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Cloud Cybersecurity: Realize the benefits, mitigate the risks

There’s no question the cloud is the way of the future. By moving business functions and activities to a third-party host—rather than housing them all within your organization--companies can benefit from increased flexibility, broader accessibility, enhanced security, heightened speed and lower costs. And needless to say, these are all assets in today’s business environment.

That said, as with every business reward, cloud adoption also introduces new risks. To realize all that the cloud has to offer, it’s important to effectively mitigate these risks by taking time to clearly identify and build a robust defense strategy around them.

If you approach the cloud in the right way, you’ll not only be able to realize its tremendous benefits, but you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing that your business is protected.

How to protect yourself

While there are risks associated with using the cloud, it’s still something every forward-facing business should consider. Because nothing in today’s cyber environment is ever one hundred percent secure, the key is to mitigate the associated risks as best you can, so you can increase your chances of a safer cloud experience.

Three tips to get you started:

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Conduct an assessment of your data

Before you can find the right cloud provider, you need to decide which data is going up in the cloud—and which is going to stay on your own network. When classifying data, you need to look at its relevance, sensitivity and the steps needed to secure it. From there, you can decide which information to keep it in-house, store in the cloud, or get rid of entirely.

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Match data sensitivity with security

How your data is stored depends on its required level of protection. The nature of the safeguards will vary depending on the sensitivity of the information that has been collected; the amount, distribution, and format of the information; and the method of storage.  

From there, you’ll need to determine which security measures are best-suited to specific data. This will involve exploring such things as physical security (such as access controls, secure rooms and file storage); organizational measures (such as limiting access to sensitive data and including protocols for a data breach or leakage); processes to dispose of unwanted information; and technological measures (such as strong password controls, encryption, offline storage and network segregation).

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Find the right provider

With this information in hand—and a better grasp of your data sensitivity and security needs—it’s time to find the right provider. When looking for a cloud provider, your goal should be to gain a clear understanding of what that provider is and isn’t responsible for. Pay particular attention to technical security protocols; rules around transparency; legal liability in the event of hacked systems; and evidence that the cloud provider does, in fact, take responsibility for what it promises to do.

If you have the resources to fill in the remaining gaps, you’ve likely found the right provider.

Not all cloud providers are created equal

Many organizations adopt cloud services to mitigate cybersecurity risks—as these offerings are more secure than traditional network storage options. While this isn’t wrong, it’s important to note that a cloud subscription, on its own, doesn’t guarantee that your information is safe.

For one thing, not all cloud providers are created equal. As with most things, you get what you pay for, and low cost providers can often represent enhanced security risks. As an example, when we were reviewing cloud platform providers for our Cloud Accounting Service, we chose specific firms to work with due to their comparative level of security and reliability, which were key factors in our decision-making. It’s important to do your research ahead of time, determine what security features you need, and find a service provider that will offer them.

Even high-end providers won’t guarantee your security across the board. They may offer a great environment and a top-notch server—two key elements of top-end security—but they may not cover all aspects of the security of your data. Finding out where their coverage and responsibilities end and yours begin may require some digging. That’s why it’s important to ask the right questions upfront—and clarify any murky details.

Lastly, any time you call on the services of a third party, you’re introduced to new risks—and cloud providers are no different. The simple act of moving your information between your internal network and a cloud storage facility introduces new access points—points that could be targeted by hackers.   The key is to identify new risks as they arise, and make sure you have the right coverage and protection to mitigate them moving forward.

To learn more about how Grant Thornton can help enhance your cloud experience, or defend yourself against other cybersecurity threats, contact us.