NordLayer - Network Security

Cloud Data Protection: best practices


By NordLayer
9 Jun 2022
10 min read
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Rather than owning their servers, modern companies tend to rent storage and application access for a subscription fee. It makes perfect sense as it’s much cheaper to outsource infrastructure to cloud service providers. They’ll take care of maintenance with better flexibility if suddenly you’ll need to scale up your operations.

On the flip side, this also means that keeping your data stored externally means it’s much more susceptible to online attacks. Hackers are adapting to changing business preferences — cloud server misconfigurations were the cause of some of last year’s most significant data breaches.

In turn, most organizations are looking into balancing the benefits that cloud computing brings while trying to overcome risks associated with externally kept data. Over time, this has evolved into a separate discipline known as cloud data protection. Here’s what you should know about it.

What is Cloud Data Protection?

Cloud data protection is a collective term for policies, technologies, and applications to secure cloud-based data. Its practices should cover all stages of data moving in and out of a cloud environment encompassing long-term archiving and in-transit when uploaded from the user’s device.

Organizations use the cloud in various deployment and service models, and cloud data protection helps to put the proper controls in place to ensure data security. This framework is independent of whoever owns or supervises the network. The main goal is to safeguard any weaknesses that cloud infrastructure has, distinguishing several main types.

Deterrent — policies intended to ward off potential attackers. While most hackers ignore them anyway, it does help to repel those who are less experienced or are looking for easily exploitable networks.

Preventative — policies and applications directly contribute to the system’s resilience against unauthorized access. Firewall, endpoint protection, and two-factor authentication help minimize the attack surface that a hacker could use for its advantage.

Detective — controls intended to detect and monitor ongoing or past incidents. Usually, preventative and detective controls work in tandem, i.e., suspicious behavior will automatically trigger a system-wide lockdown to prevent data loss.

Corrective — various methods limit the damage after the incident has already happened. They could range from written post-mortem detailing how the attack occurred to regular data backup plans.

Why is data protection in the cloud important?

The majority of organizations have already digitized some of their day-to-day operations. During the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, this accelerated a great deal, facilitating the adoption of cloud storage services.

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for a company to store confidential customer data in public, private, and hybrid clouds. While this frees up the company’s internal IT department from maintenance and the requirement to set up a physical server, it also opens up a company to a lot of additional risks:

  • Cloud providers and companies usually share responsibilities to ensure data security. So, while a cloud provider provides some of its data protection in the cloud, the client may not always have a full view of its infrastructure.

  • The shared responsibility model doesn’t always mean that both parties clearly understand their responsibilities.

  • Organizations might not even know where their data is stored. The cloud provider can move it across the infrastructure without the organization ever finding out. Sometimes multiple clients can be using the same server.

  • Public clouds have a much larger volume of incoming and outgoing traffic, making it harder to pinpoint suspicious connections.

  • If an organization relies on multiple cloud providers, the security may be inconsistent, which hackers could exploit.

  • Some data may be subject to regulatory compliance, requiring appropriate security measures for its protection.

Address these risks by applying cloud data security practices. While some risks can be unavoidable, cloud data security ensures that the risks remain minimal.

Cloud Data Protection Best Practices

You can do a lot to make cloud-hosted data security higher. Here are the best industry practices that help to mitigate cloud data protection risks.

Have a clear division of responsibilities

The data center isn’t responsible for the server security. They are just providing a framework to build on. Usually, they only provide hardware and provide software for its management. The configurations, however, would usually fall on the client.

Your overall security status will depend on both parties sharing the responsibility of ensuring data security in the cloud. It will only work if both parties have clear responsibilities and each carries out its share.

Do your research

Before shaking hands with a provider, you should look into what tools for remote management of your data it offers. If compliance regulations apply to your industry, ensure that your cloud provider has the proper certificates. If you’re using an uncertified provider, you may not meet the compliance standards.

Don’t forget to find everything else to know about your provider — look for any previous data breach reports and see if your provider’s name pops up. The more you know beforehand, the easier it will be to decide.

Secure gaps between systems

The more cloud environments you’re relying on, the more gaps in your infrastructure that malicious individuals could exploit. It’s the organization’s responsibility to identify them and implement potential solutions.

It’s not enough to trust that the cloud provider vendor will take care of everything and that there’s no need to do anything else. Implementing additional measures will help you control the hosted data and ensure its security status.

Encrypt everything

As a general rule, data encryption should cover everything in the cloud. That way, even if someone managed to get a hold of the server, it would be impossible to access the server’s contents without its private key.

Encrypting files before transfer to cloud storage is also a good practice. In addition, it’s possible to fragment your data into shards and store them across multiple clouds. Even if a hacker could access a small amount of data, it would remain useless.

Strict access permissions

Make sure that only the users that need to access the data can access the data. Enforce strong credential policies and add additional IP allowlists to allow only specific IP ranges to connect to your network.

Audit your permissions and set your credential lifecycle terms. Avoid password reuse and keep refreshed constantly to avoid other database dumps affecting your database’s security.

Secure end-user devices

User-controlled endpoints are the most susceptible part of your network infrastructure. Private gadgets used at work or as a part of the bring your own device (BYOD) policy can be a severe threat. They can function as an attack vector to gain entry into your cloud environment.

To prevent this, you should engage in active traffic monitoring, restricting traffic on your network perimeter and restricting what data can exit or enter your systems.

Have an exit strategy

With your cloud-hosting vendor, it would help if you devised an incident response plan outlining the actions taken after the data breach. Having a written plan will help you react more quickly and bounce back from the initial shock.

Dedicate some sections to when a data breach occurs to give you additional insights into what should happen when the detection software finds an unauthorized agent on your internal network.

Main cloud data protection benefits

Taking appropriate cloud data security measures helps protect company data privacy and significantly affects your network security. Here are the main benefits that cloud data security brings.

Active security risk mitigation. Keeping data outside the company allows one to have a complete overview of what data is going in and out of the server—via active monitoring.

Govern data access. Partition cloud servers can allow specific users into specific servers with varying levels of access rights. Allow better control of who has access to what files and which files were downloaded by whom.

Data and security policies. Implementation of cloud network protection usually involves an action plan detailing many internal practices. Often, this can be a good starting point to develop fully-fledged data and security policies to prepare an organization better to withstand any cyber threats that it could experience in the future.

Data loss prevention. Cloud data protection connects to broader data loss prevention. It should have other benefits related to minimizing risks for accidental leaks from the employees, which could be further difficult with data access segmentation.

Protect your cloud data with NordLayer

Achieve cloud data security by implementing the Zero Trust security model. Not to mention that transitioning to SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) framework uses a cloud framework to deliver network security point solutions.

NordLayer provides an adaptive network security solution that easily integrates within your existing infrastructure to help your organization achieve greater data privacy and security and facilitate remote working.

Get in touch with our team and discover the easy route to increase your cloud data security wherever you’re hosting it.

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