Demystifying Cloud Security

Cloud-based IT systems perform important functions in almost all modern sectors. Businesses, non-profit organisations, governments and even educational institutions use The Cloud to expand the reach of the market, analyse performance, manage human resources and offer better services. Of course, effective Cloud security governance is essential for any entity wishing to reap the benefits of distributed IT.

Like all IT domains, Cloud technology faces unique security problems. Although the idea of ​​maintaining data security in The Cloud has long been considered an unmanageable paradox, extensive industry operations reveal numerous techniques that offer effective protection. Because Cloud service providers maintain FedRAMP compliance, effective Cloud protection is feasible and practical in the real world.

Draw a Safety Roadmap

No IT security project can work without a solid plan. Practices involving The Cloud should vary, depending on the domains and implementations you're trying to protect.

For example, suppose a local government agency establishes a policy to bring its own device (or BYOD). You may need to activate monitoring controls other than what you would have if you simply forbid employees from accessing your organisation's network using their private laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Similarly, a company that wanted to make its data further available to sanctioned consumers by storing it in The Cloud would probably have to take different measures to monitor access than it would if maintaining its physical databases and servers.

This does not mean (as some have suggested) that successfully maintaining a secure Cloud is any safer than maintaining security on a private LAN. Studies have revealed that the effectiveness of different security measures in The Cloud is dependent on how they stick to to certain proven policies. For Cloud products and services that use government data and resources, these best practices are defined as part of the Federal Risk Management and Authorisation Program (or FedRAMP).

What Is The Federal Risk Management And Authorisation Program?

The Federal Risk Management and Authorisation Program is an official process employed by federal agencies to judge the effectiveness of Cloud technology services and products. Basically, there are standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in several Special Publication or SP documents, and the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS). These standards focus on effective Cloud-based protection.

The program provides guidelines for many common security tasks in The Cloud. These include effective incident management, the use of forensic techniques to investigate infringements, contingency planning to maintain resource availability and risk management. The program also includes protocols for third-party accreditation organisations - or 3PAO - which evaluate Cloud implementations on a case-by-case basis. Maintaining compliance with the 3PAO certification is a clear sign that an IT integrator or supplier is ready to maintain information security in The Cloud.

Effective Security Practices

So, how can companies maintain data security with commercial providers? Although there are numerous important techniques, some are certainly noteworthy:

Supplier Verification

Trust is the basis of any solid working relationship, but that must start somewhere. Regardless of how reputable a Cloud service provider might be, it's important for you to verify their regulatory practices and compliance.

Government IT security standards often incorporate audit and scoring strategies. Checking the past performance of the Cloud service provider is a good way to find out if you're worthy of future business. People who have .gov and .mil email addresses can similarly have access to FedRAMP security packages linked with diverse providers to prove their compliance requests.

Take a Proactive Role

Although services like Amazon Web Services and Umbrellar Azure Stack confirm their adherence to established standards, complete Cloud security requires more than one component. Depending on the package of purchased Cloud services, you may need to address the implementation of some key features of the provider or inform them that they must follow specific security procedures.

For example, if you are a manufacturer of medical devices, laws such as Health Insurance Portability and the Accountability Act or HIPAA may require additional measures to safeguard consumer health data. These requirements often exist regardless of what your supplier needs to do to maintain your certification from the Federal Risk Management and Authorisation Program.

At a minimum, you will be solely responsible for maintaining security practices that cover organisational interaction with Cloud systems. For example, it's necessary to establish secure password policies for staff and customers. Any mistakes can jeopardise the implementation of the most effective Cloud security, so take responsibility now.

What you do with your Cloud services ultimately affects the effectiveness of your security features. Your employees can engage in hidden practices, such as sharing documents via Gmail or Skype. For the sake of ease however, these seemingly harmless acts could hinder your carefully established Cloud protection plans. In addition to training staff on how to use authorised services appropriately, it's necessary to teach them how to avoid the pitfalls that involve unofficial data flows.

Understand the Terms of Your Cloud Service to Control Risk

Hosting your data in The Cloud does not necessarily give you the same tasks you would normally have with automatic archiving. Some providers reserve the right to scan your content, so that they can run ads or analyse the use of their products. Others may need to access your information during technical support.

In some cases, data exposure is not a big deal. However, when it comes to personally identifiable information or payment details, it's easy to see how third-party access can cause a major problem.

It could be impossible to completely avoid access to a remote system or database. However, collaborating with suppliers who publish audit records and system access records keeps you informed as to whether your data is stored securely. This knowledge contributes greatly to assisting involved parties lessen the adverse effects of any non-compliance that occurs.

Never Assume That Security Is a One-Off Affair

Most intelligent people change their personal passwords on a regular basis. Shouldn't you also be diligent with Cloud-based IT security?

Regardless of how often the supplier's compliance strategy dictates conducting automated audits, it's necessary to clearly define and implement your own set of standards for routine evaluation. In a situation where you're also bound by compliance requirements, you should adopt a rigorous regime that allows you to honour your commitments, even if your Cloud service provider does not do so regularly.

Create Cloud Security Deployments That Work

The actual security of The Cloud is not a mystical city that extends forever beyond the horizon. Being a consolidated process, it is within reach of most IT users and service providers, regardless of the standards with which they comply.

By adopting the practices described in this article, you can achieve and maintain security standards that keep your data safe, without drastically increasing operating costs.

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