Dealing with security vulnerabilities on the cloud

Data breach, data loss, data leakage Both enterprises and cloud providers have nightmares about these, and that’s putting it mildly. When it comes to data, there are several security risks that companies are exposed to, and the risk increases manifold when you decide to store your data on the cloud. Even though cloud solutions offer several benefits, ranging from always-on availability, reduced cost and improved productivity to agility, companies still dread the vulnerabilities that they will be exposed to. In fact, security is one of the prime concerns when it comes to transitioning systems and data to the cloud, and many do not take the leap due to security-related issues.

Wait, there’s more!

When enterprises transfer data to the cloud, there is a loss of control over where and how the systems and data reside, who has access to the data and how the data is going to be transmitted and consumed. Cybercriminals abound and are lurking on the side-lines, waiting to move in on your systems and data. It sounds ominous, but, unfortunately, it’s true. Account hijacking and identity theft are not new, but when data resides in the cloud, these risks increase if proper security protocols are not followed.

Cloud configuration management involves setting up your hardware and software infrastructure for the cloud environment to ensure that the various elements can communicate efficiently while keeping apps and data safe and secure. Compromising on cloud configuration management can lead to unauthorised access to data and further to a major data leak, system outages, service disruptions and Intellectual Property (IP) theft. Enterprises typically upload many of their sensitive files onto the cloud. If these files are accessed by attackers or hackers, it can lead to data deletion or data alteration, wherein these users remove or modify these files. In a worst-case scenario, it can also lead to a ransomware attack wherein cybercriminals hold the company to ransom to gain access to their data. Not just external threats, but any unauthorised insider either within the cloud provider or enterprise can also prove to be dangerous.

Compliance regulations such as the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Act (GDPR) apply to data in the cloud. By moving data to the cloud, enterprises can unwittingly expose themselves to compliance violations or contract breaches with customers. Cloud computing also requires Application Program Interfaces (APIs) that help the various applications communicate. Poorly designed and faulty APIs that do not have sufficient authentication and authorisation controls can lead to several vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

Every cloud has a silver lining

Pun intended. Cloud solutions offer immense benefits to corporations, and it is, therefore, worthwhile to address the possible vulnerabilities and take proactive steps to minimise security risks.

Cloud infrastructure can get very complex, very quickly. Robust cloud configuration management is required to ensure that all hardware and software interfaces are fully secured. To avoid misconfiguration, have standardised person-independent practices that are well documented. Review configuration management tools and processes periodically and adopt a change management process to ensure that every transition happens according to procedure. Use proven configuration management tools and platforms for proactive security management. Maintain a razor-focus on operations and security to minimise vulnerabilities.

Backup data frequently to minimise the risks of data and IP theft and malicious attacks. Offline and geo-diversified backups are important to ensure continuity at all times. Invest in Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software to help monitor, detect and prevent unauthorised movement of sensitive data. Protect the enterprise against compliance violations by getting the legal department to thoroughly vet the cloud service agreements and cloud and data security provider policies. Maintain a well-documented response plan for incidents. Access and authorisation management and a data governance framework should be implemented. Event logs should be created and automatically monitored to raise flags for any unauthorised access.

Cloud service contracts should have clauses for periodic monitoring, reviewing, and auditing of the stored data, systems and processes implemented by the cloud provider. There should be an exit clause, so that there are no legal implications at a later date. Employees should be informed and trained about security vulnerabilities that arise from cloud services, data protection and privacy.

With public, private and hybrid cloud models at play, and the massive digital transformation of enterprises, it is critical to understand the risks of using cloud services. Staying abreast of legal and compliance requirements, understanding specific risks related to the business and using robust tools and platforms* to implement access, authorisation and configuration management will help the enterprise proactively identify vulnerabilities.

Yes, there are ways to ensure that your Chief Security Officer (CSO) has a dreamless sleep!

*For organizations on the digital transformation journey, agility is key in responding to a rapidly changing technology and business landscape. Now more than ever, it is crucial to deliver and exceed on organizational expectations with a robust digital mindset backed by innovation. Enabling businesses to sense, learn, respond and evolve like a living organism, will be imperative for business excellence going forward. A comprehensive, yet modular suite of services is doing exactly that. Equipping organizations with intuitive decision-making automatically at scale, actionable insights based on real-time solutions, anytime/anywhere experience, and in-depth data visibility across functions leading to hyper-productivity, Live Enterprise is building connected organizations that are innovating collaboratively for the future.

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