North Wales Management School - Wrexham University

Cloud security: keeping cloud computing secure

Posted on: April 26, 2022
Businessman using a laptop with a hologram of a cloud and a padlock over the top to indicate cloud security

Cloud computing has seen a huge increase in growth over the past few years. Not only has there been rapid development in terms of cloud-based technology, but the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a move to remote options as businesses moved away from office-based working.

Cloud computing – storage, servers, databases, software, APIs, and even operating systems, all hosted online – was an ideal solution. As organisations shifted to remote working, they didn’t have to rely wholly on physical, on-premises servers or storage. Suddenly, employees were using multiple cloud-based services across several endpoints, covering everything from collaboration tools to data storage, all during their daily work routines.

Cloud adoption – whether private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, or multi-cloud varieties – has included a number of cloud-based services, cloud applications, and cloud storage products. Some examples are:

  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS). Examples include Microsoft 365, Slack, and Google Drive.
  • Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Examples include Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Examples include Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Cloud data from the Covid-19 pandemic era is still emerging, but Gartner predicts that global spending on cloud services is expected to reach more than $482 billion in 2022, up from $313 billion in 2020. So even as many people begin to return to offices and other workplaces, there’s no sign of a slowdown in cloud services. 

However, the rapid adoption of cloud environments and cloud-native applications requires a similarly rapid approach in the implementation of security solutions. Without sufficient measures in place, businesses leave themselves open to any number of security risks.

What is cloud security?

Cloud security is a form of cybersecurity. It is essentially anything, from technologies to policies, that protect cloud-based infrastructure, applications, and data from cyber attacks and cyber threats. 

A comprehensive cloud security strategy will typically cover:

  • Data security. Which tools and technologies are used to prevent unauthorised access to data?
  • Identity and access management (IAM). How are user accounts and their permissions being managed? This includes account authentication and authorisation.
  • Governance. What are the policies on threat prevention, detection, and mitigation? What employee training is in place to ensure everyone knows about the organisation’s security measures, and to ensure that policies are followed correctly?
  • Data retention and business continuity planning. What recovery measures are in place if data loss occurs? Do employees know how to act on disaster recovery measures if needed? Does everyone know where security responsibilities sit?
  • Legal compliance. Are all legal requirements and regulations around security, particularly where privacy and client data are concerned, being adhered to? For example, is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being followed in the UK and EU? Is HIPAA being followed in the US?

It’s worth noting that cloud computing is typically more secure than traditional, on-premise systems. This is because a business will benefit from their own cybersecurity measures, as well as those used by their cloud service providers. These providers are responsible for keeping their cloud infrastructure up-to-date, and they’ll usually provide patches for bugs and other vulnerabilities as soon as they can. This is important because cyber threats are constantly evolving, so having the additional resources provided by a cloud provider can play a huge role in cybersecurity.

How does cloud security work?

Cloud security has a number of facets. According to Kaspersky, for example, every cloud security measure will aim to accomplish one or more of the following:

  • Enable data recovery in case of data loss.
  • Protect storage and networks against malicious data theft.
  • Deter human error or negligence that causes data leaks.
  • Reduce the impact of any data or system compromise.

Common measures include:

  • Implementing encryption measures and using a virtual private network (VPN) to keep data secure and private.
  • Setting up access control to ensure that users – even legitimate ones – cannot compromise sensitive data and systems. 
  • Using password management principles and multi-factor authentication to ensure only authorised users have access to the cloud.
  • Ensuring appropriate backups are in place within data centres.
  • Employing a firewall or other network security systems to monitor and control network traffic.
  • Having a dedicated security services team of professionals as a form of risk management, which can also help mitigate human errors such as misconfiguration and flawed implementation.

Cloud-based security products

Separate to general cloud security are security products that are hosted in the cloud. Also known as security-as-a-service (SECaaS) – for example, Oracle Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) – these are sometimes confused with cloud security.

Common threats to cloud computing security

There is an ever-changing list of potential risks to cloud computing, but it generally includes:

  • Unauthorised access
  • Data breaches
  • Hijacked accounts
  • Reputational damage
  • Financial loss

In many ways, the security challenges within cloud computing are the same as those faced within cybersecurity more generally. For example, security threats can include:

  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. These are malicious attempts to disrupt the normal traffic of a server, service or network by overwhelming it – or its infrastructure – with a flood of web traffic.
  • Malware. This includes viruses, worms, and ransomware that can be introduced into the cloud without the user’s awareness or permission
  • Hackers. Without sufficient security measures in place, these cybercriminals can gain access to a cloud environment to steal data and sensitive information, or sabotage systems.

This is why security posture – an organisation’s overall cybersecurity strength – is so important. With appropriate security controls, security policies, and robust DevOps practices, businesses can maintain a secure cloud and effectively tackle security issues.

Emerging trends in cloud computing and cloud security

  • Cloud automation. Cloud automation can help businesses monitor their cloud environments, making it easier to see where resources are being used effectively – or ineffectively – as well as where adjustments or adaptations can be made.
  • Cloud workload segmentation. Cloud workload segmentation is a cloud-based method of enhancing security. Businesses can segment application workloads to reveal risks and apply protections without needing to make changes to the wider network.
  • AI and cloud computing. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud computing can have a mutually beneficial relationship, in that AI can help the cloud manage data and gain insights, and the cloud can provide a constant data backup and recovery in an AI environment. This relationship is predicted to deepen over the coming years.

Help keep cloud systems secure

If you have an interest in cloud computing, it’s worth noting that LinkedIn has called it one of the most in-demand hard skills sought by employers globally right now. As a result, cloud computing – and cloud security – offers impressive job opportunities and prospects

You can future-proof your career in this rapidly evolving field with the flexible MBA Cyber Security at the North Wales Management School. Studied 100% online, this degree is suitable for people with and without computer science backgrounds, and can be studied around your current commitments so you can earn while you learn.