Top Cloud Security Challenges And Risks To Be Aware Of

Top Cloud Security Challenges And Risks To Be Aware Of
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Nowadays, cloud computing is simply everywhere. We use various cloud-based apps on our day-to-day activities, like Google Docs or even Gmail, and chances are if you work in a company, the company will use at least one cloud-based service in its operations. 

The benefits of cloud computing are simply enormous: faster deployment, versatility, lower up-front investments, and scalability among others, are just a few examples of so many benefits cloud computing brings for various businesses and individuals. 

However, utilizing cloud applications would also mean we are sharing and receiving data from and to the cloud, often continuously.

This stream of data, as a result, can be lucrative targets for cybercriminals, and this is why cloud security is now a very important concern in today’s increasingly digital business environment.

In this guide, we will discuss top cloud security challenges and risks to be aware of in 2021, but let us begin by first discussing the concept of cloud security itself. 

What Is Cloud Security?

Cloud security is an aspect of cybersecurity which deals with the security and integrity of data stored in the cloud and shared via cloud computing.

Cloud security protects your data from leakage, data breach, unauthorized modification, and deletion, among other data security issues. 

There are various methods we can use to protect data stored on the cloud, including but not limited to bot management, firewalls, VPN, obfuscation, tokenization, implementing 2-factor authentication, data encryption, and others.

However, the basic principle remains the same: securing data stored and transferred over the cloud. 

Yet, why is cloud security a key concern for businesses and cloud service providers? Below, we will discuss some of the top cloud security challenges and risks to be aware of: 

Top Challenges and Risks in Cloud Security

Lack of Control and Visibility

Human error remains the top concern in data security with so many data breaches caused by ignorance and lack of knowledge. This also applies to cloud security: lack of control and visibility in managing the cloud applications can lead to various cloud security risks and concerns, namely: 

Misconfiguration of cloud security settings

Misconfiguration of cloud applications can be a major cause of various cloud security issues. Back in 2018, Exactis, a prominent marketing agency, accidentally leaked its cloud database containing the personal information of a whopping 340 million customers due to a seemingly simple misconfiguration. 

Cloud service providers and cloud security practitioners should first embrace the fact that traditional control policies and change management practices are typically not effective in a cloud environment.

Cloud-based applications and databases are much more complex, and thus we should be extra careful in configuring each application. 

It’s recommended to implement automation and various monitoring technologies to scan cloud resources continuously for misconfiguration. 

Unauthorized access

Insider threats caused by unauthorized access are another major risk in cloud security, and according to research from Intel, insider threats account for 43% of all data breaches, around half of them are intentional and malicious.

Businesses and cloud service providers need to think about access management and authorization: who can access which data, and when.

Access to cloud-based databases and applications should only be given when required, and it’s important to ensure nobody has more access than what’s needed to complete their current job-related responsibilities. 

Insecure Interfaces/APIs

Insecure interfaces and APIs are also common risks in cloud security. API vulnerabilities can provide attackers with a path to access the whole cloud database, allowing them to easily steal confidential information and credentials. 

It’s very important to employ good API security practices like regularly testing and auditing APIs for abnormal activities and vulnerabilities. 

Businesses should also consider utilizing an open API framework like Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI), and to ensure the integrity of API keys and avoid reuse at all costs. 

Data Breaches

The second group of cloud security risks includes external threats from cybercriminals and hackers attempting to steal confidential information and credentials. These threats will include:

Phishing

Phishing is a form of cybersecurity attack vector attacking human vulnerabilities. Again, human errors are the top cause of various data breaches, and phishing attempts have become more targeted and effective in recent years. 

It’s very important to regularly educate employees about common signs of phishing, and encourage employees to always use strong and unique passwords for every account, especially for cloud-based resources. 

Brute Force Attacks

Brute force attacks, or credential cracking attacks, are a form of attack vector where cybercriminals, commonly with the help of malicious bots, are attempting to guess user credentials (i.e. username and password pairs) to access user accounts. 

Once cybercriminals successfully gain access to credentials, they can then use the account to perform more dangerous attacks and/or steal important information. 

Credential Stuffing Attacks

Similar in principle to brute force attacks, credential stuffing attacks also utilize bots to steal user accounts by ‘guessing’ credentials.

However, in a credential stuffing attack, the cybercriminal is already in possession of a working credential and attempts to use it on another website or cloud resource. 

For example, the attacker might have possessed a user’s credential for his Gmail account, and now attempts to use the same credential pair on Facebook. In practice, the credential stuffing bot can attempt to log in on thousands of different cloud services at any given time. 

As we can see, credential stuffing relies on a very common vulnerability where so many of us often use the same password for all our accounts. It’s very important to encourage employees and clients to always use unique and complex enough passwords for each account. A password manager can help in such cases. 

Compliance Violations

In today’s heavily regulated business environment, businesses are often required to meet regulatory requirements like HIPAA, GDPR, or PCI DSS. However, not all cloud resources and service providers are employing enough security measures that comply with all these regulations. 

As a result, a business might add a cloud application that doesn’t meet its industry-required regulatory standards, leaving the business open to audits, censures, and penalties, among other issues. 

Limited Visibility

Limited cloud usage is also a common issue, where the cloud environment itself prevents security measures and personnel to access data required to detect and prevent malicious activity. We can divide this issue into two categories:

Unsanctioned app usage

This issue happens when employees or users use an application without the permission of the security or IT department. This results in an additional vulnerability that might cause various risks where the security team might be unaware. 

Sanctioned app misuse

In these cases, the user is using an application approved by the security team but misuses the app. Alternatively, the access might come from external users using stolen credentials. 

To tackle this issue, businesses need to develop cloud visibility policies from the top down. Employees must be regularly educated and trained on accepted cloud usage policies, and you might want to invest in a software-defined gateway (SDG) to analyze outbound activities, as well as a web application firewall (WAF) to monitor inbound connections. 

Lack of Cloud Security Strategy

It’s very common for businesses to prioritize faster migration and adoption of cloud resources rather than security. As a result of this phenomenon, many businesses adopted cloud applications without adequate security strategies and infrastructure to protect themselves. 

Businesses need to invest in the required security infrastructure that aligns well with the business’s objectives in adopting cloud resources. Above anything else, businesses should deploy a system capable of continuous monitoring capability to detect vulnerabilities and suspicious activities in cloud-based resources and databases.


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