Cloud Series: Privacy and Security

Evaluating potential security risks in cloud storage

One of the primary concerns CIOs and IT leaders have about moving to the cloud is whether their data will remain safe as they relinquish partial control of their data security over to a cloud service provider.

It is only natural that companies evaluate potential cloud service providers and assess the potential risks of their digital transformation. That said, this question should not only be posed externally (how secure is the cloud) but also internally (how secure can our company make the cloud). Notably, according to Gartner:

The challenge exists not in the security of the cloud itself, but in the policies and technologies for security and control of the technology. In nearly all cases, it is the user, not the cloud provider, who fails to manage the controls used to protect an organization’s data.

Responsibilities of cloud partnership

Often, companies underestimate their responsibilities in cloud partnerships with service providers, which can prove detrimental to their own security. While it is true that cloud service providers are responsible for all maintenance of their servers, companies must still properly configure their personalized settings—which is where most security breaches stem from. In fact, several of the largest security breach sources do not stem from public cloud providers: misconfiguration of cloud platforms, unauthorized access through employee credential misuse, and insecure APIs.

A proactive step is to be meticulous when setting up a new system with a cloud service provider, ensuring both parties select the most secure options. Moreover, a secure platform is a platform with secure users. Companies should educate their employees on cloud safety, focusing on access and uploading of documents through proper channels and identifying phishing and hacking attempts.

Public cloud security measures

Regarding the threat of malign hackers, public cloud service providers go through arduous processes to ensure their systems are secure from outside threats, as they understand that security is a high priority for potential clients as they consider which provider, if any, to use. This specialization of protection has resulted in better security performance. For example, Microsoft's Azure has over 3,500 cybersecurity experts, real-time threat intelligence reports, and a multi-layered security system. Moreover, cloud security is improving as new methods of protection are regularly added.

Security of alternative cloud approaches

Yet, public clouds are not impenetrable, as there have been security breaches. For companies who decide that the potential risks of public clouds are too high, there are alternative solutions that can alleviate risk while still receiving the countless benefits cloud storage has to offer.

For instance, a hybrid cloud approach could be deployed in which sensitive data is stored on-premises and everything else is saved on the cloud, lessening the impact of a leak. The safety of personal data would be the responsibility of the company—which is an ideal compromise for organizations that have strong on-premises firewalls.

Alternatively, a private cloud service can be purchased, which would allow for more customized security options, personalized firewalls, and clarity of ownership. Much like with on-premises storage, private cloud security is entirely the responsibility of the purchaser, not the provider.

Lastly, if a company were to adopt a multi-cloud approach, if a data breach occurred at one of their facilities, less overall data would be leaked. That said, by sheer probability, with more storage facilities the risk of a breach is higher, even if the data leaked is less. Having multiple providers protects a company on the off chance one cloud fail, as others would be already established for data recovery and to prevent potential vendor lock-in.

Follow the rest of ZL Tech’s cloud blog series for more insights on how

  1. Introduction
  2. Privacy and Security (this post)
  3. Organization Structure
  4. Big Data Analytics

A graduate from Kalamazoo College, Martin Hansknecht serves as a marketing associate for ZL Tech. He gets his Midwestern charm from growing up in the mitten of Michigan, his East Coast work ethic from his time spent in NY and D.C., and his European fashion from years living in England, Germany, and Hungary. Now he is looking forward to absorbing that innovative West Coast mindset!