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How Secure Is Your Data in the Cloud? Here Is What You Should Know About the Risks of Cloud Computing

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Are you familiar with the frustrating feeling when you have to just keep deleting files from your mobile phone because the storage capacity is full?

Just imagine, if managing data storage of a mobile phone is a task, how difficult it would be to manage data of an entire organization that keeps producing huge amounts of new data every single day! 

From TikTok videos to Instagram posts to spreadsheets containing a vast amount of data, everything we create on the internet is contributing to the increase in data storage requirements.

In 2020, 64.2 zettabytes of data were created, and experts predict that within 5 years, it will exceed 180 zettabytes. At this pace, the days are not far when we will enter the yottabyte era. 

However, cloud security has become a huge concern for organizations across the world. As more organizations move to the cloud, cybercriminals are targeting them with more sophisticated cyberattacks, resulting in data breaches, leakages and even deletion of important data.

Robust and dynamic cyber security has become the need of the hour. Let’s have a look at what are the security risks associated with cloud computing, and how you can mitigate them.

What is cloud computing?

The world has become a huge, hyperconnected global village due to the advent of the speedy internet. In simple terms, cloud computing is a data delivery system that uses an internet connection to serve the purpose.

You can store various types of files like videos, images, text, spreadsheets on the cloud and access them from any internet-connected device. As the name suggests, cloud computing is a remote or virtual space for data storage. Now when you know what is cloud computing, so you might also be thinking what is cloud security then?

The major benefits of cloud computing are:

  • It is cost-effective
  • It increases productivity
  • It is quick and efficient
  • It delivers superior performance when it comes to data storage
  • It is secure (given that you take enough precautions, and this is what we are going to talk about today.)

Types of cloud computing

Public Cloud:

As the name suggests, in a public cloud, resources stored on the cloud are open for public consumption. They are either free or charge a minimal amount for using the services. Some of the popular examples of the same are google docs, google drive and YouTube. 

Private Cloud:

This cloud service can be availed only by authentic users. The services of the private cloud are maintained and deployed by a private network. Even the hardware and software belong to the company or entity that has paid for it. 

Every company has a different data storage requirement. Some companies embrace a hybrid approach in which they utilize a combination of public and private services. 

Cloud adoption and security concerns:

Data security concerns make many companies steer away from adopting cloud-computing solutions. Their logic is- if I can remotely access the data, why can’t a cybercriminal? 

The lesser-known fact is that every cloud service provider designates a host who monitors the cloud’s security round the clock. What’s more, this host is far more efficient than the organization’s in-house IT security team. 

It is hardly made public but the incidents of internal data theft are much more than the incidents of data stolen from a cloud platform. There are solid reasons behind it: 

  • Cloud storage use encryption. As a result, it is difficult for hackers to access this information. 
  • In cloud storage, it is easier to restrict data access only to the authorized user. 
  • Data security settings can be customized according to the user’s requirements. 
  • Disaster recovery is much faster.

One of the shortcomings of cloud computing is limited visibility and restricted control over data. Due to this, cloud computing has some deeply-rooted security issues which are a shared responsibility of both- the service provider and the user. 

There are two types of cloud services:

  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS) such as Microsoft Office 365.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) like Amazon Web Services (AWS).

In most cases, cloud service providers take responsibility for cloud security while the security of what customers put in the cloud lay on the customer’s shoulders.

The customer can protect the data using access control features. For example, in Google Drive, an option to share links with a limited group of people is given. As a user, you can decide who can view and edit the document you have shared. 

However powerful may the cloud services be, it has shortcomings that are abstaining many companies from shifting their data to the cloud. Have a look:

Data loss or data breach due to lack of visibility

When you are moving to the cloud, you do not exactly know where you are parking your data. It is like handing it over to an invisible hand.

There are many incidents where the data saved on the cloud is deleted, corrupted or unavailable to the authorized user.

The benefit of saving data in a physical device like a pen drive or hard drive is that you can secure it personally.

Data security in cloud computing becomes a shared responsibility of the service provider. Even a small mistake from any end can put data security at stake. 

Trust issues:

In cloud services, the service provider holds an immense amount of power since the data is kept with him.

The access to data can be interrupted for various reasons. The user sometimes has to face disruptions or outages at a crucial moment. In case of a cyberattack, the services can be shut down for some time.

Clarify and confirm before you finalize your service provider. Before finalizing, ask them-
how would they deal with unforeseen events like data leakages, data deletion or hacking?

Get in touch with their other clients and ask for a review. It will give you real insights into the service provider’s operations, and help you select a provider whom you can genuinely trust.

Hassles in transferring services:

What if you are not satisfied with one cloud service provider and want to shift to another? Vendor lock-in is a common occurrence in such a situation. It is stated as one of the biggest security risks in cloud computing.

Most countries do not have strict laws regarding data security and protection. In the absence of a framework, cloud service providers may harass the users by locking in their data access which makes the process of data transfer to another cloud arduous.
It is important that while signing an agreement with the service provider, these things are discussed with the service provider.

Data confidentiality:

In cloud computing, the service provider has access to data as much as you do. It can be misused by the provider. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has expressed his concerns over cloud computing.

He said, “I want to feel that I own things. A lot of people feel, ‘Oh, everything is really on my computer,’ but I say the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control over it.”

The terms for data confidentiality should be quoted loud and clear in the service agreement. 

Cyberthreat:

The more connected the devices, the increased risk of a cyberattack. Malware attacks are one of the most common cyber threats to data secured in the cloud.

Cloud data is often targeted by cybercriminals and hackers as they are finding more sophisticated ways of disrupting the IT environments of organizations.

The IT sector was shocked with a revelation that even cybersecurity analytics giant Cognyte forgot to follow authentication protocols and left their database unsecured. It took them four days to correct this mistake.  

In a nutshell, cloud computing services have made our lives easier by solving many of our data storage and access problems.

However, it has its own set of problems. Therefore, the users must carefully decide how much data they want to shift to the cloud, and they must be very vigilant while using the cloud services.

The hybrid approach emerges as a perfect solution to such problems wherein the user can have total control over the sensitive data stored within their system and the rest of the data parked on the cloud.

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