Tips for Improving Cloud Migration Security & Safeguarding the Cloud

As businesses migrate their operations to the cloud, ensuring robust cloud migration security has become increasingly vital. Whether you are migrating your applications or data to private or public clouds, protecting sensitive information and applications from security threats such as data loss, misconfigurations, ransomware, and insider threats is paramount.

In this article, we'll explore key components of good cloud migration security and practical tips that can help secure your migration journey; from assessing security risks to implementing encryption and access controls, we have your protection covered!

What Is Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration refers to moving a company's data, applications, and other business components from on-premises infrastructure or traditional data centers into the cloud. Cloud computing involves migrating digital assets such as files, databases, software programs, and systems into an offsite data storage solution, typically offering public, private, or hybrid cloud options. Cloud migration should focus on exploiting all of the benefits of cloud computing, including its scalability, flexibility, cost-efficiency, and accessibility. 

Migrating to the cloud allows organizations to reduce physical hardware needs, optimize resource utilization, enhance data security and backup capabilities, and gain the flexibility of scaling their infrastructure up or down according to demand. Cloud migrations may involve various degrees of complexity, from straightforward lift-and-shift approaches to more involved processes that restructure or reengineer applications to take advantage of cloud-native features. The exact method will depend on factors like your organization's goals, system complexity, data sensitivity concerns, and compliance regulations.

Tips & Best Practices for Secure Cloud Migration

Tips Best Practices for Secure Cloud MigrationDownload

Assess Your Security Risks

Identifying cyber security threats requires a proactive and vigilant approach to monitoring and analyzing various sources of information. Some common methods used to identify threats are:

  • Threat Intelligence: Subscribing to threat intelligence services or monitoring open-source threat intelligence feeds can provide valuable information about the latest cyber threats, vulnerabilities, and attack techniques. This includes staying informed about emerging malware, exploits, phishing campaigns, and other malicious activities.
  • Penetration Testing: Employing ethical hackers to simulate real-world attack scenarios can help identify security weaknesses and potential vulnerabilities in systems and applications. Penetration testing involves actively attempting to exploit security flaws to uncover potential threats and assess the effectiveness of existing security controls.
  • Vulnerability Scanning and Assessments: Conducting regular vulnerability scans and assessments helps identify weaknesses and potential entry points in systems, applications, and network infrastructure. By addressing these vulnerabilities promptly, organizations can mitigate the risk of exploitation by cyber attackers.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM tools collect and analyze log data from various sources within an organization's IT infrastructure. By monitoring events, network traffic, and system logs, SIEM can help identify suspicious or anomalous activities that may indicate a security threat. SIEM can also correlate events across multiple systems to detect sophisticated attacks.
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS): IDPS tools monitor network and system activities in real-time to detect and prevent unauthorized access, attacks, or malicious activity. They can identify patterns associated with known threats as well as abnormal behaviors, which could indicate new or zero-day attacks.

Data risk assessment, which involves evaluating risks to data and applications, is a crucial aspect of assessing your security risks and maintaining a secure environment. Here are steps to help you assess and mitigate risks effectively:

  • Inventory sensitive data: Check endpoints, cloud services, storage media, and other locations to find and record all occurrences of sensitive data. 
  • Assign data classifications to each data instance: All organizations should have defined data classifications for all sensitive data. The origination and definition of this data helps indicate security and privacy controls that are mandatory and recommended for each type of data.
  • Prioritize which sensitive data to assess: A company could have a lot of data that isn’t feasible to review during each assessment. If needed, prioritize the most sensitive data. 
  • Check all relevant security and privacy controls: Sensitive data that’s being used, stored, and transmitted is protected by audit. A common five-phase process of audit steps includes planning, fieldwork, reporting, results and following up on corrective action plans.
  • Document all security and privacy control shortcomings: Recommendations on course of action and priority level for each deficiency are included at the end of the assessment. While it identifies security and privacy deficiencies, fixing them is not included. 
  • Regulatory compliance: Regulatory compliance refers to adhering to laws, regulations, guidelines and industry standards that regulate specific industries or activities. Compliance means operating within legal and ethical constraints defined by relevant authorities and regulatory bodies.

Implement Encryption and Access Controls

Data encryption is a fundamental security measure designed to safeguard sensitive information by converting it into an unreadable format that can only be decrypted with the appropriate decryption key. To ensure effective data encryption, it's vitally important that best practices for its implementation be observed including:

  • Keep encryption keys secure: While this may seem obvious, it can be easy to make mistakes, making it simple for unauthorized parties to access your data. Choosing encryption algorithms that are widely accepted and secure can help limit these chances. Avoid using outdated or weak encryption algorithms that may be vulnerable to attack.
  • Encrypt all types of sensitive data: No matter where data is stored or how unlikely someone is to find it, it’s best to encrypt all types of data. Applying encryption throughout the entire data lifecycle (storage and transmission to processing and backup) helps limit these risks. When encrypting data, it makes it much harder for someone to breach your system to do something malicious.
  • Assess data encryption performance: Making your data unreadable is not the only effective data encryption practice. If it’s taking too long or using too much CPU time and memory to encrypt your data, consider switching to a different algorithm or trying different settings in your data encryption tools. 

Password online form. Cyber security concept image.Organizations should also use access control systems to manage and regulate entry to physical spaces or digital resources. The most common types of access controls include:

  • Discretionary access control (DAC): DAC is a basic access control model where the data owner determines access permissions for resources. Access decisions are typically based on user identities or group affiliations. The data owner has the discretion to grant or revoke access privileges, and users may have varying levels of control over their own data.
  • Role-based access control (RBAC): RBAC is a widely adopted access control model where access permissions are assigned based on predefined roles within an organization. Users are assigned specific roles, and access rights are associated with those roles. RBAC simplifies access management by granting or revoking privileges based on job responsibilities or organizational hierarchy.
  • Mandatory access control (MAC): MAC is a stricter access control model commonly used in high-security environments. Access decisions are based on security labels assigned to subjects (users) and objects (resources). The labels represent the sensitivity or classification level of the data. Access is granted or denied based on predefined rules and security policies.

Finally, Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a type of encryption and authorization that all users and businesses should implement to prevent unauthorized access leading to potential attacks and compromise. MFA requires multiple methods of authentication to confirm a user’s identity for logins and other transactions. This works by combining the user’s credentials to confirm the user accessing the account is the owner. 

Monitor and Manage Cloud Security

Regular security audits and assessments are systematic processes designed to evaluate an organization's security posture, identify vulnerabilities and risks, and ensure compliance with relevant security policies, standards, and regulations. They play a pivotal role in maintaining an effective security program and proactively addressing any weaknesses.

An internal security audit is an in-depth assessment of an organization's security controls, policies, procedures and infrastructure to evaluate overall effectiveness of security measures as well as identify any gaps or deficiencies that exist within.  Security audits look extensively into all aspects of an organization's security and IT setup. Security audits examine:

  • The company’s physical computer system and hardware.
  • What software and applications are being used.
  • How the company sends and communicates information (like emails and messaging software).
  • Employee login or data.
  • Security systems in place (such as firewalls).
  • Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Disaster recovery plans.

Security assessments focus on identifying vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and risks within specific areas of an organization's security infrastructure or processes. They are typically more targeted and narrower in scope than security audits. Types of security assessments include:

  • Network-based scans: Evaluates the network to detect vulnerabilities.
  • Host-based scans: Scans analyze workstations along with host devices. Configuration settings are also looked at to warrant there are no attack risks. 
  • Application scans: Businesses can also schedule application assessments to evaluate applications (emails or messaging software).
  • Email Security Risk Assessment: Uncovers your email risk exposure to threats such as phishing and ransomware. 

Incident response planning is also crucial in responding effectively to potential security incidents and minimizing damage. Incident response refers to the process of creating a structured and coordinated approach for effectively managing and responding to security incidents within an organization. It involves developing strategies, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing procedures to detect, respond to, mitigate, and recover from security incidents. Incident response is important because it outlines how to minimize the damage of security incidents, reduces negative publicity, identifies stakeholders, and improves recovery time.

Investing in a quality cloud email security solution is an effective way that organizations can limit their chances of sensitive data and information being accessed by unauthorized users. Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security monitors your email infrastructure around-the-clock for potential threats leading to compromise, anticipating and addressing all threats in real-time before they reach the inbox.

Keep Learning About Secure Cloud Migration

Securing your cloud migration is integral to migrating operations to the cloud. By taking steps such as implementing security measures that protect sensitive data and applications from potential security threats, as outlined here in this article, you can ensure a successful journey and ensure security is always top of mind when conducting business operations on the cloud.

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