By Ryan Tyson
Security is incredibly important for any business that uses cloud services. Unfortunately, with the cloud being so easy to work with for any size company, small-business owners sometimes don’t consider security risks when they start using the internet for their operations. Watch for these cloud security vulnerabilities that are easy to address, but can lead to major problems if ignored.
1. Not Having a Policy
Even if you have a simple brick-and-mortar store, you need a policy to keep customer information safe. This can be something as basic as checking that no employees are using unsecured devices on your network. For example, if you use Infrastructure-as-a-Service infrastructure, don’t overlook simple steps like enabling endpoint protection and JIT network access. Not having a policy is a gross underestimation of the risk businesses face when they use the cloud.
2. Not Updating Your Policy
Creating a policy is just the first step. Next, you need to watch for any changes to cloud security best practices and update your policy to include them as soon as possible.
If the company network changes to a new platform or makes adjustments to the current platform, it’s a good time for a revision. The same is true for any alterations to business processes. If your company enters a new market, for instance, stop to consider all new compliance issues that the change introduces. It’s also worthwhile to audit the policy regularly, as well. Threats grow as much as companies do, and if you fail to research and react to new threats, your enterprise can quickly become a soft target.
3. Omitting Vital Aspects From Your Policy
Omitting essential safety measures from a policy can be as bad as not having a policy at all. Learn about the infrastructure you’re using and the best security practices. Then, revisit your policy to verify that it addresses potential vulnerabilities.
It may also help to work with a consultant or have an expert review your policy to ensure it’s up to date. A specialist has a trained eye to spot omissions and can pinpoint areas where you may be exposing yourself to risk. For example, the rules for virtual machines should clarify that OS vulnerabilities need to be enabled. This may be clear to IT professionals, but making it mandatory for all users who will interact with the system can mitigate problems.
4. Not Tracking Compliance
You also need a procedure to check that workers are complying with your policy. If people are using outdated operating systems or anti-virus software, they’re exposing your company to risk. Whatever security steps are necessary to safeguard your enterprise, make sure all workers are complying with the rules and using your network responsibly.
5. Making Assumptions About Business Partners’ Security
Getting all of your employees to comply with cloud security measures can be a huge task. Things get even trickier if you’re working with partners, though, since each business and all their employees need to handle shared data responsibly. Indeed, you may suffer a data breach because of a partner’s neglect. Through the famous Target breach, for example, hackers gained access to the retailer’s customer info and to an unsecured HVAC vendor that was relying on Target’s security for protection.
If working with a partner like Target can lead to a disaster, this is something that all businesses must take seriously. Follow a few best practices to avoid this pitfall:
- Clarify all requirements: Before you work with a partner, check that they provide the level of security you need to comply with regulations.
- Look for certified vendors: Look for industry certification or qualifications from organizations such as the Cloud Security Alliance to confirm that a potential partner is safe to work with.
- Cooperate with your partners: Confirming that security is good on both ends isn’t enough. You must develop new security practices for how you’ll exchange and manage shared data. You’ll also need to set up communication channels to streamline reporting of any threats, and to ensure that all parties know how to manage security incidents.
6. Not Tailoring Your Policy to Your Company
You can’t copy and paste another business’s policy and expect it to work for you. You must account for the network you’re using, which business applications you’re running, the size of your team, whether you’re working with external partners, and more.
There are also compliance issues to consider. A company in the medical field, for example, could make a network change that would be inconsequential for another enterprise but actually violates industry standards or privacy laws. If you use any type of automation for things such as auditing or risk analysis, you should write a policy that governs those systems and clarifies how they are to be managed and updated.
7. Not Accounting for Human Error
Not all security compromises are malicious. Especially for large companies or those with several internal teams or networks and applications, it’s easy to make a mistake that exposes you to risk. For example, when configuring a firewall, a simple typo could leave a port open, thus introducing a huge security oversight. Your policy should stipulate the use of tools or scripts to check for these kinds of mistakes, and the method for documenting and correcting them.
8. Not Using the Right Language in Your Policy
The best cloud security policies are short, consistent, and just detailed enough. For the last point, you’ll need to consider who the policy is for. Are you addressing IT personnel or workers who will be interacting with the system without much technical expertise? For the latter group, you’ll need to keep the jargon minimal and prioritize the security policies related to the most significant risks. Finally, the policy should consistently and explicitly state which practices are just recommended and which are mandatory.
Cloud security is essential for modern businesses. Draft a new policy or revisit your current standards to address these simple issues before they become major problems.
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