Storing data in the cloud offers a lot of advantages, such as higher availability, limitless scalability, and potential cost savings.

But choosing to host data in the cloud also exposes your business to certain new security challenges. These challenges either don’t apply to on-premises data or aren’t as difficult to address.

For that reason, it’s critical to adapt your data security strategy when you move to the cloud. Keep reading for a look at three key cloud data security best practices that can help you to keep cloud data as secure as possible without compromising on priorities like data availability or scalability.

Cloud Data Security Challenges

Before diving into best practices for protecting cloud data, let’s discuss why securing data in the cloud can be more challenging.

The biggest challenge is the fact that, when you store data in the cloud, it’s connected to the Internet by definition. Unlike on-premise data – which you can isolate behind a corporate firewall or even disconnect from the network entirely if you want to “air gap” it – air gapped data hosted in the cloud can’t be segmented behind a neatly defined network perimeter. You can, and should, use tools like Identity and Access Management (IAM) tools to enforce access controls for your data, but you can’t rely on network-based controls to the same degree that you can with on-prem data.

Cloud data is also more challenging to secure in the respect that it often exists within a cloud environment that is shared by multiple users in your organization. For example, some teams may have accounts that give them access to your data because it is a part of the environment, even though their job responsibilities have nothing to do with that data. This means that there is a greater risk of exposing data to users or applications that shouldn’t be able to access it. This risk can be mitigated with the right access controls in place, but those controls must be configured correctly and routinely maintained.

Finally, cloud data can simply be harder to keep track of, which increases the risk of storing sensitive data in the wrong place or with the wrong access controls. In the cloud, data could be spread across a large number of cloud services – like object storage services, databases, data lakes, and more – which makes it difficult to maintain systematic visibility into where sensitive data exists.

Best Practices for Protecting Cloud Data

Those are the security challenges that arise from storing data in the cloud. Now, let’s take a look at three crucial best practices that offer a solution to these challenges.

1. Know Your Cloud Data

Perhaps the single most important step you can take toward securing cloud data is simply to “know your cloud data.” In other words, you need visibility into where sensitive data is stored across the various parts of your cloud environment and who should be able to access that data. With that information, you can define access controls that adequately protect your data.

Requiring cloud data resources to be tagged so that sensitive data is easy to identify is one way to improve data visibility. But because there is a risk that employees may accidentally upload sensitive information to an insecure location, or forget to tag it properly, you may also want to take advantage of cloud data discovery and classification tools, which automatically scan your cloud resources and look for data that appears to be sensitive. For example, they can find social security numbers or payment card information inside object storage buckets or databases that you may have overlooked.

2. Don’t Settle for the Defaults

You might think that cloud providers would enforce data settings that are secure by default. But often, that is not the case. Depending on which cloud data service you use, the data may not be encrypted by default. It may also be accessible by default to anyone on the Internet, which is certainly not a secure configuration for sensitive data.

For this reason, it’s critical to be proactive about enforcing strong security controls over your data. Learn what the default configurations are of each data service you use, then make sure you take steps to enhance the security by, for example, turning on encryption and enforcing access control policies that restrict access to the lowest level necessary.

3. Scan Your Cloud Environment

Sometimes, cloud data is compromised not because of a problem with the way your cloud data service is configured, but because of malware or vulnerabilities that affect other resources within your cloud environment. By compromising those resources, attackers may gain a beachhead that they can use to access sensitive cloud data.

To protect against this risk, you need to scan all of your cloud resources and configurations. You want to make sure that you know as soon as a vulnerability emerges within an application you host in your cloud environment, for instance, or a configuration change to your infrastructure creates a security gap that attackers could exploit.

In other words, to secure cloud data, you need to think beyond the data itself. It’s only with a holistic security strategy that allows you to detect and mitigate cloud security threats of all types in real time that you can keep cloud data safe.

Secure Your Cloud Data Fast

There are plenty of good reasons to store data in the cloud. But there are also some special security challenges that you’ll need to address in order to take advantage of cloud storage without placing your data at risk. By achieving visibility into your cloud data through Orca Security’s platform, you can identify and mitigate security risks that affect both your data services and your broader cloud environment. Be comfortable knowing your data is as secure as possible while still enjoying all the benefits of cloud storage.

The Orca Cloud Security Platform analyzes your cloud estate and offers complete visibility for evaluating cloud risks. With the help of a cloud security expert and a thorough key findings report, you can take advantage of unique insights and remediation recommendations for your most important security concerns, including concerns related to cloud data security.

Register now for a free 30-day trial of the Orca Security Platform and start strengthening your cloud security posture today!