Security Risk in the Age of Cloud Computing

Before the days of cloud-computing, organizations used on premise servers or even file cabinets to store their information. Now, many Cloud Service Providers (CSP) rely on third-party platforms to house and protect their information. With the need to store vast amounts of data, it's cheaper for companies to rent time on servers provided by these platforms. However, if this architecture is not properly designed, a flaw in one client's application would not only allow hackers to access their information, but other client's information as well.

The complex nature of the supply chain and procurement network in an era booming with digital data means a barrage of processes and systems to manage at all times. For CSPs handling important client information, whether it's contracts, financial records, or applications, they need to be confident that this information is safe and secure from hackers' prying eyes.

If credentials, passwords or personal data fall into the wrong hands, attackers can eavesdrop on your activities and transactions, manipulate data, steal inventory, or redirect clients to illegitimate websites. Hackers can even hijack accounts or websites and hold the owner ransom.

These kinds of incidents prompt questions of how supply chain professionals can ensure their data is safe. Several variables come into play: If data is stored electronically on an internal server, does network infrastructure provide a tiered level of security? Does IT staff properly encrypt the information, train staff on anti-phishing techniques, or conducted frequent security and vulnerability audits?

Furthermore, to protect an organization's supply chain, the right policies and procedures must exist internally to ensure the right employees have access to sensitive data and that a full audit trail of every action taken is available. All of these, and more, should be the responsibilities of the organization running the internal IT operations.

And in a world where computer-hacking is becoming more common, supply chain management and procurement professionals must ask themselves – what if contracts, the revenue-source for a company, were suddenly not accessible?

A 2016 industry survey found that six in 10 respondents store contracts on shared drives. More than 30 percent said they still store contracts in file cabinets. These methods open an organization to huge risks.

Beyond the obvious security issues, a data breach not only compromises the confidentiality and accessibility to those sources, but can damage the reputation of both the CSP and the client.

When storing your data in the cloud, you will have to turn over some control of that information. The burden is on the organization itself to do its homework as they select their platform or application.

Let's say you build your application on top of a third-party infrastructure, like Amazon. You are given basic layers of security that are reliable, but you could still have issues with your application itself. Bad code can become easily hacked or create “back doors,” allowing access to your organization's information, rendering the third-party security layers useless.

Seeking options outside of third-party platforms

Choosing to purchase an actual application where important data will be stored often means you'll be turning over more control over your security to the application provider. However, with the right provider, your data can be much safer in the long-run.

The most reliable CSPs use the following practices to ensure their applications are secure:

  • In-house developers who build and test the code themselves
  • Background checks for developers, with self-checking processes in place
  • Testing tools for complex and simple code, including dynamic analysis and status analysis test tools, as part of each release cycle

These are just a handful of things CSPs and their clients should consider as they decide who to trust with sensitive data. Many third-party platforms offer robust security layers, but if the code is bad and there is no formal program that shows they are strong in application security, customers should reevaluate their cloud.

Identifying & investing in a secure cloud provider

As organizations search for the right platform to house sensitive information in the cloud, it's imperative that they seek out providers with a displayed commitment to security. Protecting valuable information should be a core part of any platform's corporate values and thereby a core element of any technology roadmap.

What's the most cost-effective way to secure documents?  Instead of relying solely on the IT team to protect content, organizations should consider storing documents and information in the cloud.

Benefits include:

  • Robust security and compliance policies in place – cloud companies have dedicated departments and spend tens of millions every year to stay ahead of hackers
  • A central repository for all documents, indexed, categorized and easy to find
  • Streamlined accessibility to contracts and other important content
  • Frequent software upgrades, which provide a good mechanism to ensure security and risk mitigation. Frequent software releases bring increased productivity to your organization via customer-focused features

Allowing contracts and other records to fall victim to security breaches not only damages the value of an organization, but also hurts customer relationships and the ability of organizations to grow.  Working with the right provider offers the organization peace of mind and lets it focus on its core competencies.

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