Cloud Data Privacy: 10 Ways to Enhance and Protect Your Data

Cloud Data Privacy: 10 Ways to Enhance and Protect Your Data

Cloud computing offers scalability and convenience for businesses looking for ways to digitally transform their processes. However, moving to a new cloud environment and entrusting your data to a virtual space can raise questions about data privacy and security. Cybercriminals, natural disasters, and internal errors are just a few factors that can compromise your data. Learning how to enhance your cloud data privacy will help you achieve a stronger security posture and give you, and your users, greater peace of mind.

What is Cloud Privacy?

Cloud data privacy is concerned with how data is stored and kept safe in the cloud. Protection should include any kind of data in the cloud, including financial records, personally identifiable information, and intellectual property. It should also include every step of the data lifecycle – data processing, data transmission, and data storage.

Why is Cloud Data Privacy Important?

Data privacy is important in the cloud because of how frequently data breaches can occur in the cloud. In 2023, 45% of data breaches were cloud-based. Understanding how to protect your data in the cloud will help you keep sensitive information safe, reduce your security risks, allow you to be compliant with relevant regulations and privacy laws, and build trust and rapport with internal and external users.

Safeguards Sensitive Information

Cloud storage, utilized for both personal and business purposes, contains a significant volume of sensitive data. This data can include financial records, healthcare information, and confidential business documents. Focusing on cloud data privacy helps keep these records safe, which is particularly important for data that can’t afford to be accessed or compromised in any way.

Helps Reduce Security Risks

Robust cloud data privacy practices can reduce security risks in a few ways. Implementing strong access controls and data encryption, along with other security measures, can help reduce the risk of data breaches. Establishing guidelines and protocols for data can prevent unauthorized access. Conducting regular data audits and practicing data minimization (only storing the necessary data for your business needs) can reduce the risks associated with data leakage.

Maintains Compliance with Data Regulations and Privacy Laws

Many different data privacy regulations have been enacted worldwide, and it’s up to each business to ensure their data privacy practices are compliant with relevant laws. For example, any organization processing data from residents in the European Union (EU) will need to abide by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Healthcare organizations storing, processing, and transmitting information about patients and their health conditions need to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 71% of countries currently have some kind of legislation in place regarding data protection and privacy.

Promotes Ethical Practices and Transparency

Establishing and enacting a clear data privacy policy aligns with ethical business practices by respecting user rights and transparency around data handling practices. Organizations can demonstrate that they’re committed to upholding individual autonomy, accountability, and transparency in their data privacy practices by publicizing and adhering to their stated commitments.

Builds Trust

Implementing cloud data privacy practices can foster trust and confidence by demonstrating the cloud service provider’s commitment to protecting users’ information and adhering to relevant regulations. Users, by extension, will feel more confident about storing their information in the cloud.

Common Cloud Data Privacy Challenges and Threats

Cloud data faces a complex threat landscape, including breaches and leaks, evolving regulations, and third-party entry points.

Data Breaches and Leaks

Data breaches can start in a number of ways and cause expensive, sometimes irreversible damage to a business. The average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, with the biggest initial attack vector being phishing. Ransomware attacks made up 24% of malicious attacks in 2023. Cybercriminals who implement ransomware attacks can encrypt your data, refusing to relinquish it until a business pays a ransom.

Threats can also come from the inside. Malicious internal employees may choose to leak sensitive data or exploit their access privileges and jeopardize the security of your data.

Evolving Regulatory Landscape

Data privacy regulations are constantly growing and changing as the threat landscape expands and shifts. To remain compliant, businesses need to update their practices in accordance with these regulations. Compliance is often an important part of being in good standing with cyber insurance as well.

Shared Responsibility Model

In cloud computing, the shared responsibility model dictates that while the cloud provider assumes varying degrees of responsibility depending on the service model—such as infrastructure management for IaaS, infrastructure and runtime environment for PaaS, and both application and infrastructure management for SaaS—customers are consistently responsible for aspects such as data security, access management, and configurations within the cloud service they utilize.

Third-Party Risks

Additional attack vectors can come from third-party integrations and apps. When there are vulnerabilities in these tools, your cloud data can become compromised.

Data Sovereignty and Residency

Data privacy laws may also have regulations not just for how data is stored and processed, but where. Businesses need to confirm that their data remains within necessary geographic boundaries. For example, if data is being generated in a particular country, it needs to abide by the regulations of that country.

10 Strategies for Enhancing Cloud Data Privacy

Don’t leave your cloud privacy up to chance. Instead, employ these 10 strategies to improve privacy and protect your cloud environment.

Thoroughly Vet Your Cloud Service Provider

The cloud service provider you choose should be able to demonstrate a proven track record of security and compliance when it comes to cloud data privacy. Take time to evaluate prospective providers’ standards for data encryption, incident response, and access controls.

Create a Detailed Data Privacy Policy

Data privacy policies should address common concerns and questions around compliance with user data. Organizations should be able to explain what types of data will be stored in the cloud, how that data will be used and protected, and how the established policy aligns with relevant regulatory standards, such as GDPR and CCPA.

Mitigate Impacts of an Outage with a Disaster Recovery Plan

Ensuring the security of data is intrinsically linked to maintaining its confidentiality. Valuable information is susceptible to threats such as data loss and interruptions in system operations. It is crucial to safeguard this information to improve the privacy of data stored in the cloud. A disaster recovery (DR) plan is a blueprint that delineates the essential actions and protocols for restoring vital systems and data following a catastrophic event.

Embrace Robust Data Encryption and Tokenization

Strong data encryption secures information in transit and at rest, requiring decryption keys for access. Tokenization swaps sensitive data with irreversible tokens stored in a vault. The choice depends on data sensitivity and transit frequency: encryption for transmission, tokenization for non-decryptable data.

Implement Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Strong authentication protocols are essential when granting users access to data. For instance, implementing mandatory multifactor authentication (MFA) enhances security. Additionally, it’s crucial to establish a protocol for managing the lifecycle of user identities within your system, employing an identity and access management (IAM) approach.

Everyone in your company doesn’t need access to the same data. Data classification and access controls play an important role in your overall IAM plan. By classifying data based on sensitivity and a need for access, you can limit risks tied to unnecessary permission levels. This is known as the least privilege principle.

Prioritize Monitoring and Auditing

The more often you monitor your cloud environment for suspicious activity, the more likely it is that you will identify problems early. Auditing access logs plays a crucial role in identifying unauthorized attempts to access your system and potential data breaches, providing essential insights into security incidents. Implement automated alerts for suspicious activities using tools such as AWS GuardDuty and Azure Advanced Threat Protection for real-time threat detection.

Perform Regular Testing and Compliance Checks

Identify potential vulnerabilities in your cloud environment by implementing penetration testing. This form of testing involves a simulated attack to determine how well your systems will hold up to different likely infiltrations. You’ll also want to take on compliance audits to confirm that your organization is adhering to relevant data privacy laws. In addition to penetration testing, businesses will also want to test their disaster recovery plan to further ensure the protection of vital customer data.

Foster a Culture of Security Awareness and Education

One of your best lines of defense starts with the employees of your company in any department, not just IT. Foster a culture of security awareness by conducting regular training. Test your team members through phishing simulations, host lunch and learns, and share data privacy best practices.

Because bad actors are constantly evolving their tactics to compromise your data security, staying up on the latest trends will allow you to get ahead of the curve. Learning about what may be a threat to your business can help you prepare and develop new strategies to better protect your data. You should also share these trends with all employees as part of your regular training.

Leverage Third-Party Data Privacy Expertise

Unless it’s one employee’s job, or an entire team’s job, to stay up to date on the latest threats to data privacy, it can be hard to stay informed and make necessary changes to your data practices. Working with outside data security specialists who have data privacy expertise can provide the guidance and expertise you need to protect your data, now and into the future.

Strengthening Your Cloud Data Privacy

Storing and processing data in the cloud can raise concerns about data security, no matter the scale. If you’re trying to navigate cloud data privacy best practices, TierPoint can serve as your disaster recovery and security consultants. Learn more about handling potential ransomware threats and our approach to data in the cloud by reading our ransomware eBook or find out more about our cloud services and solutions.

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