When It Comes to Cloud Data Protection, Defend Your Information Like a Guard Dog

These days, enterprises are increasingly running their business from the cloud. But the portion of your business that’s running in this environment presents numerous security challenges. When it comes to cloud data protection, it’s not just credit card numbers and personally identifiable information (PII) that need protecting, but also the data that represents the majority of your company’s value: your intellectual property. This includes your product designs, marketing strategy, financial plans and more. To add to the complexity, much of that data is stored in disparate repositories.

How do you know if you’re doing enough to protect the cloud-stored data that’s most crucial to your business? To keep malicious actors away from your cloud-bound crown jewels, you need the cybersecurity equivalent of a guard dog — one that knows when to bark, when to bite and when to grant access to those within its circle of trust.

Let’s take a closer look at some challenges related to protecting data in the cloud and outline key considerations when selecting a cloud security provider.

What to Do When Data Is Out of Your Hands

Data that’s stored in the cloud is inherently accessible to other people, including cloud service providers, via numerous endpoints, such as mobile devices and social media applications. You can no longer protect your sensitive data by simply locking down network access.

You need security against outside threats, but you also need it on the inside, all the way down to where the data resides. To address this, look for a provider that offers strong data encryption and data activity monitoring, inside and out.

Data Is Here, There and Everywhere

With the growth of mobile and cloud storage, data is here, there, in the cloud, on premises, and everywhere in between. Some of it is even likely stored in locations you don’t know about. Not only does everyone want access to data, they expect access to it at the click of a mouse. A complete cloud data protection solution should have the following:

  • Mature, proven analytical tools that can analyze your environment to automatically discover data sources, analyze those data sources to discover the critical, sensitive, regulated data, and intelligently and automatically uncover risks and suspicious behavior.
  • Protection with monitoring across all activity, both network and local, especially the actions of privileged users with access to your most sensitive data. Of course, you should also protect data with strong encryption.
  • Adaptability to your changing and expanding environment, with a security solution that can support hybrid environments and seamlessly adjust to alterations in your IT landscape.

How to Gain Visibility Into Risks and Vulnerabilities

Detecting risks of both internal and external attacks is more challenging as data repositories become more virtualized. Common vulnerabilities include missing patches, misconfigurations and exploitable default system settings.

Best practices suggest authorizing both privileged and ordinary end users according to the principle of least privilege to minimize abuse and errors. A robust cloud data protection solution can help secure your cloud and hybrid cloud infrastructure with monitoring and assessment tools that reveal anomalies and vulnerabilities.

Choose the Right Data-Centric Methodology

A data-centric methodology should go hand in hand with the solutions outlined above to support cloud data protection. Make sure your data security solution can do the following:

  • Automatically and continuously discover data sources that you may not have realized existed. This means classifying the data in those databases to understand where you have sensitive, regulated and high-risk data.
  • Harden data sources and data. For data sources, that means understanding what vulnerabilities exist and who has access to data based on entitlement reports. For hardening data, your solution should enable you to set policies around who has access and when access needs to be blocked, quarantined or possibly allowed but masked before granting access.
  • Monitor all users, especially privileged users, to be able to prove to auditors that they are not jeopardizing the integrity of your data.
  • Proactively protect with blocking, quarantining and masking, as well as threat analytics that cover all data sources and use machine learning. Threat analytics can help you understand which activities represent normal, everyday business and which are suspect or anomalous — information that humans can’t possibly uncover on a large scale.

Find a Guard Dog for Your Cloud Data Protection

If your organization is just starting out with data protection, consider a software-as-a-service (SaaS) risk analysis solution that can enable you to quickly get started on the first two steps outlined above. By starting with a solution that supports discovery, classification and vulnerability assessments of both on-premises and cloud-based data sources, you can make demonstrable progress with minimal time and technology investment. Once you have that baseline, you can then start investigating more comprehensive data activity monitoring, protection and encryption technologies for your cloud-bound data.

Discover Guardium Analyzer

Leslie Wiggins

Senior Product Manager, IBM Security

Leslie Wiggins is a Senior Product Manager for IBM's Data Security portfolio within the IBM Security business unit. She...