It’s only relatively recently since then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt introduced the term at a 2006 conference that cloud computing has become a recognized force in computing.

Cloud computing refers to the use of networks of remote servers that can store or process data. Prior to cloud computing, data storage and processing was typically carried out locally, either on the computer you were using or a local network.

Within a relatively brief time, however, the cloud has become ubiquitous. This brings up new issues with data security, especially data security in the cloud.

Today, billions of people around the world access cloud computing services, either directly making use of it to store their personal files or tapping into cloud-based services for everything from playing streaming games to using machine learning technology.

Businesses are no exception. The overwhelming majority of businesses today use cloud computing as part of their toolset. In many cases, partially or totally cloud-based systems may be used as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) setups.

The cloud provides some big advantages and benefits. They can save companies money because it means that they do not have to make investments in physical hardware.

Businesses only pay for what they use, and do not have to worry about hiring personnel to manage and maintain these systems themselves. They are also more mobile, allowing access to files and systems remotely, rather than having to physically connect on premises.

In an age in which more people than ever are working away from the office, this is immensely valuable. Connected to this is the notion of collaboration, since cloud-based apps like Google Docs allow multiple people to collaborate in real-time on the same document.

In addition, the cloud offers theoretically unlimited storage, meaning that there is no chance of running out of space to store crucial files.

Risks as well as rewards

But while the cloud has been a big positive in many ways, companies also regularly struggle with cloud security. The cloud makes many aspects of computer data storage, management, and processing easier.

However, they are not risk free. The route to the kind of increased agility the cloud offers can bring risks. Hackers and attacks on cloud-based systems are becoming more sophisticated and commonplace.

Some of the significant data breaches and other threats are the result of weak access controls that leave access to public and private cloud-based systems exposed.

Misconfigurations are increasingly common as a means by which bad actors can gain access to IaaS systems. Hackers could, for instance, gain access as seemingly legitimate users by exploiting weak credentials and logins. They may also take advantage of software vulnerabilities to access systems to exfiltrate data.

In 2019, a former Amazon Web Services (AWS) software engineer hacked into a Capital One cloud-based server and gained access to the credit card applications and accounts belonging to upward of 100 million Americans.

In the aftermath, Capital One was fined $80 million for not properly securing the customer data in question while it was hosted in the cloud. The hacker, Paige A. Thompson, was arrested after boasting about the hacking incident.

Security responsibilities

In many cases, companies reliant on cloud services are not fully aware of what security measures and precautions they should be responsible for compared to the measures and precautions that are the responsibility of the cloud services provider. That kind of uncertainty is bad news for all involved.

While cloud computing may still be relatively new to companies (even though they have had more than a decade to acclimatize), some of the best practice security measures that can be put in place are the same as the ones you might use for protecting data in a classic data center.

For instance, companies should ensure that they are employing proper authentication approaches. That means multi-factor authentication requiring, for example, a password known to the user and a piece of biometric data, such as a fingerprint. Encryption, integrity checking, secure deletion and other methods should also be employed.

Keep your head in the cloud

If you want to ensure that you are doing all you can when it comes to data security in the cloud, consider bringing in the cybersecurity experts.

Professional data security and cloud security solutions will let you reveal exactly who accesses the data and applications under your control, as well as track the activity data from everyone from administrators to sanctioned users.

They can additionally provide rapid detection and response systems that can help defend against everything from attacks that can be leveled at you. These out-of-the-box systems will help with both security and compliance by assisting with discovery, detection, classification, and reporting.

The world of cloud-based computer systems brings some extraordinary advantages to businesses.

But, as with every technology, new possibilities and opportunities also mean new dangers and risks to be aware of. By using the right tools and protections available, companies can take advantage of the benefits – while doing their best to minimize and mitigate the risks.

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