Cloud Security Is Not an Either/Or

Now that cloud has become pervasive, organizations and individuals everywhere need to think about cloud security. To say that data is either fully secure or vulnerable in the cloud would be far too simplistic.

Two Schools of Thought

There are two widespread but opposite beliefs surrounding security in the public cloud:

  1. Abandon all hope! When you send data to the public cloud, you no longer control it and you don’t actually own it. You can’t even access the data except by the good graces of the cloud provider. In the cloud, you can kiss data security goodbye.
  2. No problems! Putting data in the cloud is like putting money in the bank: They’ll put it in a vault, designed and guarded by professionals, and they’re on it. After all, that is their jobIn the cloud, your data is safe and sound.

Both of these beliefs are broad and all embracing, telling you everything you need to know about cloud security. In the language of folklore experts, they are myths But according to InfoWorld, these beliefs are also myths in the ordinary, everyday sense — that is to say, both of them are false.

The Hazards of Mythology

The good news about cloud security is that public cloud security is, in fact, good. Those nightmarish cybercrime stories that regularly lead the news tend to have one thing in common: They don’t involve the cloud.

Cloud providers know that a breach could kill their business overnight, and they act on that knowledge. They don’t sweep security updates under the rug, for example. Does your organization treat security as a top priority? Cloud providers do.

So far, that sounds a lot like the second myth described above, but don’t kick back for a cloud security snooze just yet.

To Err Is All Too Human

It is still ultimately your organization’s data, and you are responsible for it. If your cloud-stored customer data gets spilled all over the internet, your customers aren’t going to blame your cloud provider.

You have security requirements, and wherever and however your data is stored, you should be using data protection tools that meet those requirements. As the InfoWorld article explained, “You should use identity and access management (IAM), encryption and perhaps multifactor authentication. If you’ve done all that, you’ve done your job.”

Above all, never forget that there is no purely technical solution to the human factor. If a spear phishing email tricks an employee into revealing his or her password to cyberthieves, no cloud provider’s security measure can keep the fraudsters from accessing whatever the legitimate user of that password could access.

Cloud Security Is What You Make It

In short, cloud security is neither a magic bullet for thieves nor a magic shield for your data. The cloud can offer real security advantages, due to the emphasis that providers can and do place on security protections. But in the end, what you get out of your security measures is usually proportional to the time and effort you put into them.

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Rick Robinson is a writer and blogger, with a current 'day job' focus on the tech industry and a particular interest in the interplay of tech-driven factors and business considerations - think of the relationship between virtualization and cloud computing. Rick also blogs at Rocketpunk Manifesto on outer space, possible futures, speculative technology, and speculative literature. He has also had print articles published on aviation and military history.