Noupe Editorial Team June 28th, 2024

Top Security Risks of Cloud Computing

The advantages of cloud computing are numerous such as; scalability, cost, and flexibility. Nevertheless, these advantages are accompanied by numerous security threats that organizations have to mitigate in order to safeguard their information and networks. 

This blog post will focus on identifying the most significant security threats of cloud computing and ways to address them.

1. Data Breaches

Security breaches are still one of the main issues with organizations that rely on cloud solutions. Any data that is stored in the cloud is vulnerable to threats and includes PII, financial records, and intellectual property, which are valuable assets. This information is sensitive and requires protection through encryption, access control and through auditing the system frequently.

The controls can be breached because of misconfigurations, insufficient security policies, or even insiders. For instance, a single misconfigured cloud storage bucket can lead to the exposure of large volumes of confidential information to the public domain, thus increasing the risk of their exposure to the internet.

2. Misconfiguration and Inadequate Change Management

Cloud environments are not simple; there are many services and settings that require ongoing attention. Screw-ups are one of the major sources of cloud security breaches because such mistakes lead to the exposure of data and systems to intruders.

Common Misconfiguration Issues:

  • Publicly accessible storage buckets
  • Insecure default settings
  • Proper network segmentation was not carried out

Mitigation Strategies:

  • Automated Tools: Employ automated solutions to ensure compliance with the security settings on a constant basis.
  • Security Training: IT staff should be trained on cloud security best practices and the security settings of the cloud provider on a frequent basis.
  • Regular Reviews: Security should be reviewed periodically to check whether the settings and configurations are in line with the organizational security standards.

Most of the misconfigurations are as a result of human activities or the lack of adequate knowledge in cloud computing. These problems can be avoided through training and the incorporation of automated tools. It is crucial to guarantee that all settings are examined periodically and changed if necessary for the cloud infrastructure protection.

3. Insecure Interfaces and APIs

APIs are widely used in cloud services for both as a means of communication and as a method of executing tasks. The insecurity of some APIs makes it possible for the attacker to access the cloud resources, alter data or even perform command operations. Some of the key requirements include strong authentication, input validation, and rate limiting in APIs.

There should be methods of user identification and access control to ensure only the right people can access the system. Also, to enhance security, it is recommended to validate all the inputs to APIs because they are vulnerable to injection attacks.

4. Account Hijacking

Account hijacking is a form of cybercrime whereby the attacker gets unauthorized access to a user account. Once the attackers have a hold of an account, they can alter data, eavesdrop on the communication, and conduct malicious actions.

The use of MFA is one of the most effective preventive measures that can be applied to minimize the possibility of account compromise. The other measures include the use of strong passwords and auditing for suspicious activities or changes in the login pattern.

5. Insider Threats

Insider threats, which may involve current or former employees, contractors, or business partners may be hard to identify and prevent. This is because insiders have legal access to the systems and data, and thus their activities are difficult to distinguish from criminal ones.

Mitigation Measures:

  • Access Controls: Follow the principle of least privilege where an employee is only given the access that is essential for his/her duties.
  • Monitoring: User activities should be monitored for any suspicious activity to be conducted.
  • Training: Offer refresher courses on security consciousness and the threats of insider threats.

Insider threats are a major risk because insiders are trusted personnel. Access controls should be put in place and users activities should be closely monitored to detect any suspicious activity. It also can help in avoiding insider threats by increasing the employees’ awareness through security training.

6. Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

DoS attacks are designed to deny access to cloud services by flooding them with traffic and/or resource-consuming requests. These attacks can result in large amounts of downtime and monetary damages. The threat of DoS attacks can be minimized if rate limiting, redundancy, and load balancing are put in place.

Traffic patterns can be monitored and suspicious traffic can be set up for an alert to be raised when such a traffic is detected. It is important to make sure that the systems are backed up and capable of distributing the traffic loads in order to keep services running during an attack.

7. Insecure Cloud Services and APIs

Most cloud services have pre-set default security that may not be adequate for any organization security policies. If these settings are not fine-tuned, then the systems are open to attack. Another level of protection can be achieved through the periodic review of the security settings and the use of virtual private networks for the connections.

It is important to configure the default parameters to the organization security requirements. Schedules audits can assist in maintaining compliance with the security policies and identify possible weaknesses. Using tools such as VPN can enhance the connection between the on-premises systems and the cloud services to ensure that they are safe and secure. However, it's essential to understand VPN pros and cons to make informed decisions about its implementation.

8. Compliance and Legal Risks

It is crucial to note that organizations have to adhere to different regulatory standards when it comes to cloud services. Failure to adhere to the laws attracts legal consequences, tarnishing of organizations’ image, and loss of money. Some of the compliance measures include; comprehending the rules and regulations, undertaking compliance audits frequently, and keeping records comprehensively.

It is important to know about the regulations that are related to the business such as GDPR and HIPAA. Compliance audits on a regular basis can help in the detection of any shortcomings in regard to security measures. Compliance documentation can be a valuable tool in the organization as it demonstrates the company’s commitment to following the rules set out by the regulators.

9. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

APTs are long-term and specific cyber attacks designed to acquire information or sabotage systems for an extended period. These attacks are normally complex and have a tendency of being executed in a very organized manner. The best strategies against APTs are constant surveillance, threat intelligence, and an effective incident response plan.

In essence, the monitoring process can identify activities that are considered as indicators of an APT. Threat intelligence assists organizations in being aware of new threats and techniques that are being used by the attackers. An incident response plan that is well thought out and updated periodically will help in quick and efficient handling of any possible breaches.

Featured image by Alin Gavriliuc on Unsplash

Noupe Editorial Team

The jungle is alive: Be it a collaboration between two or more authors or an article by an author not contributing regularly. In these cases you find the Noupe Editorial Team as the ones who made it. Guest authors get their own little bio boxes below the article, so watch out for these.

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