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With the rise of multiple small, medium, and large scale cloud storage service providers, cloud security has become a concern among the customers of these organizations. Of course, whenever a user hands over data to these companies, they want it to be in safe hands. The popularity of cloud storage services boomed in 2005-2006, when several cloud services popped up. Initially, the services were used with the assumption that they kept the data safe. But, with several breaches reported by the media, this put a very valid concern into the minds of the people utilizing these services, especially among some of the strongest clients that these service providers have. This lead to a need for proper auditing of the operations of these vendors.

Challenges

With new clients adopt cloud storage services in the operations of their business, there are new challenges that should be addressed by IT auditors.  Below are a few examples.

Banking Sector Clients need a perfect security strategy, as any sort of data theft can lead to detrimental results for a bank’s own clients and reputation. Thus, auditing of any cloud service provider that has a bank as its client needs to look into multiple aspects of cloud security from any kind of onsite data, from theft by the employees of the service provider to cyber-attacks which intend to gather bank information such as card details, personal information, etc.

Government Institutions have a lot of personal data such as addresses, tax and income details, contact details and other information. If this data is not adequately protected it may lead to all kinds of problems for both the people and the government of a particular region.

Medical Institutions also possess data that is of private nature. Medical records and insurance details of regular and emergency patients require good security measures on the part of the service providers. There is a need for new approaches to protect customer data, especially because the security measures employed by cloud service providers are shrouded in mystery.

The Auditing Requirements

The first condition for proper auditing of cloud storage services is the independence of the audit firm. External audits are a better representation of transparency to a company’s clients compared to internal audits. Furthermore, the audit firm should specialize in dealing with cases of cloud security and should be well acquainted with the basic and complex data security measures that any cloud storage vendor has to take in order to adequately protect consumer data. The measures must meet the legal requirements of the client-vendor relationship and those measures can ensure success against any sort of threats to data.

However, there is one thing that should be kept in mind. With new innovations in the world of cloud computing, IT security firms have to adopt the emerging approaches in their audit strategy in order to ensure that sensitive corporate and personal data does not get into the hands of hackers, rogue employees or anyone else not authorized to view the data. Making sure the audit meets all current requirements is crucial if vendors want to retain or attract clients, especially corporate clients who prove to be very profitable for cloud hosting companies.

Approaches for Auditing Cloud Storage Services

Now that we know the importance of auditing cloud storage vendors, a question arises about the responsibility of who should conduct the audit. It is probable that any audit by the vendor or the client would result in a biased dishonest result. Therefore, the desirable option is a third party storage audit service which has experience, capabilities, and expertise to do the job efficiently. The following aspects and approaches to cloud security must be considered.

Transparency. This requires agreements between the cloud service provider and client such that the agreement highlights the service provider’s policy on data security. Service providers should also make audit results available to clients.

Encryption. Traditionally, the data owner has control over encryption, but there are chances that the service providers might have the ability to decrypt user data. A possible solution to this is to use a homomorphic and third-party encryption service.

Colocation. Although rare, this challenge can be addressed by standardizing and increasing oversight.

Size and Complexity. This problem arises because of the sheer number of virtual and physical hosts that need to be audited. Until and unless there is a proper oversight mechanism, the process of auditing may become rough, lengthy and time-consuming.

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About Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual accounting, providing services to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud-hosted desktop where their entire team and tax accountant may access the QuickBooks file and critical financial documents in an efficient and secure environment. Complete Controller’s team of  US based accounting professionals are certified QuickBooksTMProAdvisor’s providing bookkeeping and controller services including training, full or partial-service bookkeeping, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, vendor and receivables management, process and controls advisement, and customized reporting. Offering flat rate pricing, Complete Controller is the most cost effective expert accounting solution for business, family office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity.

Stealing personal data through a laptop concept for computer hacker, network security and electronic banking security
Cloud Computing continues to transform the way in which organizations use, store, and share data, applications, and workloads. Cloud Computing has also introduced a variety of security threats and challenges. With so much going into the cloud, public cloud servers in particular, these assets become the natural targets for violators.  

The Vice President and Cloud Security Leader at Gartner Inc, Jay Helser, states that “The volume of public cloud utilization is growing rapidly, so that inevitably leads to a greater body of sensitive stuff that is potentially at risk”.

In contrast to what many people might think, the major responsibility for protection of corporate data in the cloud does not lie within the service provider, but only with the cloud customer. According to Heiser, “We are in a cloud security transition period in which focus is shifting from the provider to the customer”. He states that “Enterprises are learning that huge amounts of time spent trying to figure out if any particular cloud service provider is ‘secure’ or not has virtually no payback.”

7 Cloud Security Threats

  1. Data Breaches

A breech in data could be the main objective of a targeted attack or it might just be a result of human error, application failure, or poor security practices. It can involve disclosing any type of information which was not intended for the general public. This includes personal information such as health, financial, personality identifiable information, property information or trade secrets. An organization’s cloud-based data might hold value to different parties for various reasons. The risk of the data being breached is not unique to that of cloud computing. However, it does consistently rank as number one when it comes to customers.

  1. Insecure interfaces and application programming interfaces (APIs)

Cloud providers have exposed a variety of software user interfaces (UIs) or APIs which customers can use to manage and interact with the cloud services. Provisioning, management, and monitoring are all performed using these interfaces. The security and availability of general cloud services are dependent on the security of the APIs. They should be designed to defend against accidental and malicious attempts to circumvent the policy.

  1. Insufficient identity, credential, and access management   

Violators impersonating as legitimate employers, operators, or designers can read, change, and sometimes even delete data. They will also try to issue the control plane along with management functions, sneak on data in transition, or even release malicious software which appears to initiate from a genuine source. As a consequence, inadequate identity, qualification, or key administration can enable illegal access to data and hypothetically catastrophic damage to establishments or end users.

  1. Account Hacking

Account hijacking or hacking is one of the oldest kinds of cloud corruption. However, cloud services have added a new threat to the landscape. If attackers gain access to a user’s credentials, they can easily eavesdrop on numerous activities and transactions taking place.  They can also manipulate data, return falsified information, and redirect the customers to illegitimate websites. The account and service instances may become the new base used by attackers. With these stolen credentials, hackers might also gain access to critical areas of cloud computing services which allows them to easily compromise the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of these services.

  1. System Vulnerabilities

System vulnerabilities can be defined as exploitable bugs in systems which the attackers can easily make use of in order to penetrate a system for data theft, taking entire control of the system and/or disrupting the service operations. Susceptibilities within the apparatuses of the operating system might put the security of all of these services, along with the data, at a significant risk. With the introduction of multi-tenancy in the cloud, schemes from various establishments have been placed close to each other along with being given access to the shared memory with resources which creates a new attack surface.

  1. Data Loss

The data which has been stored on the cloud might be lost for numerous reasons other than malicious attacks. Data could be lost due to accidental deletion by the provider of the cloud service or even because of a physical catastrophe such as a fire. This might lead to the permanent loss of data, unless the provider has taken measures to properly back the data up. 

 

  1. Denial of Service (DoS)

DoS attacks have been designed in order to prevent users of this service from being able to access the data and the applications. By compelling the targeted cloud service to ingest inordinate amounts of the finite system resources for instance processor power, network bandwidth, and disk space, the attackers might cause the system to slow down and leave all of the legitimate users without access to the services.


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About Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual accounting, providing services to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud-hosted desktop where their entire team and tax accountant may access the QuickBooks file and critical financial documents in an efficient and secure environment. Complete Controller’s team of  US based accounting professionals are certified QuickBooksTMProAdvisor’s providing bookkeeping and controller services including training, full or partial-service bookkeeping, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, vendor and receivables management, process and controls advisement, and customized reporting. Offering flat rate pricing, Complete Controller is the most cost effective expert accounting solution for business, family office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity.

Digital security concept
Cloud computing security generally refers to a wide range of policies, technologies, and controls deployed in order to protect cloud data, applications and the associated infrastructure of cloud computing. Emails containing financial documents in cloud hosting are at the highest risk of theft. Businesses should always avoid sharing very important information over the internet. To learn more about the major security issues that you have to consider and ways that you can avoid them, keep reading.

The security concerns associated with cloud computing are divided into two main categories:

  • Security issues faced by the cloud security providers
  • Security issues faced by their customers using the cloud security software

The responsibility of securing the data is divided among the two parties – providers and customers. The provider should always ensure that the infrastructure is secure and that their client’s data is protected. The users, on the other hand, should also ensure that they keep a keen check on their cloud security applications and inhibit safety protocols such as placing strong passwords and authentication methods so that only authorized personnel are able to access the data.

Whenever an organization decides to put their data online with a cloud security software or application, the physical accessibility is reduced. Therefore, keeping a watchful eye over the employees who have access to that information is necessary as insider attacks are a very big threat to organizations and businesses. Alongside, data centers should be under surveillance most of the time.

Cloud Security Controls

The architecture of cloud security is effective only when you have a proper security and defense system. Without proper security measures and authentication procedures, online emails or any data that is exchanged between the customer and the client or the employee and the employer are at very high risk of being lost to foreign uninvited entities. Although there are many types of controls that management can implement and utilize to reduce the risk of data loss or online attacks, they are mostly found in one of the following categories:

Deterrent controls

Deterrent controls make attackers aware that there will be adverse consequences for them if they proceed with stealing data or perform any kind of suspicious activities.  They work more like a warning system.

Preventive controls

Preventive controls play a vital role in strengthening the system. For example, strong authentication of cloud user’s enables only authorized personnel to access the data.

Detective controls

Detective controls are intended to detect and react appropriately to any incidents that may occur on the online platform that you have put your data on. In the event of an attack, the detective controls trigger the security protocols and address the attacker and the owner of the data that something is suspicious. System and network security monitoring, intrusion detection systems, and prevention arrangements are all part of detective controls.

Corrective controls

Corrective controls normally limit the damage of attacks by coming into effect during or after the incident occurs. An example of this is when the system is backed up in case of an attack.

Now that you are aware of the ways you can protect your online data, let’s take a look at the security and privacy methods you can adapt to reduce the risk of theft.

Security and Privacy

Identity Management

Almost every industry has its own verification system to allow only authorized people into the business vicinity. Cloud providers mostly integrate the customer’s identity management system into their own system or by using a biometric verification system. No matter what procedure you use, make sure that you are aware of the people leaving and entering in addition to the people that are accessing the online date.

Physical Security

Cloud service providers ensure the security of a workplace against unauthorized access to theft. They ensure that essential supplies are provided such as electricity in order to minimize the damage for any cases of theft or loss of important financial documents.

Privacy

Providers ensure that critical data is masked and encrypted and that only the authorized users have access to the important information.

A number of security threats are closely associated with cloud data services. Therefore, whatever purpose you have for cloud data services, always ensure that you have sufficient security protocols, especially when you are sharing financial emails or any data that may be at risk.

Data security can be extremely beneficial and accessible, but, alongside, it is necessary to protect it from risks. Make certain that accuracy is maintained, data is kept confidential and that you are able to access the controls of your online services and cloud data usage.

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About Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual accounting, providing services to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud-hosted desktop where their entire team and tax accountant may access the QuickBooks file and critical financial documents in an efficient and secure environment. Complete Controller’s team of  US based accounting professionals are certified QuickBooksTMProAdvisor’s providing bookkeeping and controller services including training, full or partial-service bookkeeping, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, vendor and receivables management, process and controls advisement, and customized reporting. Offering flat rate pricing, Complete Controller is the most cost effective expert accounting solution for business, family office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity.

 

 

 

 

cloud computing challenges - Complete Controller

In a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, nearly 250 IT leaders and experts shared their concerns regarding cloud computing transparency. It is an issue that largely remains unanswered despite the prevalence of cloud technologies and improvement in cloud security and performance over the past decade. According to the survey, a lack of cloud transparency can have a dire impact on any organization’s financial and operational aspects. Check out America's Best Bookkeepers

What Does Cloud Transparency Mean?

There is no doubt about the growth and potential of cloud computing and the way it is dominating enterprise technology. While cloud vendors are throwing humongous claims regarding their venue, they share little to no information about strategy, service, or performance. Without accurate figures or metadata, customers can’t evaluate the service objectively. Lack of cloud computing transparency is one reason businesses are still unable to trust cloud services, despite the improved security.

Typically, cloud computing transparency is all about declaring clear service thresholds. Uptime, system availability, response time, and problem resolution are just a few factors that require an open and honest declaration of the limit. From policies to pricing, everything needs to be transparent and conveyed without any fine print or subtext. That is what transparency means, but we are still far from achieving a level that can improve adaptability.

How to Ensure Transparency in the Cloud

Transparency is required for the bot, the customer-facing, and the public-facing end. Speaking of the latter, most vendors, including Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM, offer a breakdown of earnings, revenues, run rates, etc. Oracle even shares an analysis of the platform, infrastructure, and software, etc. However, that is not all cloud computing transparency. Check out America's Best Bookkeepers

Many experts believe that this type of information doesn’t precisely improve transparency. It is akin to revealing information while hiding the hardware, categorically, in cloud vendors using both the traditional infrastructure and different cloud flavors. The breakdown needs to be detailed and insightful based on different groups and flavors as offered by that vendor. In simpler words, a more customized approach must be adopted to define the revenues while ensuring better cloud computing transparency.

Customer-Facing Cloud Transparency

SAAS providers, such as Salesforce or Workday, need to define their infrastructure efficiency benchmarks. Sadly, most vendors do not share a breakdown of the charges related to the back-end infrastructure, which keeps the customers from adequately comparing different vendors. Not to mention, it is where cloud computing transparency suffers a blow.

Experts believe that customers should ask for a breakdown of the cost and demand to know the infrastructure cost. That will pressurize vendors who are offering IAAS as a part of SAAS to decouple both offerings. This will considerably lower the prices of software as a Service product by removing the middleman from the whole equation. In case a customer needs to mark up the infrastructure, they will be dealing directly with the vendor. Check out America's Best Bookkeepers

How Cloud Transparency Will Help Vendors

So far, it seems like transparency is all about benefits for the buyers and users, but that’s not true. Cloud computing transparency has a vital role to play in the future of cloud computing. In addition to security, transparency is the most crucial aspect of adaptability. The more transparent the cloud vendors are, the more comfortable enterprises will be inputting their trust in the cloud. With an increasing number of cloud customers, cloud vendors will find more opportunities to optimize their service and their spending.

While there is a lot to be done on the vendor’s end, customers should also be more prudent about choosing a vendor that promises cloud computing transparency and delivers it. Pay a visit to the data center, if possible, and don’t shy away from asking for compliance audit reports or breach notification policies. Higher transparency will improve the level of trust between vendors and buyers, and eventually shape the future of the cloud.

Check out America's Best Bookkeepers About Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual bookkeeping, providing service to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud-hosted desktop where their entire team and tax accountant may access the QuickBooks™️ file, critical financial documents, and back-office tools in an efficient and secure environment. Complete Controller’s team of certified US-based accounting professionals provide bookkeeping, record storage, performance reporting, and controller services including training, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, process and controls advisement, and bill-pay. With flat-rate service plans, Complete Controller is the most cost-effective expert accounting solution for business, family-office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity. Check out America's Best Bookkeepers