In response to the recent Capital One data breach, where a hacker exploited a misconfigured open-source Web Application Firewall hosted within Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Amazon CTO reminded customers that they must secure their own data when housed on AWS infrastructure.

This seems obvious, but it is a very important point.

When you move your data into AWS or any cloud provider, because it is not in our your data centers, and because you often no longer employ full-time people to manage the server hardware and software that house that data, you might get the feeling that someone else is managing our data just as carefully as our own staff once did.

That may be true for some dimensions of data management. For example, the cloud provider is responsible for making sure that the hardware stays up and running. Likewise, when you use software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS), the service provider is responsible for making sure that the application software and/or operating system stays up and running. In the case of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings, the customer is still responsible for the latter two functions.

But in all the above cases, the customer is ultimately responsible for the security of their own data. The AWS security documentation describes it this way:

    • Security of the cloud – AWS is responsible for protecting the infrastructure that runs AWS services in the AWS Cloud. AWS also provides you with services that you can use securely. Third-party auditors regularly test and verify the effectiveness of our security as part of the AWS Compliance Programs. To learn about the compliance programs that apply to Amazon EC2, see AWS Services in Scope by Compliance Program.
    • Security in the cloud – Your responsibility is determined by the AWS service that you use. You are also responsible for other factors including the sensitivity of your data, your company’s requirements, and applicable laws and regulations.

The key takeaway is that if you have your data in any cloud service, you must be as rigorous in securing that data as if it were in your own data center—and in some cases even more so.

Following are some key things to think about when moving your data into the cloud. These are the same considerations you need to focus on when keeping your data in-house. Some of these concerns only apply to IaaS in the cloud, while others are relevant to all cloud service scenarios.

    • Is the underlying storage configured properly so that only the database software, application software and authorized users can access it?
    • Is the data encrypted both at rest and in transit?
    • Is proper authentication in place for the application or database, to ensure that only proper users can gain access to the system?
    • Is proper authorization in place for the application or database, such that data is exposed only to the proper users?
    • Is the network configured properly to reduce the surface area vulnerable to attack?

These considerations are not new. In fact, our Database Security Roadmap, initially created primarily with on-premises systems in mind, is still completely relevant with cloud technology.

Download the roadmap to make sure you have all the bases covered.