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16 Best Practices for Cloud Security (Complete List for 2023)


Ensuring your cloud environment is secure and compliant with industry practices is critical.
Cloud security best practices will help you protect your organization’s data and applications. In the process, reduce the risks of security compromise.
This post will walk you through the best practices for cloud security. We’ll also share the top cloud security risks and how to mitigate them.

The top 5 security risks to cloud computing right now

  • Social engineering.
    Social engineering attackers use psychological deception to manipulate users into providing sensitive information. These deception tactics may include phishing, pretexting, or baiting.
  • Account compromise.
    An account compromise occurs when an attacker obtains unauthorized entry to it. A hacker can access your account when you use weak passwords or steal your credentials. They may introduce malware or steal your files once they access your account.
  • Shadow IT.
    This security risk occurs when your employee uses hardware or software that the IT department does not approve. It may result in compliance problems, data loss, and a higher risk of cyberattacks.
  • Insider activity (unintentional or malicious).
    Insider activity occurs when approved users damage your company’s data or network.  These users can either do it purposefully or accidentally on-premises. For example, you may disclose private information unintentionally or steal data on purpose.
  • Insecure APIs.
    APIs make communication easier for cloud services and other software applications. Insecure APIs can allow unauthorized access to sensitive data. This could, in turn, lead to malicious attacks, such as data theft. The attackers could also do illegal data alteration from data centers.

16 best practices for cloud security

  1. Establish zero-trust architecture
  2. Use role-based access control
  3. Monitor suspicious activity
  4. Monitor privileged users
  5. Encrypt data in motion and at rest
  6. Investigate shadow IT applications
  7. Protect Endpoints
  8. Educate employees about threats
  9. Create and enforce a password policy
  10. Implement multi-factor authentication
  11. Understand the shared responsibility model
  12. mAudit IaaS configurations
  13. Review SLAs and contracts.
  14. Maintaining logs and monitoring
  15. Use vulnerability and penetration testing
  16. Consider intrusion detection and prevention

One of the most critical areas of cloud security is identity and access management. We will also discuss sensitive data protection, social engineering attacks, cloud deployments, and incident response.

Best practices for managing access.

Access control is an integral part of cloud network security. It restricts who can access cloud services, what they can do with the data, and when.
Here are some of the best practices for managing access:

Establish zero-trust architecture

Zero-trust architecture is a security concept that treats all traffic in or out of your network as untrusted.
It considers that every request may be malicious. So you must verify your request, even if it originates from within the network.
You can apply zero-trust architecture by dividing the system into smaller, more secure cloud zones.  And then enforce strict access policies for each zone.
This best practice will help you understand who accesses your cloud services. You’ll also know what they do with your data resources.

Use role-based access control

Role-based access control allows you to assign users different access rights based on their roles.
This method lessens the chances of giving people unauthorized access privileges. It also simplifies the administration of access rights.

RBAC also simplifies upholding the tenet of least privilege. It restricts user permission to only the resources they need to do their jobs. This way, users don’t have excessive access that attackers could exploit.

Monitor suspicious activity

Monitoring suspicious behavior involves tracking and analyzing user activity in a cloud environment.

It helps identify odd activities, such as user accounts accessing unauthorized data.

You should also set up alerts for suspicious activities. Adopting this security strategy will help you spot security incidents early and react quickly.

This best practice will help you improve your cloud functionality.  It will also protect your sensitive data from unwanted access or malicious activities.

Monitor privileged users

Privileged users have high-level access rights and permissions. They can create, delete and modify data in the cloud environment.
You should consider these users as a huge cybersecurity risk. Your privileged users can cause significant harm if they get compromised. 

Closely watch these users’ access rights and activity. By doing so, you’ll easily spot misuse of permissions and avert data breaches.  
You can also use privileged access management systems (PAS) to control access to privileged accounts. 

Enforcing security certifications also helps privileged users avoid making grievous mistakes. They’ll learn the actions that can pose a cybersecurity threat to their organization.

Best practices for protecting sensitive data

Safeguarding sensitive data is critical for organizational security. You need security measures to secure the cloud data you store, process and transfer. 

Encrypt data in motion and at rest

Encrypting cloud data in transit and at rest is critical to data security.

When you encrypt your data, it transforms into an unreadable format. So only authorized users with a decryption key can make it readable again. This way, cybercriminals will not access your sensitive data. 

To protect your cloud data in transit, use encryption protocols like TSL and SSL. And for cloud data at rest, use powerful encryption algorithms like AES and RSA.  

Investigate shadow IT applications

Shadow IT apps can present a security risk as they often lack the same level of security as sanctioned apps.

Investigating Shadow IT apps helps ensure they do not pose any security risks. For example, some staff may use cloud storage services that are insecure. 

If you realize that, you can propose sanctioned cloud storage software as a service apps like Dropbox and Google Drive.

You can also use software asset management tools to monitor the apps in your environment. A good example is the SaaS solution known as Flexera software asset management. 

Protect Endpoints 

Endpoints are essential in maintaining a secure cloud infrastructure. They can cause a huge security issue if you don’t monitor them closely.
Computers and smartphones are often the weakest points in your security strategy. So, hackers target them the most because of their high vulnerability. 
Cybercriminals may then introduce ransomware into your cloud through these endpoints. 
To protect your endpoints, employ security solutions like antimalware and antivirus software. 
You could also use endpoint detection and response systems (EDRs) to protect your endpoints from threats. 

EDRs use firewalls as a barrier between the endpoints and the outside world. These firewalls will monitor and block suspicious traffic from accessing your endpoints in real time.

Best practices for preventing social engineering attacks

Use these best practices to protect your organization from social engineering attacks:

Educate employees about threats

Educating workers on the techniques that attackers use helps create a security-minded culture.
Your employees will be able to detect malicious attempts and respond appropriately.

You can train them on deception techniques such as phishing, baiting, and pretexting. Also, make it your policy that every employee takes security certifications on a regular basis.

You can tell them to report anything they suspect to be a security threat to the IT department. They’ll be assured that your security team can handle any security issues they may face.

Create and enforce a password policy

A password policy helps ensure your employees’ passwords are secure and regularly updated.
It also sets up rules everyone must follow when creating and using passwords.

Some rules in your password policy can be:

  • Setting a minimum password length when creating passwords.
  • No reusing of passwords.
  • The frequency with which to change passwords.
  • The characteristics of a strong password.

A strong password policy safeguards your cloud-based operations from social engineering assaults.

Implement multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to protect the users’ accounts.

This security tool requires users to provide extra credentials to access their accounts. For example, you may need a one-time code sent via text or an authentication app to log into your account.
This extra layer of protection reduces the chances of unauthorized access to accounts. Hackers will find it hard to steal sensitive data even if they have your password. In the process, you’ll prevent data loss from your cloud platform.

Leverage the multifactor authentication options that public cloud providers usually offer. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers multifactor authentication for its users.

Best practices for securing your cloud deployments.

Your cloud deployments are as secure or insecure as the processes you use to manage them. This is especially true for multi-cloud environments where the risks are even higher.
Use these best practices to secure your cloud deployments:

Understand the shared responsibility model

The shared responsibility model is a concept that drives cloud best practices. It states that cloud providers and customers are responsible for different security aspects.
Cloud service providers are responsible for the underlying infrastructure and its security.
On the other hand, customers are responsible for their apps, data, and settings in the cloud.

Familiarize yourself with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure guides. This ensures you’re aware of the roles of your cloud service provider.

Understanding the shared security model will help safeguard your cloud platform.

Audit IaaS configurations

Cloud deployments of workloads are prone to misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. So it’s important to regularly audit your Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) configurations.

Check that all IaaS configurations align with industry best practices and security standards.
Regularly check for weaknesses, misconfigurations, and other security vulnerabilities.
This best practice is critical if you are using a multi-cloud environment. The level of complexity arises, which in turn increases the risk of attacks. 
Auditing IaaS configurations will secure your valuable cloud data and assets from potential cyberattacks.

Review SLAs and contracts.

Reviewing SLAs and contracts is a crucial best practice for safeguarding cloud installations. It ensures that all parties know their respective security roles.

You should review SLAs to ensure cloud deployments meet your needs while complying with industry standards. 
Examining the contracts also helps you identify potential risks, like data breaches. This way, you prepare elaborate incident responses.

Best practices for incident response

Cloud environments are dynamic and can quickly become vulnerable to cyberattacks.

So your security/DevOps team should design incident response plans to resolve potential security incidents. 

Here are some of the best practices for incident response: 

Maintaining logs and monitoring

Maintaining logs and monitoring helps you spot potential cybersecurity threats in real time. In the process, enable your security to respond quickly using the right security controls.
Maintaining logs involves tracking all the activities that occur in a system. In your cloud environment, it can record login attempts, errors, and other network activity.  

Monitoring your network activity lets you easily spot a breach’s origin and damage severity. 

Use vulnerability and penetration testing

Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing can help you identify weaknesses in your cloud.
These tests mimic attacks on a company’s cloud infrastructure to find vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may exploit.
Through automation, these security controls can assist in locating security flaws, incorrect setups, and other weaknesses early.
You can then measure the adequacy of your security policies to address these flaws. This will let you know if your cloud security can withstand real-life incidents.

Vulnerability and penetration testing is a crucial best practice for handling incidents in cloud security. It may dramatically improve your organization’s overall security posture.

Consider intrusion detection and prevention

Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) are essential to a robust security strategy.

Intrusion detection involves identifying potential cybersecurity threats in your network. Through automation, intrusion detection tools monitor your network traffic in real-time for suspicious activity.
Intrusion prevention systems (IPS) go further by actively blocking malicious activity.
These security tools can help prevent any harm by malware attacks in your cloud environment. 

The bottom line on cloud security.

You must enforce best practices to keep your cloud environment secure.
This way, you’ll lower the risks of cyberattacks which can have catastrophic results.
A CSPM tool like Prevasio  can help you enforce your cloud security best practices in many ways.
It can provide visibility into your cloud environment and help you identify misconfigurations.

Prevasio can also allow you to set up automated security policies to apply across the entire cloud environment. This ensures your cloud users abide by all your best practices for cloud security.

So if you’re looking for a CSPM tool to help keep your cloud environment safe, try Prevasio today!

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