How to avoid the most dangerous cloud security threats

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way businesses and employees interact with data. It offers many benefits such as increased mobility, improved flexibility, and limitless scalability. But along with those benefits come security concerns that shouldn’t be ignored.

From the threat of data breaches to compromised credentials, your cloud security shouldn’t be that different than the network security procedures you already have in place. In fact, it should be part of your network protection measures. But there are some extra concerns and protections you need to understand.

We’ll discuss some of the top cloud security threats and best practices to keep your business safe.

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Data breaches

Data breaches are the most common fear businesses have when moving to the cloud. High-profile breaches like Equifax have taught us about the devastating, long-term effects of a data breach – both financially and on your reputation.

Risk of data breach is not unique to cloud computing, but it’s certainly a big concern. Because of the remote nature of cloud infrastructure, the endpoints and pathways your data travels can increase exponentially. Luckily, there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of a breach as well as improve your response.

“An incident response team can reduce the cost of a breach by as much as $14 per compromised record from the average per-capita cost of $148. Similarly, extensive use of encryption can cut the cost by $13 per capita.”

Security Intelligence

The numbers above demonstrate the vital importance of having a solid cybersecurity plan that includes multiple layers of security, such as proactive network monitoring, antivirus software, threat detection, data encryption, and firewalls. The most important element, though, is having a team you trust ready and able to respond to a threat the instant it is detected.

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Credential & access management

A major cause of data breaches and other issues is weak access management protocols. This includes problems from poor or compromised passwords to people having access to parts of your network they really don’t need for their work.

Your first step to combat this problem is to put some solid password best practices into place. Start with simple things like avoiding obvious passwords and not using the same password for every account, and add more robust measures like two-factor authentication wherever you need it. With two-factor authentication, users attempting to access your network are required to provide an additional method of identification such as a PIN or a temporary code via SMS or email.

Access control groups are another powerful way to protect your network. By segmenting your data into groups, you can identify the most at-risk data and limit network access to it. That way if one segment of your network is compromised, your entire network won’t be immediately exposed.

Ultimately, your network is only as secure as the people accessing it. Make sure your employees are trained well and often on cybersecurity best practices.

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Related: Five strategies to get employee buy-in for security awareness training

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BYOD devices

The cloud changes the way users are able to interact with data. As a result, many users may want to access work files and applications from their personal mobile devices. This can offer benefits like increased productivity, but it can also open your network up to cyber threats.

“Reliance on smartphones in the enterprise space has skyrocketed in recent years, but it comes at a price. Zimperium estimates that some 60% of enterprise endpoints are mobile devices. In most companies, this means that 60% of endpoints accessing the enterprise have no visibility on them, making them ripe targets.”

Security Boulevard

It’s important to make sure you have a clear bring your own device (BYOD) policy in place and that the policy is communicated to your employees. You don’t necessarily have to ban all external devices because, as mentioned before, they can offer benefits like improved productivity. Your BYOD policy should cover not just what type of devices are and are not allowed but also how those devices are allowed to connect to your network.

Employee training on security best practices can help make this even more effective. Make sure your employees understand the importance of keeping their devices updated and locked, as well as being aware of when and how they are accessing data in the cloud. Accessing it from your office network is one thing, but accessing it from an unsecured public WiFi connection could open your network up to a host of problems.

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Related: The future of BYOD: Statistics, predictions and best practices to prep for the future

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In conclusion

As mentioned above, most of these security threats are not just limited to cloud services. To keep your data secure, you need a multi-layered cybersecurity plan that protects your data in-house as well as in the cloud. From cloud to cybersecurity, make sure you’re working with a trusted IT partner who not only is a cybersecurity expert but also works to understand the way your business operates. Your cloud security solution should never be one-size-fits-all but rather customized to address your unique needs.

4 reasons data encryption should be part of your cybersecurity strategy

The birth of the Internet has enabled an unparalleled level of information exchange across the world. Not only has it changed how we communicate and access information on a daily basis, but it has also fundamentally changed how the world does business.

The safe transmission, reception, and storage of data is an issue for all businesses, with data encryption playing an important role in every robust cybersecurity strategy.

What is data encryption?

Data encryption is the process of encoding a message in order to limit its access to authorized parties. In order to prevent prying eyes, a secret code is applied during data storage or transmission to scramble the data and make it unintelligible. At the other end when the data is received, a code key is applied to reverse the process. Data breaches have become normal today, so high-tech encryption is used to secure sensitive data and ensure privacy and compliance.

According to the latest Transparency Report from Google, data encryption for Google products and services has risen from just 48 percent coverage in late 2013 to 93 percent in 2019. Unfortunately, many cloud business services are well below this level. In separate data by the Ponemon Institute and nCipher Security, just 74 percent of businesses have partial or extensive public cloud encryption.

Let’s look at four key reasons why data encryption should form an important part of your cybersecurity strategy.

1. Compliance obligations

There are a wealth of government regulations and industry compliance standards around data security, especially for sensitive industries like healthcare and financial services. For example, healthcare providers must follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements for protection of sensitive patient information.

Similarly, education institutions must adhere to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and retailers are required to follow the Fair Credit Practices Act (FCPA). While community and compliance standards vary by countries and industries, data encryption often plays an important role in data protection and compliance coverage.

2. Cybercrime concerns

Whether it’s malware, phishing, or disruptive computer viruses, cybercrime is more prevalent than ever before. Data encryption is one the best ways to prevent hacking and keep your valuable information safe and secure. No industry or company size is immune to criminal activity, with hackers alwasy searching for sensitive financial information, health records, and trade secrets among other data.

End-to-end encryption is one of the best ways to safeguard against identity theft and other malicious activity, including public key infrastructure (PKI) encryption, homomorphic encryption, and other robust security measures.

3. Protecting user privacy

When you run a business, you are responsible for the personal data of your customers and employees. From financial and healthcare information, such as credit card numbers and insurance data, to staff names, addresses and birthdays, keeping internal user data private should always be a priority.

While encrypting user data will require extra system overhead, it is necessary to improve transparency and maintain customer satisfaction. The use of comprehensive data encryption is one of the major issues that define professional organizations, with a number of recent large-scale data breaches bringing this fundamental privacy issue into public focus.

4. Seamless performance

There are significant network management and system resource issues related to data encryption, with specific measures needed to ensure maximum performance. This concern is one of the main reasons so many businesses avoid data encryption. For example, complexities often arise around archiving, where data is difficult to encrypt due to existing indexing and search protocols. Similar issues exist with mobile devices, edge inspection, and authorized third-party access.

Despite the unintended consequences of data encryption, however, it doesn’t have to negatively affect performance. Successful data encryption often involves the use of cloud-based services, with simple website encryption protocols like secure sockets layer (SSL) combined with robust server-side encryption solutions.

Working with your managed IT services partner to add the right level of encryption to your data protection strategy can enhance your compliance and your peace of mind. Ease Tech is ready to advise you on where it makes sense to implement data encryption measures to further secure your cloud environment.

What You Need to Know About the Equifax Cybersecurity Breach

It’s happening. Again.

Another major cybersecurity breach is making headlines. And this one is truly unsettling. 44% of Americans are affected by it. That’s 143 million U.S. citizens. What’s worse, the target of the cyber attack was the credit reporting agency Equifax.

The story actually began months ago, but the big news broke last week when we learned the extent of the damage.

Cyber criminals gained access to Equifax data back in May, taking advantage of a web-based vulnerability. Then, as is all too common in these stories, they waited and watched. Over the course of roughly two months, they acquired some alarmingly critical data. We’re talking about names, birth dates, drivers license numbers and social security numbers.

News sources have already hit the credit giant with scathing criticism. For example, Business Insider observed, “Equifax . . . didn’t just have one of the worst security breaches in American history; it also handled the situation like a drunk teenager trying to hide the aftermath of particularly destructive house party.”

Ouch.

Protecting yourself.

First things first. You likely want to know if your personal information was part of the data breach. There’s an easy way to find out.

Equifax has already set up an online tool to let you know if your data was potentially exposed. Just go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number.

If your info is safe, you’ll get the all-clear. If your data might be at risk, you’ll get a vaguely worded warning and an offer from Equifax for one free year of credit monitoring.

Keep in mind, though, that your social security number is with you forever. If your information was compromised, you’ll want to keep an eye on your credit report for several years as cyber criminals may not take advantage right away.

Protecting your business.

Of course, you’re a business owner. Protecting your personal assets is only half the story. You also need to protect your business.

Even if your company is small, there’s still significant cybersecurity risk. 50% of SMBs experienced a cybersecurity attack in the last year. Just because your operation isn’t global doesn’t mean cyber criminals will give you a free pass.

You still need a solid cybersecurity strategy.

The complexity of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is a complex, ever-changing field. It would be great if there were a quick-and-easy DIY approach. But this is not one of those things you can easily tackle on your own.

Why?

First, because cyber criminals are creative and persistent. As soon as cybersecurity professionals close all the known security gaps, cyber criminals find another. What it takes to keep your business safe today could easily change next month. Or next week.

Second, because even small networks have more vulnerability points than you might think. There are all kinds of ways to hack into a system. Addressing every possible point of entry requires high levels of expertise and experience.

And finally, because the stakes are high. If you suffer a cybersecurity breach, you’ll lose valuable data and your reputation will take a significant hit. Remember that quote from Business Insider about Equifax? Do you really want to risk folks saying the same kinds of things about your business?

Cybersecurity you can trust.

Our recommendation is simple. Rather than trying to manage your company’s cybersecurity on your own, call in the professionals.

An experienced cybersecurity partner will be able to provide the kind of protection you really need. These experts know how cyber criminals think, they stay up-to-date on the latest threats, and they’re ready to adjust as cybersecurity evolves over time.

Yes, professional cybersecurity comes at a cost. But it’s totally worth it.

If you’re interested in learning more about protecting your organization, the team at EaseTech can help. We have the experience, the tools and the knowledge to cover all your cybersecurity needs.

Plus, we take a down-to-earth approach. Not only do we want you to be safe – we want you to feel comfortable, too.

Give us a call today to find out how we can protect your business from cybersecurity threats.