Cloud Security Best Practices & Checklist

Cloud security is essential to modern business operations, particularly as more businesses transition their data and applications to the cloud infrastructure. Implementing cloud security best practices helps businesses protect sensitive data, prevent data breaches, and ensure business continuity.

In this blog post, we are going to share the 15 recommended cloud security best practices, and checklists to enhance your overall security posture.

Before we talk about this topic, let us first understand the importance of cloud security solutions for your business.

Importance of Cloud Security

According to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2024, 50% of businesses and 32% of charities experienced a cyber security breach or attack in the last 12 months.

Security is one of the biggest concerns when organisations begin their digital transformation journey in the cloud landscape.

Cloud security differs from traditional security methods. With the rise of data breaches and malware attacks, ensuring the safety of cloud data is more crucial than ever. It is important to understand cloud security to keep your sensitive data secure and utilise the appropriate tools and best practices.

Cloud security encompasses technologies, policies, controls, and services to protect sensitive data, applications, and infrastructure, and the security responsibility is shared between cloud providers and customers.

15 essential Cloud Security Best Practices & checklist

Here are the cloud security best practices and checklist to ensure your cloud platform is secure:

1. Encrypt Your Data

One of the fundamental cloud security best practices is to encrypt data. Cloud data encryption ensures that your sensitive data flows seamlessly and securely in the cloud-based applications and is unreadable to unauthorised users.

In addition, both data at rest and data in transit should be encrypted using strong encryption protocols. This helps protect your data from breaches and unauthorised access, ensuring that even if data is intercepted, it remains secure.

Data encryption is not a one-time activity, but an ongoing process. Businesses should make sure to choose the right cloud provider, who uses advanced encryption standards (AES) and regularly updates their encryption protocols to guard against evolving threats.

Also, organisations must manage their encryption keys securely, using recommended services provided by cloud service providers or dedicated key management solutions.

2. Implement Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) Tools

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) automates visibility, uninterrupted monitoring, threat detection, and remediation workflows to identify and fix risks related to misconfigurations across various cloud environments and infrastructure. This includes:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)

For example, Microsoft Defender CSPM continuously monitors your cloud infrastructure and identifies misconfigurations, migration risks, legal and regulatory compliance violations, unauthorised access, insecure interfaces, external data sharing, account hijacking and other security issues.

Businesses should choose CSPM tools that integrate well with their existing cloud platforms and security tools. Also, they should use these tools to enforce security policies, monitor compliance, and provide insights into your cloud infrastructure.

3. Implement Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is crucial for managing access privileges to your cloud infrastructure. IAM empowers administrators to explicitly authorise who can act on specific resources, providing them with complete control and visibility to manage cloud resources.

Implementing robust IAM policies helps ensure that only authorised users can access sensitive data and systems. IAM offers a comprehensive view of security policies across your organisation, with integrated auditing to streamline compliance procedures.

In addition, IAM features such as multi-factor authentication, role-based access control, and regular access reviews help to secure access controls.

Businesses should regularly review and update Identity and Access Management policies to adapt to changes in their organisation and the evolving threat landscape. Businesses should also implement least privilege access principles to minimise the risk of unauthorised access to critical cloud resources.

4. Understand Your Shared Responsibility Model

When using cloud services, it is essential to understand the shared responsibility model. This model outlines the security responsibilities of both the cloud provider and the customer.

The cloud provider secures the underlying infrastructure, while the customer must ensure the security of their data, applications, and user access. Businesses should understand this model to help identify which security controls they need to implement.

In addition, understanding your responsibilities helps when implementing necessary security measures effectively. For example, in cloud computing security, cloud service providers are typically responsible for physical security, while customers must handle application-level security.

Cloud providers must also review the shared responsibility matrix and implement relevant controls for your app using native or third-party security tools and services.

5. Implement Cloud Security Policies

One of the recommended best practices is to create and enforce robust cloud security policies for maintaining a secure cloud environment. These policies should cover areas such as data protection, access control, incident response, and compliance.

The advantage of security policies is that they automatically enforce compliance standards across all cloud deployments. By defining clear security guidelines and procedures for cloud deployments, businesses can ensure all users and administrators adhere to best practices, reducing the risk of data security incidents.

Also, the security policies should be dynamic, evolving with new threats and technological advancements. Businesses should regularly review and update these policies, and ensure they are communicated effectively across organisations.

6. Secure Your Endpoints

Endpoints, such as laptops, mobile devices, and workstations, serve as the gateway for users to interact with cloud-based apps and data and are frequently targeted by cybercriminals.

Endpoint security is a vital part of an overall cloud security strategy. The recommended cloud security checklist is to implement endpoint security measures, such as antivirus software, firewalls, malware protection software and secure communication protocols which help protect these devices from cyber threats.

In addition, businesses should deploy endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions to monitor and manage endpoint security in real-time. You should regularly update endpoint security software and conduct security training to ensure users follow best practices in securing their devices.

7. Implement a Cybersecurity Awareness Training Programme

Human error is a significant factor in many security breaches. Therefore, implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training programme educates employees and stakeholders about security best practices, phishing attacks, password management, and other critical core topics.

Businesses should prioritise and implement a comprehensive cybersecurity training programme for employees to help them build a security-conscious culture within the organisation.

In addition, organisations should tailor the training programmes to address specific roles and responsibilities. This will ensure that everyone understands their part in maintaining security for cloud infrastructure. You could use interactive and engaging training methods, such as simulations, real-world scenarios and case studies to enhance staff learning and retention.

8. Implement a zero-trust Approach

Zero Trust means "never trust, always verify." A zero-trust security model assumes that threats can exist both inside and outside the network. It requires verification for every access request, regardless of its origin.

Implementing a zero-trust approach involves strict access controls, continuous monitoring of container security, and validation of user identities, ensuring that only authorised users can access critical systems and data.

Businesses should implement multi-factor authentication (MFA), micro-segmentation, and least-privilege access controls to minimise the risk of unauthorised access.

Businesses should also ensure that security providers regularly review and update access policies based on user behaviour analytics and risk assessments.

9. Conduct Penetration Testing, Vulnerability Scans and Security Audits

As per most cloud providers, regular pen testing, vulnerability scans, and security audits are essential for identifying and addressing security weaknesses in the cloud environments.

Penetration testing simulates attacks to uncover vulnerabilities, while vulnerability scans automatically detect known issues. The security audits assess your overall security and help to maintain compliance and enhance security standards.

Organisations should hire third-party experts like Aztech for pen testing to obtain an impartial assessment of their security capabilities.

Additionally, they should utilise automated tools for ongoing vulnerability scans and arrange regular comprehensive security assessments and audits to guarantee adherence to industry standards and regulations.

10. Enable and Monitor Security Logs

Companies need to enable and monitor security logs within their cloud infrastructure. It provides visibility into user activities, network traffic, and system events.

Additionally, these logs are crucial for user behaviour analytics detecting suspicious activities and investigating security incidents.

Organisations should implement a centralised logging system which will help to aggregate and analyse log data, making it easier to identify and respond to cyber threats.

Also, organisations should utilise Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools to gather, analyse, and correlate log data from their security groups and various sources.

Furthermore, businesses should set up alerting mechanisms to notify their security teams promptly about potential threats in real-time, allowing for swift incident response planning.

11. Plan an Effective Cloud Incident Response

It is essential to have incident response planning and incident handling procedures in place for an effective information security programme. With the increasing prevalence of enterprise cloud use, it is crucial to incorporate the cloud into the incident response process.

An organisation's cloud incident response plan consists of measures and procedures designed to address and safeguard against cyberattacks. It is similar to an incident response plan, but specifically geared towards cloud security.

The IR plan should outline the steps taken during a security breach, including communication protocols, roles and responsibilities, and recovery procedures. The IR plan should be regularly tested and updated to help in maintaining preparedness for data security.

Therefore, businesses should conduct regular incident response drills to ensure their security teams are familiar with the procedures and can act quickly in the event of a breach. Also, lessons learned from each incident should be documented to continuously improve response strategies.

12. Check Your Compliance Requirements

The critical aspect of cloud security is to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards.

It is recommended that businesses should review and update security measures to meet compliance requirements regularly. This helps avoid legal penalties or loss of intellectual property and protects sensitive customer data. Organisations should work with their cloud service provider to understand and implement the necessary controls.

Compliance requirements vary by industry and region. Businesses should stay informed about the changes in regulations and ensure their cloud security practices align with these standards.

In addition, they should use compliance management tools to automate and simplify compliance monitoring and reporting.

13. Monitor for Misconfigurations

Misconfigurations in cloud environments are a common cause of data breaches. It is recommended for businesses to monitor their cloud infrastructure for misconfigurations regularly. This helps in identifying and rectifying security gaps.

In addition, automated tools can assist in continuously scanning for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, ensuring that your cloud environment remains secure.

Businesses should use configuration management tools and services provided by their cloud provider to automate and streamline the monitoring process.

Also, regular audits and assessments can help to identify potential configuration errors before they become security issues.

14. Secure Your Cloud Infrastructure

Securing the cloud infrastructure involves implementing various security controls, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and secure network configurations.

Businesses should update and patch software, operating systems and cloud infrastructure regularly. This helps to protect cloud networks and critical resources against vulnerabilities and ensure their systems are secure.

In addition, businesses should adopt a layered security approach, combining network and application security, and data security measures.

Also, organisations should regularly review and update their cloud infrastructure security configurations to address new threats and vulnerabilities.

15. Train Your Employees on Cloud Security

Training employees on cloud security best practices helps prevent security breaches caused by human error. The training should cover topics such as secure access, data protection, and recognising phishing attacks.

Well-informed and well-trained employees are less likely to become victims of social engineering attacks and more likely to adhere to security standards and policies.

Businesses must educate employees about the severe risks of shadow IT i.e. using unauthorised tools, which could potentially expose vulnerabilities, compromise security measures, and threaten data integrity.

Additionally, businesses should regularly update security awareness training materials to reflect any new cloud security issues and threats.

Also, they should encourage a culture of continuous learning and awareness, hence making security training an ongoing part of organisational development and business continuity.

Stay Protected with our Cloud Security Solutions

Aztech's Cloud App Security service provides comprehensive protection for your sensitive data by enforcing access controls and encryption protocols, preventing unauthorised access and data breaches.

With Aztech's real-time monitoring and management capabilities, you can proactively identify and address security incidents, ensuring continuous compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards.

Whether you are using popular Cloud platforms like Office 365, Salesforce, or other cloud services, our cloud solution offers complete visibility and control over your users’ activities and company data. This allows administrators to swiftly respond to emerging threats and maintain a secure environment.

By utilising our cloud security service, you can enhance your security posture and minimise the risk of data theft and loss, enabling your business to focus on driving productivity and achieving strategic objectives with confidence.

For additional information, please download the datasheet.

Summary

Adhering to these cloud security best practices is essential for protecting valuable data and maintaining a secure cloud environment.

By implementing robust access controls, encrypting data, implementing IAM and CSPM tools, securing endpoints, implementing a zero trust model, conducting pen tests and audits, continuously monitoring cloud security posture, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, businesses can safeguard cloud resources from various threats.

Moreover, organisations can leverage the benefits of cloud computing while minimising security risks, ensuring business continuity, and protecting sensitive data in their cloud environments by following these cloud security best practices.

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