Cloud security is all about visibility and control

DQI Bureau
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There was a time when all CIOs had to worry about security-whether their company's PCs were protected with updated version of anti-virus! Then came the LAN and the scope shifted to the server/gateway but it was still mostly about anti-this or anti-that (virus, spam, malware, etc). Today, that's all changed. If you look at a large organization, IT security or information security, as some like to call it, encompasses a wide swath ranging from vanilla endpoint protection through email and web security all the way to preventing denial of service attacks or protecting physical facilities through surveillance. Now, as Indian organizations are moving from physical infrastructure to dense virtualization, the threat scenario is also evolving at a rapid pace. That is why organizations that have adopted cloud have to be aware of the security needs/repercussions.


Cloud Security Challenges

Cloud services comes with many security challenges, including concerns that emerge from any multi-tenant environment. Public cloud, which is a meta-trend, pushes data into all directions. Adding to that, cloud creates a new set of super-users who have easy access to the data.

Controlling and retaining information in the cloud environment is a key thing for any enterprise. The security of mission-critical application data in shared clouds or virtual machines is a concern for companies that want to virtualize or move these production applications to the cloud, which if countered, can enable move mission-critical applications to private, public, or hybrid clouds while retaining full ownership and control over their high-value data.


While vendors are determined to make the cloud a trusted environment in which organizations can do business safely. Concerns such as data protection, operational integrity, vulnerability management, business continuity (BC), disaster recovery (DR), and identity management, top the list of security issues for cloud computing. Privacy is another key concern. There are basic steps for an organization to undertake to ensure a smooth migration on to the cloud and to ensure that mission critical data is secure.

User Authentication

This is all about access and who accesses the data, whether in transit or storage. Since cloud computing is usually done beyond the clients' firewall, there's always a fear of putting data ‘out there'. Traditionally, businesses store their data on physical servers in their premises, and the hardware would need an on-site access to compromise or breach the data. This storage has been seen as a deterrent to hacking and illegal access. User authentication is still one of the main fears despite the fact that cloud providers ensure data encryption besides employing necessary safeguards to monitor access. Organization can resort to ‘identity management' solutions to ensure access of data and applications to only authorized users. Supporting this process by appropriate compliance and audit management will enable proper track of accessed information and when was it accessed?


Data Protection and Accessibility

No company would ever want to expose themselves to any risk concerning their data (in transit or in storage) because the ramifications of this are too great to even imagine. Data that are often closely guarded include both internal and external data that touch on the company and client information respectively. If a company's security process is called into question, clients will lose confidence in their services and this will affect the overall turn-over, even put the entire company out of business.

Ultimate objective of safeguarding the data can only be achieved by ensuring a robust security model. Therefore, it is also important to offer accessibility only to the right people with right access and right information. Organizations must play a decisive role in designing the security layers considering the ultimate user and overall regulatory compliance standards. This practice will enable in gaining insights into overall strength of security. Additionally, organizations must have trust and assurance in the cloud environment including data center services, software and support staff provided by cloud vendor. This will enable in establishing transparency in overall processes and security liabilities.


Right People, Right Access

Today, organizations are facing compelling challenges to become compliant with stringent industry and governmental regulations. In addition, user communities supported by organizations is expanding beyond employee base and also including broader stakeholders such as partners and customers. On the other hand, growing adoption of BYOD is demanding technologies for better connect between employees and customers yet keeping the data safe. By automating processes for managing and validating user access, IT can significantly improve security, operational efficiency and the business user experience. Additionally, leveraging an accurate identity, entitlements and role model for identity management activities can improve overall security.

Data Breach, Damage, and Loss

There's a perceived threat to data in cloud because of varied reasons and one of them is fears of data loss, breach or damage. This is one security jitter however that has been counter-checked with cloud data back-ups and multiple server storage. In fact, data in cloud is less prone to breaches and physical damages like fire, floods, etc that are usually a risk in physical servers.

Failure to comprehend the whole idea of cloud computing is also proving to be a challenge especially among businesses seeking to use the service for the first time. This is precisely why businesses and organizations are being encouraged to allay perceived security fears and try to exploit the positives of cloud computing.