Cyber security is a major problem right now. Not only is it the highest priority of any given business to keep their own data but their customers’ and clients’ data secure, but changes in the workplace have had a knock-on effect on cyber security. The concept of working from home has forced businesses all around the world to address old and new cyber security threats. People taking their laptops, and therefore their data, home to public networks that can be hacked or leaving access details like passwords scribbled on notebooks has meant that access to a business and therefore their customers’ data is a lot more accessible.
The saving grace was said to be the cloud. Beyond retraining cybersecurity in staff workforces, the practical solution was to move data into the cloud. But we’re now a few years from the point when the cloud really gained popularity. Is it still the answer to all our cyber security problems? Is there a chance of risk to using the cloud? We explore in this guide what cloud storage and security is.
What is the cloud?
“The cloud” refers to a storage server that is accessed via the internet. In a practical sense, platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive are cloud storage options. These are the ones you are likely to see every day, as most users have some form of cloud storage simply to empty space in their laptops and PCs. And that’s the main selling point: it doesn’t take up memory in your physical computer. You access and retrieve what you need via the internet.
What are the benefits of using the cloud?
The cloud works due to a technology named virtualization, which allows for the simulation or “virtual” creation of a computer that behaves like a hardware computer. They make more efficient use of the hardware that is hosting them. One server becomes multiple, one data center becomes multiple, and lots of customers can be occupied at once.
Another benefit of the cloud is that you will never entirely lose access to your data. The cloud should never go down. Even if individual servers go down, cloud servers should always stay online and should always stay available to access. And the data behind them should be backed up into multiple servers so that you never lose your data.
There are also a lot of important security benefits to using the cloud. Not only is your data backed up, but it’s backed up into a non-physical database where the sole purpose of the team running it is to manage security. Private servers host a number of purposes, so your team has security on their plate amongst a range of other managerial tasks, but the sole point of a cloud server’s team is to ensure security. Cloud security, therefore, is as much a priority as physical access security to any commercial or industrial building.
As much as it’s not fun to address it, an alarmingly high rate of cyber security issues come internally, perpetrated by employees with access. However, if your sensitive information is kept off-site, on a cloud, it is a lot harder for employees to access. Security can be graded and amped up as needed with various data protection tools for allowing access, like passwords, fingerprints, face recognition, device verification, and personal questions.
The cloud also makes it a lot easier to meet government compliance regulations concerning cyber security. This is because access to the cloud is encrypted, which means hackers or anyone unauthorized to view the data cannot access the cloud by riding on your network connection.
Are there any risks to using the cloud?
When looking at the cloud, you might see a big pot of data where any one business can allow access to a spoon. But there is actually research that shows that using the cloud is a lot safer than not due to businesses having their own levels of security.
However, cloud data breaches do happen and misconfiguration is a leading cause of them, mainly due to businesses inadequate cyber security strategies. This is due to several factors, such as the fundamental nature of the cloud designed to be easy for anyone to access and businesses unable to completely see or control the cloud’s infrastructure and are therefore relying on the cyber security controls that are provided by the cloud service provider (or CSP).
Unauthorized access is also a risk. Due to the internet, which is a readily available public resource to most of the world, that makes it easy for hackers to access the data if they have the credentials to get past the cyber security set up by the individual business. This is where the ugliness of internal cloud breaches happens. If security is not configured well or credentials like passwords and secret questions are compromised, an attacker can easily access the cloud.
However, it’s not only through an employee that hackers access credentials. Phishing is a very common means of gaining information that would allow access to a customer or business data.
Plus, the simple nature of sharing data can easily backfire on a company. A lot of data access is granted with a link to someone external, which can then be forwarded, either sold or stolen, to an attacker to access the cloud’s data.
There are many reasons why hackers do what they do, the main ones being for the purposes of money, activism, or simply for a laugh. Some hackers will access the data in the cloud in order to blackmail the company, known as ransomware, or the customer. Some will do it to make a point or bring to light some business practices they don’t agree with. Others simply want to prove that they can do it.
Limiting their access is of the utmost priority to every business, but whether the cloud is the way to go about that is up for debate. The cloud offers many cyber security benefits over typical physical data storage and individual servers, but it isn’t bulletproof.