How to define and approach cloud data protection to help protect national security

07:12:2023

The defense sector needs comprehensive cloud data protection to protect itself from both internal and external threats. 

In this article, we’ll go over what cloud data protection is, the different cloud types, the common challenges associated with cloud data security, and the best practices included in superior security solutions.

 

What is cloud data protection?

Cloud data security includes the technologies, applications and policies that protect cloud data at every step of the process.

The concept behind cloud data protection is simple: Security for data that exists on a cloud storage platform, outside of your existing network security boundary. This largely refers to making sure only authorized users have access to whatever data in the cloud applies to them, but also applies to preventative tactics and post-incident response planning.

More broadly speaking, cloud data security includes the technologies, applications and policies that protect cloud data at every step of the process, from when it first enters the cloud to when it’s accessed.

Cloud security is far from simple. Without the proper protection, cyberattackers could access the data within. They might even take control of any software stored in the cloud.

Why is cloud data protection so important to the Department of Defense (DoD)?

It’s easy to understand why the Department of Defense (DoD) uses the cloud: They manage military bases and computer networks around the world that all strongly benefit from a unified software and data storage environment.

Because the DoD relies so heavily on cloud computing and storage, it follows that they seek the best cloud data security solution.

The different types of cloud storage

There are many different types of cloud services, such as:

  • Public
  • Private
  • Multicloud
  • Hybrid

Let’s first talk about the advantages private clouds have over public clouds, as those types of clouds are used for the defense sector.

Unlike a public cloud, which is shared by more than one customer, a private cloud is created for the client’s sole use. The latter is preferable for organizations that collect and maintain sensitive or personal data because of its enhanced security and control, effectively combining the benefits of a cloud with the security provided by dedicated resources that would have previously been on-premises only.

Private clouds have other benefits over on-premises servers, such as:

  • Easier to scale.
  • More flexibility in how security can be approached.
  • Superior access control.
  • More customizability and control.
  • Tighter security.

For many organizations, such as those in the defense sector or that manage sensitive or confidential information, private clouds are the only way they can meet regulatory compliance. Primarily because of security concerns, public clouds are quickly falling out of use.

There are also “multicloud” solutions which refer to using several public clouds at once. 

There is another type of cloud called a hybrid cloud. This variety combines on-premises infrastructure with public or private cloud storage and resources.

A hybrid cloud approach can also be considered multicloud if it includes resources from a private cloud and infrastructure from at least two public cloud service providers. In other words, multicloud setups include hybrid cloud setups, but a hybrid cloud is not automatically considered multicloud.

All federal agencies, including the DoD, use private and hybrid clouds for the many benefits mentioned, especially their enhanced security.

 

Challenges to cloud security

The biggest challenge to cloud security is identifying vulnerabilities in a cloud network and addressing them. Cloud security providers have many considerations when designing a proper data protection service.

Misconfigurations

The sheer size of the DoD’s storage infrastructure hosting its various platforms and data means it’s vital that any security provider pays special attention to how its cloud security is configured.

The core of any successful cloud data protection strategy is its security policies. Creating and managing them is often easier said than done; cloud data protection is notoriously complex, and it gets even more complex the larger the network. 

Considering the sheer size of the DoD’s storage infrastructure hosting its various platforms and data, it’s vital that any security provider pays special attention to how its cloud security is configured.

Even one bad policy can be enough to allow unauthorized access to data. Consider the 2019 Capital One security breach in which large amounts of customer data were stolen because of a simple misconfiguration in a firewall that allowed access to the data within.

Capital One is a large financial institution and stores massive amounts of sensitive personal and financial data. The company has a sprawling cloud network infrastructure. The DoD has similar — if not added — complexity in its data storage protection configurations. This makes it vital to constantly scan cloud resources for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations to reduce the risk of security incidents.

Identity and access management issues

An organization as complex as the DoD means a wide range of individuals need access to specific parts of the network at any given time. If the wrong person has access to data they’re not supposed to have, it is a security risk.

This includes insider threats by current or former employees, contractors, or DoD personnel. To solve this, access controls and data access logs should be closely monitored so unauthorized users and attackers can’t access  information they should not have access to. 

Data breaches

A data breach is one of the top threats for organizations. Data breaches not only damage the reputation and customer trust of any company that is the victim of one, but can have financial, regulatory, and criminal consequences as well.  For a large government entity like the DoD, stolen data can have catastrophic consequences. Consider the June 2015 data breach in which a state-sponsored Chinese agency stole personal information such as Social Security numbers, user names, and passwords from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This affected prospective, former, and current Federal employees.

Data breaches are increasingly more common with each year. Imagine the possible damage a data breach in one of our federal agencies could do for national security and you’ll understand why cloud data protection is a top concern of organizations like the DoD.

Failure to follow established standards

It can be difficult to know if your cloud security is up to par if there are no standards to follow. The Health Care industry implemented data protection standards through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which defines standards as for how patient data can be used or shared (including in the cloud, which many healthcare organizations use).

The DoD has a Cloud Computing Security Requirements Guide (CC SRG) that its administrators strictly follow to ensure maximum protection from cyberthreats.

 

How to strengthen data and access guards

There are several layers of security involved in cloud data protection:

  • Preventing incidents. This is only one of the levels of proper protection in cloud environments. It can include everything from firewalls, multi-factor authentication (MFA), application access controls, and data access restrictions. If an aspect of cloud security is meant to prevent unauthorized access from occurring, it falls under the category of prevention.
  • 24/7 continual monitoring to detect anomalies. A good cloud data protection plan should have an intrusion and data loss protection tool that knows what’s usual and what isn’t in the network. If anything out of the ordinary is detected, rules should be in place to identify and stop it before it has the chance to cause harm. This might include locking down the entire network if the threat is serious enough.
  • Post-incident plans. Cloud security providers and administrators should know what to do in the event of a security breach. This could include, for instance, recovering data or restoring compromised systems from known good backups, conducting post-incident analysis, and implementing new security controls and/or procedures to reduce the risk of future incidents.

Best practices for a cloud environment

Encryption ensures that data is secure in transit from the cloud provider to the organization’s network and/or endpoints.

There are many best practices to consider when deploying and using cloud data protection. They’re similar whether discussing cybersecurity for an enterprise or the DoD.

  • Communication. The defense sector and the cloud security provider need to be able to communicate before, during and after deployment of any cloud-related security service. This includes knowing which part of the security plan each party is responsible for. We’ll go into more detail on this later.
  • Provide data access to only those who need it. This partially means having good password habits among staff. Do not allow the reuse of passwords for more than one account. All passwords should be unique and difficult to guess or crack. Always use 2FA or MFA. Ensure separation of duties and restrict access to sensitive information only to those who need it.
  • Ensure regulatory compliance. Regulations in the defense sector exist to provide the best possible security guidelines, developed in accordance with best practices and risk management frameworks.  Regulatory compliance is essential to demonstrate that your cybersecurity is up to the task.
  • Be careful of using multiple cloud providers. If an organization utilizes more than one cloud service provider, this adds a large amount of complexity. In addition, cloud providers have different ways of approaching security, so one may have more effective solutions than the other. Note, however, that this doesn’t mean you can’t use multiple clouds to store your data. 
  • Encrypt data while it’s in the cloud, and also during transit. Encryption ensures that data is secure in transit from the cloud provider to the organization’s network and/or endpoints.

The importance of joint responsibility

Organizations and administrators and cloud security providers need to share responsibility for the security of the cloud infrastructure. This is because of the limited visibility on either end of cloud environments: Administrators can see certain parts of the cloud in their day-to-day operations, but separation of duties is essential so that auditing and logging of all network activity is safe even from accounts with full administrative privileges.  Likewise, cloud security providers aren’t able to view the data the defense sector puts in the cloud, but they are able to see their own operations.

If both parties do not understand what part of cloud data protection they are responsible for, it can result in confusion and lapses in overall security. Ensure that both parties fully comprehend what aspect of cloud security they need to ensure maximum protection.

 

Put the seal on your cloud data protection in the field

With cloud environments becoming all but ubiquitous, a complete cybersecurity defense platform is needed to protect your data within the cloud. This ensures maximum protection against cyberthreats from all over the world.

Sealing Technology’s comprehensive cybersecurity deployments are ideal for cloud use in the defense sector and for private companies. We have the knowledge and expertise to ensure our products are fully compliant with Federal regulations. Featuring secure Linux-based, cross-domain solutions and secure open-source software used by the DoD, we offer full regulatory compliance and customized solutions to fit your needs. 

Contact us at SealingTech to explore what we can do for you.

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