Businesses, organizations, institutions, and individuals are turning to cloud storage as the preferred way to store data. Thanks to the tons of benefits Cloud offers to businesses. But, it also comes with a wide range of security risks and threats that continue to evolve every day, pausing significant threats such as loss of data, damage to a brand’s reputation, loss of business, lawsuits and hefty fines. That’s why industries are imposing strict regulations that require companies to prioritize security and cloud compliance.
Although Cloud service providers yield the bulk of the burden when it comes to cloud compliance, it’s also your responsibility as the customer to maintain compliance and security. Begin by understanding cloud compliance, local, state, federal as well as international security laws and regulations. It will help you choose a cloud service provider who is compliant and offers the kind of service you need.
Cloud storage and its benefits explained
Storing data in your PC or an external drive is considered safe as only the individuals with the PC or external drive can access the data. Cloud Storage offers something different, which is accessible from anywhere in the world. In simple terms, cloud storage allows you to save files on the internet in a network of cloud-based servers. Its benefits include:
Once you’ve uploaded the files to your cloud storage, you can access these files from any location provided you have an internet connection and the logins. It means that your work isn’t limited to your office space. Your employees can work from home or different parts of the world and still complete tasks on time.
It also makes collaborations easier as you can share files with other businesses by sending them a link. Employees can upload real-time data from different locations and can share large files.
2. Cost savings
Storing data in hard drives means that you’ll need sufficient hard drives to store all the data you have. Data storage requires resources and power, which could be a burden for small businesses. You can offload some of this burden by choosing cloud storage. It eliminates the need to invest in storage equipment and power.
3. Synchronization and automation
Storing data in local file storage means that you have to physically update the data if you’re working from a different location. Cloud storage makes it easier to access these files from any device with an internet connection. It means that you can update the files from any location without worrying about transferring the files from one device to another.
Data backup has always been a challenge for businesses and even individuals. It’s too much work, and it often interrupts daily operations unless you scheduled the backups for midnight. Cloud storage allows you to choose a fitting backup schedule and the files you want to backup. Automation will handle the rest, allowing you to continue operations without disruptions.
Security of data is always a concern even when data is stored in local file storage. However, cloud storage allows you to entrust the security of your data to a team of professionals who have the expertise, knowledge, hardware, and software to protect your data.
How to effectively implement cloud compliance
If you use cloud storage to store sensitive data, you need to share the responsibility with the CSP. You can’t store sensitive data in a public cloud and expect it to be safe. There is always a risk that your Cloud will be breached. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you choose a CSP who prioritizes security and has the necessary infrastructure to support your needs. Cloud storage is aimed at providing secure storage and not increase risk; thus, the following factors should be prioritized:
1. Where does the CSP store the data?
As the customer, you’re transferring most of the security risk to your CSP; it’s worth researching whether their security measures are up to standards. One of the standards mandates that the servers be located in the U.S.
Don’t shy away from questioning their security measures, policies, and processes. You’re the customer, and you must protect the data that is entrusted to you by your clients. Be sure to ask for documentation or proof that the servers are located in the U.S. as they say.
2. Who has access?
Cloud storage isn’t an excuse to be lax with your security measures. Ensure that you audit and review all the users who have access to the data. Control who has access to the data just as you would when dealing with any other system.
Lack of access control is among the leading causes of data breaches; you can reduce this risk by multi-factor authentication. Instead of using single sign-on due to its convenience, opt for multi-factor authentication as it makes the data almost impenetrable.
The biggest cybersecurity threat to any company is always an insider data breach. Internal breaches could be from an employee with legitimate access to the network, an accidental insider, social engineers, or third parties such as contractors and consultants. While the CSP can prevent the external data breaches, internal data breaches are your responsibility. Put in place measures that limit your exposure to such threats and improve your response to potential insider threats.
3. How is your data protected?
Check if your CSP offers encryption services; if not, you can either change the CSP or use third-party software programs. Data encryption not only helps protect your sensitive data, but it’s also part of the compliance requirements. Be sure to ask more about the encryption services they offer. You want to know the kind of encryption offered and if it’s suitable for the data you wish to store.
Ensure that the data is protected on your end, even when uploading it to their servers. Don’t wait till your defenses are breached to perform a risk assessment on your compliance program. Instead, choose a proactive risk management strategy that actively audits your systems and compliance posture to check for gaps in your compliance program.
Laws and regulations governing the Cloud
Information security is a cause for concern for any entity that handles sensitive data, whether it’s customer data or company data. It’s even more of a concern when you’re outsourcing data storage to a Cloud Service Provider. Your data can be mishandled or left vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which is why there are cloud compliance requirements. Some of the primary types of compliance include:
1. SOC 2
SOC 2 compliance was developed specifically for service organizations that use cloud services to store customer data. It’s a technical audit that focuses on five trust service principles. These include security, privacy, processing integrity, confidentiality, and availability.
External auditors issue SOC 2 certifications, after reviewing whether your organization is compliant with the trust principles. Since SOC 2 compliance is unique to each organization, you can start reviewing the five trust principles and how they relate to your company’s operations.
Although SOC 2 isn’t a mandatory requirement, it’s a certification that businesses need as it proves that they value customer’s data and privacy.
2. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
FERPA compliance seeks to protect the data of students as well as their families. As institutions continue to collect more information about students and their families, it’s become imperative to create policies that protect this kind of data. This typically applies to institutions that receive funding from the government. If your institution isn’t FERPA compliant, the institution could face lawsuits, prosecution, fines, disciplinary action, and even forfeit federal funding.
Before you rush to implement the FERPA compliance requirements, start by confirming if FERPA compliance applies to you. Understand what it entails and what it seeks to protect. Learn all about the rights and exceptions to FERPA before picking a CSP vendor who is FERPA compliant.
3. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
HIPAA seeks to protect sensitive patient data; thus, it applies to any entity that handles patient data. These entities include business associates that have access to protected healthcare information either as a subcontractor or vendor. It also provides health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers.
4. Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act
The U.S. government signed into law the CLOUD Act to provide U.S law enforcement officers with trans-border access to user and communication data. It means that U.S. law enforcement officers can force tech companies to provide access to user data.
Since the Act allows law enforcement access to data stored in foreign countries, it also allows executive agreements that grant foreign nations access to user data stored in other nations, even in the U.S.
Cloud compliance begins with understanding all the compliances that affect your business and why these compliance requirements were formulated. Once you understand the requirements, you can work towards becoming compliant and choose a CSP provider that not only meets your needs but is also compliant with the regulations that affect your business.
Remember that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, thus don’t rely solely on your CSP provider to protect your sensitive data. Ultimately, you are to blame if your data is breached. Therefore, formulate separate measures to protect the data and choose the right CSP provider to store your data.