Managing data privacy concerns when moving to the cloud

Issue 7 2022 Information Security

Gary Allemann.

While the cloud offers many business benefits, it can also raise concerns around compliance, and some organisations have taken the approach of staying out of the cloud for this reason. However, while legislation such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) does add a layer of complexity to a cloud migration, the reality is that these laws apply regardless of where data is stored, and we need one policy to govern data across the entire environment.

When it comes to PoPIA compliance, it is important to understand that the law has several classifications of data that needs to be protected, including data that deals with children, sensitive information such as religious affiliation and medical history, and personally identifying information such as ID numbers. It all needs to be protected under the law, but how that is done may differ according to the classification it falls under.

For businesses, data protection isn’t just about the law either. All sorts of data is generated and contained within a business which could be detrimental if it falls into the wrong hands, including intellectual property such as new products and business innovation, as well as financial information.

The danger lies on the inside

Every business is different, and every business’s data is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work, either for compliance or business reasons and whether data is stored on-premises or in the cloud. However, one common factor seen with the majority of recent breaches and security incidents is that they have arisen through the abuse of authorised privileges. What does this mean? It simply means that malicious actors have gained access to a data profile – through whatever means, including phishing or another cyberthreat – that has permission to access data that it should not be able to access.

Data permissions are frequently too broad, granting far too much access. This means that should someone with malicious intentions gain access to an authorised user profile, they will be able to see more than they should and do things like delete, copy or share data, which also should not be permitted. Data security and data privacy both come down to the need for more granular access control and permissioning.

So how do we manage data privacy?

We need to define policies that limit data access only to that which people need to do their job, based on the individual and their context within the organisation. Data access can be filtered by role, by geography, by specific region and even by data subject, and once segmented it can be further limited at an aggregate level. Then, if someone with malicious intent gains access, the damage they are able to do is extremely limited.

Requirements for data security and privacy have evolved and it has become imperative to deliver fine-grained access control down to the individual level, irrespective of whether data is housed in the cloud or not. Security policies must be applied, consistently measured to ensure they are being followed, and processes need to be put into place to alert to unusual behaviours that may signal a breach or malicious activity, respond to a breach and identify what has been compromised.

The bulk of data breaches are caused by too much access to data and these privileges being abused. This needs to be addressed, and while the cloud obviously adds a layer of technical complexity to this exercise, the principles remain the same. It all comes back to data management and data governance – if you haven’t defined what data you have and classified it, it is impossible to apply data access control.

At a media briefing in late June, advocate Lebogang Stroom-Nzama, a full-time member of the Information Regulator, announced that its patience with transgressors was wearing thin. Whilst the stance to date has been to educate, in the future, potential fines of up to R10 million, as legislated by PoPIA, will be a more likely outcome of breaches.

An integrated solution that provides a consistent, reusable, repeatable and auditable process across multiple platforms is the answer to addressing this technical complexity and managing data privacy and PoPIA compliance, both on-premises and when moving into the cloud.

Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

NEC XON shares lessons learned from ransomware attacks
NEC XON Editor's Choice Information Security
NEC XON has handled many ransomware attacks. We've distilled key insights and listed them in this article to better equip companies and individuals for scenarios like this, which many will say are an inevitable reality in today’s environment.

iOCO collaboration protection secures Office 365
Information Security Infrastructure
The cloud, in general, and Office 365, in particular, have played a significant role in enabling collaboration, but it has also created a security headache as organisations store valuable information on the platform.

Cybercriminals embracing AI
Information Security Security Services & Risk Management
Organisations of all sizes are exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI, in particular, can benefit their businesses. While they are still figuring out how best to use AI, cybercriminals have fully embraced it.

A strong cybersecurity foundation
Milestone Systems Information Security
The data collected by cameras, connected sensors, and video management software can make a VMS an attractive target for malicious actors; therefore, being aware of the risks of an insecure video surveillance system and how to mitigate these are critical skills.

Surveillance and cybersecurity
Cathexis Technologies Information Security
Whether your business runs a security system with a handful of cameras or it is an enterprise company with thousands of cameras monitoring sites across a multinational organisation, you must pay attention to cybersecurity.

Cyber-armour for a healthcare industry under attack
NEC XON Information Security Healthcare (Industry)
Malicious actors have exploited compromised credentials, a clear and present danger when healthcare providers' reliance on remote access software allows adversaries to disguise themselves as legitimate users and gain unauthorised access to critical environments.

Cybersecurity and AI
AI & Data Analytics Information Security
Cybersecurity is one of the primary reasons that detecting the commonalities and threats of what is otherwise completely unknown is possible with tools such as SIEM and endpoint protection platforms.

What are MFA fatigue attacks, and how can they be prevented?
Information Security
Multifactor authentication is a security measure that requires users to provide a second form of verification before they can log into a corporate network. It has long been considered essential for keeping fraudsters out. However, cybercriminals have been discovering clever ways to bypass it.

SA's cybersecurity risks to watch
Information Security
The persistent myth is that cybercrime only targets the biggest companies and economies, but cybercriminals are not bound by geography, and rapidly digitising economies lure them in large numbers.

Cyber insurance a key component in cyber defence strategies
Information Security
[Sponsored] Cyber insurance has become a key part of South African organisations’ risk reduction strategies, driven by the need for additional financial protection and contingency plans in the event of a cyber incident.