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What Is Cloud Security / Cloud Computing Security?

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Cloud Security Definition

Cloud security consists of technology and techniques engineered to prevent and mitigate threats to an organization’s cybersecurity. Companies must implement cloud computing security to support both digital transformations and the use of cloud-based tools to protect assets.

How Does Cloud Security Work?

Cloud security works by combining several technologies, all designed to tighten cyber defenses for off-premises data and applications. Here are some of the core elements that make cloud security work:

Data Security

Data security consists of protecting and maintaining the integrity of an organization’s cloud-based data. This data typically includes the following:

  • Company data, including proprietary, sensitive information
  • Intellectual property
  • Employee data
  • Customer data
  • Data used by web applications

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identity and access management (IAM) involves making sure your employees can access the digital solutions they need to perform their duties. Using IAM, you can manage the applications users have access to ensure existing users have the privileges they need and former employees’ access is terminated, which helps control your attack surface.


Governance involves enforcing internal policies to manage data in a way that protects and enables systems and safeguards sensitive information. For example, if a cloud-based web application needs a database to provide information the user sees while using the app, your organization must ensure the safety and integrity of this data using the right governance policies.

Business Continuity (BC) and Data Retention (DR)

Business continuity (BC) and data retention (DR) focus on backing up data to restore critical systems in the event of a disaster, breach, or system wipe. If you have a cloud-based business continuity plan, it will inevitably involve retaining business-critical data, as well as data your core cloud applications use to operate. BC and DR also often include policies designed to govern how long data is kept and when it can be supplanted with newer data to optimize storage space.

Legal Compliance

Legal compliance focuses on making sure an organization’s data conforms to standards set forth in the laws of the country your company is in, as well as those it may do business with. For example, if your organization works in the healthcare industry, you may have to set up governance rules that conform to the standards of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Understanding Cloud Provider And Customer Responsibilities to Ensure Cloud Security

Discover what the shared responsibility model means to you, as a cloud customer, why understanding it is vital, and how Fortinet Adaptive Cloud Security can help address the areas that you still own, whichever cloud you choose.

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Why Is Cloud Security Important?

Whenever there is a security breach in the cloud, companies lose money, time, and resources as they try to recover. The downtime that results from a cloud breach can cause significant operational setbacks – applications and data in the cloud, and cloud-connected devices and networks can be exposed to a numerous threats.

While maintaining a security system for an in-house network is often managed by an internal IT team, whenever you put data or systems on the cloud, your valuable digital assets are, essentially, under someone else’s care. To minimize the resulting inherent risk, a robust cloud security system is necessary.

Here are just a few of the benefits of cloud security:

1. Safer Remote Work Environment

One of the top advantages of incorporating cloud computing into your operations is data accessibility. Anytime an employee has an internet connection, they can interact with the content or systems they need to do their jobs. This gives your company flexibility and agility.

A problem may arise, however, if employees access your cloud infrastructure through unsafe means. For example, if someone slips into a coffee shop, they may sign in using a public network. This leaves your cloud network exposed to any bad actors who may be looking for opportunities on that public, vulnerable connection.

Also, when employees use their personal devices—or take devices from work home with them—they can accidentally expose them to malicious software. When they connect to your cloud environment, anything that sneaked onto their computer or device—such as malware or Trojans—could be used to invade your cloud system.

The only way to guard against these kinds of inroads into your infrastructure is to institute a powerful cloud security system.

2. Ensure Safer Stores of Data

Many companies use a cloud environment to back up their data. In the event of a disaster, it is easy to get things up and running because all you have to do is connect to the cloud and grab what you need. However, if this data is not secure, you could end up downloading corrupted files. If these were allowed to penetrate your system, they could affect not just your business’s network and devices but those of customers as well.

A cloud data security system helps shield valuable data from dangerous software, organizations, or people.

Learn more about Cloud Data Protection here.

3. Meet Regulatory Requirements

In certain sectors, the degree to which you keep data secure can determine whether you are on the right or wrong side of the law. For example, with current Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, a lax security system could result in the exposure of sensitive data—to the extent that you fall out of line with current legislation.

A strong cloud security solution can help you prevent a security slip-up from having serious legal ramifications for your company. This is especially important in light of the fact that those who enforce the law often feel obligated to find someone to blame when things go wrong. A security breach could put your organization in the crosshairs, resulting in bad press, legal battles, and lost shareholder confidence. On the other hand, a complete cloud data security system could prevent problems before they begin.

4. Keep Data in and Attackers Out

A cloud system without thorough security measures in place can be like a data sieve. With so many users accessing the network via a wide selection of devices, it is easy for data to get leaked to the wrong person. Additionally, an unprotected cloud system is a convenient attack surface for hackers.

A cloud security system acts like the door to a vault. It keeps valuable data inside while keeping criminal elements out.

Cloud Computing Categories

  1. Public cloud services: A public cloud is one managed by a third-party provider. The space on the cloud server is rented to organizations, and the third party is in charge of maintenance, security, and general upkeep. It includes software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS). 
  2. Private clouds: A private cloud is limited for use by a single organization. The resources and infrastructure are used exclusively by that company. These tend to come with a higher price tag but offer better customization and security options.
  3. Hybrid clouds: A hybrid cloud works as a combination of public and private cloud features. Hybrid clouds can also involve a combination of on-premise datacenters, virtual datacenters, and both public and/or private cloud instances.  Companies that want the freedom to scale quickly as well as enjoy strong security often take advantage of hybrid cloud services.
Cloud Computing Categories

Cloud Data Protection Benefits to Enterprises

Some cloud security benefits include the ability to:

  1. Secure applications and data while gaining total visibility over every user, folder, and file activity across various environments
  2. Proactively identify and reduce risks, including malware, unusual user activity, and security concerns 
  3. Improve access control
  4. Establish policies
  5. Identify and stop the loss of data

Cloud Computing Security Challenges

  1. DDoS attacks: Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have been growing in popularity. Attackers use DDoS attacks to overwhelm a website’s server so it does not have the capacity to respond to user requests. This could render the site useless for long periods of time.
  2. Loss of data: Data can be lost from the cloud for a variety of reasons. Even when no one is actively trying to take data, it can be lost due to an accident or a natural disaster. Not only do cloud security solutions help keep thieves out but they can also include measures to protect data from unexpected events.
  3. Data breaches: Data on the cloud can be a slow-moving target for the right hacker if it is not secured. Some steal data to exploit members of an organization. Others sell it to entities wishing to know a company’s secrets. Without the right cloud security solutions, a company’s data may be exposed.
  4. Vulnerable access points: A cloud-based system offers unbeatable access, but the devices used to interact with the cloud are often unprotected or under-protected. As a result, nearly every phone, tablet, laptop, or other mobile device that accesses your cloud system could present an attack opportunity for the wrong person or software. However, with the right firewall, you can limit access to the right kind of traffic.
  5. Alerts and notifications: When there is a security breach, stopping the threat before it does significant damage is only part of the job. A complete system will make sure important stakeholders are notified of the situation. Often, the damage of an attack, even after it has been stopped, comes from the fact that too much time passes before the IT team is able to react and alert others. A responsive cloud security system provides information through alerts and notifications to those who need to know—and when they need to know it.

Cloud Security Best Practices

  1. Put data protection policies in place: Each organization has mission-critical data that needs to be protected. It is important to identify the most crucial data and shield it from unwanted access. Minimizing the attack surface of crucial data can focus your cloud security resources, enabling you to get the most out of them.
  2. Use personalized keys to encrypt sensitive data: Even the strongest username and password combination can be compromised by an enterprising hacker. Whether an outsider uses spyware or a disgruntled employee gets their hands on login credentials, breaches in single-factor authentication models are far too easy to orchestrate. With multi-factor authentication (MFA) using personalized keys, your system is better protected.
  3. Limit how data gets shared: With multiple users sending data to various people, it can be difficult to pin down who is getting what and how. Customers, investors, and other outsiders may gain access to sensitive data unnecessarily. You can use a cloud security system to make sure only those who “need to know” can access sensitive data.
  4. Prevent data from going to unmanaged devices: It is important to know how data is treated after it leaves your cloud. A number of unmanaged devices could result in data being shared with the wrong parties. However, with a cloud security system, you can make sure only the right devices connect to the network.
  5. Data encryption in the cloud: Encrypting data provides an extra layer of protection. Even if someone is able to get behind a firewall or web filter, the encryption hiding the data can still keep your data safe.
  6. Routinely test your security system: Having a powerful system in place is only half the battle. To ensure its functionality, you should have penetration tests performed. This can reveal critical gaps that you can address through additional measures or adjustments to your security setup.
  7. Train the necessary employees to support your security system: Employees are often a security blind spot. Even though they may have the best intentions, a small error can be disastrous for your cloud security setup. Training them on what to do, what not to do, how to manage their access keys, and things to look out for can eliminate potentially costly security breaches.

Cloud security can make your cloud-based system as safe as a personal computer or device in your pocket—or even safer. With a dynamic cloud security strategy in place, you can provide the visibility your IT team needs, along with the control and protection to keep your data and systems safe.

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Cloud Data Protection—Top 4 Use Cases

Here are some of the most effective use cases for cloud computing security:
  1. Disaster recovery in the cloud: This is when cloud storage is used to protect data from harmful natural events and human threats. With seamless integration to on-premises data protection architecture, cloud disaster recovery enables enterprises to recover data and applications directly from the cloud in minutes.
  2. Backup to the cloud for long-term data storage: In this use scenario, to comply with long-term storage compliance requirements, public cloud object storage (COS) services are used to back up data from on-premises infrastructure.
  3. Cloud backup: The cloud can include both long-term backups for compliance and short-term backups for operational recovery.
  4. Cloud backup: In this use case, workloads running on instances of public cloud virtual machines are backed up to cloud storage.

Learn more about Cloud Data Protection: Secure What You Store in the Cloud

How Fortinet Can Help

With the ever-growing pace of digital acceleration and cloud adoption, enterprises need specific security solutions tailored for cloud environments and infrastructures. Fortinet helps organizations protect their application journeys into, within, and across clouds with Fortinet Cloud Security.  These solutions provide visibility and control across cloud cybersecurity infrastructures, providing protection for applications and connectivity from data center to cloud.

Fortinet cloud security solutions are natively integrated across all major cloud platforms and technologies. A cybersecurity mesh architecture, such as the Fortinet Security Fabric, extends across all hybrid and multi-cloud environments. This platform approach reduces operational complexity, provides greater visibility, address resource and skill gaps, and improves overall security effectiveness.

Learn more in the Cybersecurity Insiders 2022 Cloud Security Report.

Also read more about Serverless Computing -- a cloud architecture that allows organizations to get on-demand access to the resources they need.