Manage Risks and Ensure Security: 5 Cloud Governance Tips

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Friday, July 2, 2021

The greatest threat to your data isn’t coming from phishing or malware – it’s from within your own organization. Here’s how cloud governance can help.

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Manage Risks and Ensure Security: 5 Cloud Governance Tips
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For all the news about business hacks and the risks of malware and phishing, the most common causes of data breaches remain insider threats due to the misuse of privileged access, weak and stolen passwords and unpatched apps. A cloud governance strategy can mitigate these risks and ensure best practices across the business as cloud adoption expands.

The value proposition of the cloud makes adoption an easy win for most businesses. Low costs and high scalability while promoting collaboration and access to business-ready tools for compute, productivity and storage have all helped usage soar in recent years.

Many organizations adopt multiple cloud services, yet with each one comes a new layer of risk to the business. CISOs and IT leaders need to better manage the risks associated with growing cloud usage, best enabled through a cloud governance policy. But what should IT leaders keep in mind when putting a cloud governance policy together?

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The primary benefits of the cloud will be felt when services are adopted in line with business goals. Beyond that, ensuring strong security and access best practices are the key functions of a cloud governance policy. While many adopters think the cloud is inherently secure, and most providers offer some level of security, a strong cross-business strategy is required to ensure business data and users are protected.

1.  Align cloud governance policy to business goals

Cloud adoption can be a sprawling mess if left unchecked within a business. Developers want the latest container and docker services, marketing want the latest MarTech features and HR wants cloud chatbots to handle interviews.

This creates a growing footprint that can leave unwanted data dependencies, trigger uncertainty over ownership and risk security breaches. The ease of adoption of cloud services can leave people creating weak passwords or leave critical data exposed. It also risks teams blowing their budgets as cloud costs do add up over the months, and costly premium tiers might not provide the value that users expect.

To limit this, a top-down cloud governance strategy creates a list of rules to ensure that all cloud services are visible to the business. Strong user access and password security are employed and each service is suitably protected through cloud IT defense tools.

At the top of this list of rules is that the cloud service meets a business need, and does so in a cost-efficient and secure way. With so many competing cloud services and products available, organizations still need to review which is the best, most secure and will offer long-term features that match goals. Going through a repeatable and rigid process ensures that the firm won’t adopt weak or risky services.

2.  Reduce worker risk with strong access management

When a cloud service has been adopted, an access and rights process is needed so that only the people who need the service can use it, that their credentials are secure and when finished their accounts can be delisted.

This reduces the risk of people sharing files and projects beyond those with a need-to-know. It ensures strong passwords, multi-factor authentication and other tools are used to protect the data. The IT team also needs visibility into what data goes into the cloud service and who accesses it, along with being able to ensure it comes back in a valid state for broader company use. To maintain complete visibility over your data, businesses should consider cloud access security brokers (CASB).

3.  Keep audit and compliance in mind

With cloud service adoption comes a string of compliance rules for regulated businesses, and even relatively simple use cases should see organizations running audits to ensure value for the business, data security and how its cloud usage is growing.

Data security is a key element of audits as hybrid and public cloud use sees business data being helped and managed by third parties. Companies need to ensure that those third parties are compliant with GDPR and other data protection regimes. Regular audits also reduce the risk of data being accessed by unauthorized users and prevent teams from building shadow IT services that are unaccountable to the business.

While the inherent risks of the cloud remain, whatever your business use of it, ensuring your cloud footprint is well documented and managed is the best step in preparing for a cloud outage, hacking incident or insider breach. The audit can also be used to run test scenarios to see how IT or a team would respond to a breach of a loss of data, ensuring leaders and workers are well prepared to respond.

4.  Match your data usage to governance rules

The boom in cloud services means an explosion in data growth. Businesses have all kinds of data stored in the cloud, from commercially sensitive files to key reports and public-facing information. As part of governance objectives, ensure that all data is stored and used safely. For example, ensure teams use test data for chatbots or analytics tools in development, until the firm has had time to do a full audit on the cloud provider.

For valuable data, the governance rules need to be stricter to protect the data, using private clouds to keep it stored locally or only using well-established providers, even if they cost a little more than an unproven solution.

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5.  Implement automation to save time

Cloud adoption within a growing firm can make manual monitoring of governance and security an impractical task. Fortunately, there’s a range of cloud tools available to help automate and manage these processes. These include cloud security posture management (CSPM), which can monitor the entire cloud footprint and enable a business to monitor existing and create new policies for cloud usage, create automated actions as rules or needs change and provide always-on compliance to report and handle violations, from the accidental to the malicious.

That can include examples such as key data being accessed by unauthorized services, files that are at risk of a data sovereignty breach or users accessing files on non-company devices. As cloud adoption grows the volume of services and policies will only grow, so automating it from the start will make life easier for the business.

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