Is data safe in the cloud?

Cloud security

The short answer is— yes, your data should be safe in the cloud. However, there is a much longer answer, which is why we’ve put together this article to help you.

There are still many weak areas that allow security data breaches to happen. This is exactly what we’ll be exploring, so, as the experts, we have a lot to cover.

Today, our business operations are increasingly driven by cloud servers – the bulk of our data is held there too. And, when it comes to data governance, GDPR regulations have become implemented. This means now nobody can go online without clicking consent buttons on almost every website they visit.

We need to be able to trust the web with our data. Our businesses, jobs, and therefore our livelihoods depend on the Internet to keep us going. So, it’s important now more than ever that our data is kept safe in the cloud.

In this article you’ll discover: 

The 5 biggest data breaches over the last 5 years

Marriott-Starwood – 383 million accounts affected (2014–2018)

The high-end hotel Marriott bought Starwood in 2014. For the following 4 years, hackers stole multiple types of records. This included phone numbers, email addresses, and more concerning passport data and credit card details. In 2018 Marriott announced that 500 million accounts had been affected, but by 2019 retracted the number to 383 million. And finally in 2020, it was released that Marriott hotels was fined £18.4 million for breaking GDPR legislation.

MySpace – 360 million accounts affected (2016)

MySpace was at its most popular in the late 2000s – a time when Internet security wasn’t operating as it does today. So, in 2016, email addresses and passwords were accessed, attributed to Russian cyber hacker ‘Peace’, and posted on a hackers’ forum.

Under Armour – 150 million accounts affected (2018)

In 2018 Under Armour announced that 150 million MyFitnessPal user accounts were hacked. Again, the data contained usernames, passwords, and email addresses. Their stock immediately dropped 4% during after-hours trading, showing what an attack can do to market confidence.

EasyJet – 9 million customers affected (2019-2020)

In May of 2020, EasyJet announced a data breach, affecting all customers who booked flights with them between October 2019 and March 2020. It was later exposed that hackers stole credit card information of 2208 customers.

LinkedIn – 500 million accounts scraped (2021)

Although it was claimed as a data scrape, not a data breach, a hacker posted 500 million LinkedIn profiles for sale on a forum. The personal data included full names, email addresses, phone numbers, workplace information, and more. A verified sample of around 1 million was released and it was found to be a misuse of LinkedIn API.

We’re not associating any of these issues to the Cloud. However, what we’re doing is emphasising the importance of data security for everyone. Even the biggest players are open to vulnerability if they don’t give their security systems their fullest attention. And evidently this can have not only customer losses, but massive financial repercussions for failing compliance.

How does data security affect small businesses?

Unfortunately, small businesses won’t have the same level of resources to invest in security as their larger counterparts do. So, many will assume that because they outsource services, that their cloud data security is somebody else’s responsibility. However, regardless of who is managing your servers, GDPR rules and regulations will still apply to you.

Cloud-related security fails are low

The good news for web-users and businesses is that the number of data breach cases to happen on cloud-based servers is very low.

The reputation of Cloud Service Providers is strong when it comes to security. Where there were breaches, few were down to providers, but the management of security configurations by the customer.

The Cloud customer is the weak link in data security

The main cloud service providers deploy robust security features as standard when offering their services to the masses. The problem is always remains in how they’re managed and controlled.

Keeping your data safe in the cloud is a complex beast, and the rise of multi-cloud operation has introduced further challenges for those managing interconnected spaces. This is a crucial area where business owners and managers must stay vigilant of their operations.

Protecting data is a job for a professional

Servers with their own protection need to be just as secure in their connections. A cloud environment must implement the correct security over their entire network.

For simple applications HTTPS is often the standard solution or for more crucial operations, fully WAN-enabled access is better suited. There must also be correctly configured firewalls installed on both ends of the network.

A specialist company offering managed IT support services would be an ideal partner in protecting your data. With the right knowledge and experience to ensure everything is configured and supported properly, all your sensitive information is in the hands of someone you can trust.

Your cloud security controlled by Managed IT Service Providers

Why use a managed service provider? Most of the controls required for your cloud services are nothing new to IT security professionals. They’ll be more than adequately experienced in the areas relative to setting up your secure environments. These include access management, data encryption, and network security.

Making sure everything gets configured correctly is part of what we do as IT experts. If left to the customer end, that’s where the problems arise, and breaches occur. Managed IT support offers a host of benefits; keeping you safe in the cloud is only one of them.

And as one of the most reputable Managed IT Service Providers in the UK, we’re happy to boost our clients’ confidence in every aspect of their digital operations.

What are the critical areas of control required for complete cloud security?

Your cloud service provider will automatically offer a host of security features. However, as we’ve already said, it’s up to you (or your security team) to keep everything in check.

Generally, it’s down to the customer to apply best practices in:

  • Encryption
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Access management
  • Key management
  • CIA security controls (confidentiality, integrity, and availability)

Many business operatives have openly admitted to not knowing what does and doesn’t constitute secure data practices. As a result of lacking this knowledge, they fail to manage their data’s security themselves. Simply by speaking to them about GDPR legislation you’ll immediately see a lot of faces glaze over.

The list we’ve provided includes the areas your IT department, staff member or service provider will cover. But there are still areas you can assist with to ensure your data is safe in the cloud.

The infosec issues that demand your protection

Data breaches

Data breaches, as you’d expect, are the number one priority. To measure the level of threat your organisation is facing, you need to fully comprehend the value of your data to hackers.

Ask yourself questions like “what can they gain from accessing your systems?” and “how would they use your data?” Losing any amount of business data can lead to serious damage. So, assessing these conditions can drive your organisation to take actionable steps to mitigate a real breach.


Unfortunately, server configuration is the most likely area of cloud security to fail. So, it’s not surprising that we emphasise it as an area of immediate importance to your business.

A misconfiguration can not only lead to security breaches but affects your organisation’s compliance and overall system performance. This means you could be dealing with a great loss in productivity, if not severe damages due to noncompliance.

Weak data management and access control

Security breaches caused by inadequate access management are on the rise. Protecting your business from poor access management means taking better care of how you oversee your systems. This means creating and maintaining better controls and regulations over credentials, cryptographic keys, passwords, certificates, scalability, authentication and more. Accounts requiring security confirmation via two-factor authentication and root account use should be limited. Instead, we recommend segregating accounts depending on their level of privilege.

Hijacking and insider threats

Hijacking is more than just system access via phishing; there are various ways an unauthorised user can hijack your business accounts. And specifically for cloud stored data users it’s becoming an increasing problem.

With the cloud, an attacker may still try to gain access through social engineering practices. However, they will exploit issues in the cloud service setup wherever they can to find a way in. And, if they can access your data through a legitimate account, there’s no end to the disruption they can cause.

If the threat comes from a trusted source, for example a disgruntled ex-employee or business partner, they can cause just as much damage as someone who’s gained access through the backdoor.

Weak interfaces and associated programs

In the past, interfaces and APIs caused a lot more problems. So, this may be a positive sign that the industry is becoming more aware and better protected against associated issues. However, they’re still creating issues for many users.

One example is Facebook’s 2018 breach, where hackers targeted over 50 million accounts. By exploiting its vulnerable API features they obtained personal profile information which could give them access to accounts. This is simply one of many instances where weak interfaces and APIs exposed the flaws in business security.

Fragile control planes

Your control plane manages data duplication, migration, and storage. The plane becomes weak when there are architectural blind spots and weaknesses in the data flow. Ultimately, this can lead to leakage and corruption.

Tips to help keep your data safe in the cloud

Below we’ve included a few areas we’d advise you to familiarise yourself with to help your data stay safe in the cloud. While we cover the heavy lifting, here are some essential areas where you can be proactive:

Create a fully visible infrastructure

As your business grows and your services become increasingly complicated, you’re likely to move more of your operations online. Given the growth of the hybrid cloud environment, it’s likely to spread over multiple cloud services.

Whoever is managing your systems is then managing your information, its encryption, the keys for every data group, and your security policy. Therefore, it can be too easy to lose of track of what’s where and who’s who.

A clear picture of the full operation is a must for anyone working within your network. Often the top issue with IT and cybersecurity professionals who deal with cloud workloads is visibility into infrastructure security.

Employee training

When working to keep your data safe in the cloud, human error rears its head time and time again. The issues we’ve discussed – poor access management, phishing, and misconfiguration – are all, more often than not, down to operative errors.

So how do you avoid those failures? Prioritise regular awareness training and educate on security best practices.

If your team have the skills and tools to know what they’re doing, then so many common scenarios can be eliminated. Essentially, by ensuring everyone is aware, you can instil confidence in them to act appropriately when it matters.

Train them in security hygiene, configuration, access control, where phishing is most likely to occur, and the risks of malware and how to block it. Put a policy in place that includes an immediate reporting system so issues can be dealt with ASAP. This can help establish precedence and prevent any further damage from occurring.

Ask your Managed Service Provider about their training schedules. Their job is to make you and your staff’s lives as easy as possible, so getting you up to speed will be high on their agenda.

Implement security at the beginning of the chain

As experts in IT services and cybersecurity, one of our golden rules is that prevention is always better than the cure.

Ad-hoc patches and quick fixes can be limiting for your security in the long run. Therefore, trying to resolve situations “as and when” is often an inefficient and unprofessional approach. Put those barriers in place at the beginning of the process, and you shouldn’t have to worry about them further down the line.

Make sure your plan, cloud security system design, and your team efforts to protect data are covered as early as possible. This way adopting new processes, software and web-tools will be easier to implement within your secure network.

Ongoing monitoring

Make sure you keep up with monitoring your systems as this is key to understanding where your data is and how it’s operating. By doing so, you’ll be able to flag up suspicious behaviour, spot malicious infiltration, and unauthorised access.

Identifying possible threats early gives you the opportunity to respond before damage is done. Furthermore, taking this proactive approach ensures you have put practices in place to prevent issues from arising again.


Due diligence testing is another way of finding the areas of your network that could be infiltrated. And, if you do find any vulnerable points of access, better you than an attacker looking to steal and exploit your data.

If you lose your data, you could be subject to fines as well as a dip in customer confidence. If the worst were to happen, you should have a managed backup and disaster recovery policy in place. This can help limit damage and re-establish full operations as soon as possible.

Regular testing with an appropriate feedback loop will hopefully help you spot weaknesses and deal with them.

You need to be sure that your system is continually evolving with your business needs and practices. This includes managing its changes with the evolution of the Internet.

If you want any further guidance on how to stay safe in the cloud or would simply like to learn more about cloud solutions for your business, please reach out to our IT experts, or give us a call today!