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The Necessity of Cloud Data Protection!

Cloud data protection is a set of practices that aim to secure data in a cloud environment. These practices apply to data regardless of where it is stored or how it is managed, whether internally or by third parties. Cloud data protection practices have become key aspects of data security as companies are increasing the amount of data stored in the cloud and have started recognizing the benefits of moving infrastructure and assets to the cloud. Non-compliance with data regulations and a subsequent breach can lead to monetary losses and damage brand reputation.

Cloud data protection practice encapsulates:

1) Data protection: Dealing with the loss of data by looking into backup and recovery systems and processes. 2) Data security: Dealing with safeguarding company and customer data from internal and external threats. 3) Data privacy: Dealing with control and management access for different data segments so that only the right people can access appropriate information.

A robust cloud data protection model helps to:

1. Maintains data visibility 2. Ensures data integrity 3. Maintains compliance 4. Ensures data security 5. Manages data storage 6. Helps outline a disaster recovery plan (Backup, Recovery, Availability) 7. Helps make informed decisions

Cloud data is typically protected through methods such as backups, cloud storage, and disaster recovery, all of which are meant to ensure that data remains within an organization’s possession in the event of a malware breach, data loss. Authentication, access control, and secure deletion are also common methods of keeping data protected. Organizations use these methods either to keep malicious or negligent users and employees away from data.

When setting up data protection in the cloud, organizations are likely to face several of the following challenges:

  • Integrity—systems need to be designed to ensure that only authorized access is granted. Configurations should also ensure that permissions to modify or delete data are restricted to appropriate users.

  • Locality—data regulations are applied by the physical location of data, where it is collected, and where it is used. In a distributed system, this can be difficult to determine and control. Systems should be designed in a way that clearly defines where data is located at all times.

  • Confidentiality—data needs to be secured according to its confidentiality level. This requires properly restricting permissions and applying encryptions to restrict readability.

  • Storage—cloud infrastructure is entirely controlled by the vendor. This means that companies must rely on vendors to ensure that physical infrastructures, networks, and data centers are secure.

Additionally, companies face a host of security challenges, including the potential for:

  • Security breaches

  • Loss or theft of sensitive data

  • Application vulnerabilities and malware propagation

Companies must also comply with data protection and privacy laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), in the EU; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), in the U.S., and others. It can be incredibly difficult for companies to consistently establish and enforce security policies across multiple cloud environments.

The following practices can be incorporated to ensure effective data protection:

- Evaluate built-in security: Any cloud vendor should have strong internal controls in place and should offer robust tools to help secure data. Look for vendors that offer service level agreements that ensure systems are properly protected. Additionally, make sure to verify what policies vendors have in place to meet compliance regulations.

- Utilize file-level encryption: Most cloud providers offer some measure of both in-transit and at-rest encryption. Additional file-level encryption should also be considered. An easy way to do this is by encrypting data before transferring it to cloud storage. If encryption is not possible at the file-level, see if the data can be “shard”. Sharding stores parts of data or applications in different locations. This can make it more difficult for attackers to reassemble your data even if they do gain access to it.

- Restrict access with strong credentials: Strong credential policies and strict access permissions should be implemented. Strict permissions ensure that users and applications are only able to access the data they need. Strong credential policies ensure that attackers are not able to abuse permissions granted to those users and applications.

- Secure end-user devices: Endpoints are one of the most vulnerable parts of the system, particularly if endpoints are user-controlled. For example, smartphones connected to the network as part of a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. These devices can be a liability because security teams typically don’t have full control over security measures, such as updates or encryption.

- Create centralized control: Consistency is the key to cloud data protection. All user and application access across any level of the system must go through this component. This can be done with the help of an IAM (Identity Access Management) or a PAM (Privileged Access Management) solution. MFAs must be put in place, especially where sensitive and restricted data is concerned. Centralized monitoring must also allow the IT team to spot shadow IT, which is quite common with cloud deployments.

- Provide a stable and robust user experience: The cloud data protection model must produce an optimal balance between usability and security.

- Automate where possible: Competitive cloud vendors provide built-in algorithms to identify possible vulnerabilities using AI. Automated log and report generation also allows security teams to spot suspicious behavior with respect to data access and manipulation. This also helps with compliance audits.

- Document the organization’s responsibility: There is room for confusion in the shared responsibility model in terms of responsibilities. Organizations must go through their SLAs with cloud providers. He responsibilities must be documented in a transparent and accessible manner. This also comes in handy during compliance audits.

- Ensure compatibility: Every organization needs a single data protection platform that supports both on-premise and cloud solutions. This makes it more scalable. Multi-cloud deployments require a cloud data protection plan that must address data challenges across multiple applications and deployments.

- Ascertain backup and recovery: Once data security and privacy have been covered, data protection comes into play. Data must be replicated and stored at a secondary location, allowing businesses to bounce back in case of any interruption.

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