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Keeping your cloud IT infrastructure safe and secure: 5 best practices for cloud security management

Published on June 12, 2024

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In today’s digitally connected world, there is a significant increase in the number of companies placing their IT infrastructure and applications in the cloud. According to the Australian Parliament, 42% of Australian businesses are using the cloud actively today, and globally, large companies are targeting to have 60% of their environment in the cloud by 2025. If companies manage to prioritise cloud adoption, they stand to unlock the tremendous value potential of the cloud, which is set to hit $3 trillion by 2025.

Yet while the cloud environment represents significant value to organisations including productivity gains, increased efficiency, reduced costs, scalability, greater resilience, and innovation too, at the same time, cloud computing presents just as many risks for businesses. Industry experts also caution that cloud-based infrastructure is more vulnerable and exposed to security threats than traditional data centres. According to Deloitte, ransomware attacks impacted 66% of organisations in 2023, with abuse of valid credentials accounted for 44.7% of data breaches.

This is where cloud security management best practices come in. Cloud security management is the practice of securing your data and operations in the cloud from theft or damage. And it is now an IT area extremely high on the agenda given the increasing and constant security threats facing organisations when it comes to their data.

So, what are the unique cloud security challenges that companies face?

While there are many upsides of cloud computing, the main downside is that cloud environments typically present greater security risks rising from unmanaged attack surfaces, human error, misconfiguration and data breaches to name but a few.

For example, a modern workplace’s attack surface, your environment’s total exposure typically increases with every workload that is added, leading often to additional areas that the organisation might not even be aware of to actively secure or manage.

And one of the biggest security risks in any environment but particularly the cloud is human error as we have explored previously. Humans, in many ways, are the source of all evil – not the technology itself. Humans are often behind the increase in attacks, and it is often humans who might put an organisation at greater risk due to a lack of training, awareness or deeper understanding. According to Gartner, between now and 2025, 99% of all cloud security failures will be due to some level of human error. There is no doubt that human error is a constant risk when building business applications and managing cloud security.

Then there is misconfiguration. This is where cloud settings keep changing and growing as various providers add more services over time. And because most companies are using more than one cloud provider, it can be hard to keep track of the required settings and the various nuances making misconfigurations more common which leave companies exposed and vulnerable to attacks.

All of this can lead to data breaches, where sensitive company information falls into the possession of others. This can lead to significant harm to any organisation, including reputational damage, and be costly. According to Gartner, the average cost of a data breach has reached $8.64 million. Worse still is the potential for reputational harm. According to an Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) report, almost half (47%) of Australians indicated they would discontinue product use or close their account if they experienced a data breach.

Top 5 best practices for cloud security management

While cloud service providers place security at the heart of their businesses and strive to protect your data assets the best they can, unfortunately, they do not have a deep understanding or visibility into your entire operations. Thus, it is imperative for your organisation to take charge of your cloud security management; own it and take initiative around it. But where do you start when formulating an effective and robust cloud security management strategy and approach?

Here are 5 key best practices to get you started:

1. Conduct regular cloud security assessments and audits:

With periodic assessments, businesses can work to identify vulnerabilities and perform audits to ensure compliance with security policies and standards. An example of Gartner suggesting that 99% of security failures would be the customers’ fault could be avoided with routine assessments. Audits can be applied for a variety of reasons, such as compliance, vulnerability, risk management, and performance optimisation, which all aid in cloud security.

2. Prioritise cloud security tasks:

Based on your regular risk assessments and ensure that you focus on the most critical areas first. In doing so, leverage external resources where possible, such as managed service providers (MSPs) to gain additional expertise and support. It is also essential to stay up to date with the latest regulatory requirements and industry best practices to ensure your company remains compliant and secure.

3. Adopt a zero-trust security model:

Assume no trust among users and devices within and outside the network, requiring verification from everyone trying to access resources in the cloud. Also ensure that you encrypt data to protect sensitive information from unauthorised access and breaches. Zero-trust adoption is expected to grow with roughly 82% of IT professionals predicting more future investment in the model, due to due to the rise in hybrid-remote work, mounting cyber threats, regulatory compliance requirements, decreasing insider threats, better visibility, and digital transformation.

4. Implement strong access control measures and monitoring:

Utilise identity and access management (IAM) policies to ensure only authorised users can access specific cloud resources. Also implement monitoring tools to continuously scan for security threats and anomalies, coupled with real-time alerts to respond promptly to potential security incidents. Employing strong access control measures and monitoring is beneficial as it restricts cloud resource access to permitted users and enables early detection in response to security threats and anomalies, improving general cloud security.

5. Build a culture of security awareness:

With so many security breaches being a result of human error, it cannot be emphasised enough how critical fostering a security-conscious culture within the organisation is, in terms of security. Invest in cloud security training and awareness programs for all employees to promote a culture of security awareness and best practices. As part of a robust training program, in addition to regular training, conduct phishing simulation exercises that involve everyone including top executives. Informed and vigilant employees can act as the first line of defense against cyber threats.

Leveraging cloud security technologies and third-party partners

In addition to building a solid cloud security framework and approach, there are also various resources and technologies available to organisations to support them through a security transformation. Explore multiple technologies and tools available to enhance cloud security, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions.

Do not be afraid to employ artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to detect and respond to security threats more efficiently. These AI and ML-enabled tools can uncover and treat security threats by examining large datasets for patterns, spotting anomalies faster than traditional methods, and automating responses to decrease risks. By employing these tools, businesses will unlock elevated security management and allow them to strengthen their defences against emerging threats.

In the evolving business landscape, agile cybersecurity solutions are required in the  Modern Workplace to secure end-user access, universal threats, data protection, and anomalous activity with real-time reporting.

To learn more about Experteq’s human-centric approach to cloud security, contact us today.

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