Almost two-thirds of organizations surveyed by Logic Monitor pointed to security as the biggest challenge for cloud adoption. Moreover, 75% of IT experts think that managing privacy and data protection is more complicated in cloud environments than on-premises.
Cloud computing comes with many challenges; this goes without saying. However, companies are still interested in migrating their applications to the cloud. And to make it work, they turn to different techniques and strategies for optimal cloud security.
In this article, we zoom in on the vital security-related challenges companies face when migrating their applications to the cloud. Read on to find out what they are and get actionable tips to keep your cloud in the best shape.
What are the security challenges in cloud computing?
Misconfiguring cloud security settings is the top reason behind data breaches. Unfortunately, many businesses have cloud security management strategies in place that just aren't enough for protecting their infrastructures.
Why is that? Since the cloud was designed to be easily usable and data cloud-based resources shareable, it's difficult for organizations to make sure the data can only be accessed by authorized parties. Moreover, many companies lack complete visibility and control over their infrastructure. This means that they end up relying on the security controls provided by their cloud service provider.
On top of that, many companies now have multi-cloud deployment and deal with multiple vendors that each provide different security controls. So, misconfiguration or security oversight can expose the cloud resources to attackers.
2. Insecure interfaces or APIs
Cloud vendors often provide businesses with application programming interfaces (APIs) and customer interfaces. In general, these tools tend to be well-documented – this is how vendors make them easy to use.
However, this generates a potential issue if a business fails to secure its interfaces for the cloud-based infrastructure. Not to mention the fact that the documentation itself could also be used by cybercriminals to identify and exploit potential loopholes and, as a result, access or exfiltrate data from the company's cloud environment.
3. Unauthorized access
Cloud-based deployments are located outside of the company's network perimeter. In fact, they are directly accessible from the public internet, unlike an on-premises infrastructure. This is, of course, an asset because it makes the infrastructure more accessible to employees and customers.
However, it also makes it easier for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to the organization's cloud-based resources. Compromised credentials or poorly configured security measures might enable an attacker to gain direct access to the infrastructure, potentially without the organization even realizing it.
4. Lack of visibility
When using the public cloud, organizations need to acknowledge the fact that the resources will be located outside of their corporate network and on infrastructure that the company doesn't own. As a result, many traditional tools for network visibility aren't going to work for cloud environments.
Another problem related to visibility lies in the fact that some businesses lack cloud-focused security tools on their own. This limits their ability to monitor cloud-based resources or protect them against any attacks.
5. Account hijacking
It might come as a surprise, but many people use very weak passwords that can be easily exploited by attackers. Some of them might be reusing passwords for different services. This problem increases the impact of data breaches and phishing attacks since a single stolen password can be used on multiple accounts.
Account hijacking is a cloud security issue that is becoming increasingly common today. It's especially dangerous if it concerns cloud-based applications that carry out core business functions. An attacker equipped with an employee's credentials could access sensitive data or important functionalities, possibly gaining full control over the online account.
Since everything is happening in the cloud, organizations may lack the tools and capabilities to identify and respond to these threats as effectively as they do in the on-premises infrastructure.
6. Denial of service attacks
Cloud-based applications and storage are essential to the day-to-day functioning of many organizations. Many companies use cloud services to store business-critical data and run important processes or customer-facing applications. That's why a successful denial of service attack targeting the cloud infrastructure could have a major impact on the organization. Attackers who demand a ransom to stop the attack pose a significant threat to these critical cloud-based resources.
Practical tips to secure your cloud infrastructure
1. Gain a better grasp of identity and access management
The ability to effectively manage and define the roles, privileges, and responsibilities of different network users is a key goal of a cloud security strategy. You should be granting access to specific assets in a specific context and to the right users. Workers come and go, and roles change often. That's why this is often challenging, especially in cloud computing, where assets can be accessed from anywhere.
Fortunately, you can choose from many solutions that help to track different activities, adjust user roles, and enforce policies to minimize risk. While such solutions for governance and management are essential, they're just one side of the coin. The other is an active and layered approach to managing and mitigating security vulnerabilities that are simply bound to arise because we're all humans, and we make mistakes.
That's why the principle of least privilege is so important. By allowing only the minimal amount of access necessary to perform tasks, you enhance your security posture and keep your resources safe.
2. Consider the relationship with your cloud vendor
The growth of cloud computing brought the relationship between businesses and vendors to a new level. As more and more organizations strive to maximize their operational efficiency by outsourcing, these vendors assume increasingly important roles in business operations.
This is why you need to find a method to effectively manage your vendor relations within the context of the cloud. Every time you integrate third-party vendors into your system, you increase the cybersecurity risk.
A research study revealed that almost 60% of companies had encountered a breach due to a third party.
Some cybercriminals target large enterprises using such smaller partners who might have weaker security measures. They are the weakest link – so, it's essential that you secure your third-party vendor relations in the cloud. This means building directions for SaaS operations, developing guidance for sourcing and procurement of solutions, and carrying out regular vendor security evaluations.
3. Secure your APIs
To achieve integration and interoperability, organizations often turn to APIs. However, insecure APIs are also one of the most common threats to cloud security. Criminals can exploit them to steal valuable data and compromise these APIs.
Gartner predicts that by 2022, insecure APIs will be the most commonly used vector to target enterprise application data.
APIs are becoming increasingly important, so attackers are only going to focus more on tactics like exploiting weak authentication or adding vulnerabilities to open-source code.
How to prevent this from happening? Make sure that your development teams design API with proper authentication and access control. And maintain as much visibility as possible into the enterprise security environment. This will help you to quickly identify and remediate such risks.
4. Increase user visibility
Visibility plays a key role in cybersecurity. It's also one of the methods for organizations to operate securely in the cloud. Your ability to tell whether a user is authorized or unauthorized is a prerequisite for protecting your cloud resources. This becomes challenging as cloud environments grow larger and more complex.
Here's how you can mitigate this risk:
Make sure to control shadow IT projects at your organization.
Improve user visibility through behavior analytics and other tools.
Focus on increasing visibility across the various contexts in your cloud environment, and continue to monitor your approaches to make sure that suspicious activity is identified as quickly as possible.
Ensure that your cloud service provider offers strong visibility features and provides you with access to an event log. If a data breach happens, you can use it to identify which data was compromised and which customers were affected by the breach.
Ask your cloud service vendor for robust user control settings. Whether it's an IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS, take a look at the user access controls that come with it. Can you improve them with additional tools for integration?
5. Avoid vendor lock-in for security features
Being restricted to a single cloud service provider is a common scenario today called vendor lock-in. It means that choosing a different service or moving to a different vendor can be very difficult because of many reasons: starting from contract and technology to the skills you need to make the migration happen and its high cost.
If you're restricted to a single security solution choice, you might not be making the most of what's out there. So, when choosing cloud services, check whether migrating from one service to another is easy - for example, data formats that are easy to export to another system or tools that can help with that. Or maybe your cloud service includes any interfaces or integrations for various security features?
The cloud is still a great solution, even if it presents novel challenges when compared to traditional data centers.
Cloud migration doesn't have to become a security trade-off if you know how to benefit from the built-in security features and implement additional tools to build a robust security posture.
On the one hand, this means paying attention to the technologies you use. On the other, it relates to your customers and employees. Educate them about secure behaviors, force strong authentication methods, and train people how to create strong passwords and why they should never open attachments to suspicious emails.
And if you're not sure where to start, get in touch with an experienced cloud security team. At Maxima Consulting, we have been supporting organizations in developing their cloud security strategies for many years. We know what kind of threats await in the cloud.
Reach out to us if you're looking for a security audit and need help in tightening your cloud's security.