As the adoption of cloud computing continues to surge among businesses, so does the risk of cyberattacks on cloud services. According to a 2021 study, the average cost for businesses to recover from data breaches stands at a staggering $4.82 million.
This substantial cost encompasses fines imposed by regulators, expenses incurred in rectifying the breach, and the resources dedicated to investigating the incident. As a result, it is vital for businesses to be acutely aware of potential vulnerabilities lurking in the cloud and take proactive measures to protect their digital assets. In this article, let’s explore some common cloud vulnerabilities and ways to overcome them.
What Are Cloud Vulnerabilities?
In cloud computing, vulnerability refers to any oversight, omission, or security issue that cybercriminals can exploit to gain unauthorized access to corporate accounts. Once infiltrated, hackers may infiltrate, alter, or even delete sensitive company data, such as financial records or customer information. This stolen data can then be weaponized for extortion purposes, where individuals or businesses are forced into paying substantial ransom to prevent the exposure of confidential information.
Cloud vulnerabilities manifest in diverse forms, and the ability to recognize and respond to these weaknesses is pivotal in mitigating the risk of data breaches. By doing so, businesses can safeguard sensitive data, improve client and consumer trust, and avert potential public relations crises.
Common Types of Cloud Vulnerabilities
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Misconfigured Cloud Storage
Cloud storage houses numerous amounts of corporate data, encompassing customer information, employment contracts, financial records, and intellectual property. This wealth of data makes cloud storage an attractive target for hackers. Once unauthorized access to business cloud accounts is obtained, cybercriminals can steal critical corporate data for purposes, including blackmail or selling on the Dark Web.
To prevent data leaks, it is important to review and configure cloud security settings diligently. Ensure that your cloud storage buckets or containers are set to “Private” rather than “Public” to restrict access solely to authorized personnel.
While certain cloud storages default to “private,” it is not a universal guarantee. Plus, confirm that cloud encryption is enabled, rendering data unreadable in transit and at rest, thus reducing interception by cyber criminals.
APIs facilitate communication between disparate software applications by defining the terms of information exchange. However, these interfaces necessitate access to sensitive program operations and data, rendering them susceptible to exploitation by cybercriminals.
Attackers can leverage insecure APIs to get data, often employing tokens to transmit information securely without risking the exposure of passwords. Continuous asset discovery of all APIs is an essential component of vulnerability management. This proactive approach helps in the identification of cloud vulnerabilities, enabling preemptive mitigation.
Inadequate Access Management
Access management, also known as identity management, relates to the procedures users follow to access software and cloud apps. Effective access management requires users to provide credentials like email addresses, passwords, and in cases of multi-factor authentication.
Insufficient access management can open the door to data breaches within cloud apps. Modern access management tools, including MFA and stringent password requirements, are indispensable for fortifying cloud security.
Implementing least privilege or zero trust policies across the organization ensures that users access only the features and services essential to their roles, thereby restricting the application to its intended use.
The human element remains the weakest link in cybersecurity. Employees, external vendors, or business partners, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can compromise data security or introduce other cloud-related vulnerabilities. To guard against such threats, businesses must establish stringent policies and conduct audits. Restricting access to critical data to trusted individuals can further bolster security.
Lack of Visibility
With the expansion of your infrastructure due to increased cloud service use, it’s easy to lose track of running instances of cloud services, especially when dealing with thousands of them.
Accessibility to comprehensive information about the state of your entire infrastructure must be convenient and easy. The inability to visualize your cloud infrastructure constitutes a major problem that can impede threat response and potentially lead to a data breach.
It is crucial for managers and teams to adopt a proactive security strategy. To mitigate this risk, always keep a vigilant eye out to and promptly identify threats and implement tools like a CNAPP to reduce risk and expedite response times during emergencies.
Responsibility for implementing robust security measures largely rests with the user. For instance, if a weak or reused password leads to a security breach, the responsibility falls on the user rather than the cloud service provider. Account or session hijacking transpires when hackers steal account credentials. Common methods employed for account hijacking include:
- Phishing: Hackers employ social engineering techniques and deceptive emails, often impersonating reputable entities, to trick recipients into divulging personal information, including passwords.
- Keylogging: Malicious software illegally monitors user activities, capturing login information and relaying it to cyber criminals.
- Brute force attacks: Attackers employ trial-and-error techniques to guess passwords, often targeting easily predictable choices. Users are strongly advised to create hard, non-obvious passwords to prevent such attacks.
- Cross-site scripting (XSS): Malicious code is distributed across web browsers to infect systems, with the plan of gaining access to vulnerable accounts.
Businesses must adhere to industry-specific cloud computing compliance and regulations. Prominent privacy regulations include the GDPR, PCI Security Standards Council, and CCPA. Selecting a cloud service provider that implements rigorous security measures is essential. Look for features such as monitoring, intrusion detection, and robust access management to fortify your cloud security posture.
Threats vs. Vulnerabilities in Cloud Computing
It is crucial to differentiate between cloud computing vulnerabilities and threats, as they can occasionally be confused. Vulnerabilities represent conditions or weaknesses that create opportunities for attacks. They highlight the circumstances that enable malicious actions to occur. For instance, an inadequately configured access management system is considered a cloud computing vulnerability. It signifies a condition where users may have excessive access to sensitive company data.
On the other hand, threats encompass immediate dangers, actions, or behaviors that are currently occurring or imminent. Threats have the potential to cause harm if not promptly addressed. An example of a threat in cloud computing is a Denial of Service attack, wherein an attacker floods a target with data, such as page requests, causing system overload and rendering services unavailable to users.
Protecting your business data and assets in the cloud necessitates a comprehensive understanding of common cloud vulnerabilities.By proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities and swiftly mitigating threats, you can fortify your cloud security posture and minimize the risk of costly data breaches and compliance violations. Cloud security is an ongoing plan, requiring constant vigilance and adaptation to evolving threats and vulnerabilities in the digital landscape.