Stuart Aston, National Security Officer, Microsoft UK
Stuart Aston, National Security Officer, Microsoft UK

The UK Government is a global leader in promoting public sector use of cloud technology for example, Transport for London's contactless payment system was introduced far ahead of similar public transportation networks across the world. However, like all organisations, it is under increasing pressure to generate cost savings, increase efficiencies and improve services, which are a few of the reasons why the Government has decided to embrace cloud computing as a way of combatting cyber-attacks.

In truth, cyber-security related issues now cost British businesses a total of £34 billion a year, according to a joint study undertaken in 2015 by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and Veracode. Nearly £18 billion of that figure is attributed to lost revenue, while £16 billion relates to increased IT spend as a result of breaches. Equally worrying is that 34 percent of cyber-crime aimed at UK organisations relates to intellectual property ‘IP' theft, a ‘crown jewel' for many businesses.

It is statistics like these that have led the UK Government to significantly increase its cyber-crime budget. However, the message remains clear, that all organisations, including those in the private sector, must take charge of their own security, through both use of technology and by promoting higher levels of employee awareness. Here are 14 suggestions that everyday businesses can learn from the Government and should consider when creating their own cyber-security protection framework:

1.     Protecting moving data - Consumer data moving in-between networks should be adequately protected against tampering and eavesdropping, through a combination of network protection and encryption

2.     Asset protection and resilience - Consumer data, and the assets storing or processing it, should be protected against physical tampering, loss, damage or removal

3.     Separation between consumers - Separation should exist between different consumers of the service to prevent one malicious or compromised consumer from affecting the service or data of another

4.     Governance framework - The service provider should have a security governance framework in place that coordinates and directs their overall approach to the management of the service and information

5.     Operational security - The service provider should have processes and procedures in place to ensure the operational security of the service

6.     Personnel security - Service provider staff should be subject to personnel security screening and security education before starting their role

7.     Secure development - Services should be designed and developed to identify and mitigate threats to their security

8.     Supply chain security - The service provider should ensure that its supply chain supports all security principles that need to be implemented

9.     Secure consumer management - Consumers should be provided with the tools required to help them securely manage their service

10.  Identity and authentication - Access to all service interfaces (for consumers and providers) should be controlled to authorised individuals

11.  External interface protection - All external or less trusted interfaces of the service should be identified and have appropriate protections to defend against attacks through them

12.  Secure service administration - The methods used by the service provider's administrators to manage the operational service should be designed to mitigate any risk of exploitation that could undermine the security of the service

13.  Audit information provision to consumers - Consumers should be provided with the audit records they need to monitor access to their service and the data held within it

14.  Secure use of the service by the consumer - Consumers have certain responsibilities when using a cloud service in order for this use to remain secure, and for their data to be adequately protected

While designed for public sector organisations, these principles provide a solid framework for supporting secure cloud adoption across all industries. Trust and security remain paramount drivers, alongside industry-specific requirements, with the list above providing a solid framework for selecting a cloud services provider.

It's clear that Government IT projects are moving to the cloud, but security still remains front of mind throughout this transformation. At a time when doing more with less is essential, policy myths and data classification confusion are slowing cloud adoption. The announcement of the EU-US privacy shield represents a vital step in maintaining data flows and strengthening confidence around security in the cloud.

Contributed by Stuart Aston, National Security Officer, Microsoft UK