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6 Essential Steps to Improve Your Cloud Network Security in 2022

6 Essential Steps to Improve Your Cloud Network Security in 2022

As tech stacks are modernized, traditional security solutions quickly become outdated. In 2022, 94% of companies are using cloud computing services to some extent. As more companies step away from legacy infrastructure, taking a proactive approach to cloud network security becomes a priority.

It’s easy to picture “the cloud” as a single mass entity, but enterprises use 1,295 different cloud services on average, often from multiple vendors. And it’s not just enterprise companies that are migrating to the cloud in high numbers: 78% of small and medium businesses (SMBs) have adopted the cloud, and the majority use more than one cloud provider. 

It’s important to acknowledge that with the innovation opportunities these services bring, there are also challenges. For example, not accounting for the multiple elements that make up these expanding attack surfaces leaves your company at risk. And with most organizations of all sizes adopting multi- or hybrid-cloud, it becomes increasingly complex to maintain and manage security for their multiple environments.

Average number of cloud providers

Figure 1. Average number of cloud providers used by organizations. From “2022 Cloud Security Report,” by The International Information System Security Certification Consortium, 2022. Page 5. 

Breakdown of organizations

Figure 2. Breakdown of organizations using single or multiple cloud providers. From “2022 Cloud Security Report,” by The International Information System Security Certification Consortium, 2022. Page 6. 

Migrating data from on-premises data centres to the cloud can raise various security risks. This doesn’t go unnoticed by malicious hackers looking for opportunities to steal personal information or plant malware to gain access to corporate networks while data is in its most vulnerable state.

Research has found that once a system has been breached, the average amount of time these attackers can operate undetected is 11 days. Irreparable damage can be done in that time. In 2022 alone, data breaches cost a global average of $4.35 million.

Anatomy of network attacks

Figure 3. Anatomy of network attacks. From “The Active Adversary Playbook 2021,” by Shier, John, 2022. 

If you’re among the 93% of businesses considering cloud network security their top priority, here are some issues to look out for and best practices to prevent them.

Understanding Network Cloud Security

Cloud network security aims to limit the opportunities malicious actors may find to access, change, or destroy information on private or public cloud networks. 

Due to the unique qualities of cloud environments, different approaches and tactics are required compared to on-site networks. As organizations of all sizes migrate to the cloud, more sensitive information than ever before is being stored on cloud networks, which in turn attracts all kinds of malicious actors.

3 Cloud Security Challenges

While the cloud offers numerous benefits, it also comes with several security challenges that businesses should be aware of. These include:

1. Compliance Requirements and Contractual Breaches

With regulatory control increasing, there is a growing range of strict compliance requirements surrounding how your company handles its data, who has access to that data, how the data is processed, and how it is protected.

You may also have contractual partnerships stipulating how shared data is stored, used, and accessed. Being unaware of these regulations could lead to careless data transfers and put your organization at risk of non-compliance or breach of contract, potentially exposing you to hefty legal and financial repercussions.

2. Insider Threats

The biggest security risks are often your employees, contractors, and business partners. This isn’t necessarily due to malicious intent but commonly happens due to negligence, naivety, distraction, and lack of training. Arguably, when you migrate data to the cloud, you add another layer to this threat by handing over sensitive information to the cloud provider’s employees.

3. Misconfiguration of Cloud Services

As cloud services grow increasingly complex with a wider range of features, misconfiguration of cloud services can be a security risk. Given how many organizations use more than one cloud provider, preventing security vulnerabilities becomes increasingly complex. Cloud misconfiguration can allow for sensitive data to be publicly exposed, changed, or deleted and can commonly be caused by leaving default settings in place.

The Shared Responsibility Model

The shared responsibility model is used to clarify who is responsible for which parts of your data security. By shifting your data to the cloud, you’re opting to share the responsibility for securing that data with a cloud service provider. An unambiguous shared responsibility model ensures there is no gap in your security coverage. 

The responsibilities that fall to each party will vary depending on the type of service and the service provider you choose. But generally speaking, the shared responsibility model can help protect you and your company from the reputational, financial, and legal ramifications that follow data loss and data breaches.

Shared Responsibility Model

Figure 4. Shared Responsibility Model. From “A Comprehensive Guide to Cloud Security in 2022 (Risks, Best Practices, Certifications,” by E. Jones, 2022, September 30.

6 Essential Steps To Improve Your Cloud Network Security

1. Implement IAM

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a cloud service that determines the permissions and user access to cloud resources. It is a set of permissions policies that determines who can access what information in the cloud resources and what users can do with that information. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an example of IAM that is easy to implement and has been shown to protect up to99% of fraudulent sign-in attempts.

2. Encrypt Your Data

Encrypting the data you transfer to the cloud ensures it is concealed from unauthorized or malicious users. This service is automatically included in the offerings of some cloud providers that deliver end-to-end protection of data being transferred to and from the cloud, as well as resting data stored in the cloud, preventing it from being manipulated.

3. Protect User Endpoints

Endpoint devices are laptops, desktop computers, servers, mobile devices, or any other type of technology that can connect to a network and can therefore be used as access points by hackers. As the use of unmanaged devices connecting to cloud traffic has doubled due to trends such as remote working and IoT, it is critical to educate employees about the importance of accessing the cloud network exclusively from a protected endpoint device. With proper endpoint protection in place, malware and other threats to the network can be found and resolved quickly.

4. Maintain Logs and Monitoring

Maintaining logs and monitoring systems can help organizations detect unauthorized activities. This allows security teams to identify a user making any damaging changes to the network and resolve the issue quickly. By setting up alerts to inform you of any unusual events, you can save your company valuable time and money.

5. Employ an Effective Password Strategy

Basic as it may sound, one of the most important ways to protect your cloud network security is to use strong passwords. You should have clear password policies for employees with requirements to change passwords regularly, have at least eight characters, and include a combination of upper and lowercase letters and special characters.

It is vital to use different passwords for different accounts to help prevent your system from being hacked. Using a password manager can be useful in deploying these password policies without adding complexity to the user who now needs to keep track of multiple account sign-ins and store their multiple passwords safely.  

6. Perform Pen Testing to Find Gaps

Penetrating testing (a.k.a. pen testing) is a type of security test intended to find a system’s vulnerabilities by forcing access onto it. It can be used to find weaknesses both in on-site systems and cloud networks. Pen tests are efficient in finding vulnerabilities because pen testers use the same tools, techniques, and processes as attackers to find and demonstrate the business impacts of weaknesses in a system, alerting security teams to how attackers may exploit them.

Moving Forward With Confidence and Trust

As more businesses migrate to cloud networks, it’s important to follow best practices when it comes to your cloud network security. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with private information and sensitive data that requires protection. Failing to adequately protect this data could leave your company dealing with huge financial losses, legal consequences, and even possible shutdowns. By choosing the right cloud service provider, you have someone to share that responsibility with so that you can focus on growing your business instead of managing infrastructure with security and damage control.

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