The business world is rapidly continuing its digital transformation and relying on cloud-based solutions. This makes it more critical than ever to adopt strong security measures to protect sensitive information and infrastructure. However, while cloud computing offers benefits like improved efficiency, scalability, and accessibility, it poses new security challenges.
Organizations must adopt proactive security strategies to maintain a secure on-premise environment while moving to the cloud. Fortunately, there are some security best practices and tips businesses can use to reduce their digital attack surface significantly.
1. Adopt a Defense in Depth strategy
Defense in Depth (DiD) is a cybersecurity strategy that involves implementing multiple layers of security controls throughout the entire infrastructure. Instead of relying solely on perimeter defense, DiD makes it much harder for attackers to penetrate a system by requiring them to break through multiple barriers. This can come in the form of appending a Privileged Access Management solution to supplement your company’s directory like IBM’s Red Hat Directory or Microsoft’s Active Directory.
A Defense in Depth strategy is essential because it helps businesses stay ahead of these risks by implementing multiple lines of defense. If a hacker manages to bypass one security measure, there are still others in place that can detect and prevent the attack.
There are several ways to implement Defense in Depth in your business, including:
- Strong Password Policies: Implement a strong password policy that requires complex passwords and regular password changes.
- Network Segmentation: Separate the network into smaller, more secure subnetworks to prevent attacks from spreading.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Use an additional layer of authentication, such as a fingerprint or one-time code, to verify user identities.
- Encryption: Use encryption to protect sensitive data in transit and at rest.
- Employee Training: Educate employees on cybersecurity best practices to prevent human error from compromising the network’s security.
2. Encrypt data at rest and in transit
Effective data encryption is critical in safeguarding valuable information in cloud systems. Robust encryption algorithms should be utilized to secure all data, both at rest and in transit between various servers. Although many cloud service providers (CSPs) include encryption solutions as a standard feature, additional encryption tools and techniques should also be implemented to further elevate data protection.
3. Conduct regular vulnerability assessments and patching
Carrying out periodic vulnerability assessments is another effective way to uncover potential security gaps and vulnerabilities in your cloud environment. By proactively addressing these vulnerabilities, you can dramatically reduce the risk of successful attacks and maintain a strong security stance.
To ensure the security of your cloud applications, infrastructure, and operating systems, it’s important to schedule regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests. It is also crucial to promptly apply patches and updates to protect your systems against known risks.
4. Implement strong password policies
Organizations must have strong password policies to limit security breaches caused by weak passwords. Encouraging the use of complex passwords consisting of a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters can significantly reduce these risks. For human interactive passwords consider using passphrases instead as these are typically much longer and easier to remember.
Deploy a password vault to help manage passwords and ensure strong unique passwords are used for every account and help discover reused or weak passwords with detailed password auditing. A password vault can also ensure privileged passwords are rotated frequently.
5. Privileged Access Management (PAM)
System and database administrators are likely targets for cyber-attacks as they have access to sensitive data and applications. Privileged Access Management (PAM) helps reduce the risk of unauthorized access by imposing stricter controls on privileged accounts.
PAM can help limit the exposure of privileged accounts by enforcing strict access controls, requiring multi-factor authentication, and monitoring privileged credential activities. PAM can also help to detect and respond to suspicious activities or unusual behavior in real time.
By implementing PAM, you can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access, insider risks, and privilege abuse.
6. Incident response plans
Security incidents in cloud environments can cause widespread damage across various systems and applications. Therefore, it is crucial to have an effective incident response plan that can promptly identify and address such incidents.
In addition, this plan should delineate the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, define the levels of incident severity, and provide detailed instructions for tackling each incident if it occurs.
Regularly reviewing, updating, and simulating incident response plans is crucial to keep up with changing risks and business needs. A sound strategy can minimize the impact of security incidents, reduce recovery time, and prevent costly penalties and damage to reputation.
7. Shared responsibility model
The cloud service provider and the business are responsible for securing the cloud environment. The CSP is accountable for securing the infrastructure, while the company must ensure the safety of its data and applications. Therefore, comprehending the shared responsibility model and aligning security controls and policies is essential for optimum protection.
A shared responsibility model between the business and the CSP must be implemented to establish a secure and compliant cloud environment. The company is responsible for security measures like access controls, encryption, and network security. Simultaneously, the CSP is accountable for providing monitoring, logging, and auditing capabilities.
8. Secure Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is widely used to access cloud resources from remote locations. However, it can also be a weak link in the cloud security chain. Attackers can use RDP vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access, compromise the system, or steal sensitive data.
To secure remote access, businesses should implement strong authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication, secure access controls, and monitoring of user activities. They should also regularly update and patch RDP software to prevent known vulnerabilities. By securing RDP, businesses can ensure that their remote access capabilities do not become a security risk.
9. Train employees on cloud security best practices
Employees play a crucial role in maintaining the security of your organization’s cloud environment. Regular training on cloud security best practices can help ensure that your workforce is well-informed and vigilant in protecting sensitive information and systems.
Key areas to cover in employee training include safe password management, recognizing phishing attempts, reporting potential security incidents, and securing remote access.
Educate employees on the importance of using strong, unique passwords for each account and the dangers of password reuse. Encourage the use of password managers to store and manage login credentials securely. Adopt the use of passphrases instead of passwords.
Teach employees to identify and report phishing emails and other social engineering attacks that may target their login credentials or additional sensitive information. Establish clear procedures for employees to report suspicious activity or potential security incidents, ensuring prompt investigation and response.
Instruct employees on how to securely access the organization’s cloud resources remotely, including using VPNs, multi-factor authentication, and adherence to company policies.
10. Leverage cloud security expertise and managed services
Collaborating with cloud security specialists or managed service providers can fortify your company’s security standing in the cloud. These experts extend critical counsel, tools, and resources to skillfully manage the complexities of cloud security and secure your business interests.
Businesses can gain several advantages by utilizing the skills of cloud security specialists and managed services. These advantages include access to specialized knowledge, ongoing incident monitoring and response, help with compliance, and potential cost savings on new networking hardware and software.
In addition, by seeking the assistance of cloud security experts, organizations can receive guidance and support in designing, implementing, and managing effective security measures tailored to their specific requirements. This promotes better security outcomes and maximizes value for businesses seeking protection in the cloud.
Maintain a security-by-default attitude with your cloud deployments
To maintain the safety of your data in the cloud, you need to continually focus on security and remain vigilant. The best way to do this is by utilizing the services of cloud security experts and managed services. By doing so, you can effectively protect your sensitive data, promptly address security breaches, comply with regulations, and control costs.
Implementing strong authentication methods, access controls and user activity monitoring, and instructing staff on effective remote access security measures while maintaining a vigilant focus on security throughout all deployments are reliable practices to safeguard your company’s data from hacking attempts or other cloud-based security risks.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect your privileged accounts. Make a plan and start with Delinea’s complementary, customizable Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan Template.
Joseph Carson is a cybersecurity professional with more than 25 years of experience in enterprise security and infrastructure. Currently, Carson is the Chief Security Scientist & Advisory CISO at Delinea. He is an active member of the cybersecurity community and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Carson is also a cybersecurity adviser to several governments, critical infrastructure organizations, and financial and transportation industries, and speaks at conferences globally.