The advantages of cloud security can attract many managed service providers (MSPs) of all sizes – however, it is important to understand the risks before making the transition. With the cloud security market expanding, the exposure to more comprehensive and sophisticated risks are also increasing. Having an understanding of the threats as well as robust cloud security is imperative to fostering a secure cloud environment.

Security remains one of the top roadblocks to cloud adoption. Migrating to a public cloud or a private cloud managed by a public provider means moving company and customer data offsite and putting it in the hands of a third party. While some businesses choose to operate their own private clouds to get the benefits of a cloud environment without outsourcing management, the majority are relying on cloud infrastructure controlled by another company.

This is why carefully evaluating the risks of cloud security can help you determine how to ensure that your customers data will be protected.

Potential Risks in Cloud Security

The security resources you develop for your cloud services must address the risks with which businesses looking to migrate to the cloud are concerned. Information stored in offsite data centers must travel between onsite systems and the cloud, which presents particular challenges when it comes to vulnerability. The diverse ways in which users access cloud environments introduce additional endpoints with the potential to be compromised, thus increasing the risk to cloud systems.

Such factors introduce a range of possible security issues, but these can be addressed through the implementation of appropriate controls and protocols.

1. Loss of Visibility

Remote applications and data aren’t as easy to monitor as information handled entirely onsite. User actions are also less clear, especially since more users are relying on personal devices to access business networks from various locations. Every action a business can’t easily monitor has the potential to threaten the integrity of the system because there’s no way to tell if users are observing established security policies.

Data must be monitored not only when it’s in use but also when it’s no longer needed. Proper and secure removal of outdated information is necessary to ensure businesses don’t store unnecessary data or violate privacy and security regulations.

Monitoring services increase visibility, making it possible to track user access and data use and improve data management. Consistent monitoring also provides the analytics and reports businesses need to properly assess regulatory compliance. Routine access and security audits reveal weak areas where additional security measures may be necessary to protect sensitive data.

2. Loss of Control

Restricted visibility and increased remote access can also put your MSP customers in a position where they no longer have the level of control required to ensure users aren’t violating network security rules. Complicating the issue is the growing adoption of self-service identity management, an approach allowing users to create unique identities for themselves or their devices and reset passwords without the help of dedicated IT staff. While this reduces the burden on IT helpdesks and has the potential to boost efficiency, it also introduces the troubling risk of abuse by insiders or unauthorized access by malicious third parties.

In networks where self-service identity management isn’t being used, poor or improper provisioning can lead to similar problems. Privilege creep and abuse of privileged account access both pose significant problems for businesses because of the extensive level of network access users are able to obtain. Malicious insiders can download or transfer sensitive company data or insert malware into systems. Those without spiteful intentions can still cause problems if they access the network from an unsecured connection or through a compromised device.

Businesses and the MSPs serving them must carefully weigh the benefits of self-service options against the known risks before allowing users to make changes within the cloud environment independent of IT guidance. Whether or not self-service is offered, proper deprovisioning must be implemented to ensure former employees aren’t allowed to retain access and orphaned accounts don’t leave doors open for hackers.

3. Hacking and Attacks

Cloud systems aren’t immune to the effects of common cyberattacks and user errors. Phishing remains a popular option among hackers seeking to obtain login credentials, and many users still fall victim to fraudulent email messages. Stolen cloud credentials provide access to applications, data and other assets and give hackers the opportunity to launch more sophisticated attacks using compromised accounts.

Among users, poor password management is a big threat to cloud security. Reused passwords, passwords stored in unsecured locations and the use of common password phrases all make it easy for hackers to correctly guess credentials and obtain access to multiple accounts using basic methods like brute force and dictionary attacks.

To combat these issues, MSPs must implement strong login security, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), and encrypt data as it travels to and from the cloud. Using a cloud access security broker (CASB) can augment security by enforcing your customers’ onsite security policies in cloud environments, enhancing encryption and protecting against malware attacks. For businesses whose employees frequently access the cloud using mobile devices, endpoint protection is necessary to minimize risks related to unsecured devices.

4. Breaches and Data Loss

Because hackers will attack any system presenting a promising vulnerability, businesses seeking to keep data safe need MSPs with adequate security protocols. Should a breach occur in your services, you’re required to notify all affected customers, who in turn must notify their users of any compromised data. This can have a serious snowball effect and result in devastating data loss. Breached companies may also be subject to fines or get sued by customers for failing to maintain proper levels of security.

Products like Backup and Disaster Recovery from Acronis mitigate risks associated with compromised onsite or cloud environments by applying innovative data protection procedures, using multiple data center locations to create redundancy and allowing for universal recovery across hardware types. Advanced features, such as artificial intelligence technology, offer active protection against ransomware attacks.

4. Compliance and Contract Violations

Compliance is becoming a major concern as users begin to demand more control over what businesses and organizations do with their personal data. Companies face a growing number of data privacy and security regulations, many of which cross international boundaries. Being out of compliance carries hefty fines and may have legal ramifications.

The cloud security your MSP offers has to meet the standards of these regulations in order for your customers to remain compliant. This means getting familiar with the rules to which your customers are required to adhere and adjusting your security protocols to meet their needs.

Strong cloud security is also critical in situations involving contractual agreements between businesses. When companies collaborate, they’re required to follow the security protocols of their partners in addition to their own. Violations can be seen as breaches of contract and result in legal action.

5. Diminished Customer Confidence

Your customers and the people they serve are trusting their data is safe when it travels through cloud environments. If a breach occurs, it’s not only a breach of the network but also of trust. Those using your customers’ services lose confidence in their ability to protect personal data and are likely to move on to other companies with better security practices.

The same is true for your MSP business. If you’re unable to safeguard data against hacker activity, your customers will start looking for other service providers. This increases customer churn rates and can lead to significant losses. You don’t just lose the people who switch MSPs; you also suffer losses related to decreased consumer confidence.

Even though 90% of organizations say they’re “very good” at protecting data, 48% have been victims of “publicly disclosed” data breaches. When word gets out, just shy of half of consumers stop using a breached company’s services, and public opinion of the company suffers, as well.

Despite these risks, cloud security remains a popular choice for businesses to store data. Understanding the landscape of the cloud environment will help your MSP navigate successfully while giving your customers the comfort of knowing their data is shielded from emerging threats. To learn more about the newest innovations in cloud security – read part two of this article here.

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