Cloud-based services have made it more affordable for startups to operate and scale. Your customer data, financials, IP, and other digital assets are all stored online accessible from your mobile device.
However, even though cloud service providers offer advanced security features, such as encryption, backups, and data recovery, that does not mean you can kick back and relax.
To protect your data, you should also establish strict network security protocols. And there’s no reason to wait until you have an IT department to get started.
Here are six straightforward cloud security strategies your startup should deploy on day one:
1. Conduct File-Level Encryption
Even if your cloud vendor provides many encryption options, you should also encrypt data at the file level. Encryption tools encode your data in specific files before moving them to the cloud. This segments your data and scatters its fragments across multiple locations.
That way, even if a cybercriminal intercepts your data while being transferred to the cloud, they will not be able to assemble the entire file and read it.
2. Install Firewalls
You might wonder whether you still need a firewall once you’ve migrated to the cloud.
The answer is yes, you do.
Even though a cloud vendor does a great job protecting your hosted environments and limiting data breaches in the cloud ecosystem, they still fail to safeguard your existing network infrastructure.
There are still numerous ways for hackers to sneak into your network and gain unwanted access to your sensitive data. Without a reliable computer networks security solution, you will leave your technology, such as your on-premise servers, WiFi networks, IoT devices, and PCs, exposed to hackers.
A strong firewall also protects your employees while using the internet. They spend lots of time uploading files to the cloud, checking emails, managing the company’s social accounts, visiting websites, etc. It is easy for them to come across a malicious website and download malware to their devices.
In other words, even though your cloud environment is safe, the device connected to it is not. Therefore, any connection between the hosted cloud server and an infected employee’s device can be intercepted by a hacker and compromise the safety of your data.
By monitoring your incoming and outgoing traffic and preventing suspicious files from entering your system, a firewall is still the first line of defense against cybersecurity threats.
3. Perform Regular Backups
Sometimes, even a carefully chosen cloud vendor cannot protect you from cyberattacks.
Security threat actors can hack your cloud network for a number of reasons, from stealing your data to wiping it out or making it unusable.
While ransomware is the most common data security threat, you may also lose data due to accidental file deletion, software failures, or misconfigured apps.
Since data loss takes time and resources to clear, it may harm the continuity of your startup’s operations and affect your team’s performance. Above all, delays may compromise your brand image and discourage customers from doing business with you in the future.
Precisely because of that, you should regularly make copies of your data. While performing onsite data backups is still an option, most companies are shifting to backup virtualization.
They provide you with a higher backup frequency and faster access to data. Sure, you can always go with a hybrid approach and combine onsite and cloud backups.
4. Educate Employees
The Kaspersky Understanding Security of the Cloud: from Adoption Benefits to Threats and Concerns study found that 90% of cybersecurity breaches in the cloud are caused by human error. To minimize those risks, you should raise employees’ awareness of cybersecurity threats.
All employees that have access to confidential data should be asked to attend data security training. It should explain the consequences of a data breach, as well as provide guidance for device usage, password creation, data access protocols, and multi-factor authentication.
Most importantly, make the ramifications for violating your cybersecurity policy clear.
5. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
In today’s era of sophisticated cybersecurity threats, using a traditional combination of passwords and user names is not enough to protect sensitive data.
That is why many companies choose to limit access to their network. Only a select number of devices and users can view sensitive data. Any external device that requests access to your cloud system needs to be manually verified.
However, manually checking each request can eat up a lot of your time, especially if you are hiring a remote team working from different locations and time zones.
That is where multi-factor authentication (MFA) helps. The report by PWC found that 47% of organizations in Asia used multi-factor authentication as an advanced data security technology.
This process requires users to provide credentials when logging into your startup’s cloud network. One of the most common types of two-factor authentication is a numeric code sent to an employee’s phone.
To access your data, they need to enter the code via their PC.
6. Create Strong Passwords
There is a wide range of tools that allow even an inexperienced hacker to crack your password and steal your sensitive data. That is why you should teach your employees about the importance of creating strong passwords.
Their passwords should be lengthy and combine capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols. Employees should use unique passwords for each account, as well as avoid using personal information, such as their names, birthdays, kids’ names, etc.
If creating and memorizing passwords that include the elements mentioned above is too complicated for your team, consider using passphrases. Passphrases use sentences rather than random words.
Even they contain more characters than passwords, passphrases are often more meaningful and simpler to remember. They are also safer since they occur in sentences that include uppercase, symbols, and punctuation.
Keep your passphrases safe. Never use a famous quote or lyric as a passphrase. Above all, never reuse a passphrase for multiple accounts.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the blog series Run Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.