The volume of cloud data is increasing at an exponential rate. But with this growth comes an increased attack surface, heightening the risk of dangerous data breaches or leaks. To support the operations of modern businesses and agencies across the world, data resources require storage that can remain secure at scale as they continue to grow.
The need to advance data-driven operations while mitigating risk is a common cloud migration challenge that organizations must address as they scale. Surmounting this challenge requires platforms that enable users to achieve cloud storage security without having an adverse effect on data access, data sharing, and overall data use.
In this blog, we’ll address the threats associated with evolving cloud data storage, and share our keys to addressing these challenges and mitigating risk with cloud storage security.
How Secure is Cloud Storage?
Since the advent of cloud computing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, users have benefitted from the cloud’s enhanced flexibility, scalability, and efficiency. To support cloud workloads, information storage and computing capabilities were moved from traditional hardware to a distributed software infrastructure, accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Cloud storage platforms play an important role in these networks, offering organizations the ability to aggregate and store their data in the cloud. But with the decentralized nature of this infrastructure, just how secure is the information stored in it?
Think of it this way: John Doe chooses to keep all of his money, in cash, in his home. Maybe it’s in a safe, maybe it’s in his mattress–but he considers this the best way to protect his financial resources. Jane Doe, on the other hand, keeps her money in various bank accounts. She knows that banks offer a distributed, secure network that lets customers store their money and access it whenever necessary–even from different locations! If John runs out of cash on a vacation, he’d be in quite the predicament. In the same scenario, Jane simply goes to the nearest ATM or branch of her bank and withdraws more money.
John’s approach is closer to traditional on-premises data storage, while Jane’s method is akin to cloud data storage. This is not to discredit or disparage either approach; rather it is to show that each has its merits and difficulties. While one offers more direct control, it severely limits flexibility. And while the other offers increased adaptability and scalability, it broadens the attack surface and introduces additional risk.
What Are the Risks of Cloud Storage?
As more organizations look to leverage a Jane-like approach by migrating data to cloud storage platforms, they face a number of associated risks. Being aware of these risks–and proactively protecting against them–is the safest way to protect cloud data while reaping its many benefits. Some of the most common risks of cloud storage include:
Unauthorized Access & Breaches
When data lives in a distributed environment, it opens more avenues through which a bad actor could potentially access information without authorization. If a cloud network is misconfigured or improperly managed, data sets are left open for cybercriminals to access and use. Regardless of whether this occurs due to technological misuse or human error, it has an incredibly detrimental impact on data privacy. For this reason, a comprehensive data breach response plan and continuous data monitoring are both necessities for any cloud-based organization.
Data Loss & Leaks
Given the many moving parts in a cloud ecosystem, there is a risk that resources will fall victim to data loss or leakage. Data loss occurs when data is accidentally destroyed due to failures or oversights in the storage, transmission, or computing process. Data leaks, on the other hand, happen when resources are transmitted or shared inappropriately by an internal user. This is why it’s a best practice to train and enable data users on security and privacy, as well as implement a data loss prevention plan. These kinds of proactive behaviors can help guard against loss or leakage.
Inaccessibility & Disconnect
Opening up your data storage and users to the scale of the cloud can be both a blessing and a curse. While it provides ample opportunity for increased collaboration, operationalizing cloud storage effectively can be difficult. Poor cloud configuration or inadequate enablement causes confusion and makes accessing stored data difficult. Similarly, users could begin to store data sets in different network locations, creating data silos that are both inefficient and risk-prone. Engaging and enabling data users in a cloud network is just as important as choosing the right platforms and tools.
What Are the Keys to Cloud Storage Security?
To address these risks and optimize data storage and usage, cloud data ecosystems must be approached sensibly. Migrate too quickly or without the right safeguards, and the cloud may become more of a risk than it is worth. With this in mind, there are a few high-level principles that all organizations should adhere to in order to ensure effective cloud storage security:
Compliance and regulations play a massive role in cloud storage practices. When working with sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII) protected health information (PHI), any leakage could damage the data subjects’ lives. This is why governments and other ruling bodies have implemented a range of compliance laws and regulations geared towards safely standardizing data storage and use, including the likes of the GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, and more.
In order to maintain impactful security across cloud data, teams must ensure that their practices are in compliance with regulatory standards. This will not only help keep data safe, but it also protects the organization from the fines and penalties associated with noncompliance.
Balance Access & Security
Without accessibility, data is useless. But without rigorous data security, it is at risk of breaches, leakage, loss, and unintended disclosure. This creates a tricky ultimatum for cloud-first organizations: lock down data and impede accessibility, or leave security lax and heighten the risk of unauthorized access?
Fortunately, there are ways to strike a balance between these opposing requirements. With dynamic access controls applied universally across cloud platforms, access can be granted both securely and efficiently. Combine this with common cloud data security techniques like encryption and data masking, and teams can keep their information proactively protected against unauthorized access.
Continually Audit & Log Activity
As data teams add more platforms and users to their ecosystems, it can become more difficult to keep track of where data lives, where it is moved, and how and why it is being accessed. This slippery slope is a dangerous one, as access becomes less scrutinized and data use less controlled. The most effective way to avoid this while still scaling data is to continually audit activity in the data stack.
By enabling continuous data monitoring and activity logging, teams can track all activity taken on their data. This ensures that any anomalous activity can be identified and addressed as quickly as possible. It also provides teams with an activity log that can be audited and examined for compliance purposes.
Enable & Inform Data Users
The goal of effective cloud storage is to provide a secure and scalable repository that gives data users self-service, business-driving accessibility. But as with any new technology, users need to be trained and informed on how best to make use of the cloud. Without this enablement, the risk of leaks, breaches, siloes, loss, and unauthorized access are all heightened.
When data users are involved in the cloud migration process, informed about the changes, and informed about how to use data responsibly and effectively, they’re better able to make the promises of the cloud a reality.
Elevating Cloud Storage Security
With an understanding of the risks of cloud data storage and best practices for cloud security, teams can make an informed shift to the cloud.
To streamline and secure this migration, the Immuta Data Security Platform provides data discovery, security, and detection capabilities that are designed to work natively with leading cloud storage providers like Snowflake, Databricks, Starburst, and AWS Redshift. Immuta enables teams to adhere to the cloud storage security principles through the following features:
- Data Discovery & Classification: Immuta automatically applies sensitive data discovery on any data onboarded into a storage environment, tagging and classifying data to give teams a holistic understanding of their resources. This provides visibility into the types of sensitive data that are being stored, where they are being kept, and how they are being used across the storage network.
- Security & Access Controls: With sensitive data identified, teams can easily write and apply attribute-based access control policies in plain language. These policies are applied dynamically at query time, so data owners and governance teams can understand who has access to what, and mitigate risk of unauthorized access or data leakage.
- Monitoring & Detection: To allow insight into all data use and improve data security posture management, Immuta continuously monitors and logs user activity. This gives teams the chance to audit data use for compliance purposes, as well as detect any anomalous or risky behavior from internal users or external threats.
If you’d like a deeper understanding of data security for the cloud, check out the Data Security for Dummies eBook here. To learn more about how the Immuta Data Security Platform can streamline and empower your cloud storage security needs, schedule a demo with one of our experts today.
Data Security for Dummies
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