Cloud computing opens up a myriad of opportunities for businesses, but it also presents some unique security challenges to address. In this article we’ll take a look at cloud security challenges and how companies can overcome them efficiently.
Moving your business to the cloud offers a range of benefits for enterprises, both large and small ones. Cloud computing is a term used to describe the use of hardware and software delivered via network (usually the Internet). The term comes from the use of cloud shaped symbol that represents abstraction of rather complex infrastructure that enables the work of software, hardware, computation and remote services.
By using these type of services, businesses usually “rent” the capabilities of larger set of applications, reducing the need to buy, maintain or upgrade the software and infrastructure. End users access cloud-based applications usually through web browser or desktop/mobile application, while the data and computation are stored on remote servers (cloud).
Cloud usage and benefits
According to a study by RightScale, in which they surveyed 1000 IT professionals, 96% of respondents use cloud (link).
Both public and private cloud adoption have increased in the last year. The number of respondents now adopting public cloud is 92 percent, up from 89 percent in 2017, while the number of respondents now adopting private cloud is 75 percent, up from 72 percent in 2017. As a result, the overall portion of respondents using at least one public or private cloud is now 96 percent.
The rate of cloud adoption will continue to rise in 2018 and beyond. As more and more CIOs remain troubled by rising IT infrastructure costs and problems of delivering availability, security and performance, adopting cloud infrastructure become a natural step to resolving these problems. With cloud adoption growing among enterprises, forward-thinking CIOs are looking for ways to improve their Internet performance and security, while reducing costs.
Some of the major business advantages of cloud computing:
1. Cost reduction – while some companies are concerned about the cost of migration to the cloud, once you’re on the cloud, cost savings are obvious. Easy access to company’s data saves time and money, and cloud infrastructure is cheaper than on-premises hardware you have tu buy and upgrade with time.
2. Flexiblity – the cloud offers businesses more flexibility overall versus hosting on a local server. And, if you need extra bandwidth, a cloud-based service can meet that demand instantly, rather than undergoing a complex (and expensive) update to your IT infrastructure. This improved freedom and flexibility can make a significant difference to the overall efficiency of your organization.
3. Mobility – the cloud allows mobile access to enterprise data via smartphones which means that workers with busy schedules, or those living long way from corporate office, can use this feature to instantly keep up-to-date with clients and coworkers.
4. Quality control – by using the cloud, all of the company’s data is stored in single format and in one location. With everyone accessing the same information, you can maintain consistency in data, avoid human error, and have a clear record of any revisions or updates.
5. Scalability – Scalability and elasticity via dynamic (“on-demand”) provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis in near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads. This gives the ability to scale up when the usage need increases or down if resources are not being used.
But what about security?
Cloud security is a debated topic, with some claiming that the cloud is not secure. Some companies are concerned with the fact that if their data is stored on someone else’s servers (cloud provider), and that data is accesible from anywhere, how can they be sure that their data is safe from unwanted use by cyber criminals.
Most of these concerns are unwarranted. RapidScale claims that 94 percent of businesses saw an improvement in security after switching to the cloud, and 91 percent said the cloud makes it easier to meet government compliance requirements. The key to this amped-up security is the encryption of data being transmitted over networks and stored in databases.
By using encryption, information is less accessible by hackers or anyone not authorized to view your data. As an added security measure, with most cloud-based services, different security settings can be set based on the user.
Cloud security is often as good as or better than other traditional systems, in part because service providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford to tackle or which they lack the technical skills to address.
Still, cloud security faces some challenges and threats that need to be addressed to make sure that all data is safely stored.
Cloud security challenges
Here are the major security challenges that companies using cloud infrastructure have to prepare for.
A data breach might be the primary objective of a targeted attack or simply the result of human error, application vulnerabilities, or poor security practices. It might involve any kind of information that was not intended for public release, including personal health information, financial information, personally identifiable information, trade secrets, and intellectual property. An organization’s cloud-based data may have value to different parties for different reasons.
Since cloud enables acess to company’s data from anywhere, companies need to make sure that not everyone has access to that data. This is done through various policies and guardrails that ensure only legitimate users have access to vital information, and bad actors are left out.
Implementing a cloud computing strategy means placing critical data in the hands of a third party, so ensuring the data remains secure both at rest (data residing on storage media) as well as when in transit is of paramount importance. Data needs to be encrypted at all times, with clearly defined roles when it comes to who will be managing the encryption keys. In most cases, the only way to truly ensure confidentiality of encrypted data that resides on a cloud provider’s storage servers is for the client to own and manage the data encryption keys.
Denial of service (DoS/DDoS attacks)
Distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS), like any denial-of-service attack (DoS), has as its final goal to stop the functioning of the targeted site so that no one can access it. The services of the targeted host connected to the internet are then stopped temporarily, or even indefinitely.
Advanced persistent threats (APTs)
APTs are a parasitical form of cyber attack that infiltrates systems to establish a foothold in the IT infrastructure of target companies, from which they steal data. APTs pursue their goals stealthily over extended periods of time, often adapting to the security measures intended to defend against them.
The cloud is not completely immune to security issues – no system will ever be. Bad actors are always developing new ways of exploiting security vulnerabilities and attacking systems, and often it’s the human error that causes data breaches, loss of information and other unwanted consenqences.
Still, cloud infrastructure is safer that traditional IT on-premises infrastructure, and it also brings with it other benefits like reduced costs, scalability and flexibility. Security threats directed toward cloud are on the rise – but so are security solutions developed to protect sensitive data and websites from malicious attacks.
If you have any questions about how to effectively adopt the cloud for your business, or how to optimize your cloud performance and reduce costs, contact us today to help you out with your performance and security needs.