The use of cloud based applications can make things easier for your business: you can save money on infrastructure and let someone else manage the day-to-day hardware and software headaches. However, using the cloud in your business can invite headaches of its own, especially when it comes to ensuring the safety of your data. With security breaches reported worldwide at large and small firms alike, this has become a huge issue for consumers and all stakeholders in any business with a lot of data to store (which is just about every organisation). Here are some ways to ensure the security of your business data when using the cloud.
Limit sensitive information
The easiest way to avoid security vulnerabilities in the cloud is to not put your most sensitive data out there. If you already have a secure network and know that it is more difficult to breach than if this data were in the cloud, you are best off to leave it where it is. Remember, though, that in-house networks are not necessarily secure, either, so you will want to take some of the same precautions discussed below in any case.
If you do put data in the cloud (or even if you don’t), encryption of data is very important. One way is to zip your data files and lock them in a way that they can only be accessed with a password. Even if you are using in-house servers, this is a good idea. Also, it helps to find a cloud service that offers local encryption and decryption of your files. Make sure you use a service which meets your needs, particularly if you need to share information securely.
Secure your passwords
And speaking of passwords, keep in mind that most people use very weak passwords. Even worse is the prevalence of using the same password for multiple accounts. One way to easily avoid this is to encourage users to use a trusted password manager such as lastpass.com which can create very strong passwords like 3@0j&*PRe@j0AJ0C4v ) for each site and then auto-filled the password when the site is visited. For passwords which have to be typed in frequently use multiple words with some peculiar punctuation known only to you with a smattering of character substitutions; in order to comply with any password policy. These are then easier to remember and easier to type. For example: #Strawb3rrySwitchBlad3! Or #R3m3mb3rYourTow3l! Obviously pick your own punctuation characters and substitutions. If you have a poor memory like I do then store these in your secure password manager as well.
Be sure your cloud provider uses the best, most up-to-date vulnerability and incident response tools. Regular assessments should be able to be done to test for weaknesses and develop emergency response procedures.
Well-defined and enforced data deletion policy
If data is not needed anymore (or if you are mandated to delete data after a certain time period), be sure it is deleted in a timely manner and that there are regular procedures for doing so.
Be certain your cloud service allows you to set user-specific access and editing permissions. The more granular the roles, the more control you will have over setting access to your data.
Virtual private cloud and network
For greater security avoid multiple-tenant instances and see if your cloud provider can create a network dedicated just to your data. Amazon Web Services, for example, refers to this as a Virtual Private Cloud. Your organization has all the access and privacy of an in-house operation, but with the convenience of the cloud.
Seek out rigorous compliance certifications (and read users agreements!)
Your cloud service provider should have appropriate security certifications. PCI DSS (Payment Card Data Security Standard) requires high standards of security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and similar protections. SOC 2 Type II (Service Organization Control) certification verifies that a cloud service is designed for and rigorously managed to maintain the highest security standards. When asking about certifications, don’t forget to read the user agreements to determine exactly what they are offering. This will also give you a better idea of what to expect and how the cloud service works.
Speak To Us
If you want to use cloud services for your data but are concerned about security, you might want to consult an expert. At Brandon Cross we have a long record of helping business customers protect their most sensitive information and can help answer your questions. We offer consultation on how to improve security practices with your native or third party applications. We can also discuss bespoke development – which may be the most time and cost effective way of maximising data security in your business. There are effective solutions to suit all budgets and business models, but if you have any doubts about your data security arrangements we recommend you take action sooner than later. Even a small data breach or noncompliance carries serious financial and reputational risk for your business.