‘Cloud’ is undoubtedly the latest buzzword in the tech industry but when combined with the word ‘computing’, the significance of the term gets much bigger. As cloud computing is progressing, it is revolutionizing the way financial institutions think about how they consume their IT resources. The banking and finance sector’s segments are overcoming their cloud computing security concerns and are making a move to cloud with the ultimate objectives of increasing revenues, reducing costs and growing responsiveness to risk.
But the question arises now is: ‘Are we essentially geared up to move everything to the cloud’?
The Microsoft Windows Azure is an open and flexible platform used for developing and running applications in the cloud, providing customers the facility to pay only for the used resources. Banks running their applications on Windows Azure will not have to control, manage and maintain the technology themselves as it provides high scalability and automatically manages the failover. Cloud Computing is definitely the most cost-effective IT solution which has the ability to transform the technological landscape.
Undoubtedly, Cloud Computing has paved the way to a new world of opportunities for businesses, but these opportunities presents several security challenges that need to be considered and carefully addressed before migrating to the cloud.
Understanding Cloud Computing Security Risks
The adoption of Cloud computing is linked with various business challenges and risks as users are still unconvinced about its dependability and reliability. Some of the key business challenges which cause hindrance in adopting Cloud Computing are as follows:
Employing cloud computing services means running your software on someone else’s hard disk or sharing your critical or confidential data with the third party. Generally, cloud computing services are delivered by third party service providers who own the infrastructure. Some of the familiar security issues such as loss of data, phishing, botnet (collection of infected machines controlled remotely) pose serious risk to organization’s software and information resources.
Using encryption to safeguard your sensitive data is the viable solution to data security. The only possible way to maintain the confidentiality of your data is to own and manage the data encryption keys.
User Authentication/Data Privacy
Data privacy is one of the greatest risks associated with cloud computing security. Data in the cloud needs to have a limited or restricted access. It should be accessible by those who have the authority to handle and examine the organization’s private data through the cloud. Data should be protected against risks such as loss, unauthorized access, illegal use or modification/deletion or disclosure of data.
With the aim of ensuring the integrity of user authentication, organizations need to scrutinize data access logs and audit trails, to confirm that only authorized users are accessing their data.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Since, cloud contracts usually focus on Service Level Agreements, therefore, it is imperative for users to attain guarantee from providers pertaining to the service delivery. Also, different user services on the cloud (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) require different SLA requirements, which lead to several implementation issues for the cloud providers.
Organizations should assess cloud SLAs with regard to their company’s risk management policy and the network of cloud providers. If the offered SLAs are inadequate, companies can rummage around for multiple cloud providers for the same service. This way, they can maintain uptime guarantee at exceptionally low cost.
Exit or Lock-in/Limited Portability
Exit plans or lock-in threats are one of the major issues for companies looking to make the most of the cloud computing. Portability determines the impact of moving data between clouds and migrating from one cloud provider to another. Problem occurs when organizations want to transmit the applications on-premise, to their own servers or they want to switch data between clouds but finds out that data is locked.
While contracting for a cloud service, organizations should be informed of two forms of lock-ins:
- First form relates to the cost of transferring a business service from one cloud platform to another. Once a company is on a specific platform, it is often more lucrative and cost-effective to obtain further additional services well-suited with existing ones, consequently increasing lock-in.
- Second form relates to institutional lock-in, which transpires when technologies develop within organizational schedule and users’ work practices.
It is recommended to opt for a standard API first and subsequently select a cloud vendor based on its support for the API.
Regulatory and Legal Concerns
Usually, cloud users have no control or information of the physical location of their IT resources and data when hosted by public clouds. This can be a real serious concern for some organizations relating to industry or government regulations that specify data security and storage guidelines as service provider may not be storing or processing the data in a specific jurisdiction. Another probable legal issue pertains to the ease of access and disclosure of data.
Eventually, it is the organization which creates, manages and processes the data. Hence, it is the prime responsibility and accountability of the organization to have policies and strategies in place to safeguard data regardless of where it is being stored or processed.
Cloud computing indisputably provides a resourceful business model for organizations to deploy IT services without much investment. Regardless of the potential benefits cloud computing offers, the organizations are accepting it at a very slow pace due to security threats associated with the data, which is a key factor in impeding the growth of the cloud.
The thought of sharing important data with the third party is worrisome, which requires users to be more observant in understanding the risks and challenges associated with the cloud computing security in this new environment.
These challenges are not impossible to resolve, but they do imply that both providers and consumers must address to cloud computing security risks in the planning, contracting and managing of services. Unquestionably, when put into practice, cloud computing is all set to revolutionize and can bring real value to the technology world.