In many ways, the security threats facing today’s traditional data center environments overlap with those of a cloud computing environment. On both sides, cybercriminals aim to take advantage of vulnerabilities found in software. That said, cloud computing introduces another element in that the responsibility of addressing and mitigating those risks is split between the cloud service provider (CSP) and the organization. Understanding the ins and outs of these relationships is critical to ensuring cloud security as operations move to cloud computing models.
There are several security risks to consider when making the switch to cloud computing. Here are 5 of the top security risks your organization should be aware of:
1. Limited visibility into network operations
When moving workloads and assets to the cloud, organizations forfeit a certain level of visibility into network operations. This is because the responsibility of managing some of the systems and policies shifts to the cloud service provider. Depending on the type of service model being used, the shift of responsibility may vary in scope. As a result, organizations must be able to monitor their network infrastructure without the use of network-based monitoring and logging.
By moving large amounts of sensitive data to an internet-connected cloud environment, organizations are opening themselves up to additional cyber threats. Malware attacks are a common threat to cloud security, with studies showing that nearly 90% of organizations of organizations are more likely to experience data breaches as cloud usage increases. As cybercriminals continue to become increasingly savvy with their attack delivery methods, organizations must be aware of the evolving threat landscape.
Data privacy is becoming a growing concern, and as a result, compliance regulations and industry standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS are becoming more stringent. One of the keys to ensuring ongoing compliance is by overseeing who can access data and what exactly they can do with that access. Cloud systems typically allow for large-scale user access, so if the proper security measures (ie. access controls) aren’t in place, it can be difficult to monitor access across the network.
4. Loss of data
Data leakage is a growing concern for organizations, with over 60% citing it as their biggest cloud security concern. As previously mentioned, cloud computing requires organizations to give up some of their control to the CSP. This can mean that the security of some of your organization’s critical data may fall into the hands of someone outside of your IT department. If the cloud service provider experiences a breach or attack, your organization will not only lose its data and intellectual property but will also be held responsible for any resulting damages.
5. Inadequate due diligence
The move to the cloud should not be taken lightly. Similar to a third-party vendor, when working with a cloud service provider, it’s important to conduct thorough due diligence to ensure that your organization has a complete understanding of the scope of work needed to successfully and efficiently move to the cloud. In many cases, organizations are unaware of how much work is involved in a transition and the cloud service provider’s security measures are often overlooked.
Security measures to reduce cloud security risks
Regular third-party checks
It is important to identify gaps in the security controls regularly. This ensures all blind spots are checked and corrected to avoid any unnecessary attack surface. Cloud security assessments such as cloud penetration testing, AWS security testing, Azure testing or SaaS security assessments should be undertaken regularly. At the least, an annual assessment or upon major changes, security validation exercises should be considered to discover weaknesses in your cloud infrastructure.
Secure hardening practices
Ensure technical security baselines are in place and secure hardening ensures security controls before any assets are released in the production environment. At the very least, an organisation can start with a CIS benchmark, secure build configuration review or compliance guides to ensure cloud security baselining is in place. This adds to the organisation’s proactive approach from the early days and ensures a multi-layered data security approach.
Encryption is more than a certificate on your website. It also involves making sure that data at rest and in transit are secure. This can be difficult due to the lack of resources or developers trying to reinvent the wheel. Therefore, it is important to ensure encryption secure configuration checklists and standards before production builds.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) must be added as an extra authentication factor to access cloud accounts. This will help reduce the likelihood of account compromises by a great deal, whether it is an insider attack or a credential leakage concern.
It is imperative that you routinely perform secure backups (at data centres or separate cloud storage locations) to ensure your files are not lost. This may be provided as a feature by your cloud service provider. However, you should test how the restore function works to ensure it works when you need it.
User education and training are even more important with remote connectivity and cloud technologies usage. Training your staff regularly on the digital risks, cloud security concerns, in this case, helps to ensure staff understand the need to protect assets from accidental events such as phishing attacks and social engineering attacks.
Cloud computing has enabled businesses of every size to grow and scale without having to make large capital investments. However, the public nature of the cloud also places them at risk from a variety of cyberattacks. By understanding these threats and taking the proper preventative measures, companies can still enjoy the benefits of cloud services, while minimizing the dangers.