This quick cloud security breakdown will help you better understand how your specific industry, role functions and even your software features impact your vulnerability to cyber threats when using hosted and SaaS applications. The below will cover both the shared and unique cybersecurity requirements when keeping your data in an online environment, whether your application is cloud-native and handled automatically by the publisher or managed by a third-party provider like SWK Technologies.
Shared Cloud Security Risks
There are a few key universal benefits – as well as risks – across every type of cloud-based environment that transcend the particular functionality you use. The consistent interconnectivity and speed of the cloud can be a double-edged sword if not approached correctly, which often includes treating SaaS apps the same as legacy solutions. The biggest threat to every iteration of digital transformation is internal negligence (whether done willfully or out of ignorance).
Cybersecurity Pros & Cons in the Cloud
Here is a list of the most critical pros and cons of cybersecurity in the cloud:
- More consistent and less disruptive updates, including security patches installed quickly after release
- Easier to perform data backups more frequently and enable business continuity through redundancy
- Ability to offload monitoring and maintenance responsibilities to publisher and/or third-party experts
- Access controls need to be enforced promptly to prevent accidental exposure from user error
- Certain cloud environments do not meet stricter guidelines for privacy compliance
- Greater importance for managed services delivered either directly from publisher or third-party provider
Cloud Security Threats & Policy by Industry, Role or App
While always keeping the universal vulnerabilities top of mind, your risk assessment of your cloud security needs to also account for threats and gaps that will inevitably appear in other areas. Cybersecurity for your cloud-based environments MUST begin and end with policy, and these extraneous factors will greatly affect the protocols you need to keep your data protected.
Manufacturers are probably one of the hardest hit groups in the private sector by ransomware, yet the risks extend beyond cyber extortion into often both intellectual and individual property theft, and few of these can be done by sole actors. With the increasing convergence of IT and OT (operational technology), the danger posed by these is exacerbated by the inevitable presence of legacy systems in the typical manufacturing technology stack. This creates a need for proactive monitoring of your multi-cloud environment, with a layered cyber defense strategy that ensures your entire infrastructure cannot be compromised at once.
Like the manufacturing industry, distribution inhabits part of a greater supply chain, and this presents the largest cyber risk they face – from multiple avenues of attack. Malware gangs know that distributors making a seasonal push are more likely to give into a ransom demand, but another growing threat is the targeting of suppliers to hold their customers hostage. Beyond segmenting your IT/OT convergence, your data needs to be backed up in the cloud (frequently), and those backups need to be protected separately – ransomware affiliates WILL try to infect these if they can.
Along with government agencies and schools, healthcare institutions and firms have been the most targeted by hackers for malware attacks, compounding the strict data privacy regulations – like HIPAA – this industry already faces. This creates multiple cyber risks for any medical organization to content, from preventing accidental data exposure to ensuring operational continuity (and often patient wellbeing) after a ransomware infection. All of your cybersecurity measures need to address these threats, and when hosting your systems in the cloud you must have redundancies and endpoint protections in place.
Both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce retailers (and that growing omnichannel space in-between) have to mind the of volume of PII (personally identifiable information) and PCI (payment card industry) data they store, and give out access to. Any debit or card information – along with any other personal details – you collect for transactions MUST be protected, which means that your cloud environment’s permission controls need to be airtight.
Whether providing financial, marketing, human resources or any other type of professional services, all firms in this sector are running an account-based business that will inevitably collect a heap of PII from clients. Any software you have hosted in one or more clouds – from CRM to ERP – needs to have layered security protocols as well as strict user policies enforced, especially if you need to meet privacy compliance.
National Cyber Attacks That Target Cloud Networks
As political tensions increase internationally, it is inevitable that cyber attacks will become part of many nations’ arsenal (as it already has) and that businesses in the US will be caught in the crossfire as targets of opportunity. Cloud networks will play a big role in this juncture, with state-sponsored AND state-employed hackers seeking to infiltrate private networks through misconfigured server connections and remote desktop protocols (RDP). Any company that is part of a greater supply chain must secure every cloud-connected endpoint, especially if serving a government contract or partnering with someone who does, or you will very likely be breached.
Accounting & Finance
Finance teams are an obvious target for cybercriminals looking for direct access to valuable data, but thankfully it is easier said than done to break past the transaction encryptions included with many modern systems. However, where accountants see the most risk is when they let their guard down and are lured into installing malware or becoming a victim of wire fraud. Consistent user training and strict access permission are your best bet for protecting your accounting department in the cloud.
Human Resources & Administration
Same as with financial employees, human resource and administrative personnel are targeted for their control over a significant volume of personal data, along with transactional information tied to payroll and purchases. For both cybersecurity and compliance reasons when working with cloud HR software, make sure that access is consolidated to key users.
Sales & Marketing
To perform their roles, your sales and marketing teams often need access to customer information, and both the access and the data itself needs to be kept secure. Make sure that your applications are updated with the latest security patches and that no misconfigurations allow your data sharing channels to be exposed.
Project management software helps teams collaborate better, even when divided between the field and the back office, but this connection needs to safeguarded against external exposure. Perform risk assessments to see where gaps could and may be forming, and keep your users trained to watch for red flags in the system or their communications.
ERP & Accounting Software
ERP (or enterprise resource planning) are called the “crown jewels” of a typical application stack because they store or process so much valuable data. Even if you have held onto a desktop accounting software to handle your transactions, you need to mind the potential cyber threats and make sure users are not unintentionally (or intentionally) exposing your files.
HR & Payroll
The data in your HR and payroll system needs to be isolated as possible from any open connections and protected behind permissions like strong passwords and multifactor authentication (MFA).
Given that CRM (or customer relationship management) software houses your clients’ PII, obviously that data needs to be insulated behind strict permissions – and if compliance requires it, from public cloud environments.
ICS, MES, MRP, etc.
ICS (industrial control systems), MES (manufacturing execution systems) and all the other alphabet applications occupying a manufacturer’s technology stack often live on top of a lot of legacy coding. You should perform a comprehensive risk assessment of your older systems and their connections to your cloud environment, and bring in an experienced software consultant for an independent review.
Inventory Management & WMS
Modern cloud WMS and inventory management systems often integrate with other solutions to better streamline your operations, so make sure all of your apps and their connectors are secure as possible.
Credit Card Processing, AP, AR, etc.
Credit card processing and payment automation applications are where your PCI will inevitably end up, so keep access to those databases partitioned and add encryption to all data exchanges.
Learn How to Improve Your Cloud Security with SWK
The devil is in the details when it comes to cloud security, with small but critical adjustments need to account for every gap that can appear – but the good news is that a hosting partner like SWK will help take the majority of the work off your hands. Reach out to us today and discover how we can aid in you crafting and executing a thorough risk assessment of your hosted software, and learn how we will ensure your cloud security is as strong as you need it to be.
Contact SWK today to learn more about how we will help you improve your cloud security, and take the heavy lifting off your hands.
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