Cloud-based storage is convenient these days for many businesses to adopt. After all, these cloud storage vendors offer unmatched operational agility, velocity, efficiency, flexibility and productivity in their services. However, just like with any other technologies out there, there are benefits and drawbacks.
One of the most critical aspects of cloud security is to ensure that only authorized personnel such as you and your employees have access to the documents and files stored in the cloud. Ultimately, the responsibility of securing your cloud lies between you and the cloud storage vendor. If you do eventually plan to adopt cloud storage for your business, it is imperative that you take measures to protect your data through secure passwords and two-factor authentication, as well as to limit and control access to others finding your sensitive data.
As you know by now, one of the reasons to move to the cloud is to benefit from its flexibility while securing your data and sharing them safely at the same time. Your data is remotely backed up, maintained and managed by cloud storage vendors.
However, you need to take a few steps to ensure the cloud service you choose can guarantee the security of your data. When it comes to the cloud, there are security and safety concerns especially now that trust in tech giants is so broken.
Regardless of the type of cloud-storage services you utilize, the fundamentals of security are still the same. You still need to protect your data, authorize and authenticate your users and monitor access and activities. Security risks such as data breaches, account hijacks, abuse of information and unauthorized access can jeopardize your business.
Before we go into the most important things you need to know about cloud security, we’ll first address how it works.
How does cloud-based security work?
The role of cloud-based security services is to ensure that your information is safe and secured. Vendors restrict unwarranted access by providing encryption which ensures the security of the data stored in the cloud and offer various access controls. They also offer data recovery and back-up option in case of any data loss.
In transit and at rest encryption
To implement data protection, data traffic is directed to the security cloud first where it gets filtered before reaching the application system. During the transfer process, cloud storage vendors tend to utilize the TLS protocol to protect your files from eavesdropping. It uses a cipher, authentication and key exchange to secure a connection.
Once the data gets out of this secure channel, it gets decrypted. Therefore, when your data arrives at the provider’s server, it can be accessible to a hacker or a rogue employee. It might be that the provider then re-encrypts your data before storing it on its disks; this is called at-rest encryption. However, as the service provider holds the encryption keys to your files, it means that they, or anyone else who manages to get access to the keys, can decrypt your files.
There are many encryption algorithms these days in the market ranging from the old DES to newer AES. These encryption methods utilize complex algorithms to protect and conceal data. Cloud-based vendors use these methods to manage the identity of data and limit access from an unrecognized application that tries to access these encrypted files.
As you probably guessed, AES is the latest and most secure encryption algorithm. It provides several levels of security depending on the key length which can be from 128, 192 or 256 bits. As a matter of fact, 256-bit is the most secure in the market, but as far as we know, nobody has managed to crack it.
While most cloud providers only use encryption at rest, it’s only client-side encryption which can guarantee the confidentiality of your files. In the case of client-side, or end-to-end encryption, encryption and decryption happens on the user’s device. Files uploaded to the cloud never get decrypted on the provider’s servers as they do not hold the encryption keys. This means that even if rogue employees or hackers manage to get access to the provider’s servers, they won’t be able to decrypt your files.
Zero-knowledge authentication prevents others from reading and viewing your data. As a matter of fact, using this type of authentication provides you with a key access password. It means that the provider does not store encryption keys and user passwords in unencrypted or unhashed form. Therefore, it ensures that no one, not even the developers of the provider, can access your content.
The downside to this approach is that if you lose your password, it is permanently lost because the service provider can’t reset it for you. To lighten the risk, it is best that you consider using a password manager. Regardless, don’t forget to create a strong password that you can remember.
Only a few cloud storage providers in the market, one of which is Tresorit, adopt zero-knowledge authentication methods as part of their security features.
- Two-Factor Authentication
The two-factor authentication tool is an extra layer of security that prevents troublesome hackers from stealing your credentials. When you utilize two-factor authentication, the tool will make sure you enter a code after you log in with your password.
There are several ways to get the code. You can either get it via email, phone call or SMS. This method complicates the hacking process as they need another verification method to actually get access to your account.
Most cloud storage vendors allow you to share your data with others by generating links to folders or files or by sending a collaboration invitation to others. With that being said, one of the main benefits of using cloud storage is that you get to share with others while restricting and controlling your shared content.
There are many ways you can properly control your content. You can implement folder permissions, expiry dates, include password protected links and much more.
A ransomware attack can cause serious harm to your business. It is a type of malware attack created by hackers to search for your sensitive data and encrypt them. If you want to get back your data files, you have to pay hackers a ransom to receive a decryption key from them. Hence, it is best to work with cloud storage vendors that offer ransomware protection services or perform well against it.
Most cloud storage vendors offer versioning solutions to fight ransomware. However, the implementation of this solution is different according to each cloud storage vendor. For example, some offer unlimited versioning while most of the rest usually provide 15 or 30 days.
Insufficient protection of your data in the cloud can cause significant harm to your business. If you’re looking to move to the cloud, or already keep your documents there, think of how you can secure your data by researching and comparing the different security promises of cloud vendors.
Lastly, here are some handy tips to keep in mind when it comes to securing your data in the cloud:
- See to it that the cloud storage provider has convincing security policies in place. I can’t emphasize this enough, but you need to do your research by reading their security policies.
- Browse the user agreement thoroughly to find out how your cloud storage service works. After all, you’re going to put your important data in the storage, so it is imperative that you read the fine print. If you don’t understand or have questions, don’t be afraid to contact customer service.
- Stay up to date with useful security guidelines and best practices recommended by the Cloud Security Alliance. It is a not-for-profit organization on a mission to “promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within Cloud Computing.”
- Create a robust and secure password that you will remember. Most of the time, loopholes are created by users themselves. One weak password can wreck your company.
If you can implement these tips as a part of your cloud protection approach and strategy, you are completely on your way to securing your data in cloud storage. After all, cloud security is not a trivial matter. It is time to get your cloud security in order.
About the author
Joe Kok is the founder of GoodCloudStorage. He loves his EPL game because of the intensity and competitiveness. When he is not watching, he usually sits in front of his computer working hard to draw more traffic and readers. Guess what’s his favorite club? Hint: It’s red.