Late last year, Gartner predicted that by 2022, 90% of organisations would be using cloud services. A survey by 451 Research found that 45% of workloads were hosted on the cloud in 2018, with this expected to rise to as much as 60% this year.
For businesses looking for new ways to manage their processes in a way that is both cost-effective and efficient, this makes sense. Cloud services are designed to be easy to use and there is nothing to install or maintain in-house. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access your information from any location. This makes it convenient to share resources among staff who might be based all over the world, work from home or use portable devices on a regular basis.
It is often assumed that cloud computing also offers more security for your business’s sensitive information. If your organisation doesn’t have a lot of resources to dedicate to cybersecurity, the benefits offered by many cloud providers could be an improvement on the protection your data would get if stored locally.
However, relying on this assumption could put your business at risk.
Cybercriminal knowledge and activity evolves at almost the same pace as new technology – and cloud service companies are a popular target. Storing the sensitive data of multiple different companies means that a single successful attack could have huge pay-outs. Cyberattacks have been specifically developed to target cloud-based information.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to security. If you adopt off-the-shelf cloud services, you won’t get security that is tailored to you.
You can mitigate risk by carefully choosing a provider that is familiar with concerns specific to your industry or that shows a genuine understanding of the needs of your business. This means being confident that they are familiar with privacy regulations applicable to your sector. They should also be committed to upholding any contractual obligations between you and your clients or stakeholders concerning data held by your business.
You need to be as confident in cloud services as you would be with any other third-party provider with access to your data. Crucially, anyone who handles your information needs to proactively defend their potential vulnerabilities by consistently implementing and adhering to security and compliance policies of their own.
Even if you do thorough research and find a cloud provider that promised reliable safeguards, you still need to incorporate a security strategy of your own.
A global survey conducted by Gemalto in 2018 found that 71% of IT experts found it more difficult to protect sensitive data in the cloud using their conventional security measures and that security considerations were often left out of decisions about cloud resources. This is further supported by a survey by IDC in which 47% of executives described their cloud security strategies as “opportunistic or ad hoc”, with only 3% defining them as “optimised”.
While the tools typically used to protect locally stored information won’t be applicable to the cloud, building a security strategy in a similar way will be.
Match your security strategy to your cloud provider
Firstly, familiarise yourself as much as you can with your cloud provider’s security practices. No out-of-the-box service will ever be able to cover everyone’s unique business needs, but you can protect yourself by being aware of any gaps left by your provider. When you come to building your own security strategy, factor in processes that address them directly to ensure that your total security coverage is as effective as possible.
Encrypt and back up your information
This is the kind of security advice that should go without saying, but it is always worth repeating. Back up your data as much as you possibly can and you minimise the damage caused if your files get deleted or corrupted. Even if your cloud provider says they’ll encrypt your information for you, it can never hurt to do it yourself too. It is quick and easy and free and adds a valuable extra layer of security.
Protect all device that access your cloud-based resources
Many people depend on the convenience of portable devices. But if you must access sensitive data, don’t do it from just any old laptop you have lying around. Malicious files can move either way – if your cloud provider has been compromised your hardware could be at risk and if your laptop has been infected you can take down the whole cloud. Make sure that every machine you use to connect to the cloud is protected and you can defend against a lot of damage.
Continuously monitor your cybersecurity status
Technology moves so rapidly that it is unwise to trust that you are as secure today as you were yesterday. There is no substitute for a real time audit that can show you exactly how well your security measures are performing. Make sure your software is regularly patched, review your policies often and stay on top of your processes to ensure that they are still working for you as effectively as they need to be.