Controlling and Monitoring Access to Sensitive Data in the Cloud

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As enterprises plan their digital transformations, many organizations choose to move their business information to the cloud in an attempt to save both time and money. According to a 2017 Intel Security survey, over 60% of companies use the cloud for storing sensitive customer information. Looking at these impressive numbers, it becomes obvious that access to sensitive data in the cloud needs to be properly controlled and monitored. It’s the only way you can ensure sensitive data protection and comply with regulatory requirements. However, ensuring an on-premise level security in the cloud environment can be quite a challenge.

So, what are the risks of not monitoring access to sensitive data in the cloud and what can be done to ensure a better level of control? We talk about it in the next section.

Key problems of poor cloud access management

Even though the definition of sensitive information may vary from an organization to organization, the key requirements for cloud data security and governance are pretty common. Your company’s data must be constantly available while being well-protected and secured at the same time. The main problem is that many organizations don’t monitor their sensitive data security properly.

The lack of control poses a serious threat to a company’s cybersecurity. Thus, ensuring a high level of cloud computing sensitive data protection is essential. Here are the main risks posed by a poor monitoring and control of cloud information access:

  • You don’t know where your sensitive data is. When stored in the cloud, the information can be physically located almost anywhere in the world. The main problem created by this cloud computing peculiarity is that some types of sensitive information are subjected to strict data residency and compliance regulations.
  • You don’t know who can access that data. It’s not only your top-management and IT department staff that can access your data. Cloud provider employees and third-party actors may also be able to access your company’s critical information. Your task is to make sure that any third-party users won’t get access to the information they’re not supposed to have access to.
  • You don’t know if your data has been changed. Without an advanced monitoring and auditing system, you can miss the moment some of your company’s sensitive information was changed, deleted, or moved to a different location. This can result in devastating data breaches as well as serious compliance and regulation violations.

It’s also important to work with trustworthy cloud service providers (CSPs). When choosing a CSP, pay special attention not only to their reputation but also to their flexibility and the variety of security tools and solutions they can offer.

Take your time planning a security strategy fit for your business. Usually, an organization has to comply with several security standards, depending on their industry, residency, and the kind of information they work with. Your task is to determine what regulations and security standards you need to comply with. Then, make sure to list all these standards, as well as delineate the responsibilities of both sides in a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) with your CSP.

Next, we’ll talk about effective approaches and solutions you can implement for monitoring and controlling valuable data in the cloud.

Best practices for monitoring access to sensitive data in the cloud

In contrast to on-premise data centers, cloud-based infrastructures are not that easy to monitor and manage. In order to secure the perimeter and ensure high-quality data protection in the cloud, you need to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Provide end-to-end visibility
  • Secure access to valuable information
  • Implement Privileged Access Management
  • Monitor and audit access to sensitive data continuously
  • Build an efficient incident-response strategy

Let’s take a closer look at each of these tasks.

The lack of visibility across the infrastructure is one of the main drawbacks of the cloud-based solutions. Therefore, there is a need to ensure end-to-end visibility into the infrastructure, critical data, and applications.

The implementation of an efficient identity and access management system can help you limit access to critical data. Plus, it’ll help you understand who exactly accesses and works with your business’s critical data. A high-level granularity of access management allows granting elevated privileges only to users that actually need it. Also, you can use cloud data encryption both in transit and at rest for additional protection of sensitive information.

By implementing an advanced privileged user management approach, you can make sure that users with elevated privileges, such as administrators or managers, don’t try to harm your business. PAM solutions can also help ensure a better level of access granularity and personalization for shared accounts.

Continuous monitoring and auditing of your cloud infrastructure allow detecting possible attacks and data breaches at an early stage. Monitoring is also needed for managing your company’s consumption of cloud resources. While your CSP may provide specific monitoring tools, it’s usually much better to use a dedicated user activity monitoring solution. Such systems specifically designed for detecting and investigating incidents, while built-in PAM capabilities will help you both monitor sensitive data and manage access to it.

There are different kinds of access management and monitoring solutions, from traditional agent-based security software to advanced user activity monitoring platforms to SaaS-based solutions. To make the monitoring process easy and efficient, try finding an ultimate solution that can help you solve all these tasks.

An incident-response strategy can help you react to a possible security incident in an adequate and immediate manner. Look for a solution that allows setting custom alerts for specific events and offers efficient disaster recovery tools.


Monitoring and managing access to sensitive information in the cloud is an essential part of cybersecurity policy in any organization. You need to have a clear visibility of what information is stored where and who can have access to it. Being able to track every action involving critical data is also important. Look for a complex user activity monitoring solution that allows setting specific rules and restrictions, personalizing access to shared accounts, and continuously tracking any activity involving your company’s sensitive information.

Choosing a trustworthy CSP who meets the exact security standards that your organization needs can help ensure a better level of cloud data protection. Just make sure to determine where the responsibilities of each side lie and what compliance regulations and security standards must be adhered to.

About the Author

Marcell Gogan is a specialist within digital security solution business design and development, virtualization and cloud computing R&D projects, establishment and management of software research direction – working with Ekran System. He also loves writing about data management and cybersecurity.


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