Cloud data security best practices: 5 tips for staying secure

ESET Software Australia

Wednesday, 07 August, 2019

Cloud data security best practices: 5 tips for staying secure

Have you moved your IT and business processes to cloud computing yet, or are you planning to? Chances are you’re already part of the way there. Whether it’s for email, storage or office applications, the cloud is touted as an affordable and convenient way for businesses to store and access their data at scale.

Even better, the key security concerns surrounding the cloud’s early days have largely been assuaged as the technology has matured. But are you and your employees following cloud data security best practice? How secure is your company’s chosen cloud solution? To help you master the basics of cloud security, the team at ESET has put together some top tips and advice on data security in cloud computing.

What is cloud computing?

It’s easy to think of “the cloud” as some intangible force that floats somewhere above our heads, keeping all our old photos and unread emails safe and sound. Of course, it’s not quite that mystical. The cloud is, simply put, a remote virtual network that is hosted on the Internet. Public or hybrid cloud services are often delivered via a cloud computing provider’s servers.

Within this network, you can store data, manage files and work on projects — usually with far more space, scale and flexibility than a personal computer or local server can offer. But with so much sensitive company data living off-site, the last thing you want is for your cloud’s security to be breached by cyberhackers.

So, how can you ensure your cybersecurity strategy stays up to scratch?

Tips for keeping company data safe in the cloud:

1. Check your cloud provider’s security policies

As a small to medium enterprise, it’s likely you’ll be entrusting your data to a third-party cloud provider — so it’s vital to check what security measures your chosen provider has in place. You’ll want to make sure you use a cloud service that’s trustworthy, experienced and has the security capabilities required to keep your data safe.

Do some thorough research before making any commitments and only trust a provider that can offer you a highly secure online space. It’s also wise to ask where the cloud servers are located and make sure they’re in a safe data centre with proper security. A good provider will have specialised technology, a large workforce and 24/7 monitoring and security in place to protect your data at all times.

2. Maintain strong password hygiene and employee training

A weak password can be all too easy for a cybercriminal to crack. To stay safe in the cloud, it’s vital you and your employees create strong, unique passwords, checked against a list of passwords known to have been cracked or leaked in the past.

Use a passphrase of at least 10–12 characters, but it must not be something from popular culture such as a movie, song name or song lyric that’s easy to guess.

Need help creating a strong password? There are a number of password management tools and extensions available that can help your team create unique and secure passwords and save those passwords securely so no one needs to remember them (and hence no one can forget them).

Passwords are still unavoidable, but they are also widely recognised as a poor form of security control. Wherever possible pair them with some other form of access control, such as biometrics or other two-factor authentication (2FA) schemes. If a 2FA option is not available, consider longer minimum password lengths, particularly for accessing sensitive accounts and resources.

3. Know how to spot phishing attacks

Train your employees to watch out for phishing or spear phishing emails — this is a common way for cybercriminals to access an organisation’s data. Phishing emails use “social engineering” tactics — posing as a trustworthy source in order to trick a victim into clicking on a link, downloading malware or entering personal information such as a password.

Spear phishing goes one step further. Hackers craft polished, personalised messages, often only sent to one person, or just the members of a specific team within an organisation, that can be extremely convincing. Both phishing and spear phishing, if successful, can give a hacker direct access to your cloud and data.

Educating your employees on how to spot and stop a phishing attack and raise awareness of it within the organisation, is critical for keeping your systems protected. Employees should double-check the “from” line, look out for suspicious wording or misspellings, hover over links in an email instead of clicking on them instantly and be aware that “looks can be deceiving”. Small measures like these can make a huge difference in protecting your company’s data, reputation, and finances.

4. Encrypt your company data before uploading

Encryption takes your data and transforms it using complex mathematical algorithms, before placing it securely in your cloud storage. If cybercriminals manage to access your encrypted data, they won’t be able to use it. Encryption is key to data protection and can be done by you or your cloud service provider.

Ask your provider how data is managed and decide what you’re comfortable with. If you want to ensure the protection of your data before it leaves your business, you can encrypt at the network’s edge. Once the data is encrypted, keep the keys that encrypt and decipher your data. That way, all information requests will need to go past you. Don’t store encryption keys in the software where you store your data — your IT team should keep a physical record of encryption keys.

5. Stay secure with a quality cloud security solution

Managing cloud security takes time and resources and can require a level of expertise and attention your team might not be able to provide on a day-to-day basis – so it might be worthwhile considering a managed security solution to help keep your data protected. ESET Security Management Center provides a real-time overview of all your endpoints via an enterprise-grade console, so you can benefit from full reporting and security management for all operating systems, without any hassle.

Clear and secure skies ahead

Cloud computing is a great tool for flexibility and convenience for small, medium and enterprise businesses alike. If you want to make the most of cloud solutions, it’s important to take extra steps to keep your data secure. If you have any further questions about the safety of your cloud, contact the ESET team today!

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