Cloud Encryption: The Importance and the Challenges

by | Oct 29, 2018 | Business Optimization, Cloud

Forward-thinking businesses like yours are moving more IT applications, services, and infrastructure into the cloud. Alongside the benefits of on-demand scalability, central administration, and ease-of-access, there’s a need for caution — protecting your business and customer information from unauthorized access and data breaches.
There are multiple ways to reduce the risks and attack vectors that hackers can use to access your cloud services — multifactor authentication, penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, role-based access, and more all play an important part. But, that may not be enough by itself –once the hackers are into your cloud systems, they have access to all of that data. What you need is a deeper, more fundamental type of protection — encrypting the data you store and access in the cloud.

How Cloud Encryption Works

Cloud encryption is based on your needs as a business, and the cloud provider’s capabilities when it comes to encrypting data. Typically, it works as follows:
You decide the data that needs to be encrypted.

  1. You decide if you want data encrypted only when it is “in transit” (moving between systems) or also when it is “at rest” (stored in your cloud infrastructure).
  2. You choose a cloud provider that can provide the types of encryption you need.
  3. You or the cloud provider use software to generate and manage “encryption keys” that are applied to the data, together with matching “decryption keys.”
  4. An algorithm uses the encryption keys to scramble data transferred to the cloud, so it is only accessible and readable to someone with a corresponding decryption key.
  5. Decryption keys are used by the cloud provider, or integrated into the software that your employees use to access and manage data from the cloud.

The Benefits of Encrypting Cloud Data and Services

There are several excellent reasons why your business might choose to encrypt your cloud data.

Meeting Legal and Compliance Requirements

Certain legally-mandated guidelines require that you keep customer information as secure as possible. For example, HIPAA requires you to protect sensitive medical data, while GDPR states that you need to protect data for European citizens.

Preventing Hackers from Accessing Data

If your cloud data is encrypted “at rest,” then it is much more secure if your systems get hacked. Unfortunately, due to the value of business and customer data, it’s likely a case of “when,” not “if” a criminal gets into your cloud systems. That’s where the real value of “at rest” data encryption comes from — without a decryption key, data will be unreadable and unusable, even if a hacker manages to get past your external defences.

Increasing Trust with Customers and Suppliers

Encrypting cloud data means that you’re taking data protection seriously. This can help to reassure your customer base, build trust, and make it easier to attract new consumers and suppliers.

The Challenges of Cloud Encryption and Cloud Services

There are several challenges for getting cloud encryption right:

  • Increased bandwidth and storage needs for encrypted data can increase costs.
  • Not all cloud providers offer encryption, especially for data “at rest,” so ensure you choose the right provider.
  • Encryption must be totally invisible to authorized end users, make sure that encrypting data does not slow down or damage the employee or consumer experience.
  • Be careful about managing encryption and decryption keys — if a hacker gets access to them, they can access your data.
  • Ensure that only authorized employees and customers have access to required decryption keys — you may want to use additional authentication methods to ensure legitimate usage.

Implemented well, cloud encryption can significantly reduce your risk of data exposure, increase trust with your customers, and give you greater peace-of-mind.

Not Sure Where to Start with Cloud Encryption? We Can Help

Here at Red8, we’re experts in managing public, private, and hybrid cloud providers. We’ll understand your encryption needs, recommend the providers who can encrypt your data, and help you implement a powerful, secure cloud encryption and decryption system.