Cloud storage services have brought the revolution in the ways we used to store and access the data. Being remotely accessible, many organizations are choosing cloud based storage as their both primary and secondary source of data storage. But growing cyberattacks are raising questions on the security features of the cloud service. Critiques pose a question that in the course of events when defense infrastructures and financial institutions are not safe from the cyber-attacks, how sensitive data is supposed to remain secure in the cloud? To answer this question, cloud storage service providers come up with encryption as an answer. In response, critiques argue about the security and effectiveness of the encrypted files in the cloud.
To be very precise, gauging the security and effectiveness of cloud encryption is quite a relative subject. The degree of security and effectiveness varies because each cloud computing company has its own protocols. However, for a general outlook, let’s have a look at the challenges of cloud encryption, the efficacy of cloud encryption, and the practices to mitigate these challenges.
Cloud encryption – Challenges
Apart from the criticism on the cloud storage’s encryption, many IT professionals think that its utilization is still underestimated. Even though encryption is the key to strengthening data security, many cloud computing firms are not employing encryption to its full potential. This consequently results in the underutilizing to be the prime challenge that is associated with embedding encryption in the cloud storage.
The idea of underutilizing may not be making sense to you. Let’s make it sound and clear to you from the financial point of view. Encryption basically drives the cost for cloud storage providers, as they have to allocate additional bandwidth to encrypt your data before it is transferred to the cloud server. Ultimately, cloud customers are the ones who are forced to bear this additional cost. Consequently, pricing plans get expensive, and the service provider loses competitiveness. This is the main reason many cloud service providers limit their encryption protocols and try to offer a trade-off.
It has been noted that many clients/customers encrypt their data to the cloud prior to moving them to the cloud network on their own premises. In this way, not only they save on premium cloud subscriptions, but they can also retain private keys in their own possession.
Nevertheless, it is quite a reality that encryption has some serious financial implications, which is why its potential is underutilized. But another question arises that if it is so financially unviable, then why do most companies still aspire for cloud-managed encryption keys. Stay with us and let us answer this question in the efficacy section.
While people highly doubt its efficacy, encrypting data at rest or in transit is extremely important from the security as well as from the regulatory point of view. It is extremely important for some of the industries to embed cloud encryption so as to meet regulatory compliance. For instance, if any healthcare enterprise is using cloud services, then it is mandatory for that enterprise to take stringent encryption measures to comply with HIPAA. Similarly, retail and e-commerce organizations need to have encryption for compliance with PCI-DSS, and financial reporting firms are required to comply with SOX.
Cloud Encryption Practices
Since it is quite an acclaimed fact that security and efficiency of cloud storage are dependent on the level of services being provided by cloud services providers. What needs to be affirmed is that cloud-encryption is extremely secure and effective. However, its degree of efficacy is still debatable and often understood in a relative manner.
Since the level of security varies as someone roams around different cloud services vendors. So, first of all, one should map out their security needs. It is of imperative importance to underline the level of security and deployment of relevant encryption algorithms. Once it is done, look out for the potential vendors who are offering cloud-encryption with the underlined security and efficacy parameters.
For instance, if some marketing company is looking forward to using cloud storage, then they would surely require encryption for their login credentials. They won’t be needing encryption for their media files. Therefore, for them, any cloud service provider offering basic account level encryption would suit more.
Moreover, if some engineering or manufacturing company is employing cloud services, then end-to-end encryption is more suitable for them since most of the data involve confidential source codes and design models.
For the minimum or to stay at the moderate level of encryption, it is advised to go for such a cloud service provider that uses AES Encryption as well as HTTPS so that all the connections stay encrypted. Furthermore, it has been noted that some cloud service providers offer Secure Encryption Key Management. Since both encryption and decryption are very critical to access your files, therefore, such tools increase the security and effectiveness of the encryption by manifold. In such tools, service providers keep both of these keys in some offsite location and audit them on a regular basis. The best practices involve setting up the expiration of the generated keys and refresh them once they expire automatically. However, it may get complex for some of the clients. So, cloud service providers mostly offer multi-factor authentication for both recovery and master keys.
Undoubtedly, encryption is extremely secure and effective. Some people may argue on the extent of its security, but altogether there exist a sheer consensus on a different level of encryption qualities by different vendors. Therefore, it is suggested to first understand your cloud data protection needs and then look for a suitable vendor, meeting those needs. The popular options are Dropbox, Google Drive, Backup Everything, OneDrive, and iCloud. Indeed, adopting relevant encryption protocol is the only way one can save his/her vulnerable data from any kind of misuse or corruption.