Over the past decade, cloud computing has transitioned from being a buzzword to becoming a staple technology for most enterprises, mainly driven by cloud’s accessibility, superior flexibility, and capacity compared to mainstream computing and storage techniques. However, just like mainstream data sharing and storage methods, cloud computing does not lack its fair share of data security issues. Palliating data security risks is essential to creating a level of comfort amongst CIOs, to migrate data applications to the cloud. The decision to transition to the cloud has to be dependent on how sensitive the data is and the security guarantees the cloud vendor provides.
Is your data safe in the hands of a cloud service provider?
In today’s exceedingly mobile world, enterprises are heavily relying on cloud vendors, and allowing remote access to more devices than ever before. The end result is a complex network that requires higher levels of security. The only way organizations can maintain the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of these different applications and datasets is by ensuring their security controls and detection-based tools have been updated to work with the cloud computing model. Whenever data is stored in the cloud, the main point of focus is typically the security of the cloud provider and hosting facility. However, this focus is usually at the expense of how the data itself is handled. This begs the question, do you trust the cloud vendor’s technology? Do you trust their employees? Do you trust their safeguards? Are you completely sure that if their back was against the wall they would not sell or compromise any of your data?
The fact of the matter remains that, once you move your data to a public cloud platform, you can no longer exercise your own security controls. Outsourcing also introduces a costly threat to intellectual property in the form of digital information like engineering drawings, source code, etc. An organization has to give its cloud service provider access to important IP assets, which are vital to the organization’s core business. Exposing invaluable information to third parties presents an epoch-making security risk. In most cases, migrating to the cloud means you have no option but to trust the vigilance, knowledge, and judgment of your chosen vendor.
As cloud-based solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive become more popular within the business setting; enterprises have to come to grips with the fact that issues like loss of control over confidential data are a looming security threat. Despite the fact that cloud vendors implement several security measures to isolate tenant environments, the organization still loses some level of IT control, which equates to risk as sensitive data and applications no longer reside within a private, physically isolated data-center. Is the business value worth the risk?
Why is Metadata Security Important?
In a nutshell, metadata is data about data. The bigger question is whether or not metadata is personally identifiable. If enough of it is linked together, a detailed profile of an individual or organization can be created; enough to personally identify them. Most IT security experts agree that metadata typically contains sensitive information, hidden from obvious view, but easily extractable. Metadata poses a great data leak risk since employees are not even aware of its existence. Whenever a request is made to store or retrieve data from a cloud storage server, the request and subsequent response contain metadata about both the request and the data itself. Since the organization has little to no control of this metadata, there is no way to guarantee its security.
What Happens in the event of a data breach?
As cloud adoption rates increase, cloud providers are increasingly becoming attractive targets for cybercriminals because of the huge amounts of data stored on their servers. Access to unencrypted metadata is enough to count as a full-fledged breach. The severity of a data breach is dependent on the sensitivity of the data being exposed. Breaches that involve trade secrets, health information and intellectual property are usually the most direful. It is worth noting that cloud vendors are not subject to similar data breach disclosure laws as federal agencies, banks, and other entities. So if a breach does occur, it may never be publicized or associated with the vendor.
Despite numerous efforts from public cloud providers to implement stringent security measures to curb the risk of data breaches; the burden of responsibility for data security ultimately falls on the organization and a breach will have critical financial and legal consequences.
Who Controls Your Data?
Ensuring that the data and applications residing in the cloud are kept safe is becoming more crucial as high-value data, mission-critical applications and intellectual property is transferred to the cloud. Despite the fact that cloud computing, in general, can be perceived as less secure, the fear of cloud security is situational. The real conundrum shouldn’t be whether or not to migrate to the cloud, but which cloud to migrate to. From a security standpoint, most cloud service providers are not ready. Using unsecured cloud vendors can expose sensitive cooperate data without your organization even realizing it. Enterprises commercially and legally have to maintain control over their data while customers and employees need to be able to freely collaborate, share and sync files they require. The solution is simple! Private Cloud.
Private Cloud Offers a Better Alternative
A private cloud computing model facilitates control and collaboration while protecting confidential data from unauthorized access. IT stakeholders need to have a detailed understanding of where and how data is being stored and transferred. With a self-hosted cloud deployment for critical data, you have maximum control, integration, and configuration of all the layers of security.
A cloud deployment is considered private when it is hosted on the organization’s servers. However, that does not necessarily mean the servers are hosted on-premises. By going the self-hosted route, companies are able to choose whether they want to house their files on-premises or in a remote data center. Despite the fact that on-premises infrastructure has the added advantage of more control and ownership, you will also be responsible for capacity planning. Given the costs associated with operating a data center and the redundancy required to operate at 100 percent network and power uptime; organizations can opt to leverage a hosted private cloud in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS).
This model allows the organization to have a scalable, isolated computing environment that has been custom-designed to meet its specific workload requirements, with the jurisdiction of their choice. A good example is AWS’ VPC which provides cloud hosting capabilities with enterprise-grade IT infrastructure through a virtualized network of interconnected virtual servers. GovCloud also allows US government agencies to host private clouds in secure regions operated by U.S citizens, and is only accessible to vetted U.S entities.
In a nutshell, a private cloud allows organizations to develop a flexible infrastructure to deliver applications while retaining control and managing the risk of the services delivered to business partners, users, and customers.
A private cloud deployment gives you control over security, privacy, and compliance. You can manage all your applications, IT services, and the infrastructure in one place using powerful tools like application and performance monitoring, VM templates, and automated self-service deployment. Since you have the control from the ground up, you will not be forced to adjust your security processes to meet those of the cloud; instead, you will bend the cloud to your will. A self-hosted cloud lets you leverage your current security infrastructure and procedures and easily integrates with existing tools. It simply works within your set framework; and when your data requirements scale, you will have the ability to scale with them.
The physical location of the data-center plays a crucial role in cloud adoption. A private cloud creates the opportunity to choose the region data will be stored. By having control over your selection of hosting provider/ data center, you know precisely where your servers are located, and under which nation’s data laws they are governed. Organizations may be obliged or simply prefer, to store data in a jurisdiction or country that is not offered by a public cloud provider.
A private cloud expands visibility into workloads and cloud operations. Thus enabling IT administrators to design data storage, hardware, and networks in a way that guarantees the security of data and associated metadata. When IT is fully aware of where the data is located and who has access to it at any given moment in time; the risks of compliance violations, data security vulnerabilities, and data leakage are thwarted.