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How to Secure Your Business Data with a Cloud Security Assessment

Tony Caccavo, Esq. is a former educator, attorney, and the CEO of TeamPassword, a password management company. He believes cybersecurity tools and information should be made accessible, to better protect individuals, companies, and society at large.

April 3, 202410 min read


In recent years, many businesses have embraced using cloud services. The cloud offers numerous benefits, including greater scalability and accessibility; however, it also brings its own unique security challenges. 

Why? Well, cloud platforms operate differently from traditional data centers, meaning existing security tools won’t always cut it in a cloud environment. Plus, with less direct control over how things are set up, companies have less visibility and control in the cloud, often leaving them at the mercy of whatever security measures are provided by their cloud service providers.

Add to this that many companies operate a multi-cloud infrastructure. distributing sensitive data and critical applications across various cloud platforms, and things can start to get very messy. The complexity of managing multiple cloud environments introduces significant security threats and makes them even more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Conducting a cloud security risk assessment can help organizations understand their exposure to risk and take proactive steps to address potential issues.

[Table of Contents]

What Is a Cloud Security Assessment?

Think of a cloud security risk assessment as a health check for your company's cloud setup. 

You’re essentially evaluating the system's overall security position and looking for any risks or gaps in security coverage. This involves examining different aspects of security, such as data protection, access controls, and network security, to give a 360-degree view. 

The primary objective of a cloud security assessment is to uncover any vulnerabilities or potential areas where hackers could gain access to your network. If you’re operating in a cloud environment, this is more than just a housekeeping exercise; it’s a crucial step to ensure your system's safety. 

Conducting these assessments can help you assess your overall security level, reduce risks, and implement better security measures to protect your cloud setup.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels


Why Do You Need a Cloud Security Assessment?

The shift to enterprise cloud computing is happening fast, and traditional security measures and practices can't always keep up. The sheer scale of the cloud can be overwhelming when it comes to keeping your network secure, with infrastructures spread across numerous platforms, accounts, and applications. 

Cracks and weak spots in your protection can easily appear and go unnoticed, yet even a tiny crack is all it takes for a cybercriminal to exploit your system.

Hackers can break into systems through flawed network settings, weak passwords, or compromised user credentials. Once inside, attackers can gather information to prepare for further malicious attacks, exploit overprivileged accounts to move around your network freely and find valuable assets, and ultimately wreak havoc on your business.

The Benefits of a Cloud Security Risk Assessment

Preventing Cloud Misconfigurations

Cloud misconfigurations are among the most common issues that allow attackers to gain entry. These misconfigurations occur when controls within the cloud environment are either set up incorrectly or not used as they should be.

For example: failing to enable logging, exposing ports to the Internet, or leaving default access settings in place. 

Correctly configuring these settings is essential for strong cloud security, and neglecting to do so is essentially like leaving the door wide open for hackers to walk in. However, the flexibility and scalability of the cloud often lead to frequent changes, increasing the likelihood of missed configurations or outdated settings. 

For instance, let's say your team buys a domain co.il for a new website. If they rush through setting it up without paying attention to things like DNS records and access controls, it could create openings for hackers. Just a few wrong settings could give hackers access to your whole cloud network.

Assessing things like network controls, access controls, where data is stored, and workloads can help spot and fix any weaknesses in your configuration before attackers can exploit them.


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Managing Identity Security

Cloud systems rely heavily on microservices and various machine identities like APIs, roles, and service accounts. It’s pretty common for developers to grant excessive privileges to these entities for convenience and adaptability. 

However, this also opens you up to significant risk. Attackers can exploit these privileges to move between identities, accumulating a dangerous mix of permissions along the way. This could allow them to disrupt applications, delete infrastructure, or cause massive harm to your cloud environment.

A risk assessment should look for identity-related risks. These could include things like overprivileged entities, unused identities, insecure access keys, or opportunities for lateral movement through the system.

Detecting Compromise

When you do a cloud risk assessment, you're not looking for signs of compromise like you would in an audit. But, it is a good opportunity to spot any unusual changes from the normal setup. 

For instance, if you see access controls being changed unexpectedly or someone accessing data from a new location, it could indicate a potential compromise. Catching these anomalies might help you uncover suspicious activity by attackers.


Checking Identity and Access Controls

One of the biggest allies you have in protecting assets within the cloud is identity and access controls. These controls determine exactly who can get to what within your network. Doing a risk assessment helps you start with your most important data and then expand outward to identify who has access to this information and how they're able to access it. 

You might think you’ve got your access pretty locked down, but things can quickly get complicated in a cloud setup. Organizational policies, permissions given to individuals, and permissions set for different resources can create a complex network of privileges. It’s not unusual to discover unintended pathways to sensitive assets due to the intricacies of cloud permissions which can jeopardize your data security.

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Remaining Compliant

Many compliance standards mandate audits or assessments of cloud setups to ensure all risks have been considered. Cloud Service Providers adhere to standards such as ISO/IEC 27001, ISO/IEC 27002, and NIST SP 800-53, all of which necessitate risk assessments. Additionally, organizations may have their own internal guidelines or industry-specific requirements to meet.


Crafting a Cloud Security Assessment 

1. Understand Your Data

Before initiating a cloud security assessment, get a clear understanding of the kinds of data your organization handles. Then, sort your data according to its sensitivity and any regulatory standards it must meet.

By identifying which data is most important or at high risk of malicious activity, you can focus on securing it first. This could be financial records, customer details, or intellectual property. 

For example, running an enterprise call center solution typically involves handling large volumes of sensitive customer data. In crafting a cloud security assessment for this scenario, you would prioritize ensuring that the cloud environment effectively safeguards this data through encryption, access controls, and secure transmission protocols.

2. Assess Data Encryption

Encrypting data is crucial for cloud security because it keeps your information safe whether it's stored or being sent somewhere. Check if your cloud service provider offers encryption for both storing and transferring data.

Also, ensure they use strong encryption methods and manage encryption keys well to keep your data private and intact. By using strong encryption, you can reduce the chances of unauthorized access and data leaks.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels

3. Evaluate Cloud Service Providers (CSPs)

Not all cloud service providers offer equal levels of security. When considering potential providers, assess their security certifications, compliance standards, and measures for protecting data. Check whether they encrypt data, access controls, and what incident response protocols they have in place to make sure they meet your security needs. 

You’ll want to look for providers that follow industry standards and have strong security frameworks. For instance, if you operate a cloud-based contact center, opt for a provider that adheres to security certifications, compliance standards, and data protection measures relevant to call center regulatory compliance

4. Establish Access Controls

Managing access to cloud resources is vital to stopping unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data. 

Use role-based access controls (RBAC) to give permissions based on user roles and responsibilities. This allows you to control access to sensitive data, permitting only those individuals who require it for their job responsibilities.

Regularly review and update access permissions in line with any changes in personnel and business requirements.

5. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) increases security by asking users to provide more than one type of verification before they can access cloud resources. 

For example, an access code is sent to a mobile device before logging in on a laptop. This means that even if someone’s login details fall into the wrong hands, they can't be used for unauthorized access. 

Check what MFA options your cloud provider offers and urge your team to use them for better security.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels

6. Develop Incident Response Plans

No system is immune to cyber threats, despite your best efforts and strong security measures. If you do find yourself the target of an attack, you must have a clear plan for responding to security incidents to mitigate the damage. 

Establish clear procedures for detecting, containing, and reducing the impact of security breaches in the cloud. Regularly practice your response plan with simulated exercises so you’re prepared if a real incident happens.

7. Conduct Regular Security Audits

Security is a continuous effort, and regular checks are crucial for finding weaknesses and ensuring compliance with security policies. 

Arrange regular security assessments to evaluate how well your cloud security measures are working and to identify any vulnerabilities or gaps that need to be fixed. You might want to consider engaging with third-party security experts to conduct comprehensive assessments and provide recommendations for improvement.


Strengthening Cybersecurity through Cloud Security Assessments

Cloud security has become an increasingly vital part of organizations' cybersecurity strategies. 

As businesses increasingly adopt cloud services, they're storing more important data and critical applications across these environments, and this can make it challenging to secure and monitor everything effectively.  

Especially when we look at complicated setups with multi-cloud services, it can be easy to miss potential security concerns. Conducting a cloud security risk assessment is a helpful way for organizations to pinpoint any weaknesses in their cloud security and receive actionable suggestions for improvement.


Use a Password Manager to Better Control and Protect Cloud Accounts

Password managers built for teams provide one secure location for your entire organization to store, access, and share the login credentials needed to access your cloud accounts. For example, TeamPassword uses industry-standard AES-256-bit client-side encryption to protect customer data before it is transferred it its servers. TeamPassword's intuitive user interface increases the likelihood that your users will use strong unique passwords for every account, which is made easier with its built-in password generator. Password managers also allow administrators to control account access using groups and user-role settings. Activity logs provide yet another means by which company administrators can monitor access to records holding login details. 

No matter the size of your team, a password manager is an essential cybersecurity and productivity tool that saves time when conducting a cloud security assessment. 

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