Cloud security is the cybersecurity section dedicated to protecting cloud computing systems. This includes protecting privacy and data across all network infrastructure, online applications, and platforms. Both cloud service providers and users, whether individuals, SMBs, or corporations, must participate.
Cloud services are hosted on servers with a permanent connection to the Internet. Providers rely on the trust of users, so it is in their interest to ensure the privacy of personal data stored in the cloud. However, cloud security is partly in the hands of the users themselves. For reliable protection, it is important that both parties understand their responsibilities.
Cloud security consists of the following set of categories:
- Data security
- Identity and access management (IAM)
- Administrative controls (threat prevention, detection, and remediation policies)
- Data storage and business continuity planning
- Regulatory compliance
At first glance, it may seem like the same methods are appropriate for cloud security as in traditional IT environments, but they’re not. Before we delve into the subject, let’s understand what cloud security is.
What is cloud security?
Cloud security is a set of technologies, protocols, and techniques to protect cloud environments, applications, and data. The first step is to understand what needs to be protected and what aspects of the systems need to be managed.
In general, vulnerability management happens predominantly on the server side: it’s the cloud provider’s responsibility. But customers also have their own responsibilities, beyond choosing a reliable provider. Customers must use the right security settings, know how to use services securely, and take care to protect all end-user devices and networks.
Regardless of the level of responsibility, all cloud security measures are designed to protect the following components.
- Physical networks – routers, power grids, cables, air conditioning systems, etc.
- Data carriers – hard drives, etc.
- Data servers – hardware and software for the backbone network
- Virtualization networks – virtual machine software, host computers, guest virtual machines
- Operating systems (OS) – software that runs all other programs
- Binding programs – software for managing application programming interfaces (APIs)
- Runtime environments – means to run and maintain the programs
- Data – all the information that is stored, altered, and made available to users.
- Applications – traditional software services (e-mail, tax software, office applications, etc.)
- End-user equipment – computers, mobile devices, Internet of Things devices, etc.
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Why cloud security matters
In the 1990s, business and personal data were hosted locally, and thus security measures were local. Data was stored on the home computer’s internal media or, in the case of a company, on its servers.
The advent of the cloud has forced a rethinking of cybersecurity. Your data and applications can move between local and remote systems and always be accessible via the Internet. Whether you’re editing documents in Google Docs on your smartphone or using Salesforce customer service software, your documents and application files could be in a completely arbitrary location. So securing your network is becoming more of a challenge than in the past, when all you had to do was restrict access to your network. Cloud security requires some adaptation of previous IT practices, with security increasing in importance for two main reasons.
- Convenience outweighs security. Cloud computing is coming to the forefront more and more rapidly, both in business and personal use. Thanks to innovation, new technologies are being adopted faster than industry security standards are updated, forcing users and vendors to take the risks posed by easy access to data more seriously.
- Centralization and storage of multi-tenant data. Digital objects of any size can now be hosted and used remotely with 24/7 access. Because all of this data is predominantly hosted by a handful of large service providers, this poses a serious risk: cybercriminals can now attack large data centers, causing massive data breaches in many organizations.
Unfortunately, criminals understand the value of cloud targets and are constantly looking for new loopholes. Service providers are taking more and more responsibility for security, but they are not omnipotent. So even the most inexperienced users are advised to educate themselves about cloud security.
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