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February 1, 2023

Cloud Migration and Data Security: Understanding What Needs to Be Done

The cloud industry has been experiencing meteoric growth, thanks in no small part to the global pandemic. Companies that were already migrating to the cloud suddenly had to accelerate those plans to continue operating and remain competitive in the shift to a remote workforce. Companies that had resisted the change had to play catch-up, and too often rushed their cloud migration.

Unfortunately, in that push to move to the cloud, data security can often be a casualty. Even migrating to one of the leading cloud platforms—platforms known for offering industry-leading security, like Azure or AWS—doesn’t automatically guarantee your data will be secure.

For example, one area where organizations must be particularly careful is migrating medical data to the cloud and remaining compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements for patient privacy and security. Virtually all of the major cloud providers advertise being HIPAA-compliant, but the burden is still on individual clients to ensure they properly utilize the security tools provided by their chosen cloud provider.

There are several steps organizations can take to ensure their cloud migration goes as smoothly as possible while providing the needed data security.

Establish Strong Security Measures First

One of the biggest steps organizations can take is establishing strong security measures before beginning a cloud migration.

While data security should be part of any organization’s fundamental operations, migrating to the cloud opens a whole new realm of security threats, including multiple attack vectors, potential security issues with third-party APIs, denial-of-service attacks, account hijacking, and more. Unless an organization takes the time to secure their operations before migrating, they can quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the challenges of storing their data in the cloud.

Adopt Zero-Trust Security

On-premise security often focuses on keeping intruders out, with little to no secondary security, should a breach be successful.

By contrast, proper cloud security focuses on a zero-trust approach, emphasizing security and containment throughout the entire platform (and not just “at the gates”). For example, with a traditional on-premise network, security plans often emphasize strong firewalls designed to keep bad actors out. Because the majority of employees access the company’s network from trusted onsite computers, there’s much less concern about those devices.

With cloud computing, however, there is no one, single point of entry. Because of its decentralized nature, there are any number of ways a person could gain access to an organization’s resources, making it imperative to establish strong security at every layer of an organization’s cloud presence, trusting no one and no device.

Data Privacy and HIPAA Compliance

Data privacy adds another layer of complexity when it comes to cloud migration. A great example of this is the handling of personal data in compliance with HIPAA laws in the U.S. HIPAA encourages the use of electronic data storage but also includes strict requirements for how that data is managed and secured.

As a result, a number of factors must be considered in order to remain compliant.

1) Platform vs. Data. One of the most important things to keep in mind when moving HIPAA-sensitive data to the cloud is the distinction between platform and data. While AWS, Azure, and others market their platforms as HIPAA-compliant, each client company is still responsible for making sure they properly secure the data they upload to those platforms. This is why AWS uses terms like “shared responsibility” when describing its HIPAA compliance.

2) Access Control. Just as an organization must control who has access to data locally, proper access control must be maintained in the cloud, ensuring only authorized parties are able to access sensitive information.

3) Firewalls. Firewalls are a vital part of a cybersecurity plan, especially one involving cloud-based HIPAA data—a requirement for remaining compliant. In addition, the firewall should provide robust log-in, which can be used to identify attackers and assist any law enforcement efforts.

4) Encryption. Another requirement for properly secured data is end-to-end encryption (E2EE). E2EE ensures that no third parties can snoop on data in transit, or when it is being stored.

5) Data De-Identification. Data de-identification is another important step that can and should be taken to protect sensitive data. De-identification removes identifiable information so the data can be accessed and analyzed without risking patient privacy. Hybrid data masking, in particular, can be a powerful tool in this regard. Setting up data masking in the new cloud environment should be a priority for safeguarding personal data.

6) File Integrity Monitoring. File integrity monitoring is designed to monitor files and flag them if they have been altered or deleted. This can be an invaluable step in catching errors or intrusions as early as possible, and thus mitigating potential damage.

7) Notification Protocols. Modern data laws require organizations to notify customers of HIPAA-related data breaches. In order to do so in a timely fashion, and prevent further fines, organizations must ensure they have a system in place to quickly and efficiently notify individuals in the event of a breach.

Prepare for the Data Security of Your Cloud Migration

Given the sheer number of security risks and privacy issues involved in cloud migration (and the stakes involved in remaining compliant), many organizations are choosing to outsource some or all of their migration to experienced experts.

Mage has a long history of helping companies achieve the data security they need, even during transitional periods like cloud migration. Learn more about our cloud security offerings, or request a demo for our industry-leading Data Security Solutions.

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