Keeping Your Data And Applications Secure On The Cloud

Keeping Your Data And Applications Secure On The Cloud

When you have all your data and applications permanently stored within your enterprise, you can get away with big security holes and poor data management practices without a serious external threat. However, once your applications and data move to the cloud, your margin for error becomes much smaller. Confidential enterprise data could be traveling all over the public Internet, enabling your employees to work anywhere, anytime, while at the same time exposing data to malicious eyes.  In this post, I will cover some of the things your organization needs to get right to prevent unauthorized access.

Mind the channel

If you are on a public network with an unprotected Wi-Fi connection (such as in an airport or a coffee shop), avoid accessing confidential corporate data. An attack could range from a low-tech physical eavesdropping of your screen to a more high-tech capturing of your data in the channel. Make sure your channel is authenticated and encrypted with protocols such as IPSec,TLS/SSL, SSH and systems such as VPN. If you are sending critical data in plain text, you are inviting trouble.

Implement well-designed user access control

Properly planned user access control is needed for all your data and applications. Employees must be able to access only data they have a need to access. Also mind the flow of information outside the security perimeter. For instance, you must never allow your sales people to export all the CRM data to an excel sheet that they could easily take with them when they leave the company. Always make sure that data access happens through your security interfaces and very few bulk export options are allowed for regular security privileges.

Compartmentalize/segregate data

In 2009, Twitter had a bad security breach that made all the internal discussions and confidential business data public and threatened the future of the young network. The hacker gained access to a single compromised personal Gmail account of an employee and was able to successfully access spreadsheets and documents on Google docs that contained all the corporate information.

Although Google was not at fault in this case, it shows how easy it was for the hacker to access all the corporate information after gaining access to one account. Audit your data storage systems and make sure they are compartmentalized enough to avoid cascading security failures. Classify the information based on the security level and implement high-level security for the most confidential information. Thus, a breach of a low-security account should not expose the data in a high-security account.

Educate your employees

No amount of secure protocols will help if your employees are not trained in security best practices. Mandate them to have strong passwords that are periodically changed. Educate them to never send the passwords as plain text through SMS, email, etc. (you would be surprised by how many employees in tech companies break this basic rule). All the data must be properly encrypted, and the keys must be recycled carefully.

By Balaji Viswanathan

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