Cloud computing is being embraced across industries as a key driver for enterprise transformation. The adoption of cloud has gained tremendous traction in recent years, with the global cloud services market forecasted to reach up to $266.4 billion in 2020 and $354.6 billion by 2022. Despite this increased growth, however, cloud security remains a concern that is preventing many organizations from readily adopting cloud technology, especially those in highly regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services.
To safeguard the privacy and interest of your customers, and to achieve security of your applications and data on the cloud, here are 7 key questions and answers to guide CIOs and CISOs.
Top 7 Q&A’s to Achieve Cloud Security
Q1. Are my applications and data more secure on-premise than on the cloud?
It is a common misconception that the applications and data hosted on a set of servers on-premise are more secure than on the cloud. For enterprises that already have an in-house IT team, on-premise security might prove optimal. However, most on-premise systems are not equipped to ensure the required level of security across the various layers—infrastructure, network, applications, and data.
The security measures you can take on-premise vs. what cloud providers can offer to keep your data and applications secure on the cloud may not be comparable considering the size of your security team, your budget for security, as well as your organization’s ability to implement automated risk monitoring systems 24X7. Cloud providers often dedicate greater resources and budget to ensure that their core systems are as secure as possible and regularly update these systems in response to potential security threats as it is their primary business. For an individual enterprise, it might be too expensive to allocate such efforts. For example, the comprehensive access control that Cloud providers (like AWS or Azure) offer is difficult to replicate on-premise given the tools, infrastructure investments, and large teams required. Therefore, rather than fearing whether the cloud is secure, it’s best to ask cloud providers what they offer in terms of security and compare their cloud security strategy to your own to make sure their strategy meets your requirements.
Q2. What are the security risks of cloud computing that my organization needs to prepare for while migrating to the Cloud?
Although Cloud is considered secure, the increasing digitalization of business processes and services means that an enterprise or a cloud provider can fall prey to a number of threats, including malware, virus attacks, or network breaches. While threats that call for the attention of the security teams or CISOs vary widely depending on the enterprise’s environment, architecture, database, applications, and business objectives, major cloud security threats your organization should prepare for are:
- Vulnerable access controls
- Insecure interfaces/APIs
- Misconfiguration of the cloud platform/wrong setup
- Data breaches, loss, and leakage
- Hijacking of accounts
- Insider threats
Q3. How do we prepare our data for cloud migration?
Before moving to the cloud, an enterprise should classify their data in relevant categories – restricted, private, and public – in terms of their value and how critical they are to the business so that sensitive data can be protected effectively. Data classification has become essential when it comes to risk management, compliance, and data security. It also helps you easily access data when it is critical to search and retrieve data within a stipulated timeline.
However, data classification can be a complex and tedious task for enterprises. Leveraging automated processes will allow you to simplify this task once you have: 1) determined your data classification criteria and categories, (2) defined your objectives, (3) outlined the roles and responsibilities of employees in following the protocols, and (4) implemented security standards corresponding to the data categories.
Q4. What is my organization’s responsibility for the security of our digital assets on the cloud?
Usually, when an enterprise considers cloud adoption, it should look for a clear-cut division of responsibility. It is a myth that the sole responsibility of cloud security would lie with the cloud provider once data and applications are moved to the cloud. On the contrary, replacing on-premise physical infrastructure with a cloud-based environment still requires enterprises to take measures to safeguard servers, storage, applications, and data, as well as the cloud platform itself.
Cloud service providers, as mentioned above, do offer robust security controls across layers as per the cloud service delivery model that the customer has chosen. It is the responsibility of the enterprise to leverage those security controls efficiently to safeguard their digital assets on the cloud. The graphic below, which has been adapted from Amazon Web Services, gives an example of how the enterprise and the cloud provider can divide the responsibility for security in the cloud.
Q5. What strategy can we put in place to keep our data and applications secured during and after migrating to the cloud?
Enterprises should have a cloud security framework that addresses their top security challenges or threats. A well-defined framework will help safeguard your data, applications, network, and infrastructure from malware attacks and breaches.
For enterprises in regulated industries such as Healthcare, Insurance, or Financial Services, you should have a security framework that aligns with corresponding regulatory compliance changes. PCI DSS, HIPAA, GLBA, GDPR, and other region-specific regulations demand enterprises to follow stringent security rules for handling sensitive customer data like PHI, PII, PFI, etc. Though adhering to regulations and staying compliant is a demanding business requirement for many organizations, it can successfully be achieved with an efficient security and governance framework.
Q6. What security measures should we include in our cloud security framework?
Enterprises should have a comprehensive cloud security strategy that encompasses the processes and mechanisms that can be used to control the security, compliance, and other risks of cloud computing.
An enterprise’s cloud security strategy should not only address access, risk management, and governance, but should also cover the range of security concerns—from data to application, host, network, perimeter, physical environment, and more. Since security concerns are present across many areas of an organization, an effective way to address them is to break them into manageable parts and organize them based on areas of abstraction. A well-thought cloud security strategy can protect your organization’s valuable assets, arm your enterprise against possible cyberattacks, and allow you to reap the benefits of the cloud with peace of mind.
Q7. How can we effectively implement a cloud security strategy?
To implement and operationalize the critical security measures that will protect your assets effectively across the organization, CIOs and CISOs should build security culture and consciousness across the organization. A simple way to start is to set up organization-wide policies and practices and educate/train employees so that they are aware of those policies. CIOs and CISOs can also share with employees the possible security risks inherent to certain cloud services and establish protocols for what they can do to stay compliant with internal policies and external regulations. To support the security of the organization’s applications and data, it is recommended to conduct a security awareness training program often, make information regarding your security policies accessible, and ensure that your policies and procedures are revisited periodically to keep in line with changing market/regulatory
Although enterprises today need to deliver at digital speed, it is critical to achieve this in such a way that securely protects your organization’s data and assets. A small cloud security lapse can significantly impact customer experience, hurt an enterprise’s brand and reputation, and cost up to millions for the organization. A robust and well-defined security strategy with thoroughly established procedures and countermeasures can help an enterprise build appropriate security into its cloud-based services and systems and successfully leverage the capabilities of cloud technology.
Ready to secure your assets on the cloud? Get in-depth guidance on designing and implementing a successful and secure cloud strategy by using an Enterprise Cloud Security Framework.
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