How to Enforce Secure Access in the Cloud - Part 1

How to Enforce Secure Access in the Cloud - Part 1

Read through Part 1 of SCS’s new Secure Access in the Cloud series to discover some of the top tools for enforcing cybersecurity controls in your hosted environment. This article will cover several basic but critical solutions to have in place for protecting your data against hackers and other malicious actors that can infiltrate your systems. While policy MUST always come first in cloud-based software security, these programs will help you shore up the gaps in your network when used in combination with employee training and proactive managed services.

Here are some of the top tools that will help you enforce secure access for your cloud environment:

Secure Access Controls

The first step for any cloud security plan is to take advantage of what you already have and likely overlooked in the backend of your systems, with many solutions increasingly deploying new cybersecurity controls in frequent updates. One of the best examples of this the Microsoft 365 suite, which has seen a host of patches against vulnerabilities alongside larger feature releases in recent years. These upgrades have greatly extended the native security capabilities available to IT administrators in M365, including a major update to device security controls.

ID Management

One of the built-in sets of tools that come with your Microsoft business management software is identity management, which includes the Cloud Application Discovery solution. These allow you to identify, log and - if necessary - respond to anomalous activity in your system.

Privileged Access & File Sharing Permissions

One of the primary strengths of the Office 365 platform is its shared cloud database and the real-time collaboration it enables through OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, etc. However, it is important that permissions be tightly managed for file sharing to ensure that privileged access to sensitive data is not inadvertently exposed.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

MFA (multifactor authentication) is a basic but very impactful tool for enforcing secure access to your network, especially when any of your applications are hosted in the cloud. It is not only ultimately incredibly cost-effective (versus other tools AND the price of a breach), but is often widely available with many existing services such as with Microsoft 365 or Azure. The caveat there, however, is that the protection is limited to those applications and does not give you all the benefits of full coverage.

Having multifactor authentication in the right place at the right time can make a world of difference, as one manufacturer and distributor in Australia discovered when their MFA-protected backups helped them fight an isolated ransomware infection. Most importantly, though, their own IT team requested a more widespread adoption of MFA across the company’s devices and the attack ended up vindicating its effectiveness.

Endpoint Detection & Protection

An endpoint detection and response (EDR) or endpoint threat detection and response (ETDR) solution enables a cybersecurity team to monitor the network for suspicious activity and trace it back to its origin (i.e., “endpoint”). Every device connected to your business systems creates another endpoint node, which in the cloud can be persistently connected to open Internet channels and therefore need to be proactively monitored. Every personal device that accesses data creates a Shadow IT network that is not readily included in your normal inventory of connections, so endpoint protection software is integral to identifying threats that could be overlooked.

Next-Gen Antivirus/Antimalware Software

Legacy antivirus software is not built to handle the severity of modern threats which can infiltrate your systems much more discreetly. You need up to date antivirus, and antimalware solutions to be able to track down malicious code that could be hiding in your databases and making changes to permission controls without anyone noticing. The latter is a growing tactic among ransomware gangs, whose first goal is always to remove any hope of recovering total control of your sensitive data.

Encryption Solutions

Encrypting data goes a long way towards preventing it from being leaked or otherwise used to damage your business, as encrypted can remain protected even if it is stolen (after all, it is essentially the same method ransomware uses). The good news is that communication encryption is increasingly becoming standard with certain communication services - the bad news is that it is still not universal in quality, type or even availability. The best way to ensure your specific data sets and systems are secure is to look for encryption services tailored to them.

Password Management

Password security will always depend heavily on what best practice looks down to the user level, but there are still effective password management solutions out there that can augment your policies. Choosing one will come down to determining the ROI against factors like your existing technology stack, number of accounts, and cost along with the reputability of the provider. Keep in mind, though, that some of the open source and free versions of password managers can be trying to make up cost in other ways or may receive less patch support and are therefore vulnerable to new cyber threats.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions are a collection of tools that allow to you monitor activity that could signal your database has been breached and attempt to prevent the data contained from being exposed. This covers a broad range of application categories, but typically these include technology that enables your security team to analyze where the data is stored or passing through as well as the context of the activity. Services like SCS’s Dark Web Monitoring are peripherally related to DLP, as it lets you uncover information that has been tagged in hacker forums.

Discover More Ways to Enforce Secure Access in the Cloud

There are many tools, services and practices that can help you better enforce secure access to your cloud environment, and several of SHOULD be implemented if you want to have peace of mind that your data is not completely exposed. Secure Cloud Services will cover more of the solutions available in Part 2 of this article, but in the meantime, reach out to us with any questions or concerns you have about your cloud-hosted applications.

Contact SCS today to learn more about securing access in the cloud and protecting your data from cyber threats.



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  • Hector Bonilla