Best Practices for Improving Cloud Data Security

Updated on: December 20, 2023

Best Practices for Improving Cloud Data Security

Migration of traditional data centers to cloud systems, faster adoption of cloud services, and development of solutions with a cloud-first approach bring in the challenges of managing and securing data in the cloud. With the majority of organizations using two or more cloud providers, top security priorities such as misconfigurations are multiplied by the increase in complexity and surface attack.

If you’re looking to implement cloud-based data protection, here are the best practices you should keep in mind. But before we dive into those, here’s what we’ll be covering in today’s article:

  1. What is cloud data security?
  2. The top 7 best practices to improve cloud data security
  3. The business risks associated with storing data in cloud-based service

Why is Astra Vulnerability Scanner the Best Scanner?

  • Runs 8000+ tests with weekly updated scanner rules
  • Scans behind the login page
  • Scan results are vetted by security experts to ensure zero false positives
  • Integrates with your CI/CD tools to help you establish DevSecOps
  • A dynamic vulnerability management dashboard to manage, monitor, assign, and update vulnerabilities from one place.
  • Helps you stay compliant with SOC2, ISO27001, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, etc.
  • Integrates with Slack and Jira for better workflow management
  • Trusted by the brands you trust like Agora, Spicejet, Muthoot, Dream11, etc.

What is cloud data security?

Cloud data security is defined as the practice of securing an organization’s data (both at rest and in motion) from unauthorized access, theft, and corruption. Securing data in the cloud is the responsibility of the company as well as the cloud service provider or the third-party responsible for storing/processing this data.

Best practices on how to secure cloud data

While major cloud service providers such as Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) offer robust security features for data protection in the cloud, managing them is still demanding and vital.

Risk factors constantly evolve, pushing businesses to adjust their policies periodically. Mentioned below are eight best practices of cloud app security to protect your business cloud repository from cyber attacks:

1. Use advanced encryption capabilities

Encryption is key to data security in the cloud. It encodes data at rest, in use, and in transit. It conceals information by altering it so that it appears to be random data so that even if a person gains access to it, they will not be able to read it. 

This is achieved by platform-managed encryption keys. If your business has strict security standards and compliance policies, you should deploy a Hardware Security Module (HSM enabled key management services. To protect the cloud data in transit apply encrypted HTTPS/TLS protocols. 

2. Adopt security posture and governance

Monitoring cloud activity regularly helps detect and prevent unauthorized data access to improve your cloud data security. Therefore, keep a close watch on your cloud logs to spot potential threats early on.

Prepare and implement a comprehensive security policy for your infrastructure to meet all industry and government standards, regulations, and compliances such as HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2, and many more. In this scenario, a cloud security posture management (CSPM) tool can help keep control plane threats and misconfigurations at bay and ensure compliance across applications, workloads, and cloud systems.

3. Prioritise cloud workload protection (CWP) & ensure unified visibility

A cloud workload is a specific service, capability, or app that runs on a cloud resource. Virtual machines, containers, and databases are all considered cloud workloads and are known for exponentially expanding the attack surface.

To protect cloud-based workloads, you must have visibility into every workload and associated container events, Kubernetes-managed resources, and serverless applications. Therefore, safeguard the entire cloud-native technology stack – irrespective of the cloud type – public, private, and hybrid. In addition, visibility should also extend across private, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments to facilitate security management and risk mitigation – irrespective of where the data is hosted or processed.

Most importantly, upon detecting an anomaly, the solution should send alerts to the stakeholders about its nature and potential impact and provide steps to resolve it quickly.

4. Develop a cloud-based business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan

BC/DR is a shared responsibility between you (the cloud customer) and your cloud provider, just like security and compliance. 

Critical parts of the BC/DR plan in the cloud are:

  • Design for Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) similar to those on traditional infrastructure. 
  • When it comes to business continuity within the cloud provider, downtime is an option. In other words, you don’t always need perfect availability. But when you plan to accept an outage, have emergency notification pages and responses ready. 
  • Design for high availability within your cloud provider. 
  • Schedule data extraction and archive data to another cloud service as a safety precaution. 

5. Implement strong Identity Access Management (IAM) and authentication controls

The primary function of an IAM solution is to create digital identities for all users, enabling their activities and data access to be monitored and restricted when necessary. It helps you streamline and automate more granular access controls and privileges.

Hence, grant only the minimal access privileges to assets and APIs necessary for individuals or groups to carry out their tasks. Enforce strong password policies and set appropriate permission time-outs to maintain excellent IAM hygiene.

Additionally, enable Single Sign-On (SSO), which authenticates the user’s identity and grants access to multiple applications and websites using just a single pair of credentials.

Remember, the more extensive the user privileges are, the higher the authentication level required to ensure secure access.

6. Establish a single source of truth for continuous monitoring, remediation, and documentation

Use your cloud security management solutions to determine the risk levels of the various streams of audit trails and logs garnered over time. More specifically, with intuitive Data Detection and Response (DDR) and Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) platforms, you can get:

  • A data-focused view of your cloud data assets, including content, access, identities, and data vulnerabilities and exposures.
  • Real-time alerts on policy violations and intrusions connected to business workflows for timely remediation.
  • Audit documentation based on the geographic region, compliance standards followed by your business, and the cloud service.

Cross-reference aggregated log data with internal data such as vulnerability scanners and configuration management systems and external data like geolocation databases and threat intelligence feeds.

7. Remember to train your employees

While it is important to have a strong cloud setup, you must also ensure your employees know the security risks of storing data in cloud services. They must, therefore, be trained on the best practices for securing data on the cloud.

Organise periodic training sessions and seminars on security awareness, compliance policies, and the latest cybersecurity trends. They must know how to identify and respond to potential threats, safely handle and store confidential material, and take steps to report in case of suspicious activity.

Business risks of storing data in the cloud

While cloud data storage has advantages like accessibility, real-time updates, and cost-efficiency, it is not without challenges. That is because cloud environments are inherently code-based, and that gives rise to a myriad of risks, such as:

1. Data Breaches

This occurs when unauthorised individuals access confidential data stored in the cloud, resulting in information theft, disruption of services, or data manipulation. 

2. Shared Security Responsibilities

The CSP is responsible for a few aspects of cloud security and you are for a few. This can lead to ambiguity and potential gaps in security measures if roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined. 

3. Misconfigurations

Misconfiguration refers to gaps, glitches, or errors that can expose your environment to risk during cloud adoption. These cyber threats come in the form of external hackers, security breaches, and malware that leverage vulnerabilities to gain access to data.

4. Unsecured APIs

Since APIs connect your infrastructure to others, they might carry confidential information. These might become sensitive gateways for malicious actors to exploit and access, manipulate, and steal information. 

5. Unauthorized Access

You can manage and limit access points in on-premise systems, however, it might be difficult in the cloud. This is especially true for BYOD policies. Insider threats can do great damage with privileged access, the ability to hide tracks, and enhanced knowledge of the IT infrastructure.

6. Lack of visibility

Not having visibility to the entire cloud infrastructure can lead to vulnerabilities going undetected thus increasing the risk of data breaches or other cyber vulnerabilities. 

7. Multi-latency

It is a type of software architecture where a single software instance can serve multiple users. This means that multiple customers of a single CSP are using the same resources. This reduces data security and opens it up to vulnerable conditions. Data can only be accessed with the permission of the CSP.

8. Compliance

Regulatory compliance is a convoluted task for public or hybrid cloud businesses. Despite cloud providers aligning their services with numerous accreditations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI 3.2, the onus of ensuring compliance concerning workload and data processes rests on you.

9. Expanded Attack Surface

The scalability of cloud environments allows you to add new apps or workloads easily. This might lead to the deployment of assets outside of your security policies. 

10. Complexity of Modern IT Environments

Modern IT environments are multi-faceted, incorporating public cloud providers, on-premises servers, virtual machines, SaaS applications, and on-premises servers. This infrastructure brings challenges in tracking sensitive data and maintaining secure configurations. 

Safeguarding data in the cloud is important for your business to protect sensitive info from data breaches and unauthorised access. Use a reputable cloud service provider known for its strong security measures and compliance with industry standards to enhance the security of your sensitive data.

Achieve cloud-based data protection with Astra Pentest

In today’s digital landscape where cybersecurity threats are ever-evolving, a subpar pentest puts your business infrastructure and cloud data security at risk and could cost you millions and damage your brand reputation. Ultimately, you want to protect your business, comply with international standards, and build a brand that your customers trust wholeheartedly.

That is where we come in and make a difference. By joining hands with us, you will be able to find detailed, actionable steps to fix every single vulnerability and manage your entire security from a user-friendly dashboard that suits both CXOs and developers. Astra’s cloud data security services, benefit from a streamlined pentest process with both manual and automated continuous monitoring and move your business forward safely.

See Astra’s continuous Pentest platform in action.

Besides, make sure you conduct pen tests to proactively identify potential vulnerabilities in your system. Remember, cloud data security is not a one-time task but an ongoing process, and you must use the right tools to safeguard business data. Book a demo today if you want to know how Astra Pentest works.

Let experts find security gaps in your cloud infrastructure

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How secure is cloud data?

Most cloud service providers have stringent security protocols, including encryption, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular security audits. However, security is a shared responsibility. Users must also implement certain data security measures, such as strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and appropriate user access controls, to enhance the security of their data.

Why is data security in the cloud important?

Cloud data security is important because businesses entrust sensitive and valuable data to the cloud, including customer information, financial records, and intellectual property, which, if compromised, could result in significant financial and reputational damage.


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