Over the past decade-and-a-half, cloud computing has become an increasingly important piece of the computing landscape. Referring to the use of large networks made up of remote servers, cloud computing powers many of the tools users rely on on a regular basis – whether that’s services like Dropbox and Google Docs, platform-as-a-service solutions like Google App Engine, entertainment such as streaming video games, remote working tools, or myriad other examples.

Wooed by the plethora of benefits that cloud computing has to offer – greater scalability, optimized costing, superior flexibility, no need to buy and maintain computing infrastructure – businesses around the world increasingly look to the cloud whenever it’s time to implement a new solution involving data storage or processing.

And why not? The cloud has proven to be a certified game-changer.

But that doesn’t mean that the cloud does not pose problems, even as it represents solutions to many of the traditional computing challenges. One of these big challenges on the cloud is the issue of security. In the rush to move to the cloud, this shift can occur without users having a true understanding of how to properly secure cloud environments. For those without the right cloud data security measures, the results can be extremely damaging.

How the cloud can compromise security

There are multiple ways that the cloud could potentially compromise security. Misconfigurations involving publicly accessible cloud storage are a common means by which hackers are able to gain access to systems. This may involve inadequate access restrictions, which can potentially lead to data breaches in the event that attackers take advantage of insecure cloud storage buckets to download sensitive or confidential information – including customer PII, passwords, databases, and more.

Moving sensitive data to the cloud without ensuring that it’s properly secured is the equivalent of parking your upscale sports car in a garage, but failing to lock the door.

Insecure APIs also have a role to play. While application user interfaces (APIs) are designed as a way to streamline processes involving cloud computing, they can in some cases be exploited as a line of communication that attackers can utilize to access cloud resources.

The cloud can also – alarmingly – be used to help spread cybercrime. According to one recent report by the UK’s National Crime Agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit, close to 600 million credentials have been collected by way of a compromised cloud storage facility, making them available to cyber criminals to download. It’s not clear where these credentials came from (they haven’t been linked with a specific company), but criminals were using the cloud to put them in the public domain so that they could then be accessed by other third parties wishing to use them to commit fraud or other related offenses.

Solving the cloud security issue

Faced with this kind of evidence, it would be easy to conclude that the cloud is bad news: both an insecure technology that places previously protected data at risk and, in some cases, even the repository through which stolen data can be easily shared. Fortunately, that’s not true.

The good news is that, through robust cyber security measures, organizations can virtually eliminate the risk of cloud security. In lots of cases, companies which make use of the cloud have fundamental misunderstandings about the cloud environment and their own responsibility for ensuring its security. Depending on the cloud service type, cloud providers and cloud customers share different levels of responsibility when it comes to security. It’s crucial that customers understand what is expected of them and that, in many instances, they may be the weak link that is making cloud security breaches possible.

According to the State of Cloud Security 2021 report, approximately 36 percent of companies that suffered the effects of a major cloud security breach or leak in the past year did so due to cloud misconfiguration problems. Over the next several years, Gartner suggests that 99 percent of such cloud security failures will be the fault of customers, largely due to such misconfigurations.

Similarly, problems like passwords being shared online can be solved by making good use of encryption measures and strong passwords. Users should also make sure that they do not recycle login credentials across multiple websites or online services.

Bring in the experts

Perhaps the best move organizations can make when it comes to cloud data security is to bring in the right cybersecurity experts to help. They can assist in providing the right cloud security solutions to offer accurate and up-to-date inventories of all databases, as well as making it easy to create and manage a unified set of security policies for all databases.

On top of this, they can help classify sensitive data and offer out-of-the-box compliance reporting tools that make it easy for organizations to show that they’re properly safeguarding customer data. In the event of a possible attack, state-of-the-art cyber security protection can detect and rapidly respond to attacks.

Whether it’s about safeguarding customers or protecting yourself against fines and other costly damages (or both), proper cloud data security measures are one of the best investments you can make.