Technological advancements in the field of computing have led to astonishing results in recent years.
Cloud computing today has taken precedence over offline data storage and processing. From individual users to large corporations, everyone is now opting for cloud-based applications to enable remote access and easy data storage over a period.
Cloud service providers are ever-expanding their operations now and are introducing innovative protocols to cater to the needs of millions of users. One can enumerate some of the advantages of cloud-based services as:
- Data processing at lightning-fast speeds
- Vast storage options at affordable costs
- No stress of safeguarding physical copies of the data
- Increased efficiency in DBMS and knowledge sharing
- Convenient data access through remote control in any part of the world
- Organizations reduce their carbon footprint by utilizing resources judiciously and only when they need it
- 24/7 availability of service providers has improved customer satisfaction
With the advantages that cloud services have to offer, there’s also a risk of security threats and attacks that intend to either destroy, access or sell your data stored on the cloud illegally. Cyber-attacks on such services can result in heavy losses, both of data and money. Many corporations store their intellectual property, such as product prototypes, financial information, trade methodologies, etc.
Thus, with the constant risk of losing the data and information, users should put preventive measures in place. Each data is valuable in some or another way, and there are several steps and security protocols one can follow to protect their data. Let’s take a look at 8 effective steps for securing data and information with the cloud.
1. Creating local backups
Let’s face it, however secure and diligent your cloud service provider seems to be, many factors are beyond their control, too, when it comes to data security. Power outages and internet disruption are two such factors that can lead to data loss over the cloud. Damages due to accidents, natural calamities, etc., can also lead to data loss if the server is damaged.
Hence, it is recommended to create local backups in individual storage systems or corporate servers locally created and monitored. There’s no harm in going old school if you think that such risks are a prominent threat to your data.
2. Avoid sensitive data and information
As much as possible, avoid using the cloud services for storing any sensitive information that may lead to heavy losses if lost or stolen. They can be anything from personally identifiable material like credit cards or any passwords related to the financial information of any organization. Cloud storage should be used only for data that you really need to access frequently and from insecure connections from anywhere on earth. There’s always a chance of phishing attacks on un-secure server locations, and one must be vigilant while accessing cloud services through these networks.
3. Cloud services that encrypt your data
Using cloud services that encrypt your data is another very effective method of avoiding losses. The data is normally locally encrypted and would require decryption every time it is accessed. It not only adds security strength but also protects the data from being accessed by anyone accidentally. This method also safeguards your data against the service providers themselves. Thus it acts as a virtual vault which only you can access.
4. Encrypting data before uploading
Real-time encrypting and decrypting your data can be troublesome when it comes to using cloud storage. While the method is full-proof and easiest to secure the data, uploading and downloading time duration can be high depending upon the network service provider. Moreover, real-time encrypting and decrypting data that you use frequently can be annoying.
Thus, another alternative is to encrypt the data before uploading it to the cloud server. One can do this through a cloud protection application that can generate passwords for your data. This, along with using real-time encryption, can help add an additional layer of security.
5. Create strong, secure passwords
Care should be taken while creating passwords to protect your data online. Encrypting your data locally is easy, but the only catch is to create passwords that cannot be hacked easily. A combination of different words and alphanumeric characters can help you generate a strong password. Also, avoid using the same combination of passwords online as it gets easier for hackers to understand the pattern and break your password. Apart from this, your online activity can also be detrimental to the security of your data if you don’t pay enough attention.
6. Securing end-user devices
Suppose the data and information stored by you on the cloud are meant to be accessed by a close user group, such as a research and development team. In that case, the number of systems accessing the data can be restricted, and you should secure these end-user systems. The reason is that most of the time, security breaches happen due to human error.
Securing the end-user devices can ensure proper flow and monitoring of data and information. Similarly, even if there’s a loophole at one node, it can be covered up by another node. Thus, the data can be accessed through trusted devices only.
7. Securing On-device applications
Applications installed on the devices that regularly access data and information from the cloud services can have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to breach the security protocols. That is the most important reason why all applications that run on your system must be regularly updated. Regular update packages contain security patches that are designed to secure the apps and the data as a whole. Also, you must install only trusted applications on the device accessing the data in case of compassionate data access.
8. Use multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication is a step forward beyond the traditional username-password approach. Along with the login credentials, users must authenticate themselves through third-party applications or an additional security protocol before getting access to cloud-based data and information. Security experts believe that since 2015, MFA has become essential for all corporations and business organizations. All employees dealing with sensitive information must have an MFA to access such information.
Importance of Cloud Security
Organizations that have migrated or are still migrating to cloud-based services for their computing needs have a challenge in front of them. Companies must understand that, by and large, the data they gather and process to get valuable information is in some or the other way related to the common interest of the people. Essential service providers such as those working in finance, healthcare, energy, utilities, etc., need to have stringent security protocols in place to protect the data they are uploading on the cloud.
There are several statutory and regulatory implications that, if overlooked, can result in heavy fines and losses on the grounds of non-compliance.
So how critical is cloud security in today’s world? A survey conducted by BitGlass for the ‘2020 Cloud Security Report’ reached the following conclusions:
- 33% of the respondents were extremely concerned regarding the security of cloud services
- 40% of them showed critical concerns and even highlighted a number of loopholes in the current security laws and policies
- Only 20% of the respondents were either least concerned or not at all bothered about the security
The survey was conducted on IT professionals, who are a part of companies forced to carry out 85% of their operations remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has increased unprecedented pressure on the cloud computing service providers too.
Not only that, the increasing cyber-terrorism is posing a global threat to the privacy of common people who make use of technology. Unknowingly, they might be exposed to cyber-threats due to loopholes in cloud security protocols.
For example, a simple application on your smartphone may use an unreliable cloud service provider due to cost concerns. Thus you are directly at risk and don’t even know about it!
The ongoing pandemic has made one thing crystal clear that cloud computing is the way forward for businesses. Same as artificial intelligence, cloud computing is fast becoming the backbone of the IT sector. Constant security threats will always be prevalent, but our innovation and diligent approach can help beat these threats easily.