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Cloud Computing: How Can Companies Reduce the Security Risk?

A three-step approach to navigating compliance complexities

In the last five years, organizations have increasingly embraced cloud applications to help them innovate and transform their business. Applications that automate sales processes, HR management, collaboration, email and file sharing are growing fast and enabling organizations to meet their needs in a shorter timeframe than ever before.

Cloud applications are ubiquitously employed across all industries. However, there are increased concerns about security and compliance of sensitive information, particularly in banking, insurance and in the public sector. A wide range of regulations and privacy laws make organizations directly responsible for protecting regulated information, but when this data is stored in the cloud, they have less direct control over leaks, theft or forced legal disclosure.

At the same time, leaks and thefts are occurring with increased frequency. The 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report revealed a total of 621 confirmed data breaches and over 47,000 security incidents in the last year, and a 2012 Ernst & Young survey found that only 38% of organizations implement an adequate security strategy.

A Three-Step Approach to Navigating Compliance Complexities
Though the risks - from malicious hacks to insider threats - can seem high, a holistic approach to cloud information protection can help companies reduce the risks of adopting the cloud.

First is the discovery stage. Before you can protect information in the cloud, you need to know where it is and who has access to it:

  • Who should have access to certain information and who should not?
  • What content is sensitive, proprietary, or regulated and how can it be identified?
  • Where will this data reside in the cloud, and what range of regional privacy, disclosure and other laws might apply?

Then, you need to protect the information using the correct tools:

  • Encrypt: As a baseline, unbreakable code - like military grade 256-bit AES - can scramble sensitive information into undecipherable gibberish to protect it from unauthorized viewers. Installing a cloud information protection platform at the network's edge ensures any data moving to the cloud is fully protected before it leaves the organization.
  • Retain keys: Keep the keys that encrypt and decipher information under the control of the user organization. This ensures that all information requests must involve the owner, even if information is stored on a third-party cloud.
  • Cloud data loss prevention: Customize policies on this to scan, detect and take action to protect information according to its level of sensitivity. This provides an additional level of security and control.
  • Cloud malware detection: Screen information exchanges, including external and internal user uploaded attachments, in cloud applications in real-time for virus, malware and other embedded threats.

Finally, a recent breakthrough - operations-preserving encryption - has solved encryption's longstanding problem of breaking cloud application functions. This advancement enables users to search, sort and report on encrypted data in the cloud. In addition, an open platform capable of supporting all cloud applications and integrating third-party tools provides a stable foundation for protection.

The popularity of the cloud has driven privacy laws and data residency restrictions around the world. Businesses and chief information officers need to collaborate in finding new security models to use the cloud while ensuring sensitive information is fully protected. By embracing a new ecosystem of cloud-based security solutions, businesses can safely extend their virtual security perimeter while still complying with privacy regulations.

More Stories By Pravin Kothari

Pravin Kothari is the founder and CEO of CipherCloud. He founded CipherCloud in 2010 when he recognized that while the cloud was disrupting enterprise IT with explosive growth, the security technologies had not kept pace and enterprises were losing control over their sensitive data.

Pravin is driving the rapid growth of CipherCloud by managing its business, strategy, and operations. He is a security visionary with more than 20 years of experience building industry-leading companies and bringing innovative products to market.

Pravin was the Founder & CTO of Agiliance, a leading Security Risk Management company, and Co-founder & VP Engineering of ArcSight, a leading security company, which was acquired by HP for $1.6 billion. Previously, he was Co-founder & Chief Architect at Impresse Corporation and also held technical leadership positions at Verity, Attachmate, and Tata Consultancy Services.

Pravin holds over a dozen patents in security technologies and is the inventor behind CipherCloud’s groundbreaking cloud encryption technology.

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