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Storms Brewing in the Cloud By @E_deSouza | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

What data breaches mean for cloud computing

Recent events have taught us that everyone is vulnerable to data breaches. Now that the majority of businesses are running services in the cloud, whether sanctioned, rogue or Shadow IT, there is much work to be done in beefing up cloud security. And, with each major data breach that takes place in the cloud, trust in the cloud is further eroded.

Cloud Is an Attractive Target for Data Breaches
The increasing pervasiveness of the cloud makes it an attractive target for hackers and cybercriminals. Cloud is not only for business and leisure applications; it's also the back end for electricity grids, water treatment plants, healthcare applications, smart cars, smart refrigerators and so much more. With each device or source that connects to the cloud it creates additional pathways or access points for unauthorized users to infiltrate. The increasing volume of data that is either stored or transacted in the cloud is a strong lure for hacktivists and cybercriminals.

Securing Against Data Breaches Starts with a Strong Governance Model
Governance is a trending term that is used very loosely to describe a number of functions. But in the context of data breaches in the public cloud, an excellent starting point is establishing a dynamic model for for data through its lifecycle - that is from its creation to its eventual destruction that includes classification, entitlements and access rights and a chain of custody.

Why a Data Classification Model Is Needed
Applying uniform levels of data security is not sustainable and it doesn't make sense. Data needs to be protected according to its sensitivity, value and context. There isn't a one-size-fits-all classification model that applies to all data. It will vary from one business to another and is also based on contextual elements such as where the data is being transacted and stored, who is accessing it and how it is being accessed. However, it needs to be intuitive enough that depending on where the lines of responsibility lie, your cloud service provider can easily follow your scheme.

Entitlements and Access Rights
Cloud by its distributed nature coupled with increased pathways from user to the cloud means that access controls need to be considered. A user might access services across multiple clouds so access control policies need to support a mechanism that transfers those user credentials across those services and resources. Data owners also need to able to declare access and entitlement rights, and service providers need to make it easy to do by using data tagging elements that are easily accessible to data owners.

Chain of Custody
Although the cloud consuming organization still owns the data, the cloud provider becomes the custodian. In order for data owners to have the assurances that they would otherwise have in an enterprise setting, they need to have granular controls over their data. For example, data owners should have the right to limit which users can modify, transmit and copy data. This is where cloud security brokers who offer these types of controls can help streamline this process. Data owners also need to be able to determine what data gets encrypted and retain control over the keys.

The above aspects are sometimes overlooked when organizations move to public cloud computing. Yet, they can play a pivotal part in helping beef up security and mitigating the effects of today's data breaches.

More Stories By Evelyn de Souza

Recognized as one of the top ten women in cloud (CloudNOW), Evelyn De Souza, chair of the Cloud Security Alliance Data Governance Working Group and a leader at Cisco, is a pioneer in the cloud security space and deals with these issues on a daily basis. According to Evelyn, the network becomes pivotal in redefining cloud security and providing new levels of trust, visibility and resilience.

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