In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of businesses have shifted many of their full-time employees to remote work. This has led to more cloud-based services to share information, data, and documents.
While cloud-based services can create ease of communication and sharing, they may also open up both employees and the business as a whole to new online cyber threats. Are you concerned with the security of your business as you shift to cloud functionality? Consider these critical steps to securing data in the cloud.
1. Take a look at your cloud provider.
These days, there are cloud providers everywhere. Some of them are much more legitimate than others. Before choosing a cloud provider, do your research. You want a reputable, secure provider who will assist you in protecting the data security of your employees and customers alike. If you’ve already made the shift to a cloud provider, consider what your existing provider offers and whether you may want to make the shift. Ask:
- What will the provider do in case of a breach? Will you be notified immediately? What steps will the provider take to minimize those security losses as much as possible?
- Who will be responsible for any data lost as a result of the breach? Will the cloud provider take liability, or will you be responsible for handling any losses to your customers?
- Does your cloud provider meet regulatory requirements? Make sure you have a solid understanding of your industry’s regulatory requirements: HIPAA for medical professionals; PCI for anyone who deals with payment compliance; and more, depending on your industry. Make sure your cloud provider meets those regulatory requirements and that you are not out of compliance through your use of that provider.
2. Evaluate the information and data stored in the cloud.
Make sure you know what information is in the cloud, where it’s backed up, and what will happen if that data is compromised or lost. Secure backups in another location–or a cloud provider who provides adequate backup services–can help protect the integrity of your data, but may not protect it against hackers, scams, or viruses. Make sure you have a plan in place for dealing with a potential breach or loss of data.
3. Utilize effective encryption.
Do not rely on your cloud provider to provide encryption for your data. In fact, even if your provider offers that vital service, consider encrypting your files on your own end to provide an additional layer of protection.
4. Utilize multifactor authentication.
Multifactor authentication relies on more than just a password to access vital data. Instead of simply connecting to the system, entering the password, and moving forward, users must prove that they have access to a specific device, usually a cell phone. Many cloud providers already utilize this vital tool to help protect their users. Some, however, still lag behind. If your cloud provider offers multifactor authentication, make sure that you’re taking advantage of it.
5. Use local backups for sensitive data.
Not only can local backups help ensure that you still have access to your data if a system ends up compromised, but it can also protect you during periods of low connectivity or when you cannot access the internet. Not only that, that local backup can provide a vital safeguard if data is contaminated with ransomware. Many cloud services also offer backup services for your data. However, you should carefully consider which option represents the right choice for your business.
6. Keep your antivirus software in place.
You need solid antivirus software running on your systems. While some viruses can slip through the cracks, your antivirus software serves as a vital first line of defense when securing data in the cloud. Make sure that every system used to access the cloud, including systems used by remote workers, receives quality antivirus protection.
7. Train employees to avoid scams and help protect data.
Your employees are the most vital line of defense when it comes to keeping data, whether stored in the cloud or a local system, as safe as possible. Remote employees, in particular, need to receive high-quality training that will allow them to help protect those systems. Train employees in security measures, including:
Employees should use effective passwords in order to maintain the safety of their devices. This includes passwords that are both long enough and contain a combination of special characters, letters, and numbers. Users should also know not to use dictionary words as passwords, to change their passwords regularly, and to avoid using the same password across multiple systems.
Avoiding Phishing Scams
Phishing scams allow hackers to access private information about your business and your clients. Sometimes, hackers convince employees to click on a link in an email. Other times, they may have the sophistication and the skill to convince employees to give them that information directly. In some cases, scammers may convince your employees to give out their passwords or to answer the questions they need to get access to the cloud. Properly training employees, however, can help you avoid those scams. Simply knowing that they need to verify the identity of a caller or avoid clicking on a link in an email can help many employees avoid potential threats to your data.
8. Test your security regularly.
Many businesses must conduct annual security tests to ensure that they continue to meet industry compliance requirements. Any time your business makes big changes, however, you should consider the importance of additional security testing. Securing data in the cloud, shifting more employees to remote work, or transitioning to a new system should all prompt a new round of security testing. Penetration testers can give you a better idea of the full security of a new system and provide you with the tools you need to update and enhance your security, keeping your data secure in the cloud.
Do you know how secure your data is as it’s stored in the cloud? Have you taken the necessary steps to secure and protect your business? Schedule an IT assessment today to learn more about your business’s security and the steps you can take to improve it.