Cloud services are widely used in corporate environments for various purposes, including accessing productivity tools in Microsoft 365 and deploying IT infrastructure through Amazon Web Services (AWS).
These cloud services enable firms to operate faster, leveraging agile technology to accelerate business processes, often at reduced costs.
However, using any cloud service comprises challenges and risks associated with data security in the cloud. The cloud customer is responsible for ensuring the security of data created, transferred, and retrieved.
Effectively protecting cloud data necessitates both visibility and control. In the following article, we have outlined a basic set of cloud security best practices that can assist enterprises in creating a secure cloud environment and effectively addressing cloud security concerns.
Top 5 Cloud Application Security Best Practices
Outline a Cloud Security Policy
A cloud security policy is a formal set of guidelines that companies follow to ensure safe and secure operations in the cloud. There are several cost-effective approaches to creating a cloud security policy:
- Modify existing information security policies for the cloud by adding relevant components that address cloud security within the existing policy structure.
- Research examples of online policies and customise them to suit your company's specific needs.
- Evaluate and select software solutions from various vendors that facilitate the rapid creation of cloud security policies.
When developing a cloud security policy, follow these essential steps:
- Identify the business purpose for implementing cloud security and the need for a corresponding policy.
- Create a project plan outlining the tasks and policy development and approval timeline.
- Assemble a team responsible for drafting the policy. Seek input and feedback from legal, HR, internal/IT audit, and risk management departments.
- Review the draft policy before submitting it for management approval.
- Gain management approval and disseminate the policy to all employees.
- Map out a process for periodic policy review and updates using change management procedures.
- Schedule and prepare for annual policy audits.
Conduct a Risk Assessment
Run a risk assessment to identify any critical weaknesses. Effectively address these vulnerabilities in your cloud applications.
Begin by creating a detailed list of all applications within your system to ensure that your security policies cover each cloud-based application. (Note: An inventory of all your cloud-based resources is essential for planning robust security measures.)
Remove any cloud-based applications that are no longer relevant or in use, as this will reduce the number of applications requiring security coverage. Continuous vulnerability assessments must be conducted throughout the usage of cloud-based applications.
Also, regular system testing is necessary to uncover any new risks or threats that may have emerged and could potentially impact the security of your cloud environment.
Once you have a comprehensive list of every cloud-based application, aseet, and resource required by your organisation, you can proceed to assess the risks associated with each application. This assessment will help you understand your vulnerability to cyberattacks.
Manage Access to Cloud Applications & User Behavior
Given the numerous users who require regular access to various cloud applications and storage options, you must build and launch effective measures to protect sensitive data.
Setting up user access permissions and managing access controls helps limit information access within the authorised group. Consider implementing the following additional security measures for cloud applications:
- Grant users minimal access privileges to cloud resources that align with their job responsibilities.
- Use provisioned access to resources instead of providing fixed credentials, reducing the risk of unauthorised access if credentials are compromised.
- Implement a strong password policy with a minimum of 14 characters, including uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.
- Additionally, restrict the number of failed login attempts to the cloud.
- Address default user access controls in cloud applications and environments by setting appropriate configurations.
Train Your Employees Against Phishing
The consequences of a successful phishing attack can be both time-consuming and costly. In addition to these security-related measures, addressing the risk of phishing attacks is essential.
To mitigate this risk, create a reporting system for identifying and reporting attacks, and emphasise the importance of promptly reporting suspicious activities to all employees.
While structured cybersecurity awareness training is recommended annually or semiannually, it is also beneficial to provide ongoing phishing awareness training to bridge any knowledge gaps.
When an employee mistakenly clicks on a link or attachment in a simulated phishing email, it is crucial to communicate in a supportive manner that they may have inadvertently put themselves and the organisation at risk.
This should be followed by displaying a "training page" that reinforces the dangers of phishing and reminds employees how to report suspicious emails.
Implement an Identity and Access Management (IAM) Solution
Hackers continually develop more sophisticated methods to gain access to sensitive data. It is thus vital to employ a robust identity and access management solution to mitigate these risks.
Unauthorised access poses a significant threat to the security of public cloud environments. Security experts recommend selecting an IAM solution that allows organisations to define and enforce access policies based on the principles of least privilege or Zero Trust.
These policies should incorporate role-based access control (RBAC) permissions, ensuring users only have the necessary privileges for their roles.
Also, using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) can significantly reduce the likelihood of malicious actors gaining unauthorised access.
Even if usernames and passwords are compromised, the additional layer of security provided by biometric scans or text code verification can pose significant challenges to attackers.
As cloud services continue to evolve, the challenges and threats associated with them also evolve. Ensuring cloud data protection necessitates having visibility and control over security measures. You must remain updated on security-related feature updates provided by cloud providers.
In the above steps, we have outlined a fundamental set of recommended actions for enhancing cloud security, which can assist you in creating a secure cloud environment and effectively addressing security concerns associated with cloud usage.
Additionally, consider investing in a Secure Cloud Access Solution. This enables the evaluation of user risk and provides a secure and authenticated connection to cloud applications.Throughout the outlined cloud security best practices, various vital technologies can be employed to accomplish each step, often complementing the native security features offered by cloud providers.