Cloud computing, or storing data and applications remotely rather than on your own premises, can cut IT infrastructure costs dramatically while speeding up your operations – but is it safe? Despite the rise of public cloud platforms offered by the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, less than 10% of the world’s data is currently stored in the cloud. When companies are having a hard enough time keeping your personal information safe from hackers and data breaches, how safe can it be when it’s in “the cloud?”
Cloud storage solutions may be fine to consider for your pictures and music; however, when you begin to think about the personal information a business has to keep regarding customers and employees, the stakes go up immediately. Nevertheless, we really don’t know where the data is being stored for ourselves, so we cannot always ensure the level of data security that’s being provided. The first level of data security is in physically protecting the hardware that the data is stored on, therefore, it is very important to make an initial backup to a physical device before remotely hosting your files elsewhere.
Files in the cloud are among the most susceptible to being hacked without active security measures in place, and the fact that they are stored and transmitted over the internet is a major risk factor to consider. Even if the cloud service you choose provides encryption for files, data could still be intercepted en route to its destination and unencrypted if the intruder is savvy enough. The best form of security against this threat would be to ensure that the data is encrypted and transmitted over a secure connection, as this will prevent outsiders from accessing the cloud’s metadata as well.
An equally important concern, particularly for government agencies and military, isn’t just the security of the servers themselves; it’s the people who have access to them as a part of their job. It is clear that government agencies and high-profile corporations who rely on individuals with access to personal data may be putting their customers and the public at risk. When hiring employees who will be managing cloud servers, a close examination is the first easy answer to ensuring data security in “the Cloud.”
Most businesses that have held back from adopting the cloud have done so in the fear of having their data leaked to malicious actors. This concern stems from the simple fact that the cloud is a multi-user environment, where all the resources are shared with other users. It is also a third-party service, meaning the data is potentially at risk of being viewed or mishandled by the provider themselves. It is only human nature to doubt the capabilities of a third-party, which seems like an even bigger risk when it comes to businesses and sensitive business data. There are also a number of external threats that can lead to data leakage including malicious hacks of cloud providers or compromises of cloud user accounts. The best strategy is to depend on pre-processed file encryption and stronger passwords, instead of just using what the cloud service provider configures themselves.
A greater concern with cloud storage, though, relates to consumers and who they can hold accountable for the security of their personal information. Current laws provide guidelines for companies that maintain personal information. The laws address how personal information must be protected, used, and ultimately destroyed, as well as penalties for failure to protect that information. These laws include provisions for ensuring that any third party the company gives information to must also protect it as the company would itself.
But when personal information is stored in the cloud, it can become virtually impossible for a consumer to know who actually compromised their personal information. In other words, everyone involved in a data breach could potentially be able to shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s not our fault.”
The basic value proposition of the cloud is that it offers near-unlimited storage for everyone. It also means that even an enterprise’s data will usually be stored along with other customers’ data, leading to potential data breaches from outside parties. This can be mitigated by the fact that cloud access is restricted based on user credentials. While a credential compromise may not give attackers access to the data within your files, it could still allow them to perform other tasks like making copies or deleting them. The only way to overcome this security threat is by encrypting your sensitive data as well as securing your own unique credentials, which might require you to invest in a secure password management service.
The management of cryptographic keys has always been a security risk for enterprises, but the effects have been amplified since the introduction of the cloud- which is why key management needs to be done effectively. Keys should be jointly-secured and the retrieval process should be difficult and tedious, just to make sure that the data can never be accessed without proper authorization. This is the only way to ensure that sensitive data won’t become vulnerable when it is going into the cloud storage infrastructure. While the cloud storage and file-sharing services can offer great value to enterprises for their flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, it is still critical for any sized organization to address these security concerns by implementing a comprehensive cloud security strategy before the full transition to cloud services.
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