The responsibility for protecting data in the cloud falls primarily on its users or tenants. While cloud security is structured as a shared ownership model between cloud customers and their Cloud Service Provider (CSP), cloud breaches predominantly occur on the user’s side. In fact, 99% of all cloud breaches can be traced back to the tenant. This article will share five ways businesses are vulnerable to cloud exploits and provide tips to mitigate their risks.
A common mistake occurs when a business relies on security protocols constructed from a single point in time. Cloud applications are not static; programmers apply new functionalities, change configurations, and companies introduce new endpoints and new opportunities for an exploit. For this reason, it is essential to establish security procedures based on the observations of a highly fluid environment. Those practices need to be flexible enough to allow daily business dealings to go on unimpeded, but stringent enough to stand up to the ever-changing digital landscape.
The analytics of an enterprise’s digital environment is frequently at the ready, but they are often not pieced together and assessed as a whole. So, when an enterprise scrutinizes fragmented data, nothing may seem amiss. This scenario is how corporations operate under the assumption that their assets are secure when threat actors have already compromised their systems. In fact, according to the Ponemon Institute, it takes an average of approximately 6.5 months for businesses to recognize a breach. The analytics of an enterprise’s digital environment is frequently at the ready, but they are often not pieced together and assessed as a whole. So, when an enterprise scrutinizes fragmented data, nothing may seem amiss. This scenario is how corporations operate under the assumption that their assets are secure when threat actors have already compromised their systems. This situation is where third-party monitoring or use of a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool can be a critical benefit. Dedicated personnel whose sole job it is to assemble and assess digital structures are far more likely to raise the alarm on a data breach sooner than in-house modes of operation produce. Often, dedicated monitoring can trigger real-time warnings and offer businesses the chance to respond to and further deter an attack before irreparable damage occurs.
When an expert can assess anomalies across the environment as a whole, alarming patterns may emerge. Minor-appearing attacks and attempts to form small cracks in a security program are common ways hackers test an environment while formulating a larger strike plan. It is essential that whoever monitors a business’s cloud security is experienced enough to recognize these instances and collect the forensic evidence to determine how the attacker gained access and what information was compromised. Once that has been established, it’s imperative to quickly design a plan to secure and remediate the environment and then roll out a fix across the entire structure.
The cloud makes it possible for hackers to easily step inside a business’s network from the other side of the hemisphere. If they can locate a poorly secured machine that will answer a network call, they can access it to gain entry to the environment and then move laterally to access internal assets from there. To combat this, businesses should create a configured zero-trust network that is only accessible through several different layers.
The cloud allows people to share assets instantly, regardless of their physical location. While organizations rely on this benefit, it can also be detrimental if their cloud programmer did not configure it correctly. The cloud is an extremely flexible and favorable storage solution that very makes it easy to exploit. Businesses often do not understand the security configuration they should apply to each use case. When individual users do not use encryption correctly when storing, accessing, or transiting their resources, both malicious and accidental breaches can occur. This is where the most significant implications arise with privacy laws.
Oversights that commonly allow others an opportunity to gain access to a business’s cloud assets include opening resources up to new users, such as sub-contractors, but making that opening too wide whereby others can gain access. Another example is setting up a storage resource or information “bucket” with one intent and then expanding its use for another.
It can be challenging to set up the parameters on information buckets, making them low hanging fruit for data miners because the information is often not being stored or configured correctly. Cloud providers such as AWS Simple Storage Solution (S3) recognize the risks users may encounter when opening a bucket, and both warn users of the risks and attempt to lock it down from the inside by default. Still, if an enterprise elects to use the bucket, it should ensure only the right staff or customers have the correct access to it, and it is utilized only for its intended purpose.
The number one hotspot for compromising assets in the cloud lies in users’ credentials. It used to be more difficult to infiltrate a computer because a hacker needed to gain physical access to the equipment—but the cloud removes that variable. Hackers may hold the “keys to the kingdom” upon uncovering privileged usernames and passwords. They can steal assets, delete them, remove the current environment and infrastructure, perform lockouts, conduct actions that appear to originate from someone else, direct money into and out of accounts, or hold data for ransom. It’s critical to teach everyone in the organization how to design and safely store a strong password and ensure users know not to use it across multiple platforms. Additionally, multi-factor authentication should be in place whereby when someone logs in, additional verification is required—typically from a time synced authentication app on a mobile device.
There are ways to mitigate these five common avenues to exploit. Businesses can implement the following tips to avoid cloud security vulnerabilities.
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