In an ever-changing digital landscape, companies are finding new and better ways to store data. Instead of keeping information in physical data centers or on specific devices, they are moving toward storing information in the cloud. Cloud-based technology offers many benefits, including flexible access anytime and anywhere, regardless of a user’s location or device. But these advances also come with new cybersecurity needs. The demand for cloud workload security has never been greater.
Cloud security is an umbrella term that houses a variety of practices and procedures designed to protect cloud-stored data. These policies secure everything from networks to user information to the applications themselves, as well as accounting for regulatory compliance and preventing potential threats. Storing valuable information in the cloud rather than on a physical device offers multi-layered protection to keep user and company data safe.
Organizations that incorporate cloud security know it is important to safely store data, applications, and customer information. If a breach or attack is successful, clients will lose trust in your ability to keep their information safe, which can be detrimental to both a brand’s authority and profit. Cloud technology provides many advantages, but it also introduces new potential threats. Cybersecurity is essential – and there are a few key cloud security benefits and challenges every business should consider.
5 Benefits of Cloud Security
1. Security Democratization
According to Stefan Avgoustakis, Google’s Cloud Security Lead for Australia and New Zealand, one of the most significant benefits of cloud security is its ability to function like a technological immune system. In a recent cybersecurity webinar, he stated, “As a company, we ship hundreds of security updates to customers every month. We want to make sure there are no vulnerabilities.”
Cloud security can patch operating systems, drivers, and hardware across an entire network. How can companies achieve this with an on-premises approach? “You can't,” says Avgoustakis, “Unless you have an army of security engineers that look after it 24/7.” This approach provides customers with a steady stream of security updates, solving problems in real time with no opt-in necessary.
A startup or small company could end up in the same cloud environment as larger companies, including government or banking. So that means regardless of who you are, you will get the same level of security for your business. A lot of smaller companies can really benefit from moving to the cloud without spending much money or having an extensive security team.
2. Continuous Visibility
Pouya Ghotbi, a Security Risk and Compliance Advisor for Amazon Web Services for the Public Sector and the Associate Director of the online MS in Cybersecurity program at St. Bonaventure University, mentions a second important cloud benefit in this recent webinar: continuous visibility. Unlike brick-and-mortar locations, the online aspects of business never close. It’s important to implement security that’s up to the continuous task.
Before cloud security, companies manually configured the visibility settings for their data sets and applications. This process was time-consuming and allowed for potential user error. Conversely, “visibility is built into the whole cloud platform, and you can easily get application logs, service logs, and access logs,” Ghotbi says. When any user accesses the cloud, it’s automatically logged, making it simple for security teams to find potential bugs or breaches.
Continuous visibility allows cybersecurity teams to better examine threats and identify opportunities for improved security. Security analysts can look for threat patterns simultaneously across multiple platforms as they layer apps and infrastructure into them, instead of manually searching across each one.
3. Increased Resiliency
Cloud security offers a better way to protect your data, providing a failsafe that on-site security struggles to accomplish. According to Ghotbi, a physical server that fails causes immediate problems. “You need to purchase a new server, then reconfigure everything, including the application. But with cloud security, it's built-in.”
Cloud security eliminates many everyday struggles, including bandwidth limitations and service reliability issues. A resilient system also offers better scalability, allowing companies to grow at a faster rate without causing unnecessary security concerns. Cloud security systems offer cost-effective solutions since they often function under a “pay-as-you-go” model. This model allows companies to pay for the workload they need, eliminating waste and only increasing their costs when the business grows.
Changing or upgrading cloud security can also be done with a few simple clicks, requiring no downtime for businesses that need to provide a seamless user experience as they grow. Businesses no longer need to incur the upfront costs of purchasing expensive equipment that could become outdated in a few years.
4. Comprehensive Defense
To keep data and users safe in today’s digital world, a multi-layered approach is essential. Having more than a single layer of defense improves the probability that, if one layer is compromised, another will identify and block the attack. Cybercriminals typically target businesses with fewer layers since their attacks are more likely to succeed. Cloud providers can offer: defense-in-depth, which accounts for every layer of security, and defense-in-width, which means deploying those layers widely, scaling as a business grows without having to redesign and reconfigure applications.
In the webinar, Avgoustakis says: “You need four or five layers of gateways and defenses,” including SSL, TLS, web application firewalls, network security, and host detection. Those layers already exist in cloud security systems. “So, you don't have to stop and think about each purchase. You just design your application and choose which services you want to enable.”
5. Automated Regulatory Compliance
Keeping up with regulatory changes can be a full-time job. Cloud security allows teams to build compliance into an application’s coding, eliminating the need for constant updates and changes. This automated compliance works for both industry-specific standards and general regulations. Choosing a reliable cloud provider ensures that your business is always in compliance. This saves significant time and effort, allowing companies to do their best work while resting assured they are within the parameters set by their industry or country.
4 Challenges of Cloud Security
In the rapid shift to cloud technology, businesses face a few significant challenges. Avgoustakis and Ghotbi agree that misconfiguration is the greatest threat to cloud security today. When customers transition data to the cloud, their focus on a speedy transition often neglects to build specific safeguards designed to keep data from falling into the wrong hands.
Some of the most common types of misconfiguration include:
- Overly permissive access
- Storage access misconfigurations
- Unrestricted inbound and outbound ports
- Unlimited access to non-HTTP/HTTPS ports
- Disabled or under-configured monitoring and logging
- Default credentials for systems
- Development settings in the production environment
- Not following “safe” configurations for third-party components
2. Unauthorized Access
Security threats can also arise from checking too many boxes when handing out permissions to users. Ghotbi notes, “In the cloud, you can be very, very granular with the type of access you give. But often, customers overly grant permissions for simplicity.” With these sweeping permissions, access to sensitive data can fall into the wrong hands. The benefit of cloud security is its ability to customize permissions, but it does require due diligence at the outset to put that customization to work correctly.
3. Insecure Interfaces or APIs
Cloud security assumes a level of shared responsibility between clients and cloud providers. The developers assume the responsibility of coding correctly and building adequate layers of security. However, the client must also protect data through the way they use cloud storage. Avgoustakis says, “We put security capabilities against APIs, encryption, and authentication. But you still need to make sure as a customer that you protect the interfaces you make public on the internet. Way too often, people just assume that if it’s on the cloud, it must be okay if I just expose it to the world.”
The Cloud Security Alliance lists insecure interfaces and APIs as the second-highest threat to cloud computing. Organizations are rapidly adopting APIs, and any vulnerabilities can lead to data breaches.
According to Forbes, 1 in 3 survey participants mentioned ‘identification of software vulnerabilities’ as a major security issue. The solution to this issue means hiring and training employees who are well-versed in cloud technology and cybersecurity. When company technology experts and cloud developers are on the same page, the gap narrows significantly.
4. External Sharing of Data
The cloud is much more accessible, and because of that, it's much easier for unauthorized users to get a hold of sensitive information when data is being shared externally. The CSA lists accidental cloud data disclosure as the #8 top threat to cloud computing in its 2022 report. The report also states over 55% of companies have at least one database that is currently publicly exposed to the internet. Misconfiguration,weak passwords, and authentication are often the cause.
The Demand for Cybersecurity Professionals
Cloud storage brings many potential data security threats, and each of them has the power to harm a company significantly. The demand for cybersecurity experts who are well-equipped to enact cloud security benefits while mitigating potential pitfalls is increasing. Predictions estimate 3.5 million job openings in 2025. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, information security analyst employment is projected to grow 35 percent over the next decade. If you want to become a leader in cloud security, an in-depth understanding of the basics of cybersecurity and experience with the cloud is essential.
To prepare yourself to be the best in the field, consider earning your online Master of Science in Cybersecurity with St. Bonaventure University Online. This graduate degree program teaches students how to design security solutions and implement safeguards to protect data and users everywhere. With an innovative curriculum and strategic partnerships that include Amazon Web Services Academy, Cisco Academy and EC Council, you’ll be prepared to excel after your time at SBU.
Our cybersecurity graduate degree program is perfect for tech professionals who want to earn a graduate degree in less than two years while advancing in their careers, but also for career changers who can pursue a master’s after the completion of one foundational course. With 100% online coursework, an easy enrollment process with no application fee, and multiple start terms each year, you can balance your education with your current employment without missing a beat.
Learn more about our MS in Cybersecurity program and see how SBU Online can help you become the cloud security leader of tomorrow.