In 2020, there were over 1,001 reported cases of data breaches in the United States alone. In today’s market, data is now the most important asset for all industries. It’s critical then to protect this asset under any circumstances with comprehensive data security, whether you are migrating to the cloud or maintaining your on-premise servers.
Unfortunately, during the cloud migration process, there are times where data is vulnerable and exposed. Consider this case study of Keepnet Lab’s Data Breach, where the contractor turned off the firewall for ten minutes while migrating to ElasticSearch. This move exposed the database to attackers who breached over 5 billion data records.
To prevent hacking attempts during your own business-critical migration processes, follow these seven steps and tips to improve data security during your own cloud migration.
#1: Assess Current Data Situation
Unless an issue calls for the occasion, it’s possible to go years without assessing the data you have, which may be stored across multiple databases. It may be that there are no differentiations in place for critical and useless data that has been stored for years.
This is why assessing your data is the first step during the migration process to align the data you have with any retention policies in your data governance frameworks. Data migration is a sensitive process, and it can pose some potential risks to your company’s data if it’s not addressed properly.
Migration is the right time to make these assessments by using a variety of assessment tools often provided by cloud vendors. Use the AWS Schema Conversion Tool (AWS SCT) to create a database migration assessment report. The AWS Schema Conversion Tool is designed to help you convert your existing database schema from one database engine to another. Follow the steps outlined here.
#2: Understand Your Compliance Regime
Compliance requirements vary from industry to industry. Industries like Healthcare, Finance and eCommerce are highly regulated. Align your data controls according to the appropriate regulatory bodies for your business-critical operations. Check these applied regulations to prevent any penalties or fines due to any compliance issues especially during the planned migration process. There may be certain data transit regulations you may need to follow. For instance, if your company operates in the healthcare vertical, then you will need to conform to the HIPAA compliance regulations surrounding data transits.
#3: Choose the Right Data Security Tools
The right data security tools are necessary during the migration process. Explore your cloud vendor’s resources to find the necessary tools that could potentially help in carrying out a secure migration. Moreover, regulatory requirements are extremely helpful to inform the tools for data security that you may require during migration. For example, AWS Database Migration Service (DMS) is included in AWS’ HIPAA compliance program. So, you can safely use AWS Database Migration Service to move data between your HIPAA-compliant applications, including protected health information (PHI) under your executed Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with AWS.
Above all, always choose the right tool to get the job done. Do not overspend on unnecessary tools for accomplishing a small task. There are a variety of solutions available to get the same job done using different tools. Therefore, always look for a measurable solution that has the potential to serve your needs correctly.
#4: Manage Authorized Personnel For Data Access
The principle of the least privilege stands tall in data migration processes. Companies should follow even more strict access protocols during a cloud migration. Only specific personnel should have access to any critical data.
This step is necessary to prevent any unauthorized users by limiting the access to only trusted personnel inside the organization who are well-aware of all security measures. Above all, companies should incorporate two-factor authentication along with limiting access to ensure complete data security.
Once your migration is complete, you can restore all access privileges safely while ensuring all security protocols. Limiting authorization during the migration process is a significant step to keeping malicious actors away from temporarily exposed data.
#5: Encrypt Data During Transit
Disabling firewalls (as we saw in Keepnet Lab’s case) and other such risky steps while transiting data from one location to the other can open your data up to major vulnerabilities. Even for a short amount of time. These transits might take a few minutes, but any company that unknowingly exposes their databases are ripe for attack from those who are waiting for such an opportunity
There are ways to transit data securely, such as using network security controls and encrypted network protocols. These methodologies do not allow any third-party to intercept and steal your sensitive data.
In a cloud environment, many cloud vendors offer concierge-style solutions to ensure fast and secure migration of data by following strict security protocols.
#6: Plan Decommissioning Activities for Remaining Data Center
Many organizations can leave their physical or on-premise media abundant after migrating to the cloud through a lack of a decommissioning plan for any stored media. Have a clear mindset about whether you plan to reuse or re-market any current hardware equipment. A decommissioning plan is useful for all organizations who are shifting onto cloud, this plan includes a variety of steps such as itemizing, planning, removing equipment, data sanitization etc. Organizations can also collaborate with IT asset disposition (ITAD) vendors to outsource their decommissioning processes for their physical equipment.
Also, if you plan to rely on physical storage as part of a hybrid cloud infrastructure then ensure you implement a complete security plan for both your on-premise and cloud architecture.
#7: Strategically Wipe Remaining Data Drives
Wiping remaining data drives falls under your planned decommissioning activities, but it’s worth paying particular attention to the process. Your IT asset disposition can help in this phase to wipe all your remaining data drives. Decide whether your remaining data needs to be transported offsite for sanitization, or ask whether your ITAD firms can propose a plan for data sanitization.
Check the workflows of your partner ITAD firms to ensure that they use safe protocols for data sanitization and other decommissioning processes. If your ITAD firm handles its data wiping processes carefully, then you do not have to worry about any of your decommissioning activities.
Cloud migration is a complex process and can open you up to vulnerability without a data security plan in place. The unknowing company can expose their data during migration with poor data security protocols leaving their databases vulnerable during the whole migration process. This allows hackers to easily penetrate and breach all valuable data without facing any security restrictions.
Stay vigilant and follow the best practices outlined above to improve data security and ensure your company’s top asset is not unprotected at any stage of the cloud migration process.
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