Six steps to securing your data in the cloud

More businesses than ever are entrusting their data and IT infrastructure to the cloud. Recent estimates put the number of organisations that are using the cloud in one form or another as high as 96 per cent. If you have just made the move to the cloud, or if it is something you are considering, it’s clear that there are a huge range of benefits to do so.

However, many businesses are guilty of overlooking some of the cloud-specific security issues. It is not right to assume that the cloud is always secure and that you can forget about your commitments to cyber security when you make the switch. So here are six steps that can help you to keep your data secure in the cloud.

1. Work with a cloud services provider you can trust

Undoubtedly the first step in ensure that your cloud data is secure is to work with a cloud services provider that you feel comfortable with. There are many different providers available, and many will have a different approach to cyber security along with the responsibilities placed on your business, and the ones that they will take on.

Make sure that you choose a cloud services provider than will encrypt your data – using complicated algorithms that hide any data, and make it impossible to read without knowing the encryption key. It is vital to speak to each provider and understand what they are doing to do for you; do not assume all service providers offer the same package.

2. Utilising vulnerability scans

Vulnerability scans form part of the groundwork for high level cyber security in the cloud. These are automated software scans that are designed to identify issues and weaknesses within the system, then providing your IT team with information, so that they can take it forward and implement the necessary changes.

These scans can uncover potential problems such as misconfiguration – these can then be rectified before they can be exploited by cyber criminals.

3. Carry out regular penetration testing

Vulnerability scans are just one layer of testing that your organisation needs to carry out to challenge its defences. While these software-based scans can be very effective, it is important to also test your system against potential intrusions from hackers and criminals. The only way to do this effectively is through regular penetration testing.

During penetration testing, a cyber security professional uses the same techniques and tactics that would be employed by a criminal looking to get into your system. This testing gives a more thorough assessment of the networks, systems, and web applications, a well helping you to understand whether your team is prepared to deal with this kind of attack.

4. Monitor your cloud infrastructure proactively

It should also be noted here that it is not possible for businesses to maintain strong cyber security purely through reactive measures. Simple defences such as firewalls and anti-virus software, while still having their place, are not capable of defending your business against the kind of sophisticated threats that are increasingly used by cyber criminals.

It is important, then, to invest in security monitoring technologies that are able to detect threats and respond to them before the develop into an attack. For example, SIEM systems analyse your cloud network and event logs to identify potential problems.

5. Effective user access management

It is essential that businesses should employ an effective user access management policy if they are going to have access to their data available on the cloud. Restrict your employees to being able to access only the data that they need to do their gap. This helps to minimise the risk of your business being compromised through an insider attack, but also limits the scope of breach, if one of these accounts is hacked.

6. Provide staff with training

Finally, remember that your staff are a vital line of defence against cyber-attacks and data breaches. This means that you need to provide them with as much training as possible, so that they understand best practice and are doing the things needed to keep your business safe, such as using strong passwords, and knowing how to spot a phishing email.

Your staff training should be carried out regularly to update staff on the latest techniques and tactics being utilised by criminals.

Mike James is a cybersecurity professional and author

In partnership with