Cloud is constantly changing our lives; as individuals in society, as IT professionals and in the organisations that we are part of. It provides many advantages, including improved collaboration, accessibility and storage.
However, businesses must be aware of the unique security risks associated with the technology and operating model.
Here, Softcat looks at the top 5 security risks of cloud – and how these can be mitigated to protect confidential data and avoid costly downtime:
1. Data loss
According to an industry report, over 60% of organisations cite data loss and leakage as their biggest cloud security concern.
When a large amount of sensitive data is moved to the cloud, an organisation's risk of breaches naturally increases, often due to malware. This is partly because of the ease of data sharing in cloud environments and the larger attack surface resulting from an increasing number of exposed applications/systems.
While malicious attacks are the most common reason for data loss, with over 18 billion confidential data records breached in 2021 alone, cloud data is also at risk from natural disasters and human error (see item 5).
The key to addressing this risk is similar to that if the data was on-premises, following principles to classify your data, implement controls and processes to protect the data based on its sensitivity and understand the typical threats that may face your business and market you operate in.
2. Insecure Control Plane
While securing your infrastructure, applications, data, and users is a critical priority, securing the control plane used to operate the cloud environment is just as critical but sometimes the forgotten element.
An insecure control plane typically results in the use of your cloud provider environment for criminal activity, the creation of costly and unwanted additional infrastructure or the weakening of the security controls you have put in place for your infrastructure, applications or data (see item 1).
The control plane of any cloud environment is typically accessible over the public internet, where some basic configuration is required to ensure its security, which is the responsibility of the end organisation (see item 4).
The crucial factors for safeguarding your control plane are ensuring the proper use of multi-factor authentication (MFA), role-based access control, privileged identity management, and budget management (via thresholds and alerts).
It's important not to mistake the control plane as solely a graphical user interface (GUI), as it also encompasses the application programming interfaces (APIs) utilised for data transmission, provisioning, orchestration, and platform integration.
3. Limited visibility (‘Shadow IT’)
When transitioning to the cloud, businesses frequently experience a loss of visibility, including commercial, architectural, security, and operational aspects. This loss of visibility is usually not due to a lack of technical controls but rather the on-demand nature of cloud services, which encourages individuals to provision resources outside the standard IT channels. The outcome, however, is the same: the provision of resources without approved controls, resulting in increased risk, such as improperly secured systems or those left running indefinitely instead of for a time-limited proof of concept.
Similar to item 2, some keys to mitigating and/or embracing the innovation which cloud offers are ensuring controls such as role-based access control, privileged identity management and budget management (thresholds, alerts) as well as a well thought out landing zone to ensure robust areas for production workloads as well as moderated sand-boxes for innovation and testing.
4. Shared Responsibility
Cloud can be one of the most secure technology platforms, with major providers offering an extensive list of accreditations and certifications to support your industry-specific or region-specific workloads.
However, effective security of your cloud workload comes from adherence to the shared responsibility model, specifically what you vs the cloud provider are each responsible for, as well as the grey areas in the middle.
Many cloud data breaches are caused by the organisation having misconfigurations in its cloud security settings.
The cloud system is left vulnerable to hacking when set up incorrectly, for example, when default security settings are used or when the control plane is not secure correctly. Just a single misconfiguration can negatively impact cloud security and leave firms vulnerable.
How to mitigate cloud security challenges
While many security risks associated with cloud require targeted policies and control measures, businesses are still encouraged to follow general best-practice behaviours to keep their assets secure.
Risk assessments and auditing
One way to evaluate a company’s cloud cybersecurity credentials is by conducting risk assessments. This includes reviewing all the business’ cloud assets and relevant security measures, both owned and applied by the provider, to uncover potential vulnerabilities and inform IT strategy.
It is vital that these audits are conducted regularly, and records updated. With the cyber threat landscape ever-evolving, businesses must be aware of new types of attacks and identify any vulnerabilities at the earliest opportunity to avoid breaches.
User access controls
Managing access credentials and controls is crucial for cloud security due to the accessibility of the environment. Ensure adequate policies to control access to sensitive data and apps.
With remote working models linked to a 238% increase in global cyberattacks, defining permissions and access credentials is key.
Implementing multifactor authentication reduces risks caused by increased remote access requests in the modern, flexible working world. At the same time, zero-trust security is also recommended to eliminate implicit trust – requiring users to be validated at every stage of digital interaction.
In today’s sophisticated cyber threat landscape, many IT departments cannot cope with the increasing volume and pace of security threats.
Embracing automation software solutions throughout the organisation allows IT staff to avoid the mundane or repetitive tasks that drain resources, freeing up their capacity to spend time on high-priority, manual tasks such as identifying new threats and investigating incidents.
Reliable DevOps services support cloud cybersecurity efforts by improving code quality, reducing exploits and vulnerabilities, and accelerating application development and feature deployment.
Effective compliance and governance
The organisation must create privacy and compliance policies that outline rules around interacting and passing data. There should also be a framework of governance that establishes authority and responsibility in the organisation.
This shifts the responsibility from solely on the IT team to the entire organisation – with all employees aware of the compliance regulations placed on the company’s data and their role in meeting these legal requirements. For example, key permissions and cybersecurity best practices to eliminate any breaches from human error.
Ready to embrace the benefits of the cloud? Contact our team to find out how we can support your efforts.