Originally published by New Context.
Humans tend to process data in a visual format more readily than other communication forms, such as oral or text-based. This is true not only for processing, but also for assessing the accuracy of the information presented. Noteworthy studies indicate that visual data or imagery is the most trusted resource for consumers. Therefore, if you want your presentation to be understood and trusted, liberally use graphs, charts, and other visual representations.
Does this preference for format or type also extend to data security? Unencrypted data is easier to read and presents a “soft target” to those seeking unauthorized access to information. Consequently, virtually all data is encrypted during transfer through cyberspace. However, data sensitivity varies, which means that some data warrants higher security measures. Let’s take a look at data prioritization and then the best measures to ensure that adequate protection is afforded to the most important data.
Prioritizing Data for Cloud Security
Before determining how to best protect your data in the cloud, it is helpful to know what data is most at risk in cyberspace. From an operational perspective, most of an organization’s data can be considered sensitive or privileged to some degree. After all, it is typical for data to be inaccessible to all employees unless it is necessary to perform their job functions. From a security standpoint, the priority that should be placed on an organization’s data is more complex, layered, and based on privileges.
Privilege and Privileged Data
Access to data within an organization, whether at rest or in process, is determined by privilege.
Privilege is the level of access given to a user or user account within a computing system or network.
It follows that privileged data is available only to an authorized user of a privileged account. Although it is true that all accounts—for example, regular users or guests—have privileges associated with them, from an IT security vantage point a privileged account most often refers to accounts with “elevated” access or privileges. Types of privileged accounts include:
- Administrative: These are typically non-personal accounts that provide the highest level of access to user accounts, services, and applications.
- Service: Service accounts provide operational access to system services. For example, operating system programs.
- Application: These accounts are application-specific and enable applications to run in their computer and network environment.
Obviously, access to restricted data for the privileged accounts above can pose significant risks to an organization’s ability to operate, and they require heightened security and dedicated oversight to avoid breaches in the cloud. The same is true for the credentials that provide access to these accounts. Therefore, good secrets management must be a major part of any successful privileged data security plan.
The Best Cloud Security Guidelines for Your Privileged Data
Protecting data in the cloud is best viewed as an identity and access management (IAM) issue. That is, data protection is achieved by controlling access to privileged accounts or privilege access management (PAM). And this is accomplished by securely managing the secrets that contain access information. Adopting a security plan that adheres to the following guidelines will enable you to best secure your data in the cloud.
Cloud Security Guidelines for Data Protection
- Determine your cloud security threats: Whether your deployment is a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud, knowledge of the cloud security vulnerabilities that may be utilized to threaten your data is a critical first step.
- Perform a data security risk assessment: In conjunction with knowing your vulnerabilities, analyzing and evaluating the risks associated with different types of threats is essential. This data security risk assessment will inform you where to direct focus and which tools to leverage to best mitigate access to your most sensitive data.
- Incorporate security throughout all development: Regardless of whether this is an initial cloud migration, upscale, or additional prioritization of security during development, moving from DevOps to DevSecOps will significantly strengthen your security posture from both external and internal attacks.
- Leverage automation: An essential aspect of maintaining cloud security is to ensure that software versions are accurate and that processes are in compliance with rules and regulations for data handling. This is best done through automation tools that remove the need for a human owner to maintain these tedious, error-prone tasks.
- Utilize robust API management: Applying strong API management security is also critical to safeguard your data. This includes choosing and only relying upon external vendors that share your commitment to security in order to mitigate 3rd party cyber risks.
- Monitor and upgrade: What works today in terms of data security may not be effective tomorrow. Therefore, it is essential to continually monitor and upgrade your security posture and/or tools as required.