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Raising awareness quickly: Avoiding problems in the cloud

Steve Ragan | Oct. 28, 2013
Rapid7 offers up tips on how to avoid common problems while using the cloud

Rapid7 discusses the cloud, and how to avoid some common problems when your staff takes advantage of it. The main point is to embrace (to some degree), rather than reject, the notion of self-service IT, and help users understand and self-manage some of the risk.

"Some organisations choose to enact a full no-cloud policy for their users and have the resources to enforce it, but for the vast majority of security teams, the only hope to prevent severe data leakage into the cloud is to properly educate your users about the inherent risks," Matt Hathaway, senior product manager at Rapid7, told CSO.

What follows is a letter on cloud usage and some best practices. As mentioned, it can be copied and freely shared within your organization.

What is the Cloud?
"Cloud" basically means a technological solution you're subscribing to online. That covers an incredibly diverse range of things. For example, online data storage like Dropbox; marketing automation and tracking like Marketo; and customer relationship management like Salesforce.com. Cloud applications are designed to be very quick to deploy and easy to manage, and as a result, the chances are that your department is already using some kind of cloud service.

The challenge here is that you dont know how good the security of the solution youre buying may be. That can be a big problem if any corporate information is being handled by the service. For example, if you use an online data storage service like Dropbox, SugarSynch or GoogleDrive, and that service gets compromised by an attacker, that attacker could get access to any information you stored on the site.

Likewise, if you use an online human resources tool such as TribeHR, BambooHR, or iEmployee, and it gets compromised, your employees' personally identifiable information (PII) could be at risk.

Not only is this a problem for those directly affected, but the company as a whole is impacted. It is a legal requirement that PII for both employees and customers be protected, so any incident exposing it could result in fines or other penalties. And there are also reputational implications and the loss of trust. Other types of corporate data, such as any intellectual property, are also valuable and need to be protected to defend the way we do business.

How can you protect yourself?
No one expects you to be an expert on security, but we do request that you be vigilant, familiarize yourself with company policies, and if in doubt, reach out to the IT or security team. In the case of cloud applications, bear in mind that although they may seem very polished and professional, you have no way of knowing what level of risk they are actually exposing you and our company to. Here are some basic ways of minimizing that risk:

 

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