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Gbadebo ifedayo
Gbadebo ifedayo

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Ensuring effective cloud security: Best practices and real-world insights

The widespread adoption of cloud computing by businesses has various advantages, including higher scalability and cost-effectiveness which is why 94% of companies use cloud services in 2023. However, as cloud computing becomes increasingly popular in today's digital world, cloud security becomes more crucial.
Cloud computing can be a prime target for cyberattacks because of its widespread use, 93% of organizations identify cloud security as a high priority. This places organizations in a vulnerable position where their entire business finances and reputation are at risk.
This article gives an insight into the best cloud security practices that are used by organizations to prevent cyber attacks.

What is cloud security?

Cloud security, also referred to as cloud computing security, is a collection of security controls intended to protect against cyberattacks like data breaches and safeguard cloud-based data, apps, and infrastructure. Data breaches can be caused by various factors including human error, malicious attacks, system vulnerabilities and so on.

Importance of cloud security

Organizations need to have cloud security in place when storing sensitive data in the cloud in order to protect sensitive data against breaches and illegal access. It is important as it helps organizations avoid legal and financial consequences by ensuring compliance with industry standards and data protection laws.

Consequences of inadequate cloud security

The following are potential risks faced when cloud security is not implemented properly:

  • Data breaches: Inadequate security can lead to data breaches, exposing sensitive information to unauthorized access. 19% of data breaches occurred due to stolen or compromised credentials in 2022 at an average cost of USD 4.50 million.

  • Legal and regulatory issues: Non-compliance with data protection laws can lead to legal penalties and reputational damage.

  • Reputation damage: Security breaches can harm a company's reputation, impacting customer trust and partnerships.

  • Intellectual property loss: Weak security may result in intellectual property theft, affecting competitiveness and innovation.

  • Financial impact: Security incidents can lead to financial losses, including remediation costs and potential legal penalties.

Shared responsibility model in the cloud

Cloud service providers (CSPs) adhere to a working framework known as the shared responsibility model, which lays out the obligations of both CSPs and their clients for securing every aspect of the cloud environment, including infrastructure, hardware, data, identities, workloads, networks, settings, and more. Therefore, responsibility is divided between the CSP and the customers.
This means that cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Service (AWS), or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) must monitor and respond to security threats related to the cloud itself and its underlying infrastructure. Meanwhile, end users including individuals and companies, are responsible for protecting data and other assets they store in any cloud environment

Compliance standards in cloud security

Cloud security compliance refers to the act and process of adhering to regulatory criteria for cloud usage according to industry guidelines and associated laws,
The absence of a cloud compliance framework may result in negative effects like fines, penalties, damages, bad press, and legal problems.
Compliance with cloud security might be difficult. However, it will be easier and more efficient to achieve full compliance if an organization uses an automated platform for managing risks and compliance. Some of these platforms are Wiz, Drata, Vanta, Microsoft Defender for Cloud etc.

Best practices for cloud security

The following practices address crucial aspects of cloud security, from access control to monitoring and compliance, helping protect an organization's data and applications from a wide range of threats.

1. Ask your cloud Provider detailed security questions:

In addition to outlining shared responsibilities, organizations should ask their public cloud vendors specific questions regarding the security protocols and procedures they have in place. This is crucial since different vendors may use varying security protocols and practices.

2. Implementing IAM:

Identity and access management (IAM) is a framework of business policies and technologies that facilitates the management and protection of data. Information technology (IT) administrators can regulate user access to vital information within their organizations by implementing an IAM framework.
To reduce risk, organizations can implement IAM systems by adhering to some of the following guidelines:

  • Implementing multi-factor authentication(MFA) to improve security. This adds another layer of protection in the event that hackers manage to obtain credentials such as usernames and passwords, since MFA requires extra verification, such SMS codes, email codes, and biometric scans.

  • Implementing IAM policies that offer permissions based on role-based access control (RBAC). This reduces the chance of unauthorized access by ensuring that users' access is granted in accordance with their different roles within the organization.

3. Data Encryption:

A crucial component of any cloud security plan is data encryption. Organizations should make sure that data is encrypted while it is in transit, as this is when it may be most exposed to attacks. This should be done in addition to encrypting any data stored in a public cloud storage service.
This guarantees that the data will remain unreadable in the event that unauthorized persons obtain access to it.

4. Network Security:

This involves the network segmentation and deployment of firewalls to monitor and manage network traffic. Real-time threat detection and blocking capabilities of intrusion detection systems(IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) provide an extra degree of protection.

5. Backups and Disaster Recovery:

In the case of a security breach or data loss, regularly scheduled backups guarantee that you have data recovered. An efficient disaster recovery plan offers a systematic approach to restoring operations following a disaster, minimizing downtime.

6. Logging and Monitoring:

Logging provides a clear record of an attacker's actions in the event that they gain access and make changes, and a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool will provide real-time threat detection and quick remediation to limit damage. System administrators and security teams use logs to monitor and detect unapproved activity with the aid of a SIEM system. This monitoring process would be impossible to accomplish manually without the use of a SIEM tool.

7. Compliance and Regulations:

Organizations must thoroughly understand the requirements of relevant regulations and compliance standards such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Following these rules lowers the risk of data breaches and the related legal consequences by ensuring that sensitive data stored in the cloud is properly secured. It's also crucial to make sure your cloud provider holds the required certifications.

8. Third-Party Security:

Third-party security is the situation where any external tools, services, or apps that a company integrates with its cloud environment infrastructure are subject to a thorough security screening process. In order to avoid vulnerabilities, it also entails making sure they comply with the security standards of the company. These can include software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, plugins, APIs, or any solution that interacts with the organization's cloud

Case studies of real-world security breaches and solutions

According to recent research, the top security-related cloud threats are misconfiguration, data exposed by users, account compromise, and vulnerability exploits. The following are some examples of real-life data breaches.

Breach 1: Capital One

An attack on Capital One’s cloud environment between March and July of 2019 compromised the personal data of approximately 100 million customers of this financial institution.
The breach started in March and was discovered almost four months later by Capital One on 19th July. Credit card numbers, birth dates, addresses, names, phone numbers, transaction history, 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers were among the stolen information.
Paige Thompson, an employee of Amazon Web Services, was responsible for this data breach. Prior to her arrest, she had been publishing details about her activities publicly online and uploading information to GitHub. Paige Thompson, the alleged hacker, simply took advantage of a misconfiguration in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) web application firewall (WAF).

The type of cyberattack is known as a Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF), which is a trick used to make a server execute unauthorized commands on behalf of a remote user. By using this method, the user can acquire access to private endpoints by treating the server as a proxy for requests.

Breach 2: Target

In late November of 2013, the breach began with a cybercriminal group gaining access to Target's internal network using credentials stolen from a third-party vendor, Fazio Mechanical Services.
The attackers gained access to Target's point-of-sale (POS) system through improper network segmentation, and they proceeded to infect it with malware. In addition to the personal data of over 70 million people, this spyware took the details of over 40 million credit cards that were used at Target stores. Target's system was being watched by antimalware software, but it was not monitored and configured properly. The software was not able to automatically remove the malware, and the alerts it raised went uninvestigated.

In the aftermath of the breach, Target invested 100 million dollars into improving its cybersecurity and paid out an additional 18.5 million dollars in settlement costs.
Target carried out the following in response to the breach:

  • Increase monitoring and recording of alerts

  • Enhance segmentation of networks

  • Restrict vendor access

  • Reset 445,000 employee and contractor passwords

  • Introduce 2-factor authentication

Breach 3: Equifax

The Equifax data breach occurred between May and July 2017, and although the initial Equifax data breach date was March 10, 2017, the attackers don’t seem to have done much of anything immediately.
The criminals exploited a vulnerability in Apache Struts, a widely used open-source framework for developing web applications.
The main breach wasn’t until May 13, 2017 in what Equifax referred to as a “separate incident”, data from the compromised server was being moved by the attackers into other areas of the network. To make it more difficult for Equifax's admins to detect, the attackers encrypted the data they were moving.
Equifax used tools to sniff out instances of data exfiltration like this by analyzing network traffic within the company. However, a public-key certificate that is acquired from third parties is required to accomplish that. This certificate must be renewed annually, but Equifax hadn't done so for almost ten months.
It took another full month of internal investigation before Equifax publicized the breach, on September 8, 2017.
The breach exposed the personal information of approximately 147 million individuals, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdates.

Cloud security tools offered by cloud service providers

Most organizations rely on cloud service providers (CSP) for securing sensitive data. These providers include Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS); As well as other less-popular ones such as Oracle, IBM, Red Hat, DigitalOcean, Alibaba.
Some security tools offered by these cloud service providers are:

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM)

  • Network Security

  • Encryption

  • Firewalls and WAF (Web Application Firewall)

  • Threat Detection and Prevention

  • Security Monitoring and Logging


The article highlights the significance of cloud security to organizations that utilize cloud computing, provides a list of recommended measures, and provides real-life instances of data breaches. In addition to protecting their sensitive data, organizations may also prevent other negative effects of inadequate cloud security by employing these insights and taking preventive measures. Developing a culture of cybersecurity awareness, being informed, and responding to new threats are all essential components of an organization's cloud security journey.


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