Many organizations have either been formed in, or have migrated to cloud-based environments due to the efficiency, flexibility, mobility, cost savings, and other benefits. The majority of applications that are used today are incorporated with the cloud. Most of our data and processes exist in the cloud. But simple as it is, just uploading your files to the cloud or using services of the cloud, doesn`t guarantee that it`s secure. The cloud too can be compromised by cyberattacks, just as on-premise devices.
Cloud security consists of safeguarding cloud-based infrastructure, applications, and data, using appropriate policies, controls, and procedures against insider and external threats. Cloud security depends on both the service provider and its customers. The cloud providers have sufficient security features to protect data and services, but it is the customer`s responsibility to enforce a cloud security management strategy. An on-site IT infrastructure gives you total leverage in the management and monitoring of devices, but the cloud infrastructure isn`t physically accessible, therefore necessary security controls must be implemented through the cloud service provider.
Maintaining a strong cloud security posture in your business will provide protection against security breaches, help in disaster recovery management, increase availability, comply with regulations, and improve reliability and customer trust.
Cloud security vulnerabilities and challenges
Threat actors often compromise cloud systems through simple configuration errors. Default configurations, weak passwords, improper access controls, and permission errors leave systems vulnerable to attacks. Even sudden ad hoc changes during the usage of cloud services might result in configuration errors. Misconfiguration occurs mainly due to lack of security awareness and understanding of security controls. The best way to close this security gap is by learning about all the security settings, permissions, and services available in your cloud. Regular auditing and monitoring your cloud assets, will enable you to note any configuration drift.
Lack of visibility/Control
Initiating new processes and services can be easily done in the cloud infrastructure, but this can increase the lack of visibility of its users and activities. This will result in blind spots for vulnerabilities to occur, along with compliance issues, and limited monitoring of the performance and the effectiveness of the security controls. This makes security and functional issues harder to solve. Hence, implementing a standardized cloud usage policy, maintaining a strong compliance, and proper auditing and monitoring are essential.
The unauthorized use of devices, software, systems, and services is known as shadow IT. Due to the ease of accessibility in cloud services, poor access management and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies increase the usage of shadow IT resources. This will increase the attack surface by exposing the environment to the possibility of data theft, data loss, and malware installation, and many other compromises.
Cloud Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable applications to communicate and transfer information with each other, and connect multiple clouds and services together. But unpatched API vulnerabilities increase the chances for threat actors gain access to sensitive data, remotely control applications, and execute attacks such as Remote Code Execution (RCE) and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. To protect against API attacks, scan for vulnerabilities, employ Web Application Firewalls (WAFs), and use an API gateway to access serverless functions.
Cloud systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks more than ever, due to the advancement of technology and the ease of accessibility of the cloud through the public internet. DoS attacks, ransomware attacks, cloud malware injection attacks, user account hijacking, and compromise attacks, are some of the attacks used on cloud systems. Appropriate security controls, monitoring and reviewing cloud assets, encrypting data, and implementing backup and recovery processes will aid in defending and mitigating cyber-attacks.
Legitimate users who have access to cloud assets might misuse cloud resources for their own purposes. There are also risks of unauthorized access to certain assets. For example, some actions may not be maliciously motivated, but can cause serious harm to the organization. To prevent insider threats, perform risk assessments, implement strict password and account management policies, and deploy security software such as an Intrusion Detection System (IDS), Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), and traffic monitoring software.
5 best practices to secure cloud environments
- Implement an Identity and Access Management (IAM) plan, and enforce Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on all users` accounts – IAM verifies the identities of the authorized personnel and their access rights to services. Implementing MFA on user accounts prevents attacks such as account compromise and hijacking.
- Discover shadow IT usage – Conduct a Software as a Service (SaaS) audit, and identify which cloud services are being used through web proxies, firewalls, or Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) logs.
- Create backup solutions
- Use cloud-to-cloud (C2C) backup solutions, and also employ a second cloud environment to backup data.
- Local backup – Create an on-premise backup solution.
- Use encryption and automation solutions to conceal information as unidentified data during transit, and at rest. Encryption provides an additional layer of security from attacks. Using automated vulnerability scanners, intrusion, and threat detection systems will allow you to identify and remediate attacks before they can compromise the systems.
- Conduct cloud security training and awareness – Since the cloud infrastructure is a different ecosystem, employees must be trained to use the services properly while safeguarding their presence. An awareness of the latest threats and attacks must be conducted.
Cloud security is a set of policies, controls, and procedures that safeguards cloud environments. The security of the cloud can be compromised in so many ways due to the myriad types of attacks available today. Threat actors are always seeking new ways to breach cloud systems. It is vital to identify these attacks and implement good controls to increase your organization`s cloud security posture.
About the Author:
Dilki Rathnayake is a Cybersecurity student studying for her BSc (Hons) in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics at Kingston University. She is also skilled in Computer Network Security and Linux System Administration. She has conducted awareness programs and volunteered for communities that advocate best practices for online safety. In the meantime, she enjoys writing blog articles for Bora and exploring more about IT Security.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.