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Cloud adoption continues to soar. More than two-thirds of small to mid-sized businesses intend to increase their use of cloud technologies over the next few years. While the cloud comes with many security benefits, it also carries unique concerns.

As the cloud becomes increasingly central to business operations, cloud security should be a priority. Businesses must ensure this security from the ground up, not add it in later as an afterthought. These five strategies can help build a more secure cloud for 2022.

1. Review Cloud Data and Configurations Regularly

Even with a secure cloud design, businesses should never assume they’re safe. The cloud’s scalability and ease of use makes it easy to forget what users store on it or how it may change as it expands. This can lead to unpatched vulnerabilities.

Businesses can address these vulnerabilities by regularly reviewing their cloud storage and architecture. If they find any files or systems they’re not using anymore, they should delete them or move them somewhere else. Minimizing this data will mitigate potential breaches and make it easier to manage the cloud.

Similarly, businesses should regularly check their cloud security configurations. Misconfiguration is the number-one cause of cloud breaches, so it’s important never to assume a system is working as it should. Periodic misconfiguration tests can reveal and help patch these vulnerabilities.

2. Give Thought to Physical Considerations

Clouds should be secure by design, so companies must consider security when mapping out their systems and building data centers. That includes physical considerations like proper cooling and storage redundancy to ensure uptime.

 When designing the software side of the cloud, businesses should reduce dependencies, access, and endpoints as much as possible. Zero-trust architecture is the ideal solution for secure cloud design. A quarter of government security professionals say their agencies have already implemented zero-trust security, and private businesses should follow suit.

 It’s important to ensure all parties understand these considerations, too. As context, more than 85% of data center designs suffer from incorrect execution during construction. If companies use an external cloud vendor, they should specify their security requirements in their Service Level Agreements (SLA).

3. Emphasize IAM

Identity and access management (IAM) is another crucial aspect of cloud security. Security professionals often cite that users are a system’s most significant vulnerability, and IAM is the key to mitigating these risks.

IAM policies should follow the principle of least privilege. Each user should only have access to what they need for their roles and nothing more to mitigate a breach’s potential impact. Since roles and responsibilities can change, it’s also important to review IAM policies periodically. Network administrators may have to remove some permissions a user doesn’t need any more, or grant someone else more access.

IAM should apply to devices and cloud apps, too. If an endpoint or service has access to more than it needs, attackers could infiltrate it to cause widespread damage.

4. Embrace Automation

Cloud environments are dynamic. As such, their security requires frequent updates. Continuous monitoring is also essential for cloud security in 2022, given the likelihood of zero-day exploits or unpatched vulnerabilities. Businesses can account for both these needs with automation.

Automation reduces errors and resources by removing the burden from human IT teams. Most businesses don’t have the budget or resources to enable human-driven continuous monitoring, and even if they could, human errors are common. Automated tools can monitor cloud environments far faster and more accurately, filling the gaps.

Businesses should also use automated systems to deploy updates across their cloud environments. That way, they avoid overlooking any parts of the system and can update it faster. Automation may also prove beneficial for keeping pace with changing regulatory requirements.

5. Train Users Thoroughly

Regardless of how strong a cloud system’s defense is, user error can still jeopardize security. Cybercriminals know this too, as the recent rise in phishing attacks indicates. All cloud users should undergo thorough and repeated training to prevent critical errors.

Cloud security training should vary between users with different levels of access. Training for all employees should include foundational steps like strong password management and phishing prevention. Users with higher-level access should undergo additional cybersecurity training and more frequent assessments.

Assessments are an important but easily overlooked part of cloud security training. Testing users after teaching them the right steps can reveal if training needs to change to be more effective or focus on different topics. Just as penetration testing reveals technical vulnerabilities, mock attacks and phishing simulations can reveal human vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

Better Cloud Security Is Crucial in 2022

The cloud is an indispensable tool for businesses in 2022. Consequently, companies can’t overlook cloud security. If organizations don’t build a more secure cloud, they could put all of their operations at risk.

These five steps are more than just recommendations. They’re becoming critical steps for businesses that hope to stay operational and secure this year.

About the Author: Dylan Berger has several years of experience writing about cybercrime, cybersecurity, and similar topics. He’s passionate about fraud prevention and cybersecurity’s relationship with the supply chain. He’s a prolific blogger and regularly contributes to other tech, cybersecurity, and supply chain blogs across the web.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.