Cloud Storage Encryption: How Businesses Can Protect Data in the Cloud

By Special Guest
Ilai Bavati
  |  August 17, 2020



Cloud storage comes with a unique set of benefits every business can leverage. You can use cloud storage to save costs, to backup your data, and to ensure regulatory compliance. However, there are also distinct cloud security risks you should be aware of, including lack of control over critical aspects of your infrastructure, the possibility of data leakage, and risks associated with APIs and storage gateways. To ensure that your data remains protected at rest and in transit, you need, at the very least, to establish cloud storage encryption.

Benefits of Cloud Storage for Businesses

There are many reasons why organizations choose to move their data to the cloud, including to improve security, save costs, and gain access to support. Below are some of the most common reasons and how those reasons relate to protecting data.

Cloud storage can save costs

Moving data to the cloud can provide access to support, maintenance, and security measures that are inaccessible with on premises storage. For example, small businesses may not be able to afford enterprise-grade security features or have the IT expertise to implement those features.

Using cloud services can grant access to more robust monitoring, encryption, and access controls than what an organization could afford on their own.

Backups for data loss protection

Using cloud resources for backup storage enables you to eliminate single points of failure that can lead to data loss. Additionally, having cloud backups helps you ensure that a copy of your data is safe and recoverable even if your system is attacked or damaged. This is at least partially because cloud storage services can automatically duplicate data across availability zones or regions.

Regulatory compliance

Cloud storage services often have significant experience with common data regulations and can help you ensure that you are in compliance. Service level agreements, integrated monitoring and auditing, and compliance certifications can all help you ensure your data is properly secured.

Cloud Storage Security Risks You Need to Know About

Although cloud storage has benefits for security, there are also some risks you need to prepare for.

Lack of control

When using cloud storage you have only partial control over your data and data access. You can set up authentication and access controls. However, you cannot guarantee that cloud employees aren’t abusing access privileges or that infrastructure is properly secured.

Data privacy and leakage

Cloud storage is Internet connected, making it a more accessible target for attackers. This access, in combination with weak access controls or misconfigured security settings can expose your data to outsiders.

Additionally, when data is stored in the cloud, it can often be shared more easily than data hosted on-premise. If sharing is not properly restricted, data may be leaked or compromised.

APIs and storage gateways

When data is transferred to and from cloud storage, cloud storage APIs or storage gateways are used. If an API or gateway is insecure, it can be compromised, enabling attackers to eavesdrop on data, upload malicious data, or redirect data requests to malicious sources.

What Is Cloud Storage Encryption?

Encryption is a process that enables you to obscure data using an algorithm. It allows only those with the right encryption key to decode its contents (i.e. only those given access can view data). Typically, cloud storage services come with built-in encryption mechanisms and methods for managing encryption keys.

This built-in encryption typically covers both data at-rest and in-transit. This dual coverage helps ensure that data is protected during access or transfer and while in storage.

When using cloud encryption, there are a few things to keep in mind. Your data is only as secure as your keys. If someone without permission can gain access to a key, they can read your data.

Encrypting data and working with encrypted data requires more processing power than unencrypted. This means that what you can encrypt may be limited depending on your service plan. Additionally, depending on the amount and type of data you have, it may not be cost effective to encrypt data in the cloud. Instead, you may want to encrypt it before uploading to cloud storage.

Benefits of Cloud Encryption

The benefits of encrypting data in the cloud are the same as encrypting data on-premises. Encryption can help ensure that even if data is compromised, leaked, or illegitimately shared, criminals cannot access the contents.

Cloud encryption can also help keep your data protected from cloud service employees. Or, your own employees who have access to cloud resources but don’t need access to all data.

Additionally, encryption is often an essential part of data compliance measures. This is true for nearly all types of compliance, including HIPAA, PCI (News - Alert) DSS, SOX, and GDPR.

Cloud Storage Encryption Options

When configuring encryption for your data in the cloud, there are a few options you can choose. These can determine the effectiveness of your encryption in combination with your key management practices.

  • Encrypt your entire database or storage volume—this ensures that all of your data is protected. However, it also requires significant compute overhead, slows down retrieval, and can prevent you from being able to search for or sort data.
  • Encrypt targeted data—this enables you to focus encryption on only data or data fields that are sensitive. This requires significantly less compute power and can preserve your ability to use data efficiently. However, it may enable outsiders to infer what the encrypted data contains based on the unencrypted data surrounding it.
  • Use authenticated encryption (AE)—AE requires that users complete an authentication process before data is decrypted. This ensures that users with stolen keys are not able to access data despite having the correct key. This can be used with either partial or full encryption of data.
  • Use authenticated encryption with associated data (AEAD)AEAD combines encrypted and unencrypted data that both require authentication to access. Combining access for data in this way enables you to ensure that data remains protected and that access to one cannot be used to gain access to the other.

Conclusion

Cloud storage encryption is a critical element of cloud security. So much so that most big cloud vendors provide built-in encryption for the majority of their cloud storage offerings. Encryption, ideally, keeps your data safe even if stolen or leaked. In this case, if an unauthorized party attempts to take a look at your data, they will need to hack your encryption in order to use the data.

There is more than one encryption method. You can encrypt your entire database or storage volume, or you can encrypt targeted data. You can use authenticated encryption or you can use authenticated encryption with associated data. Each method can serve you well, depending on your current needs. To ensure that your data remains protected, you might want to establish encryption policies as part of a grander data loss prevention strategy.

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Author Bio: Ilai Bavati

I'm a technology writer and editor based in Tel Aviv. I cover topics ranging from machine learning and cybersecurity to cloud computing and the Internet of Things. I'm interested in the real-world application of emerging technologies, and I see our increasingly connected reality as both disruptive and potentially life-saving.

LinkedIn (News - Alert): https://www.linkedin.com/in/ilai-bavati-0b1a1418a/