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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

Balaji

Balaji Viswanathan is the founder of Agni Innovation Labs that helps startups and small businesses with their marketing and tech strategy. He has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Maryland and has been blogging for the past 7 years on technology and business related topics.

4 Responses to Keeping Your Data And Applications Secure On The Cloud

  1. Third-party audit and certification is another measure a Cloud Vendor can take to further complement its security architecture. It also ensures end users that an external organization has validated the security mechanism of this vendor unbiased and they can be assured that their data will remain secured with their infrastructure.

  2. Nice article. Thanks Balaji for taking pain in compiling data protection steps. I would like to add some more points here, which are also important.
    Secure Computing Architecture- For enterprises, it is crucial to implement secure computing architecture when dealing with personal data. As such, there should be some policies in place for securing the data.
    Privacy Impact Assessment- The assessment is to identify what and how personal data is collected, stored, used and disclosed. It will then help analyzing the possible privacy impacts of the cloud computing solution.
    Transferring personal data to third party provider- Third party provider should have security measures in place to safeguard user data and to minimize the impact on privacy of personal data. The provider must keep personal data effectively secure against unauthorized access and conduct.

  3.  @m_raoul Ideally the systems have to be set in a way the employees don’t need to exchange the passwords. However if passwords indeed have to be shared (such as during account creation), you can do one of the following:
    1. Set a temporary password that needs to be changed immediately upon receipt
    2. Encrypt the password before sending (Outlook has this support)

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