Top 5 Cloud Computing Security Threats
As organisations grow ever more reliant on cloud infrastructure for their computing and data storage needs, keeping data safe and secure within the cloud is becoming an increasingly prevalent challenge. Cloud technology has revolutionised the way that businesses work, but it has also introduced a variety of new challenges and threats when it comes to security.
As such, it’s vital to familiarise yourself and your organisation with the principal cloud security threats and how to protect your organisation from them. The following are some of the significant security challenges you should be aware of.
1) Data Breaches
Data breaches occur when a malicious third party gains access or steals data without authorisation. Not only can this result in the loss of sensitive data, but it can also deal a severe blow to your business – both financially (from regulatory fines for not protecting customer data) and in terms of reputation, as consumers lose confidence in your ability to keep their data secure.
While many data breaches occur due to cyberattacks, in truth, the most significant cause is human error. With the rise in cloud computing, the human element has become even more of an issue, as users unfamiliar with cloud technology are more likely to make mistakes and errors of judgement.
Employees and other untrained users in cloud security procedures are more likely to fall victim to phishing and other scams that cybercriminals use to obtain passwords and other credentials that can allow them to steal valuable data. It’s therefore essential that all your cloud system’s users are adequately trained in security procedures.
Your organisation should also establish clear definitions of data value and the impact of its loss to help stakeholders understand the importance of security. Moreover, in today’s climate, it’s highly recommended and in some industries a requirement to implement a robust incident response plan to mitigate the effects of any data breach that occurs.
Given that the cloud is a relatively new technology, many businesses and their IT teams are inexperienced and unfamiliar with cloud-based infrastructure. This can easily lead to situations where cloud-based assets, applications, and security measures aren’t set up to the required standards, increasing the risk that cyber-criminals may be able to exploit weak points to access systems and data.
Misconfigurations can often occur due to a need to make cloud data accessible and shareable, leading to insufficient control over access. Common sources of vulnerability that misconfigurations can lead to include insecure storage, excessive user permissions, and unrestricted outbound access.
As with data breaches, organisation-wide training in cloud security can be a powerful tool in avoiding misconfiguration security issues. You should also conduct regular, comprehensive risk assessments to identify any weak points in your system configurations, paying particular attention to data accessible through the internet rather than the internal networks.
3) Denial of Service Attacks
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are a method used by cybercriminals to interrupt user access to specific systems. They work by flooding a system with more traffic than it’s designed to handle, leading to stalled operations and system crashes that can leave internal and external users without access for long periods.
The good news for your organisation is that your cloud service provider (CSP) shares some of the responsibility for preventing DoS attacks. It’s therefore essential to choose a CSP that provides robust DoS protection as part of its services.
As an end-user, you can reduce the risk and impact of DoS attacks by implementing security tools that monitor your cloud systems for potential threats. These tools should allow you to identify DoS attacks in their early stages (or ideally, before they occur) and block their access, preventing any service interruption to your users.
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4) Weak Control Plane
The control plane incorporates the collection of cloud administration consoles, devices, and interfaces used by your organisation, as well as the processes for data duplication, migration, and storage. A control plane is considered weak when the administrator in charge doesn’t have adequate control over cloud data infrastructure, security, or verification.
Control plane administrators need to understand all aspects of your cloud security configuration, how data flows within your cloud infrastructure, and what architectural weak points your cloud systems may present. If they don’t, then data breaches, data corruption, and data inavailability all become more likely.
Your choice of CSP is again important here. You should look for a CSP that offers robust security controls and assess the strength of their control plane before signing up for their services. Your internal procedures and protocols are also crucial for maintaining a solid control plane; ensure that information security protocols are established, maintained, and reviewed regularly.
5) Insider Threats
Insider threats are by no means exclusive to cloud technology, but it’s a vital one to consider nonetheless. Insider threats arise from individuals within your organisation who have legitimate access to cloud systems and choose to abuse that access by stealing, leaking, or selling valuable or sensitive data.
Many businesses don’t have the proper systems in place to detect or prevent such threats, meaning they can go undetected for long periods of time and cause extensive damage as a result. The relative newness of cloud technology again compounds this – administrators are less acquainted with the technology, allowing insider threats more opportunities to leverage their access without being discovered.
Your business can counter insider threats by incorporating comprehensive monitoring systems in your cloud architecture and internal systems. In particular, these systems should highlight user analytics, behavioural anomalies, and unusual data access or use in order to identify insider threats more effectively.
The cloud has revolutionised many aspects of modern business and IT architecture, but it has also provided new opportunities for cybercriminals to steal data and disrupt operations. It’s therefore vital that your organisation prepares itself to defend against these new threats.
Educating your administrators, stakeholders, and broader organisation is one step towards greater cloud security preparedness. However, you should also be ready to invest in robust security measures, regularly reviewed risk assessments and procedures, and professional cloud security consultations to truly secure your business.