The numbers of businesses using cloud technologies is expected to grow to nearly $191 billion by the end of this decade. Cloud hosting has become popular because the cloud offers many benefits like cost-savings, business agility, better security, enhanced worker productivity, responsiveness etc. But the primary concern when you adopt the cloud is security.

Why do businesses face risks when they choose cloud computing?

Today the trend amongst businesses is to bring to the workplace their own cloud. This is called the BYOC or “bring your own cloud” movement. Studies by the Ponemon Institute have come up with 9 significant cloud risks for businesses. This study to identify cloud related risks became necessary because of the high numbers of data breaches which many large corporations faced in the recent years.

In the recent past, there were many new apps that got launched to improve worker productivity. Workers started to get these apps to the workplace to increase their work efficiency. This BYOC is also referred to as “shadow IT” and the problem with this is that there are multiple risks associated with using these unsecured apps. Employees end up compromising their data by storing this in such unsecured apps. Surveys undertaken by the company show that in most cases, the workers do not even know how grave the security risks are associated with the use of these apps. They are clueless about where this data is actually going and what kind of information is getting exposed and shared. These risks can threaten cloud security in a big way.

What are the key security risks which cloud users face?

- To begin with, one of the most important security risks faced by companies is the loss and theft of intellectual property. Businesses store a lot of sensitive information in the clouds and many include intellectual property. So, when the security gets compromised for some reason, the criminals can get access to this confidential and sensitive information.

- Another significant threat to cloud security is violation of compliances by companies. Most businesses have to run according to specific compliances, like businesses in the healthcare industry must necessarily adhere to HIPAA rules on patient data privacy. So, these businesses will know where their data has been stored and who can access this data. But, when you choose BYOC for your workplace, you can end up violating these tenets. When businesses come to a stage of non-compliance, the effects can be disastrous.

- If your business is not aware of what your employees are up to, they are free to do anything and this can be dangerous. So, any sales representative who is planning on resigning from your company can access your customer databases and get all customer related contacts. He can upload this data to individual cloud storage and use this data when he gets recruited by another company. This is a rather common insider threat being faced by almost all companies.

- Sometimes the attackers can encode sensitive information into video files; they then upload these to YouTube. So, these attackers are basically using the cloud to spread malware to targets.

- When you have contracts amongst parties in a business, there are obvious restrictions on how data may be used and accessed. So, when a worker moves data into any cloud without proper authorization, this contract gets violated. This may lead to legal action against the employee in question.

- When you have frequent data breach incidents, the customers’ trust in your company will decline. In a recent breach involving Target, credit card details of almost 40 million buyers was compromised. The natural reaction was for buyers to avoid buying at Target stored. This translated to severe losses for this company and affected its revenues drastically.

- When there is a data breach in a business, the business may have to disclose this and send proper notifications to the victims. Such disclosures are made mandatory by HIPAA rules. When these disclosures are made, the regulators can impose fines against the business. Even the customers or patients whose private data has been exposed may file lawsuits against the company.

- When clients feel that their data has not been adequately protected by a company, they can always take their data elsewhere to businesses they have faith on. There are many critics of cloud computing who are vehemently discouraging businesses from signing up with a cloud vendor because they fail to protect client privacy.

- As with the Target breach many shoppers stayed away from these stores, the company sales fell. The breach cost Target nearly $148 million in sales. This led to the CEO and CIO resigning from the company. Most people are now insisting upon greater control over cyber security solutions by the company’s board of directors.

These are the major risks which companies face in cloud security. To minimize the risks, businesses need to get visibility into cloud solutions being used by employees. So, they must know the kind of data being uploaded, the people uploading such data and where this data is getting uploaded to. This information will help them to enforce governance policies, data security policies and compliance better.

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