What is cloud security?
Preparing your business for future success starts with switching from on-premises hardware to the cloud for your computing needs. The cloud gives you access to more applications, improves data accessibility, helps your team collaborate more effectively, and provides easier content management. Some people may have reservations about switching to the cloud due to security concerns, but a reliable cloud service provider (CSP) can put your mind at ease and keep your data safe with highly secure cloud services.
Find out more about what cloud security is, the main types of cloud environments you'll need security for, the importance of cloud security, and its primary benefits.
Definition of cloud security
Cloud security, also known as cloud computing security, is a collection of security measures designed to protect cloud-based infrastructure, applications, and data. These measures ensure user and device authentication, data and resource access control, and data privacy protection. They also support regulatory data compliance. Cloud security is employed in cloud environments to protect a company's data from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, malware, hackers, and unauthorized user access or use.
Types of cloud environments
When you're looking for cloud-based security, you'll find three main types of cloud environments to choose from. The top options on the market include public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds. Each of these environments has different security concerns and benefits, so it's important to know the difference between them:
1. Public clouds
Public cloud services are hosted by third-party cloud service providers. A company doesn't have to set up anything to use the cloud, since the provider handles it all. Usually, clients can access a provider's web services via web browsers. Security features, such as access control, identity management, and authentication, are crucial to public clouds.
2. Private clouds
Private clouds are typically more secure than public clouds, as they're usually dedicated to a single group or user and rely on that group or user's firewall. The isolated nature of these clouds helps them stay secure from outside attacks since they're only accessible by one organization. However, they still face security challenges from some threats, such as social engineering and breaches. These clouds can also be difficult to scale as your company's needs expand.
3. Hybrid clouds
Hybrid clouds combine the scalability of public clouds with the greater control over resources that private clouds offer. These clouds connect multiple environments, such as a private cloud and a public cloud, that can scale more easily based on demand. Successful hybrid clouds allow users to access all their environments in a single integrated content management platform.
Why is cloud security important?
Cloud security is critical since most organizations are already using cloud computing in one form or another. This high rate of adoption of public cloud services is reflected in Gartner’s recent prediction that the worldwide market for public cloud services will grow 23.1% in 2021.
IT professionals remain concerned about moving more data and applications to the cloud due to security, governance, and compliance issues when their content is stored in the cloud. They worry that highly sensitive business information and intellectual property may be exposed through accidental leaks or due to increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.
A crucial component of cloud security is focused on protecting data and business content, such as customer orders, secret design documents, and financial records. Preventing leaks and data theft is critical for maintaining your customers’ trust and protecting the assets that contribute to your competitive advantage. Cloud security's ability to guard your data and assets makes it crucial to any company switching to the cloud.
Cloud security benefits
Security in cloud computing is crucial to any company looking to keep its applications and data protected from bad actors. Maintaining a strong cloud security posture helps organizations achieve the now widely recognized benefits of cloud computing. Cloud security comes with its own advantages as well, helping you achieve lower upfront costs, reduced ongoing operational and administrative costs, easier scaling, increased reliability and availability, and improved DDoS protection.
Here are the top security benefits of cloud computing:
1. Lower upfront costs
One of the biggest advantages of using cloud computing is that you don't need to pay for dedicated hardware. Not having to invest in dedicated hardware helps you initially save a significant amount of moneyand can also help you upgrade your security. CSPs will handle your security needs proactively once you've hired them. This helps you save on costs and reduce the risks associated with having to hire an internal security team to safeguard dedicated hardware.
2. Reduced ongoing operational and administrative expenses
Cloud security can also lower your ongoing administrative and operational expenses. A CSP will handle all your security needs for you, removing the need to pay for staff to provide manual security updates and configurations. You can also enjoy greater security, as the CSP will have expert staff able to handle any of your security issues for you.
3. Increased reliability and availability
You need a secure way to immediately access your data. Cloud security ensures your data and applications are readily available to authorized users. You'll always have a reliable method to access your cloud applications and information, helping you quickly take action on any potential security issues.
4. Centralized security
Cloud computing gives you a centralized location for data and applications, with many endpoints and devices requiring security. Security for cloud computing centrally manages all your applications, devices, and data to ensure everything is protected. The centralized location allows cloud security companies to more easily perform tasks, such as implementing disaster recovery plans, streamlining network event monitoring, and enhancing web filtering.
5. Greater ease of scaling
Cloud computing allows you to scale with new demands, providing more applications and data storage whenever you need it. Cloud security easily scales with your cloud computing services. When your needs change, the centralized nature of cloud security allows you to easily integrate new applications and other features without sacrificing your data's safety. Cloud security can also scale during high traffic periods, providing more security when you upgrade your cloud solution and scaling down when traffic decreases.
6. Improved DDoS protection
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are some of the biggest threats to cloud computing. These attacks aim a lot of traffic at servers at once to cause harm. Cloud security protects your servers from these attacks by monitoring and dispersing them.
Is the cloud secure enough for my content?
Companies depend more on cloud storage and processing, but CIOs and CISOs may have reservations about storing their content with a third party. They're typically apprehensive that abandoning the perimeter security model might mean giving up their only way of controlling access. This fear turns out to be unfounded.
CSPs have matured in their security expertise and toolsets over the last decade. They ensure boundaries between tenants are protected as a standard part of their service. An example of these enhanced boundaries: CSPs ensuring a customer cannot view data from another customer. They also implement procedures and technology that prevent their own employees from viewing customer data. This prevention usually takes the form of both encryption and company policy designed to stop workers from looking at data.
CSPs are acutely aware of the impact a single incident may have on their customers' finances and brand reputation, and they go to great lengths to secure data and applications. These providers hire experts, invest in technology, and consult with customers to help them understand cloud security.
Customers have caught on to CSPs' improvements and warmed to the notion that their data is probably safer in the cloud than within the company’s perimeter. According to a study by Oracle and KPMG, 72% of participating organizations now view the cloud as much more, or somewhat more, secure than what they can deliver on-premises themselves. The cloud offers opportunities for centralized platforms, provides architectures that reduce the surface area of vulnerability, and allows for security controls to be embedded in a consistent manner over multiple layers.
Data breaches do still occur. However, most of the breaches result from either a misunderstanding about the role the customers play in protecting their own data or of customer misconfiguration of the security tools provided as part of the cloud service. This fact is evident in the most recent annual Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, which describes the causes of 5,250 confirmed data breaches and makes virtually no mention of cloud service provider failure. Most of the breaches detailed in the Verizon report resulted from the use of stolen credentials.
Industry analysts and cloud service providers have recently developed the shared responsibility security model (SRSM) to better avoid misunderstandings about the responsibilities between customers and providers regarding cloud security. This model helps clarify where responsibilities lie for security. The SRSM clarifies that CSPs are responsible for maintaining a client's operating environment application, while clients are responsible for what happens within the environment.
So, in summary, the answer is yes — the cloud can be secure for your content if you choose the right vendors to work with and configure your technology stack in a secure way.
6 things to look for when choosing a CSP
Finding the right CSP solution with rigorous security cloud services is essential to your data's protection and your company's overall safety. A good vendor will know the importance of security in cloud computing and have a few main features to lower risk. For example, a vendor with rigorous cloud-based security will have controls designed to prevent data leakage and support data encryption and strong authentication.
Below are six things to look for in a cloud solution and some questions to ask your CSP provider about security:
1. Controls designed to prevent data leakage
Look for providers that have built-in secure cloud computing controls that help prevent issues such as unauthorized access, accidental data leakage, and data theft. They should allow you to apply more precise security controls to your most sensitive and valuable data, such as through native security classifications.
Remember to ask: Are permission settings granular enough, reliable enough, and intuitive enough for internal users to share content with external partners?
2. Strong authentication
Make sure your CSP offers strong authentication measures to ensure proper access through strong password controls and multi-factor authentication (MFA). The CSP should also support MFA for both internal and external users and single sign-on, so users can just log in once and access the tools they need.
Remember to ask: Does the system integrate with your favorite identity and access management solution in a way that enables automated provisioning and de-provisioning of users?
3. Data encryption
Ensure it’s possible to have all data encrypted both at rest and in transit. Data is encrypted at rest using a symmetric key as it is written to storage. Data is encrypted in transit across wireless or wired networks by transporting over a secure channel using Transport Layer Security.
Remember to ask: Is it possible for customers to manage their own encryption keys without diminishing user experience?
4. Visibility and threat detection
CSPs with excellent security allow administrators to have one unified view of all user activity and all internally and externally shared content. A secure provider should also use machine learning to determine unwanted behavior, identify threats, and alert your teams.Security machine learning algorithms analyze usage to learn patterns of typical use, and then they look for cases that fall outside those norms. Data behavior analysis might, for example, notice that somebody from your sales team tried to download confidential product designs in a suspicious manner.
Remember to ask: Is activity logged continuously? Are alerts generated when suspicious activity is detected, and do they use mechanisms that minimize false positives?
5. Continuous compliance
Look for content lifecycle management capabilities, such as document retention and disposition, eDiscovery, and legal holds. Find out if the provider’s service is independently audited and certified to meet the toughest global standards. A provider that focuses on continuous compliance can protect your company from legal troubles and ensure you're using the most updated security practices.
Remember to ask: Do the services help you comply with regional or industry regulations, such as GDPR, CCPA, FINRA, HIPAA, PCI, GxP, and FedRAMP? How does the platform enable customers to keep up with ever-changing regulations?
6. Integrated security
Finally, check to see if the provider’s tools easily integrate with your security stack through representational state transfer architectural style APIs. The provider’s tools should promote seamless internal and external collaboration and workflow. These tools should also integrate with all your applications so security controls can extend to whatever application the user may utilize to access your content, without impacting the user experience.
The system needs inline security controls, as well, to deliver frictionless, native protection from the ground up. This approach means there's less need for clunky, perimeter-based controls that were initially designed for on-premises storage.
Remember to ask: Are there APIs to ensure content protection in third-party apps? Do they include custom-built apps?
The importance of balancing security and user experience
One principle of security systems to keep in mind is that your security measures shouldn’t be so rigid that users have to find workarounds to do their jobs. Security controls that make a cloud computing solution difficult to use tend to cause users to figure out ways of working around the controls. These workarounds render the system unsecured, falling in line with experts' observations that users are often the weakest link in any security system.
It’s important to partner with vendors that design security with the enduser in mind to ensure users don't turn to workarounds. A good vendor will consider the human factor, using guardrails to ensure proper behavior rather than relying on handcuffs to block actions. Their goal, in the end, should be to ensure the desired level of security without slowing down the business.
Frictionless security is achieved when security is builtin and natively integrated with the service. A CSP that balances security and user experience will utilize cloud-native security controls that secure the flow of content instead of simply applying traditional, perimeter-based controls— which were designed for on-premises storage — to the cloud.
How Box helps with frictionless security and compliance
At Box, we ensure our Content Cloud includes all six of the key CSP qualities that we mentioned above. This focus on providing the best in secure cloud computing makes us a leader in our industry. Our platform's frictionless security, simplified governance, and full visibility and control deliver the best cloud-based experience possible and keep your data secure.
Don't just take our word for it. Sal Cucchiara, Chief Information Officer for Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, states, "Box empowers our clients to collaborate with their financial advisers seamlessly while adhering to the highest standards of data privacy, protection, and security. Protecting our clients’ assets and personal information is our top concern, and this is our latest investment in safety and security at scale.”
Such a powerful endorsement from one of the largestand most security-consciousfirms comes as no surprise when you consider the frictionless security and compliance built into the Boxofferings.
Advantages of working with the Content Cloud
Box has powered a safer way to work from anywhere, with anyone, and from any application, for over a decade. Box provides a single platform for secure file access, sharing, and collaborationwith internal teams and with partners, vendors, and customers. You can reduce the surface area of risk while securing access with enterprise-grade security controls by centralizing your content in the Content Cloud.
Some of the top benefits of our secure cloud computing offerings include:
1. Improved security and protection
IT teams can secure access to content with granular permissions, SSO support for all major providers, native password controls, and two-factor authentication for internal and external users. Companies can rely on enterprise-grade infrastructure that’s scalable and resilient — data centers are FIPS 140-2 certified, and every file is encrypted using AES 256-bit encryption in diverse locations. Customers also have the option to manage their own encryption keys for complete control.
2. Simpler compliance and governance
Box provides simplified governance and compliance with in-region storage. Our platform also features easy-to-configure policies that retain, dispose of, and preserve content. These policies help you avoid fines and meet the most demanding global compliance and privacy requirements.
3. Greater threat detection and data leakage prevention
The Content Cloud offers native data leakage prevention and threat detection through Box Shield, enabling you to place precise controls closer to your sensitive data. These controls prevent leaks in real time by automatically classifying information, while maintaining a simple, frictionless experience for end users. Shield also empowers your security team with intelligent detection, providing rich alerts on suspicious behavior and malicious content so your team can act swiftly if needed. In the event malware does enter Box, we contain proliferation by restricting downloads while also allowing you to remain productive by working with the file in preview mode.
4. More secure content migration
Deciding to transfer your data and content to the cloud is a big decision, and you'll want the transition to be as safe as possible. Box Shuttle makes the move to the Content Cloud simple and secure. Migrating your data to the Content Cloud means you'll have all the benefits of our threat detection and security protections, and our team will ensure the data transfer process is as secure as possible.
5. Safer signature collection
Collecting and managing signatures is essential to many businesses. Box Sign features native integration to put all your e-signatures where your content lives, allowing users to have a seamless signing experience. These e-signature capabilities also come with a secure content layer to ensure critical business documents aren't compromised during the signing process. Box is the only cloud-based platform to provide users secure and compliant signatures while still offering the ability to define consistent governance and information security policy through the entire content journey.