Cloud App Security: How You Can Improve Protection for Your Cloud Applications

cloud app security

Wherever you look today, there is a cloud application in business. It may be in the storage of files or performing various data operations. The cloud has become an efficient and reliable computing platform availing the resources in various forms like Software, Platform, and infrastructure. They offer these services in either standalone or hybrid cloud services. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the incidences of breaches and cyberattacks on cloud platforms and services.

Various factors, both human failures, and system vulnerabilities, cause cyberattacks. The attackers exploit these loopholes to gain access to the system. However, securing the cloud service is a shared responsibility. The vendor should ensure the security of the infrastructure while the customers should secure their data and ensure that they follow the correct protocols when accessing the data on the cloud. In this post, we will look at the various ways of securing the cloud. Let us first understand what the term cloud security means.

Cloud App Security How You Can Improve Protection for Your Cloud Applications

What is cloud security?

Cloud security refers to a set of technologies, policies, procedures, and controls that work together in protecting your cloud-based systems and applications.

As we know, there are tons of sensitive data on the cloud belonging to a Business.

Because of various reasons like the pandemic, most people are working remotely. For this reason, there is more data stored on the cloud today than ever before. With a bulk of employees working remotely through a blend of business and personal devices, the company’s attack surface spreads wider. It gives the attackers more opportunities that they can use to exploit the system.

It is important to secure mobile devices. Many companies use some management and monitoring of the company-supplied computers. However, few of them have tried managing mobile devices owned by the employees. This concept is called Bring Your Device (BYOD). The employees use the devices to access cloud apps like Microsoft 365 daily. Hence, they elevate the security risks.

The Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recent advisory revealed that the hackers have been using phishing campaigns successfully and brute force logins in attempts to exploit various securities in cloud security practices.

The hackers launch emails having malicious links to capture the login credentials for cloud services accounts. These emails and the links look legit to a human eye. Thus, they trick the employees into an elaborate phishing scheme. Unfortunately, all this arises from using weak cybersecurity habits within a company that allows the hackers to exploit the vulnerabilities.

How secure is the cloud?

The public cloud services vendors like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have a more secure environment than your on-premise measures. However, for protecting your data, even the public cloud service providers can fail you. As some say, securing the data on the cloud is a shared responsibility. The cloud service providers cannot protect you if your credentials are stolen from other services and sold on various platforms. They can also not protect you when your employees use their mobile phones to access the cloud or when the company data interacts with other systems on-premise. That’s where the company comes in to secure its systems.

The company data leaves the cloud at all times. Through access by the employees, it may be transferred and downloaded data from different devices in various locations, not only from their premises. Breaches in security rarely arise from poor data security in the cloud; humans mainly caused them. Disgruntled employees, stolen login credentials, insecure WIFI connections, accidental deletions, and other employee mistakes put the security of the data at risk.

Cloud Application Security: Why is it Important?

As organizations move their applications and data to the cloud, it is more crucial to understand how to protect a company’s sensitive data and applications that could be potentially exposed.

Maintaining customer trust

It is critical to prevent data theft and leaks if a business maintains trust with customers and avoids the costs associated with data breaches. These costs can go to the tune of millions to a company. If the applications on the cloud are not as secure, the customers lose trust in the system. As a result, this may hurt the profits for the cloud vendor.

To maintain regulatory compliance

The next reason it is essential to ensure cloud security is to be regulatory compliant. If the application is in a field like health, it must comply with the HIPAA and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

According to the Bitglass Cloud Security Report, 33% of cloud professionals are concerned about public cloud security.

However, there are measures that a company can put in place to ensure cloud application security. This post will look at the various measures you can put in place to improve cloud application security.

Measures to improve cloud application security

User Access Management

The company must ensure it has proper layers of authorization to protect sensitive company information. Not every employee should be allowed to access specific applications and documents. Employees should be given access to only the information they require to perform their tasks. Thus, there is a need to put proper access rights to prevent a manipulation or unauthorized access of the company data.

Employees at lower levels are more prone to attacks like phishing as there are few cautions because of their levels of operations. Their numbers also affect them, and they are too many compared to the top-level employees like managers. If a company does not implement authorization levels between the different levels of employees, it might spell doom to their cloud security. It would mean that a simple phishing attack on an employee at the low levels can give the attacker access to the application.

Training the employees

The greatest threat to your cloud application security may be your employees though indirectly. The easiest method that hackers use to gain access to cloud applications is phishing. Therefore, it is critical to offer your employees anti-phishing techniques comprehensively in a regular way. Through training, the employees can spot phishing scams easily and remain clear from them.

The company should conduct this training regularly and continuously. Proper training is not a one-time activity. It is a series of continuous and consistent sessions. The organization should know that hackers develop new phishing strategies daily.

Using Automated solutions to monitor end-user activities and detect intruders

Real-time analysis and monitoring of the end-user activities can help a company identify the irregularities and deviations from standard user patterns, for instance, accessing the cloud application from a previously unknown IP address. These abnormalities may show a system breach, and their early detection can help the company stop the attackers on their tracks. It can also help the company fix the vulnerabilities before a security incidence arises.

There are many SOCaaS solutions. They will help you with automated 24/7 network management and monitoring. It also helps shift to advanced cybersecurity solutions like; endpoint response and detection, vulnerability remediation and scanning, and intrusion response and detection. Since there are varying needs for cyber security services per company, a third-party assessment of risks is critical.

Employ Data Loss Protections with CASBs

Data loss protection on cloud applications is not effective nowadays. Organizations are focusing on the use of Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs). These are security software and policies based on the cloud. They interface with the cloud service consumer and providers to govern policies, ensure compliance and ensure security in cloud applications.

CASBs include several security enforcement policies like authentication, single sign-on, credential mapping, tokenization, malware mitigation and detection, device profiling, alerting, and logging. A CASB aims to extend enterprises security controls from the on-premise infrastructure to the cloud. CASBs help an organization to;

  • Select and assess the cloud services that meet their compliance and security requirements.
  • Identify the cloud services in use, their users, and the security threats they pose to the application data.
  • Protect an organization’s data on the cloud by restricting sensitive data against downloading, access, or sharing.

Protecting metadata and user identity

Although the vulnerabilities in a system can cause cloud application security breaches, Human negligence is the leading cause. It is up to the company to protect their staff identities for the corporate members to access sensitive company data.

Most entrepreneurs do not understand that the company’s metadata can cause a security threat. The evidence of the data is a security risk like the data itself. Unfortunately, many cloud service providers and businesses do not pay the required attention to metadata security. The issue with many Cloud Service Providers is that they keep all the metadata in one location. Thus, with a single breach into the application, the attackers can access all the metadata. Fragmentation distribution and separate storage of the metadata is an excellent strategy to protect it.

Implementing a strict policy for external collaborators

One critical importance of cloud applications is that the employees and third parties can collaborate on shared responsibilities and tasks. However, there comes a security threat with this collaboration, especially when working with third parties.

The company should implement strict policies outlining the data the employees can upload for collaboration with external parties. The policy should also show the employees allowed to share that data and the excluded ones.

Ensure that you audit all the access logs for time and data access by the employees. If there is any anomaly, flag it and understand it as soon as possible. The company should embrace data loss prevention to restrict abnormal access.

Deploying multi-factor authentication

Traditional password and username combinations are currently insufficient in protecting user accounts from attackers. Stolen credentials are among the primary ways the attackers access the company’s cloud data and applications. When the attackers have these credentials, they use bots to perform credential stuffing to validate the credentials. The attackers prefer bots because they can work at a quick rate. Upon validating them, the hacker can log into the cloud application or service that a business uses for its day-to-day activities.

Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) ensures that the cloud apps, data, and users are protected. Only allowed personnel can log onto your cloud applications and access the sensitive data on the on- or off-premise data or applications. MFA is a practical yet cheap security control that keeps attackers from accessing the application on the cloud. Security experts consider it negligent if one does not implement MFA as part of their cloud platforms.

Having a comprehensive offboarding process

What does the company do when its employees depart? Are there measures to revoke their access to the cloud and other applications? When they leave the company, the employees should not access the data, cloud applications, intellectual property, and customer information. The company must have a comprehensive process for protecting itself when the employees depart. To begin with, the company must push the crucial security responsibilities back some weeks or days after the employee has left.

A departing employee is likely to have access to different cloud applications still. Thus, you need a systemized process to de-provision to ensure they revoke the access rights for any departing customer. If a company cannot manage the process internally, it should not hesitate to outsource a company that can implement, set up, and maintains it.

Cloud-to-cloud backup solutions

As we have already seen, there are slight chances you lose data because of a cloud service provider’s mistake- but the chances are high that you will lose it because of human error. An employee may accidentally delete the data from the cloud platform, a rogue employee clears their inbox, or a hacker gets hold of the account credentials and corrupts the data. After a certain period, there is nothing that the cloud service provider can do to help.

Most cloud services store the deleted data and configurations in their data centers for some time. The company should check with the cloud provider what this timeframe is and the charges to restore the data if retrieved. The companies concerned with being held liable for corrupted or missing data or those that must abide by a strict code or regulations are using cloud-to-cloud data backup solutions.

Conclusion

Cloud application security in an organization is paramount now that most of the employees are working remotely. We know human mistakes are the leading causes of security issues. The users use various devices ranging from their smartphones to company-provided laptops to access the cloud applications, posing a security risk to the company data.

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