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Cloud Computing Security: Key Challenges & Solutions

Cloud Computing Security: Critical Challenges and How to Address Them Cloud computing adoption is accelerating, with businesses flocking to the benefits of flexibility, scalability, and […]

Cloud Computing Security: Critical Challenges and How to Address Them

Cloud computing adoption is accelerating, with businesses flocking to the benefits of flexibility, scalability, and cost savings. However, security remains a major concern for many organizations. In fact, 66% of IT professionals cite security as the top barrier to enterprise cloud adoption according to a recent survey.

While the cloud offers advantages, it also comes with unique risks. Companies must understand and address these key security challenges in order to fully protect their data and operations in the cloud.

Cloud Computing Security: Key Challenges & Solutions

Cloud Computing Security: Key Challenges & Solutions

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Misconfigurations Are a Leading Cause of Cloud Data Breaches

Misconfigured cloud environments are a major cause of data breaches. With the complexity of cloud infrastructure and lack of visibility, it’s easy for organizations to improperly configure access and permissions. This leaves sensitive data and applications vulnerable to attacks.

According to research, misconfigurations have been implicated in over 200 million leaked records. This staggering number highlights just how damaging misconfigurations can be. Some notable examples of breaches caused by cloud misconfigurations include:

  • A misconfigured Amazon S3 bucket exposed the personal information of over 100 million Capital One customers in 2019. This major breach resulted in leaked credit card applications, Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and more.
  • In 2018, a misconfigured MongoDB database exposed over 57 million user records from LocalBlox, a data analytics firm. The exposed data included sensitive personal and geo-location information.
  • A misconfigured Azure blob allowed access to customer call recordings from contractors working for Credit Karma in 2021. The exposure impacted 93,000 customers.

These incidents underscore how simple cloud configuration errors can have massive consequences. Organizations must implement strict controls and monitoring to catch high-risk configurations before they turn into full-blown breaches. Professional guidance from a managed service provider is advisable to audit environments and ensure secure configurations are in place. With cloud complexity only increasing, having experts regularly check for issues is a prudent safeguard against catastrophic missteps.

Cyberattacks Increasingly Target Cloud Environments

Cybercriminals are expanding their capabilities and increasingly targeting cloud environments. The 2020 Trustwave Global Security Report found that cloud services accounted for 20% of investigated security incidents, more than double the previous year. While networks and endpoints remain most targeted overall, clouds now rank third and threats are clearly escalating.

Hackers are adapting to cloud architectures and devising new techniques to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access. For example, security researchers recently discovered a sophisticated cybercriminal campaign dubbed Cloud Snooper. This attack targeted misconfigured Docker instances on cloud servers in order to install crypto mining malware. By hijacking cloud resources, the attackers could mine cryptocurrency on the victim’s dime.

Cloud Snooper illustrates how attackers actively probe for weaknesses in cloud environments in order to infiltrate networks and profit off of compromised resources. Companies must strengthen their security posture and address vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. Ongoing vulnerability management and penetration testing are vital. Partnering with a managed security provider allows companies to leverage advanced threat intelligence and security expertise when faced with increasingly sophisticated threats.

Insider Threats Put Cloud Data at Risk

External attacks aren't the only concern. Insiders pose a significant cloud security risk as well. The 2020 Verizon DBIR states that 30% of breaches involve internal actors. Cloud environments can obscure malicious insider activity, but companies must implement controls to expose these threats.

Insider threats in the cloud may involve credential theft and abuse, unauthorized snooping on data, theft of proprietary information, and more. For example, a rogue employee could leverage privileges to quietly exfiltrate data from cloud storage buckets. Or an insider could intentionally sabotage cloud configurations as an act of revenge against an employer.

Tools like user behavior analytics, privileged access management, and data loss prevention enable visibility over user activity and help protect cloud data from insider misuse. Routine audits of access and activity patterns also help spot potential abuses before major damage occurs.

When bringing on new cloud administrators, companies should thoroughly vet candidates and implement least privilege access to minimize insider threat risks. Ongoing training about proper data handling and compliance policies is also important for shaping a security-focused culture.

Lack of Cloud Usage Visibility Creates Security Gaps

Cloud security challenges also arise when organizations can't properly manage usage. Half of companies have limited visibility into how employees access cloud services according to a survey. Lacking adequate oversight into cloud usage and data movement exposes organizations to threats.

For example, employees may unsanctioned apps that have not been properly evaluated and secured by IT teams. Risky user behaviors like sharing files or credentials outside of the organization can also fly under the radar without visibility.

A cloud access security broker (CASB) can provide comprehensive visibility and control over cloud usage. CASBs log activity, detect high-risk usage, enforce security policies, and prevent unwanted exposure. For instance, they can spot abnormal downloads that signal data exfiltration or flag suspicious logins from anomalous locations. CASBs are a must-have for governing cloud access and securing data across cloud apps.

Uncontrolled Data Sharing Leads to Compliance Risks

The cloud makes data sharing and collaboration easy. Yet unchecked data exfiltration puts sensitive data at risk. For example, sharing files via public links or improperly secured cloud apps can enable data theft. A study found that over 90% of cloud services do not encrypt data at rest, exposing user data if access controls are misconfigured.

Data loss prevention, access controls, and user monitoring capabilities help mitigate this threat. Companies should also take time to classify data, label it appropriately, and train employees on proper handling according to sensitivity levels. For highly confidential data like customer financial records, maintaining full control on-premises vs the cloud may be the safest choice if exfiltration controls are insufficient.

Uncontrolled data sharing can also lead to compliance violations and legal risks. Data residency requirements, privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, and industry standards all dictate how data must be handled. Cloud misuse could quickly put an organization on the hook for hefty fines, lawsuits, and reputational damage. Ongoing risk assessments, auditing, and compliance expertise are essential for avoiding cloud blind spots.

Expert Guidance Is Key for Cloud Security Success

Realizing the full benefits of the cloud securely requires expertise and active management. Work with a managed service provider who can configure controls, tune them for effectiveness, monitor for issues 24/7, and respond swiftly to incidents.

Look for a partner with experience across major cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud. They should demonstrate technical expertise across:

  • Cloud architecture design
  • Access and identity management
  • Data protection
  • Threat monitoring
  • Incident response
  • Compliance management

A trusted partner can assess an organization's unique needs and risk profile to architect cloud environments tailored for security. They will handle time-consuming tasks like patching, configuration hardening, and firewall rules so in-house teams can focus elsewhere. Ongoing optimization and guidance ensures configurations remain secure amid changing threats.

With a seasoned provider at the helm of your cloud security, you can confidently harness the advantages of cloud computing while sidestepping the pitfalls. Protect your data, streamline compliance, and set your organization up for secure cloud success by partnering with the right managed services expert.


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