security Concerns
Security concerns for any cloud based solution can be broken down into three broad categories and we will briefly touch upon each. These security concerns are in no chronological order and each must be dealt with equal thought.
This concern stems from the scenario that the critical data of an organization stored over the cloud is either stolen or permanently destroyed. This can have devastating consequences for any business.
An intrusion is made into the cloud by exploiting some inherent loophole in the access control points of the cloud network. Another possibility arises when the login credentials or device of a legitimate cloud user fall in the hands of an intruder with ulterior motives.
Outsourced cloud solutions largely rely on the internet for sending and retrieving data to and from the cloud network. The routers may be manipulated to transmit data to an undesired end point or the data packets themselves are lost during the transmission phase.
Cloud Service Providers and Security
The reputation, sustainability and future growth of Cloud Service Providers hangs in the balance of making their cloud solutions impervious to any intrusion. Today’s cloud solutions are not only super quick, but also equally secure. Let’s highlight some key security related benefits for organizations when they migrate to the cloud.
A key security related advantage any cloud solution will deliver is centralization of all the company’s data. Regardless of whether the solution is deployed on premises or through a CSP, all the business critical data is converged at a single data center.
This central location of the data makes it administratively much convenient, economical and feasible to secure. The other benefit of centrality, though not security related, is that any changes to the data are available across all the employees of the company in real time.
End Point Security
Cloud solutions allow access to users from multiple device platforms and operating systems. If an organization has to secure each and every end point / device, this would be an administrative nightmare. In the case of cloud solutions, an organization does not need to place device level security measures.
Securing the entire network of a medium to large sized organization can be virtually impossible. Each day, countless new devices are being commissioned and obsolete devices are being phased out by the organization. To secure the whole network, each individual device needs to be configured in line with the firewall protocols.
On the contrary, in a cloud based solution, the firewall is deployed at the access point of the data center. This firewall is much more effective and can be configured from a single point. The protocols and rules for the firewall also need to be updated at a single location and those will apply to all the devices using that cloud solution.
When a company’s data is spread over a sizable number of computers, is becomes imperative to secure each individual machine from viruses and other malicious traffic. The solution is to purchase costly antivirus software for each machine and also pay for the regularly rolled out updates.
This exercise is not only costly but also poses a security risk if any vital system does not have antivirus installed or it’s not updated. A cloud based solution will absolve your company’s IT team from installing antivirus software here and there, as the entire security of the data centers is managed by the Cloud Service Provider (CSP).
Physical Security of Data
At times, an organization can get too preoccupied with securing the “software” side of its network that the physical security may not seem relevant. From a standpoint of data security, unauthorized physical access to the premises where a company’s data is stored can also entail devastating consequences.
By the time a company’s IT team realizes that the intruder gained access to the network via physical intervention, it is often too late. Cloud computing entities attach equal importance to the physical security of their data centers. Some of the measures that ensure physical security are highly restricted access, round the clock surveillance and detailed logs for each activity performed on the data center.
The product or service offered by some companies may warrant certain statutory standards for data security. It becomes even more essential in cases where sensitive or personal information is involved. A company may have a decent product or service but it may be barred from doing business due to lack of compliance.
Cloud Service Providers are highly proactive in gaining compliant status with the latest security related protocols. It is one of the means of gaining a competitive edge over other service providers. If an organization opts in favor of a cloud solution, it will only have to ensure that its CSP is compliant with the data security standards mandated for the respective industry.
This can be a great saving of time and resources for companies, as getting compliant status for an individual company will be a painstaking exercise involving many bottlenecks. All a company has to do is select the CSP that is already compliant with the mandated security protocols.
Secure Applications and Software
Most CSPs offer productivity software and applications over the cloud as well. The good thing is that these offerings are fully licensed and paid. This may not sound much but pirated or shady software are themselves a major source of cyber threats.
Cyber criminals do not offer expensive productivity software free of charge as an act of charity. Thousands and millions of dollars and countless hours go into producing a high quality software or app. This free lunch is nothing but a bait for unwary employees of companies who start using pirated software in the blink of an eye.
Malware and phishing bots are embedded in these pirated software, which are unleashed on the company’s network as soon as tasks are executed over them. This can cause irreparable damage to an organization from a data security perspective.
Licensed software and applications are otherwise stable when it comes to user experience. When software or productivity apps are also sourced from quality CSPs, the issues of both data security and delivering a positive user experience are resolved.
Network Security Experts
When a company outsources its data to a CSP, it also includes securing it. The entity no longer has to employ data security experts in house. With data in the safe hands of a Cloud Service Provider (CSP), the company saves financial resources and also the hassle of securing every end point of its individual network.
Before granting any user access to a company’s business critical data, CSPs have a host of authentication protocols in place. The latest trend in authentication protocols is multi factor authentication in which access to the cloud is not limited to an employee’s single attribute.
The whole idea behind authentication controls is to ensure that no imposter is granted access to a company’s cloud network. Some of the effective authentication measures include onetime password, fingerprint verification or random number generators.
When a company deploys a quality cloud solution, it will also secure its data from illegitimate users, posing themselves to be an employee of the company. The risk of unauthorized use also arises in situations where a device used by an employee to access the cloud is either lost or stolen.