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Top 10 Cloud Malware Threats and How to Defend Against Them

Top 10 Cloud Malware Threats and How to Defend Against Them Cloud computing has become ubiquitous, but the growth in cloud adoption has also led […]

Top 10 Cloud Malware Threats and How to Defend Against Them

Cloud computing has become ubiquitous, but the growth in cloud adoption has also led to an increase in cloud-based malware threats. This article will cover:

  • The top 10 most dangerous types of cloud malware
  • How cloud malware threats operate
  • Tips to secure your cloud environment

As per research from Barracuda Networks, 68% of malware is now delivered via cloud apps. Additionally, 60% of small businesses hit by cloud malware attacks end up closing down. Clearly, cloud malware has emerged as a major cybersecurity threat for businesses.

This article will break down the top 10 cloud malware threats, explain how they operate, and provide actionable ways to defend your cloud environment against them. By learning about these threats, you can take proactive steps to secure your cloud apps, platforms, and infrastructure.


The risks posed by cloud malware are substantial. A single breach can lead to catastrophic data leaks, crippling downtime, compliance violations, and major financial losses. However, many businesses still underestimate these threats, leaving themselves dangerously exposed. This article aims to raise awareness and provide practical defenses. By understanding the most dangerous cloud malware, you gain crucial knowledge to secure critical systems and data.

Top 10 Cloud Malware Threats and How to Defend Against Them

Top 10 Cloud Malware Threats and How to Defend Against Them

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Cloud Malware: A Growing Threat in the Digital Age

Cloud malware refers to malicious software designed to target cloud computing services like IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. It can infiltrate networks, servers, storage, and applications in the cloud. Impacts include:

  • Data theft
  • Ransomware
  • Cryptojacking
  • Denial of service
  • System corruption

With more critical business systems moving to the cloud, cloud malware threats continue to grow. The flexibility and scalability of cloud computing provides major advantages, but also introduces new risks if security is not handled properly.

Cloud malware takes advantage of vulnerabilities within the unique cloud architecture. For instance, multi-tenant environments allow malware to spread rapidly across systems. Hypervisors that manage virtual machines can be overloaded to cause denial of service. APIs and serverless functions may contain exploitable flaws that let attackers run malicious code.

The shared responsibility model of cloud security also creates gaps that malware can slip through. Providers secure the cloud infrastructure, but customers must configure and secure workloads running on it. Misconfigurations are common - a Trend Micro study found 80% of cloud users had at least one misconfigured IaaS instance.

Implementing robust cloud cybersecurity is crucial. But many businesses struggle with the complexity and lack specialized skills. Working with a reputable managed service provider can help implement layered defenses tailored to cloud environments.

Top 10 Cloud Malware Threats and Defenses

Here are the top 10 cloud malware threats and tips to defend against them:

Threat Description Defenses
1. Injection Attacks Inject malicious code into cloud servers by exploiting vulnerabilities  Use strong passwords
Prompt patching
Limit privileges
Monitor traffic
2. Phishing Use spoofed emails and sites to steal credentials and distribute malware via links/attachments  Educate staff on phishing
Use multi-factor authentication
Verify links/senders
3. Data Theft and Corruption Breach networks to steal sensitive data, corrupt systems/data Monitor third parties
Implement least privilege access
Encrypt data
4. Trojans Disguise as legitimate software to gain access and steal data Download software only from trusted sources
Scan files before opening
5. Credential Exploitation Use brute force, password stealing, exploit weak credentials to gain access Apply multi-factor authentication
Limit privileges
Monitor unauthorized access attempts
6. Attacks on Serverless Functions and APIs Exploit vulnerabilities in serverless functions/APIs to run malicious code  Monitor functions/APIs
Scan for vulnerabilities
Patch promptly
7. Hypervisor Denial of Service (DOS) Overload hypervisors with excessive resource requests to cause disruption  Keep protocols updated
Monitor closely
Implement continuity plans
8. Live Migration Vulnerabilities Target flaws in live migration to spread malware across systems Perform security scans
Patch migration tools
Monitor closely
9. WiFi Eavesdropping Intercept weakly encrypted WiFi signals to steal transmitted data  Use strong WiFi encryption
Change passwords regularly
Keep systems patched
10. Zero-Day Exploits Exploit previously unknown software vulnerabilities before vendors release fixes  Patch promptly when available
Monitor systems
Watch for abnormalities

Injection Attacks

Injection attacks involve inserting malicious code, commands or queries into cloud systems by taking advantage of flaws in code, APIs, inputs, and more. They are one of the top threats since they can be launched remotely against websites, databases, and applications. Once injected, malware can export data, delete files, corrupt systems, and more.

Using strong passwords, promptly patching known vulnerabilities, limiting user privileges, and monitoring traffic can help defend against injection attacks. Web application firewalls and intrusion detection systems provide additional protection.


Phishing remains one of the most common vectors for malware distribution. Spoofed emails and websites pretend to be legitimate to trick users into entering credentials or downloading infected files. Multi-factor authentication adds a layer of security beyond passwords. Educating staff to identify phishing attempts is also critical.

Data Theft and Corruption

Once inside a cloud environment, malware can breach databases and storage to steal sensitive customer, financial and intellectual property data. Ransomware and wipers can also permanently encrypt or corrupt critical data and systems.

Monitoring third party access, implementing least privilege access controls, and encrypting sensitive data helps mitigate data theft and corruption risks. Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions, backups, and anomaly detection provide additional safeguards.


Trojans disguise themselves as legitimate software to trick users into downloading and installing them. Once activated, they create backdoors to steal data, install additional malware, and enable cybercriminals to remotely control infected systems.

Only downloading software from trusted sources helps avoid Trojans. Scanning files before opening with up-to-date antivirus software provides another layer of protection.

Credential Exploitation

Compromised user credentials provide the keys to the kingdom for attackers. Malware like keyloggers, sniffers, and password stealers are used to harvest credentials. Brute force attacks guess weak passwords, while techniques like pass-the-hash exploit single sign-on vulnerabilities.

Multi-factor authentication prevents stolen passwords from being used alone to access accounts. Limiting user privileges reduces potential damage from compromised credentials. Monitoring for unauthorized access attempts alerts to potential breaches.

Attacks on Serverless Functions and APIs

Serverless computing and APIs introduce new surfaces vulnerable to exploits. Malware can probe for flaws in serverless functions and APIs used to access cloud services and data. If successful, attackers can run malicious code, extract data, or move laterally across connected systems.

Keeping functions and APIs patched, monitoring activity, and scanning for vulnerabilities helps secure these attack surfaces. API gateways that validate traffic also add protection.

Hypervisor Denial of Service (DOS)

Hypervisors manage virtualized environments in public and private clouds. Flooding them with excessive resource requests can overload and crash hypervisors, causing widespread outages.

Updating network protocols, closely monitoring activity, and having continuity plans in place helps defend against hypervisor DOS attacks. Some providers offer DOS mitigation services to route and absorb malicious traffic.

Live Migration Vulnerabilities

Live migration moves running virtual machines between hosts and even across cloud data centers without downtime. But flaws in live migration tools can be exploited to spread malware across systems as VMs are migrated.

Regular security scans, patching migration tools, and monitoring for abnormalities during migrations helps secure this process. Some providers allow restricting live migrations between specific hosts or zones to limit exposure.

WiFi Eavesdropping

Many cloud providers operate WiFi networks on their premises, which can be tapped into by attackers nearby if encryption is weak. Transmitted data including login credentials can then be intercepted.

Using strong WiFi encryption standards like WPA2 or WPA3 prevents eavesdropping. Changing passwords regularly also limits potential damage from any stolen credentials. Keeping routers patched eliminates exploits against outdated encryption.

Zero-Day Exploits

Zero-day exploits take advantage of previously unknown software vulnerabilities before vendors have time to release patches. Attackers closely study systems to discover flaws that let them sneak malware in before defenses are in place.

Promptly patching systems when fixes become available closes these holes before exploits can happen. Monitoring systems for abnormal behavior may also reveal zero-day attacks underway so response can be initiated.


The cloud introduces new risks, but also allows for robust security capabilities if implemented correctly. Work with a reputable managed service provider to build layered defenses like:

  • Access controls
  • Encryption
  • Behavioral monitoring
  • Firewalls
  • Backup systems
  • Continuity plans

Provide security training to staff, and have backup systems and continuity plans in place.

Staying on top of emerging malware threats is also key to timely defense. Sign up for threat intelligence feeds that deliver real-time alerts and updates from cybersecurity researchers.

By understanding the top cloud malware threats, and taking proactive steps to mitigate them, you can protect your cloud data, apps, and infrastructure from attacks. Prioritize cloud-focused cybersecurity strategies to safeguard your business now and in the future.


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