Cloud Security Challenges
Organizations embracing cloud environments must understand that cloud applications and services have become popular targets for cybercriminals. A few notable and inherent risks with cloud deployments include:
Unfortunately, API exploits are on the rise, costing organizations dearly. Whether it’s stolen data or denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, an API security breach can put data in the hands of criminals and cost a company its hard-won reputation in the blink of an eye.
To avoid API vulnerability exploits:
- Review APIs currently in use and keep a comprehensive record of all APIs in your environment. Keep logs from these APIs.
- Implement rate limiting to prevent criminals from DoS attacks, in which a user floods an API with request pings in an effort to cause the system to crash and go offline.
- Ensure strong authentication and session management controls, including enforcing strong passwords, defining session timeouts, and encrypting data in transmission.
The cloud often creates a false peace of mind, particularly regarding cloud storage. The ease of deployment and lack of physical infrastructure to manage feels like a set-it-and-forget-it implementation. Many organizations struggle to perform data backups or to monitor the in- and outflows of critical data and files.
To prevent data loss:
- Perform regular backups to maintain business continuity.
- Test and maintain backup solutions to avoid data loss due to improper scheduling or configurations.
- Define access controls and limit domain or service access to only the end users who need it to prevent data leakage.
Try as they might, organizations can only do so much to protect their cloud environment from cyber criminals. Protecting the infrastructure and securing the perimeter is adequate but not foolproof. Human error still accounts for a majority of cybersecurity breaches.
To address human error:
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and require remote VPN access to prevent unauthorized entry.
- Roles and user groups should have least-privilege principles, and users should be swiftly offboarded when they leave the organization to prevent insider threats.
- Define usage best practices and create a risk-aware culture to discuss and mitigate risk.
To overcome common challenges, it’s crucial to understand the threat landscape and design a security strategy accordingly. Some of the most prevalent cloud security challenges facing organizations include:
To start, the demand for services can prove challenging in and of itself. Employees want better, more accessible, more efficient ways of working. In addition, they want the availability of those services and their data from anywhere to match flexible working environments that have gained popularity.
Cloud services help individuals and teams stay in contact, share documents and information, and make life easier. End users can access cloud services on-demand, making tools available with ease and taking the burden of provisioning out of the hands of IT help desks. Unfortunately, with this ease comes risk. Organizations who rush to implement or avail cloud tools without a mindful approach risk sacrificing security and putting their end users, network, and data at risk.
Reputable cloud service providers can be trusted with foundational security development, including API security measures. Still, before introducing a new tool into a workflow, organizations must have security in mind, including multi-factor authentication, strong password requirements for end users, and encryption for data transmission to, from, and within the application.
Similarly, it’s not only the need for mindful implementation of cloud services that can pose a challenge. Once these tools have been introduced into the environment, organizations (and their security professionals) are responsible for ensuring their secure interoperability.
Cybercriminals are well known for their cunning in finding any possible entry point to exploit for their gain. Managing the security of a multi-cloud environment requires attention and intention. Multi-cloud environments are at particular risk for misconfiguration and visibility challenges, both of which are easily mitigated with a mindful approach to implementation and monitoring.
Defining cloud security controls is a multi-layered approach. Unfortunately, many organizations take cloud security for granted, leaving the responsibility to service providers. Cloud security is a shared responsibility and should be approached as such.
First, ensure that all cloud tools are vetted by the organization and meet all requirements outlined in your security strategy. New and exciting tools may seem like game changers, but if they haven’t been verified and aren’t maintained by those in charge of keeping your network and data secure, one false move can be costly.
Cloud service providers are trusted (rightfully so) with the protection of backend services and physical infrastructure and protect their end customers' valuable private data. Organizations must do their part to protect their data and manage end-user accounts. Depending on the cloud service, a business may be responsible for security configurations, operations, and networking settings to ensure robust protection.
The ubiquity of the cloud in both private and professional realms means most end users are accustomed to accessing cloud services. For users, the cloud means ease, accessibility, and continuity. For security and legal professionals, the story is a bit different.
Managing on-prem data and IT centers meant security was a much more tangible job. Security professionals knew precisely where sensitive data resides and had the means to protect critical information, including controlling the movement of their data in and out of the organization.
For redundancy, cloud service providers often store data in different locations or have multiple data centers. While increasing reliability and uptime, this can pose regulatory risks for organizations. As the cloud becomes a commonplace approach, this is not an impossible challenge but one that businesses should be aware of - and discuss with their cloud service provider, where possible - to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
About the author:
Stefanie Shank. Having spent her career in various capacities and industries under the “high tech” umbrella, Stefanie is passionate about the trends, challenges, solutions, and stories of existing and emerging technologies. A storyteller at heart, she considers herself one of the lucky ones: someone who gets to make a living doing what she loves. Stefanie is a regular writer at Bora.
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.