Considerations for migrating to the cloud
Cloud-based services bring several economic and technical advantages to a business. They eliminate the cost of hardware that becomes increasingly obsolete each year after it’s purchased. They make applications and data views accessible from any geographical location through mobile apps and web-based applications. They also solve the scalability problems that crop up as a business grows and contracts over time.
A website or customer-facing app, for example, can quickly respond to changing traffic volumes from hour to hour using a cloud-hosting service’s automated provisioning of its servers. The efficiency gained from these systems can be substantial.
Businesses can eliminate the cost of buying and maintaining server capacity that’s only used during peak hours. One problem that switching to cloud technology doesn’t solve, however, is the security problems that result from its very nature – being online. Those security problems may not go away completely, but they can be reduced to low risks that are manageable.
In this article, we’ll consider five of the biggest security risks of cloud-based services, and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Regulatory Problems
In the domain of internet security risks, regulatory sanctions have become part of the constellation of issues that can impact a business’s bottom line. It’s not a security risk by itself, but instead industry and legal frameworks that require you to handle security risks appropriately. It’s both an internal and external issue.
You and your partners need to comply with regulations like Europe’s GDPR and the American medical industry’s HIPAA regulations. When it comes to picking cloud-based services for your business, you’ll need to choose those that comply with the regulations that apply to your industry. That might include conducting audits or commissioning independent studies.
You’ll also need to conduct risk assessments when you’re deciding to move your operations or data to the cloud. You may need to consider a private cloud server for regulatory reasons.
2. Loss of Data
The loss of data generally means the destruction of data. Ransomware attacks by hackers involve you paying them to release key assets they are holding hostage. If you don’t comply, they may delete your business’s critical data as punishment.
There are also attackers that simply want to cause damage by destroying your data assets or hamper your operations by rendering servers inoperable. Data loss can also result from hardware failures or disasters that aren’t man-made.
The primary way to mitigate these risks is to identify critical data and create backup copies that serve as a fallback if data is lost to foreseen events. The cloud is often the place we create backups because it’s an off-premises location, but if the data is stored only on the cloud, that creates a vulnerability, too. One solution is to choose a cloud service that includes backup and restoration of data with their service.
3. Data Breaches
The worst-case scenario for most businesses is a network breach in which data is stolen and sold on black markets or released to the public. Data breaches are usually the work of outside actors who find a way to gain unauthorized access to a corporate network, but they can be the result of unintentional lapses in security by employees, too. It’s important to include cloud services in your business’s overall security plan and analyze the vulnerabilities that they have.
There are different types of cloud applications that hide or expose your network to possible hacking attempts. Public cloud services are accessible to the internet, while private services exist inside your network. The security risks should be weighed when deciding which type of cloud service is best for your needs.
4. Insider Fraud
Another way that sensitive data and communications can be stolen is insider fraud. In this case, one of your employees abuses their access to your information. Sometimes they may release inside information as revenge, or they may be bribed by outsiders to steal customer data.
In the case of cloud-based services, the insider might work for the service provider rather than your business, or they may be part of your development team. The best way to control insider fraud cases is to put monitoring and strong access controls into place.
When you outsource infrastructure to a cloud service, you’ll also need to research the controls that they have in place to protect you from their own employees who might be tempted to sell your data. Encrypting data at rest and controlling who can access it are a couple more ways to discourage insider threats.
5. Denial of Service Attacks
When you move part of your business’s information system to a cloud service, your primary way of accessing it is via the internet. If the cloud servers are successfully taken offline with a denial of service attack, you’ll suffer a blackout of access to the data or applications that it hosted. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use cloud services, but you will have to consider this additional risk when choosing a cloud service and how it’s hosted for your business.
A denial of service attack is only possible on public-facing cloud services that are connected to the internet. One way to prevent the risk of a denial of service attack is to place critical data and applications on a private or hybrid cloud service. If the service needs to be accessible to the public, then there are also security services that can defend against these types of attacks.
Cloud-hosted services can make good sense for your business, both in terms of financial savings and the scalability that it brings to your operations, but it’s important to carefully assess the security risks. Hosting sensitive data or critical applications on a public cloud service can expose you to risks that aren’t necessary.
Thankfully, cloud security continues to reduce these threats, and there are private cloud options that can eliminate exposure to the internet. With careful planning and due diligence, cloud-based services can form a key part of your business’s digital transformation.
Written by: Ashley Wilson
Ashley Wilson is working remotely as a content creator, writing mostly about business and tech. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.