The world we have today is quickly turning to the cloud for various purposes such as hosting applications and services, SD-WAN, big data analytics, storage, and backup recovery, among others. Hence, the global cloud computing market is expected to be valued at over $620 billion by 2023, with global spending on cloud services to reach $1 trillion in 2024.

Providing access to data from anywhere is the main reason for cloud adoption as we live in an era where operations are more global and connected. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work-from-home setup and increased digitalization are also drivers of the surge of cloud strategy.

Similar to any other technological advancements, privacy and security are among the two major roadblocks in embracing the cloud. IDC revealed that nearly two-thirds of organizations see security as the biggest challenge for cloud adoption while privacy and regulatory issues worry more than 60% of enterprises.

It is essential for organizations to use encryption or other security safeguards to protect sensitive data in the cloud. Particularly in a cloud environment, IT experts pointed out that managing privacy and data protection are more complicated than on-premises.

Let us take a deep dive into how cloud data security, privacy, and trust are addressed by cryptography.

Security concerns on the cloud

Cloud computing is an evolution to the information technology sector. Among its main advantages are cost reduction via efficient and optimized computing practices, flexibility, and portability.

The word cloud in cloud computing stands for a  set of software, hardware,  storage,  networks,  and interfaces that are combined together to be delivered as-a-service. Being dynamic in nature, it opens up a lot of room for security risks.

Among the possible vulnerabilities are data leakage, unauthorized access, DDoS attacks, hacking, and misconfigurations. With all these, enterprises need to take a data-centric approach to protect their sensitive information from advanced cyber threats emerging due to virtualization, cloud services, and mobility.

Even shifting from traditional to cloud data centers poses inevitable security risks that challenge cloud data security. The question of how to authorize cloud data process and protect data processing simultaneously is another critical subject to consider.

One of the security solutions that can be implemented to provide consistent protection for sensitive data is through encryption and cryptographic key management.

Benefits of cryptography in cloud

Cloud cryptography is a form of encryption that safeguards data stored within the cloud. Without delaying the delivery of information, several measures are being placed by adding a strong layer of protection to secure data. This reduces the likelihood of being breached, hacked, or affected by malware.

Data confidentiality and authentication processes are among the key benefits of cryptography in the cloud. Determining whether data is highly valuable and requires guaranteed protection against unauthorized disclosure is one aspect that cryptography works ideally on. As the data remains private for normal users, cybercrime from hackers becomes avoided.

In terms of authentication, the organizing body can receive notifications immediately if an unauthorized person tries to make any modifications to a certain piece of data. To prevent this, the users who have the cryptographic keys are the only ones who will be granted access to the data.

What is more, cryptography prevents the data from being vulnerable when the data is being brought over from one computer to another. Receivers of the data will also have the ability to identify if the data received is corrupted, permitting an immediate response and solution to a possible cyberattack.

Encryption is, in fact, one of the safest methods to store and transfer a huge amount of data as it complies with the restrictions imposed by organizations such as FIPS, FISMA, HIPAA, or PCI/DSS.

Understanding cloud cryptography

Cloud cryptography is based on encryption that runs on codes called ciphertext. The ciphertext can then be changed into plaintext through an encryption key to decode it into series of bits. This form of encryption can be used to secure both information at rest and information in transit.

Data encryption can take place in an end-to-end manner where senders and receivers send messages between themselves, without any third-party interference. Additionally, file encryption is when data at rest is encrypted, impeding an unauthorized person who tries to intercept a file.

Cryptography brings a stronger level of security and efficiency to the cloud. As physical control over cloud storage is impossible due to its digital nature, the only way to secure a piece of information is to protect it with cryptography while maintaining control over the cryptographic key.

There are various types of cryptographic keys/algorithms available for cloud security, namely symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric algorithms use a single key for both data encryption and decryption. It works to provide a two-way system for users to ensure authentication and authorization. Unless the user has the single key, the encrypted data stays in the cloud and cannot be decoded.

On the other hand, asymmetric algorithms use different keys for encryption and decryption. Here, each recipient requires a decryption key which is also referred to as the recipient’s private key. This type of algorithm is considered the safest as it requires both keys to access specific data. Hence, the decryption process will only commence if the other key exists.

An example of a widely used asymmetric algorithm for cloud computing security is the Rivest–Shamir–Adleman (RSA) algorithm. By illustration, user data is encrypted first and then stored in the cloud. When required, the user places a request for the data to the cloud provider. Following this, the cloud provider authenticates the user, and once validated, only then will the data be delivered.

In a cloud environment, the public key is known to all, whereas the private key is known only to the user who originally owns the data. Thus, the cloud service provider is responsible for the encryption and the cloud user has the key for the decryption.

In a nutshell, once the decision to move to the cloud has been made, full control over the data becomes lost. Thus, the amount of protection needed to secure data must be directly proportional to the value of the data. In this way, trusted computing and cryptography can be enforced to maintain data security in the cloud.

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