Though the cloud has come a long way with security, no organization can completely mitigate the risks associated with cloud use. As cloud adoption has grown, users have migrated a growing volume of data into cloud environments—data that malicious attackers have begun to target more and more. It’s no wonder that 81 percent of enterprise cloud users still consider security to be one of their biggest cloud challenges.
Of all the security issues that impact cloud users, data breaches are one of the most worrisome. According to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) data breaches can occur either when attackers specifically target an organization or when an organization relies on insufficient security protocols.
These types of attacks are so alarming because they compromise information that was not otherwise meant for public eyes. No organization is safe from data breaches, either. Big-name entities like Yahoo, Apple, and LinkedIn have all experienced their own breaches.
Data breaches have been around for much longer than the cloud, but the consequences of these attacks are just as dire in the cloud as they are in a traditional IT system. As such, all cloud users must know exactly how to handle a data breach at their own organizations and how to prevent one from happening again.
Here are a few steps that you should follow if your organization experiences a data breach:
1. Go into lockdown.
As soon as you establish that a breach has occurred, your organization should take every step possible to lock down your cloud access. Since most cloud data breaches occur as a result of compromised accounts and passwords, you should freeze the credentials of all your user accounts and have all your employees change their passwords. This can help mitigate the effects of a breach until you can pinpoint exactly how your attackers gained access to your cloud information.
According to a recent report from Kasperky Lab, end users—not cloud providers—are at fault for 90 percent of all cloud breaches. Locking credentials immediately after a breach will, therefore, be crucial to preventing any further information from falling into the wrong hands.
2. Figure out how the breach happened.
Whether you suspect that one of your employees is to blame for your cloud breach or believe that attackers have compromised your systems in another way, it’s imperative that you take the time to determine exactly how the data breach occurred. Failing to do so won’t help you remedy the situation and, as a result, can leave you vulnerable to subsequent attacks.
The sources of data breaches van vary widely. Perhaps an employee used an unencrypted device to access your cloud resources or accidentally made their password available to a third party. Or, someone could have simply connected to the cloud using an unauthorized phone or computer, which allowed malicious users to get into the system.
3. Take an inventory of the data you lost.
Once you’ve gotten a handle on the situation, your organization can begin the process of determining the exact scope of the data breach. Your team should look at all angles of your cloud infrastructure to determine exactly what became compromised during the attack. By doing so, you will be better prepared to address any shortcoming in your cloud security measures and ensure that the same information won’t be at risk in another attack.
Start by looking at the data itself—which files did your attackers access? Was it proprietary information, customer details, or something else? You’ll need to look even closer at your affected data if your organization operates within a specialized industry. Healthcare and financial institutions, for example, house far more sensitive information than some other types of businesses.
Next, you should move on to your cloud systems. Which ones did the data breach affect? Similarly, you should also turn your attention to your user accounts. Chances are, you’ll find at least a few that your attackers used to gain access to your cloud environment and the information contained within.
4. Take appropriate steps to prevent it from happening again.
In the wake of a data breach, it may be difficult to know how to make sure that your organization never falls victim to one again. However, there are several ways to overhaul your security and make your company more robust against future attacks.
Since the majority of cloud breaches occur due to human error, you should provide the right training and education to all your employees. Facilitate workshops to teach your staff about the use of sensitive data in the cloud and which mistakes not to make when utilizing your cloud resources. To solidify the information you teach them, conduct surprise security tests to see how they react in a scenario that could lead to a data breach.
To complement your employee education, you should also implement new security policies to mitigate the risk of a future security breach. For example, access controls can help prevent certain users from accessing information that they shouldn’t. Only give your employees access to the data that they need for their daily work. Any more than that and you can open yourself up to another data breach.
Encryption is another security control that you should implement after a cloud breach. This will allow you to protect data both in transit and at rest by requiring users to input keys to decrypt the information they want to access. Anyone without those keys will be unable to view or use your data.