• Poornachander Kola

Flying in the Clouds...Is it Risky out there?

While organizations in order to stay ahead of the competition, attain economies of scale and reduce capital costs. Cloud computing enables organizations to stay ahead in the age of information technology by helping them achieve their objectives. Transitioning towards the cloud has introduced multiple types of risks. According to Cloud Security Alliance, the top nine threats of cloud computing are data breaches, data loss, account hijacking, insecure APIs, denial of service attacks, malicious insiders, abuse of cloud services, insufficient due diligence, and shared technology issues.

A well-defined risk assessment framework or a risk-based approach to cloud computing adoption can help minimize these various risks which, in turn, will enable enterprises to deploy critical data and applications in the cloud in a consistent manner.

Impact of Risks on the Cloud

Many businesses are struggling to adopt the cloud due to the various risks that surface at different stages.

The reasons which make the organizations go bump in the night:

Data Breach

Organizations to adopt agility enable their users to access applications through the cloud. When users with access to critical or sensitive data upload it in the cloud without security precautions, it might lead to data breaches and leakages. The lack of or ineffective security controls enables cybercriminals to access critical data. It makes all the more compelling arguments that any data moved to the cloud should be surrounded by robust security controls to prevent all forms of data loss.

Deficient Due Diligence

Organizations out of blind love for the cloud gravitate towards it without understanding the cloud service providers’ environment, policies, and protection mechanisms. It often places the organizations in uncertain waters on what to expect in disaster scenarios, backup and recovery failures, or regulatory compliance environments. When you fail to conduct sufficient due diligence in the cloud it can lead to greater threats.

Shared Technology Issues or Multi-tenancy

Multi-tenancy refers to the practice where several varied cloud customers access the same computing resources, such as when several different companies are storing data on the same physical server. Storing data in a multi-tenant cloud environment where different organizations share infrastructure, databases, or applications is a primary concern due to security reasons. The risks due to multi-tenancy vary in different cloud service models such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (Paas), and Software as a Service (SaaS). When as a customer you are sharing physical resources, there is greater security reliance on logical separation at multiple layers. If unauthorized users overcome the separation mechanisms, they could access restricted zones.

A lack of robust controls and defenses such as method filtering at the application tier and data access enforcement at the database tier can result in unauthorized access to confidential data.

The Risk-Based Approach to Cloud Computing

The primary issue or challenge the organizations face while moving to the cloud is the understanding of their data that is to be moved. In order to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data sets, organizations need to increase data protection measures with data leakage prevention tools, data encryption, multi-factor authentication, filtering, and other such measures.

Risk assessment and mitigation strategies need to be implemented to effectively control risks:

• Solution deployment risks.

• Evaluate the risks based on likelihood and impact.

• Initiate strategies for risk mitigation.

• Continuous risk evaluation and mitigation.

While selecting the cloud service provider and to reduce the risks to a minimum the following steps need to be taken

• Communicate legal, regulatory, and compliance requirements to the cloud service provider.

• The cloud service provider should have a detailed history of transparency in security and policies built into the cloud platform.

• Delineate the roles and responsibilities of both the enterprise and the cloud service provider.

• Gain an understanding of the accreditations and compliance followed by the cloud service provider.

Integrated Risk Management (IRM) in Cloud Computing

An IRM program with effective governance and oversight is significant as the security technology that is being used. With an IRM framework in the cloud, organizations can achieve:

• Enhanced information security, compliance, and risk management

• Continuous transparency

• Strong business continuity and disaster recovery

• Risk-driven results for making business decisions

• Adherence to mandatory regulatory compliance

Technology has made major shifts in the past and is going to make a vertical jump in terms of Artificial intelligence and machine learning in the cloud, the evaluation of cloud solutions is not a one-time exercise. Organizations should ensure that the new solutions are implemented by adopting a “RISK-BASED APPROACH” while transitioning to the cloud.

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