Cloud computing certainly isn’t new. In fact, many businesses are now using it in one form or another. However, for forward-thinking businesses looking to revolutionize their industry, the benefits of the cloud are becoming increasingly apparent. This is especially true as we begin to understand more about the link between IoT and the cloud. IoT means big data; big data means suitable storage in the cloud.
While the cloud has become more secure — in part due to the widespread adoption of the technology which has forced providers to iron out the initial kinks — we can’t afford to overlook the fact that some cloud environments do have vulnerabilities, and that there is always some degree of risk when working online. In order for businesses to minimize the risks associated with IoT implementation and digital transformation, cloud security controls must become a primary consideration, not an afterthought.
At a basic level, there are many preventative measures that a business can take to reduce the risk: restricting the type of data that is stored, using software escrow for any cloud applications, encrypting data, and standard methods of data protection, such as passwords. These measures are undoubtedly already used by many businesses, in one way or another, for a wide range of IT-related processes. However, if you’re looking to implement IoT as part of your business’ digital transformation, it is important to do more. A data-centric approach can help you to maintain control over cloud security.
How to Make Your Cloud Environment Safer
Many of the most important preventative measures relate to the data center cloud layer network of the multiple layers of IoT architecture. Focusing on cloud security controls at this part of the overall IoT structure can significantly minimize the risk of common cloud-related concerns, including denial of service (DoS) and component exploitation. Here are some preventative measures to reduce risk:
Choose the Right Cloud
There are 3 main types of cloud environment: public, private, and hybrid. Public clouds typically aren’t suitable for sensitive data, so many businesses look to private or hybrid options. Hybrid clouds are on the rise, especially as they can bring cost-saving benefits. However, in terms of security, the issue with a hybrid cloud environment is the need to integrate and maintain two different security systems. The advantage of a fully private (or indeed fully public) cloud is simple and centralized security visibility.
Private cloud environments offer segregation of network traffic; an important security control when it comes to IoT. IoT traffic can easily be segregated from other network traffic using an IoT gateway. When traffic is segregated, it helps to reduce the risk of a large scale attack.
Not only can malicious behaviours be prevented from extending out into other ‘high value’ targets within your cloud environment, such as backup data, but you can also choose to segregate by location to minimize the size of possible breaches.
Use API Keys
If devices connect directly to services in your cloud environment, it is essential to ensure that API keys are included in the design of your authentication system. API keys can be used to identify the app and the device that’s being used, and, if necessary, it is possible to restrict API keys by IP address or by app. While this can render one of the biggest benefits of cloud computing — streamlined data accessibility — obsolete, it can be beneficial in heightening security through user and login permission verification.
Data logging is one of the most efficient ways to view any failed logins made to the cloud provider, retries, and idle time. It can also be used for other purposes like viewing failed logins to a device, policy changes, and new account creations.
While you’re thinking about data logging, it’s also worth taking some time to look at who’s doing what and consider limiting access to cloud resources. Priority should be regulating access to controls that affect actions that can be taken, such as issuing a query for example.
Read Your SLA
Reading the service level agreement (SLA) that you have with your cloud provider is absolutely essential. It is possible that many businesses believe that their cloud provider actually offers more security controls than they really do.
It remains up to you to secure the ongoing security of your cloud environment, and protect both yourself and your clients. Before turning your attention to cloud security controls, it is worth taking the time to make sure you have the right skill sets in place, and make new hires as needed.
Understanding Cloud Security
It is important to remember that while these preventative measures are certainly must-do’s for every business working online, they are not the ‘be all and end all’ of cloud or IoT security. With IoT, what we have is a pretty lengthy supply chain — hardware, operating systems, protocols, cloud providers, and so on — and the products offered through each integrator will likely have their own unique vulnerabilities that are only present in that particular product. Therefore, it is vital to keep on top of security controls and ensure you’re always taking the best measures for creating a secure online working environment.
Don’t let cloud security be that one frustrating ‘weak link’ in your IoT implementation, or be that impossible obstacle that stands in the way of guiding your business through a digital transformation.
Written by Jorge Sagastume, Vice President at EscrowTech International, Inc.