Tips for Financial Institutions to Improve Cloud Security

The integration of cloud services into the day-to-day functions of an organization allows for most of them to take place over the internet. A significant contributor to this phenomenon is “anything as a service”
(XaaS) —which provides network-based support such as “software as a service” (SaaS), “infrastructure as a service” (IaaS), and “platform as a service” (PaaS), among others.

Chances are, you’re already subscribed to one or more XaaS, and you recognize the ease and convenience cloud-based services provide. However, it’s important to note that there’s a downside to cloud services, too. The risk of a data breach is significantly higher when relying on cloud services and third-party data processors.

If you’re in charge of data management for a financial institution, the warier you must be. With cybercrimes increasing by 600% over the pandemic, that is a significant indicator that it’s essential to increase your cloud security measures. Here’s how to pull that off.

What is Cloud Computing?

Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of services over the internet, here referred to as the “cloud.” These services encompass a variety of products, including networking, database, servers, analytics, software, intelligence, and data storage. The “cloud” is basically a server that isn’t physically located where you are – your services may be distributed across numerous servers in multiple locations, or a single server halfway across the world. The cloud is not something that exists in the sky above us. The term is used to help picture that these services are not bound to a physical location.

Cloud computing has become inseparable from business operations. Financial institutions, for example, use the cloud for streamlining transactions or simply sharing internal documents, among other purposes.

On top of convenience, cloud computing provides the following benefits:

  • Cost efficiency – You’re spared from expenses linked to the setup and management of onsite data centers.
  • Scale – You can easily acquire more resources to support your business growth without having to invest directly in equipment or computing power.
  • Productivity and performance – You eliminate time-consuming IT chores while receiving up-to-date computing technology, which results in top-notch efficiency.
  • Reliability – When working with reputable cloud services, you should have easy data backup and recovery.
  • Security – Acquiring a reliable third-party service saves you the trouble of securing your own cloud.

While your chosen cloud computing vendor will have security policies and technologies to offer, it’s best to scrutinize them closely to ensure they are robust enough for your situation.

How to Establish a Robust Cloud Security Strategy

Financial institutions like banks and credit unions have the most to lose from a data breach. You’re in charge of client accounts that are prime targets for hackers. To secure business and client information, here are strategies to consider.

1. Strong password control

Encourage all stakeholders, from employees to clients, to use strong passwords. Ideally, they should contain a combination of upper and lower-case letters and alphanumeric symbols. Passwords from dictionary words are discouraged, and the use of a passphrase rather than a single word is highly encouraged.

2. Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

You can’t rely on a single-factor authentication process. On top of requiring a password, you can also impose one-time passwords (OTP), biometric systems, and other identity checkers. The more factors required to access key accounts or approve transactions, the better. The more robust those factors are (such as using biometrics to verify identity), the more secure your organization will be.

3. Integration with essential software

Your cloud provider should work with any existing software you use, and its capacity for security should extend to all digital tools that are already integrated into your business processes. Be sure to check how the integrations handle data, and if data is exchanged over secure OIDC connections or a similarly secure connection.

4. Data control

A reliable cloud service has built-in controls that seek to prevent data leakage. It must recognize native security classifications and deliver precise protection controls. Ideally, your IT or cybersecurity team should also be able to see and adjust the controls as appropriate for your situation.

5. Visibility

Administrators should have an unobstructed view of what’s happening in the cloud – a “single pane of glass”. That goes for both internally and externally accessed and shared content.

6. Threat detection

Visibility should be paired with threat detection. Machine learning technology, as well as algorithm design, will help spot unusual traffic behavior. Integrating cloud services with your cybersecurity tools is a useful way to try and achieve that “single pane of glass” for a view into your potential threat landscape.

7. Compliance

Make sure to work with a provider that strictly complies with agencies such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and policies like the California Consumer Privacy Act.

How to Maximize Cloud Security

Once you’ve set up a cloud security infrastructure, the next order of business is maximizing the technology you’ve invested in. Here are some best practices.

1. Review admin permissions for database access

Strengthen identity and access management (IAM). You can’t go wrong with an IAM system that incorporates biometric capabilities. Routinely audit access controls to ensure that only the people who must access sensitive data are able to.

2. Encrypt vital pieces of information

All data, whether in transit or at rest, is best encrypted. At rest, data encryption employs a symmetric key. In transit data encryption requires secure channels.

3. Conduct regular system audits to minimize the impact of Shadow IT

Shadow IT is the access and use of computing technology without the explicit approval of the IT department. To protect yourself from this risk, schedule regular audits of your cloud system. Shadow IT is seldom malicious in nature, but it can lead to significant security risks.

4. Keep abreast of IT news

Threats are ever-evolving, and cybersecurity is a continuous arms race against bad actors. Keeping up with recent threats, announcements, and zero-day exploits is essential.

Make Cloud Security Your Priority

Remaining competitive and relevant requires that you make daily operations convenient to both clients and employees. One way to achieve that goal is via cloud services. However, if you include cloud computing in your organizational infrastructure, you must have a comprehensive strategy to protect sensitive data. Thankfully, you have an arsenal of defenses at your disposal. Consult with us today to learn more about our identity and access management solutions.

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