How to better protect data on the cloud

Today, a majority of e-commerce businesses incorporate some aspect of cloud computing in their day-to-day operations. Many organizations use cloud solutions to store live data and backups, run data processing tools, and host various communication and collaboration platforms. Although the cloud is a convenient, cost-effective enterprise resource, there’re valid concerns over data security and privacy in cloud systems.

A recent report shows that cloud-based cyberattacks more than doubled in 2019; the cloud is now the third-most targeted IT infrastructure after corporate networks and e-commerce systems. However, enterprise cloud solutions are incredibly secure; the risks depend on the users’ understanding of the cloud environment, the security controls in place, and the cloud’s setup.

With that in mind, here are four easy ways to better protect your cloud data:

Use an encrypted cloud service

Encryption basically means encoding data into formats or sets that only users with certain authorization can access or decipher. All cloud solutions are not equal — data encryption as usually either a standard or extra feature. Go for a cloud service or provider that supports zero-knowledge encryption when uploading data to cloud storage.

Additionally, double down on your end with robust file-level encryption for an extra layer of data protection.

Enforce a strong password policy

Passwords have become alarmingly easy to crack. Hackers often use powerful malware and computers to launch brute force, dictionary, rainbow table, and social engineering attacks to access privileged user accounts. For the most part, poor password management gives hackers an upper hand. In a recent survey, Google found that 52 percent of users recycle passwords on multiple accounts. Moreover, users generally like to create ridiculously weak passwords, share their logins, and reuse passwords on corporate and personal accounts.

Create and enforce a strong password policy describing strict password usage rules, such as acceptable password length and character mix, non-reuse, and mandatory periodic password updates.

Implement multi-factor authentication

Traditional username/password logins are not enough to secure remote data. That’s because you have limited control over who might try to access online accounts, and even strong passwords are not immune to theft. The only way around the remote access problem is by positively identifying users before granting them login permissions.

MFA lets you authenticate users by verifying more than one identifier. Most MFA systems prompt users to provide a one-time password or PIN sent to their personal contact channels (phone, email, etc.) after entering the right username-password combination. Some advanced systems go as far as analyzing the users’ geographic location and behavior to make sure they’re not impostors.

Secure your network and end-user devices

You could further reinforce the in-built cybersecurity measure in cloud solutions by safeguarding your end-user devices. Start a company-wide campaign to install strong anti-malware and antivirus protection on all devices that access cloud services, from workstations and laptops to smartphones. Also, ensure that essential security programs, operating systems, and middleware are all up to date and patched with the latest fixes.

If employees use their own devices or work from home, there is only so much you can do to control end-user security. In such cases, protect your cloud network by tunneling its access through a VPN, monitoring traffic for unusual activities, and setting up impenetrable firewalls. Many cloud cyberattacks target vulnerable access points such as end-user devices and network nodes, so focus a great deal of effort and resources on securing them.

Data security assurance is not always guaranteed when using cloud solutions to store sensitive information. The level and effectiveness of cloud storage security largely depend on the measures you have in place and how you control those measures. Remember, minor oversights, critical misconfigurations, and small mistakes could easily form gateways for data breaches. The takeaway is, play your part — simple security considerations like the ones discussed above can go a long way in protecting precious data on the cloud.