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What Is Cloud Data Protection?

Cloud Data Protection Definition

Cloud data protection is a set of data storage and security measures designed to protect data residing in, and moving in and out of, a cloud environment. When it comes to the data in question, stored data is known as “data at rest,” and moving data as “data in motion.”

Data protection differs from data security in that it refers to your data being copied rather than secured in a straightforward sense. In the event of loss or corruption, a data protection program is meant to ensure your sensitive data is still intact despite the event, whereas data security keeps data safe from unauthorized access or distribution in the first place.

 

Why is Cloud Data Protection Important?

The shift from on-premises applications and infrastructure to the cloud has completely changed the role of IT from a local cybersecurity enforcer to a global business enabler. Strong IT now allows for safe hybrid cloud and multicloud adoption, as well as data distribution, while preventing data exposure and maintaining increasingly rigid industry and government regulatory requirements.

To achieve this, IT leaders are looking to cloud data protection platforms that provide unified capabilities for internet, data center, and software as a service (SaaS) applications. Doing so ensures public cloud application configurations match best practice standards to prevent data exposure and maintain compliance.

Plus, the shared responsibility model dictates that both enterprises and the cloud providers are incentivized to keep data protected at all costs, so there is a shared initiative on both sides of the cloud “coin,” so to speak.

 

How is Data Protected in the Cloud?

Cloud data is typically protected through methods such as backups, cloud storage, and disaster recovery—all of which are meant to ensure that data remains within an organization’s possession in the event of a malware breach, data loss, or another event that would exploit the vulnerability of cloud data.

Authentication, access control, and secure deletion are also common methods of keeping data protected, but they pertain more to data security than protection. Organizations use these methods either to keep malicious or negligent users and employees away from data or to protect the data from them altogether.

When it comes to preventing data breaches, standard security policies play a role as well. As cloud workloads are particularly vulnerable, it’s important that organizations and their cloud service providers understand the implications of a partnership to minimize overall data risk.

 

By year-end 2022, more than 1 million organizations will have appointed a privacy officer (or data protection officer
Gartner, 2020
I needed to do something to prevent data loss without completely blocking access to webmail. How can I get this risk to an acceptable level? With Zscaler’s cloud application control, I was able to restrict the uploading of attachments to all the major webmail clients. It was the perfect marriage of both worlds.
Brad Moldenhauer, Director of Information Security, Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Cloud Data Protection Challenges

Using the cloud brings a number of business benefits, but keeping cloud data safe is easier said than done. On the face of it, cloud data protection comes with many challenges, such as:

  • Encryption: According to Google Transparency Report data from mid-2022, 95% of the traffic Google sees is encrypted. Therefore, if your data protection solution doesn’t classify and control data in encrypted traffic, you’ll miss most sessions in which data exposure and misuse is a possibility. This is especially true of SaaS applications that rely on secure, encrypted connections to the application for exchanging data.
     
  • Protection gaps: Tools such as cloud access security brokers (CASB), secure web gateways (SWG), and cloud security posture management (CSPM) each provide a partial picture of data protection across your organization, but there are gaps between products and teams that can lead to complexity, redundant functions across teams, and a lack of visibility and control over data exposure across applications.
     
  • Limited visibility and control: Most data protection options offer limited information to help you make decisions about the use of data in the cloud. Without full context—who is attempting access, the user’s location, the state of the application—it’s impossible to offer the granular control needed to enable effective and safe data usage.
     
  • Poor user experience: Diverting internet traffic through the security devices in your legacy infrastructure will slow down your application performance and frustrate your users, but adding enough appliances to improve performance is costly and highly impractical. Additionally, legacy architectures weren’t designed to handle sudden increases in remote access during crises or accommodate a growing work-from-anywhere workforce.

 

How Can You Protect Data in Your Cloud Environments?

The ideal cloud data protection solution should be built from the ground up for performance and scalability. It must be a globally distributed platform that ensures your users are always a short hop to their applications, that leans on a strong partner network to ensure optimal performance and reliability for your users.

To establish comprehensive, all-encompassing cloud data protection, you should look for offerings that help you establish a zero trust framework. Zero trust helps you address specific cloud security challenges your organization is facing by using context—including user, device, application, and content—to establish trust before a connection is made.

As your organization leverages cloud services to increase flexibility, zero trust allows you to proactively protect access to your resources, giving you the upper hand against data-hungry cyberthreats.

 

Benefits of Cloud Data Protection

A solid data protection program:

  • Improves security for data and applications: By virtue of increased visibility over your cloud application architecture, cloud data protection gives your organization the power to strengthen security over all facets of the cloud—even for remote and hybrid users.
     
  • Irons out access governance: When you implement a cloud data protection program following best practices, users can only access data if they meet your established context guidelines. As such, data is governed by the access policies surrounding it.
     
  • Helps you achieve and maintain regulatory compliance: As the amount of data generated grows around the world, regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA maintain strict guidelines around how data can be used. Cloud data protection helps you meet them.

 

Cloud Data Protection Best Practices

Many organizations forget to do their homework when building a protection program, which adds complications once the preliminary stages of building such a program are complete. Avoid becoming one of these businesses by following these best practices.

 

Take inventory of sensitive data

You want to know how much money you plan to keep in a safe (or transport in an armored truck) beforehand, right? The same principle applies to protecting the amount of sensitive data your organization has created. Knowing which data you want to protect, where it is, and how best to do so gives you an advantage when putting together a program.

 

Pair encryption with authentication

Authentication alone is a great way to keep cloud resources and data protected, but hackers can easily go in and impersonate users to gain access to your data. Encryption scrambles data with randomly generated passcodes—called encryption keys—to give you an extra layer of security.

 

Choose a trusted provider

Data protection vendors abound, and many of them promise to keep your cloud data secure in a way that no other vendor can. But as it happens, only one vendor builds data protection in the cloud, for the cloud, leverages a zero trust framework to secure data between cloud transactions, and works with cloud compliance organizations to ensure you fall well within regulatory guidelines. That vendor is Zscaler.

 

Zscaler and Cloud Data Protection

Through the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange™, our cloud native security and experience platform, Zscaler Data Protection helps you lay the groundwork for an effective protection program by:

  • Preventing loss of data to the internet: When users access the public internet, it can put your data at risk. The Zero Trust Exchange scales to inspect all internet and SSL traffic—without legacy appliances. A single DLP policy protects data in motion while users everywhere get fast, consistent security.
     
  • Securing SaaS data with CASB: Securing data at rest in SaaS apps is critical for security—it only takes two clicks to share data with an unauthorized user through apps like Microsoft OneDrive. Zscaler provides integrated, multimode CASB that secures SaaS apps without the cost and complexity of a point product.
     
  • Protecting public cloud data: Dangerous misconfigurations or permissions cause most cloud breaches. Zscaler CSPM and CIEM find and remediate potentially fatal misconfigurations, compliance violations, permissions, and entitlements while continuous scanning prioritizes risk.
     
  • Securing unmanaged devices: BYOD and other unmanaged devices are significant threats to data. IT has little to no control on such endpoints, but blocking them entirely hampers enterprise productivity. Zscaler Cloud Browser Isolation safely enables unmanaged device access without the performance challenges of VDI or reverse proxy.

When it comes to protecting cloud data, the choice is the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange.

 

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