Protecting Sensitive Data Using Cloud Storage
Security is of top priority for the IT executives of almost all business organizations, especially when it comes to their valuable business data. Cloud computing operations has evolved to be a boon to such IT executives offering them every single feature that is necessary to store, access, and protect all their sensitive business information. Protecting your business data on a cloud storage platform begins with protecting the same in your enterprise. As a matter of fact, it generally begins with the policies and the governance structure created by your organization. If the foundation of your enterprise is not befitting, then the protection of your business data on the cloud will never be competent. Therefore, you have to make sure that your organization has framed policies that describe data labeling mechanisms, data handling requirements, and data classification categories.
For competent protection of your valuable business data, you should first know what a data is. Secondly, you must be able to determine those data. And finally, you should know the mechanisms to handle those data. If all these three aspects are not defined enough in your organization’s policies, then you will be extremely vulnerable to losing sensitive business data. So, let us first see the categories of data classifications in any normal organization:
- Sensitive data: This category comprises of all those corporate data that are not supposed to be leaked to the public or non-organizational users. All the information in the sensitive data category is accessible only by employees of the organization and not to those outside of it. An example of sensitive data is the corporate phonebook.
- Restricted data: This category of data consists of all those business information that are restricted to a particular group of individuals within the office. These data may be inclusive of HR information, intellectual property of the organization, or legal information.
- Personal private data: This category refers to the personal private information of every individual within the organization, such as their Social Security numbers, mailing addresses, driver’s license details, etc.
- Public data: This category consists of corporate information that is usually accessible to the public, such as the organization’s released finance statements, etc.
Making ample categories of business data can help you separate them whenever needed based on your regulatory or contractual requirements for proper handling. Also make sure that you do not create data categories in abundance, as it may become completely unmanageable.
Labeling your organization’s data will enhance your ability to determine particular information when it is most needed, without you having to go through all the files and folders. By implementing a proper data labeling mechanism, you and your employees will be able to track and manage your corporate information in a better way. For instance, you can include the classification of data in the watermark, header, or footer of a file. You can select a mechanism that would best suit your organization and its daily operations.
Having classified your corporate data into different categories, you should now include the handling requirements for each of those classifications. This is important because it is these requirements that would classify the level of protection required for each data classification. Some of the most important data handling requirements that you would want to add might include storage, access control, archive/backup, redistribution, hard copy, and portable media.
Always remember that restricted corporate data can be allowed to share only with definitive consent from the owner of the data. And all corporate data must be encrypted properly as specified in your corporate encryption policy. Public disclosure of restricted data must be strictly prohibited. Those data must not be stored on non-corporate devices as well. Backing up of restricted data is also of much importance. Any data that is stored off-site must be completely encrypted. Also, storing of restricted data on portable devices such as CDs, DVDs, memory sticks, etc. must be strictly prohibited and the hard copy of the data must be secure.
Methods to Protect Data in the Cloud
There are two major methods used to protect the corporate data you store on the cloud. These methods include the following:
- Access control: This is the most widely used and easiest method used to protect data stored on the cloud. The access control methods are usually provided by the application or the operating system. Most specifications on how to make use of the access control mechanism will be based on the type of cloud storage service you have signed up for to deploy your business data.
- Encryption: Encryption is another technique that is used to protect your data on the cloud. This technique is basically applied to all your data in databases, files and transits. For protecting data in transits, the most commonly used protection techniques include Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) virtual private networks (VPNs) and TLS/SSL tunnels. For those data that are at rest, the protection techniques depend on the file system drivers of the intrinsic operating system.
The location in which your corporate data will be stored is also an important factor to be considered. There are also corporate regulations that would restrict the location of your data to be stored. It is your responsibility to make sure that all these requirements are met and that you comply with all the regulations. You can also work with your cloud storage provider to analyze the different techniques that can be made use of in order to necessitate, oversee, and audit those regulations.
Your cloud storage provider would provide certain types of security to protect your data. However, it is your responsibility to encrypt all your data before uploading them to the database in order to ensure complete security.