Cloud computing is a powerful service, but securing its assets proves to be a difficult task by even the largest companies in the world. The average cost of a cloud breach is around $4 million, and it is vital that cloud workloads are as secure as possible. This article will explain cloud security and provide seven steps organizations should take when conducting their cloud risk assessment.
What are the types of cloud security mistakes?
Cloud systems can be highly complex, especially in large organizations. Making everything run flawlessly requires continuous effort and organizational buy-in.
Some of the main cloud security risks are:
The NSA considers misconfiguration as one of the leading vulnerabilities in cloud environments. Misconfiguration occurs when the cloud system is not correctly configured by the organizations, leading to errors and gaps that leave the door open for security breaches and other threats.
Typical misconfiguration mistakes include:
Unrestricted inbound or outbound ports
Disabled logging and monitoring
Data access misconfiguration
Human error is a leading cause of data breaches, and threat actors can use phishing and other social engineering techniques to penetrate cloud systems.
While multi-factor authentication (MFA) remains a crucial component of fundamental cyber hygiene, threat actors use several different techniques to bypass MFA. One example is the recent cyber incident at Uber, where a teenager breached Uber’s cloud infrastructure by obtaining an employee’s credentials and using a technique called MFA fatigue to bypass MFA.
Since the cloud is publicly accessible, it is much easier to breach than on-premises systems. Misconfiguration and compromised credentials can lead to unauthorized access, putting sensitive organizational data at risk. For example, a threat actor may use social engineering to obtain a user’s credentials, giving them access to the organization’s cloud system. Another way credentials can be leaked is by being hardcoded in scripts uploaded in public GitHub repos.
Cloud Risk Assessment Checklist
With the increasing adoption of cloud computing, it’s important for organizations to understand the potential risks and take steps to mitigate them. A cloud risk assessment checklist can help businesses identify any vulnerabilities or weaknesses in their cloud-based systems and take appropriate measures to protect their data. Here are a few things to consider when assessing the cloud risk of your organization.
1. Shared responsibility model with your cloud security provider
The Shared Responsibility Model is a public cloud security framework where the cloud service provider (CSP) and its client work together to secure every aspect of the cloud environment. The CSP is responsible for monitoring and responding to threats relating to the cloud itself and its infrastructure. On the other hand, the end users are responsible for protecting the data and other assets they store in the cloud environment.
2. Manage access control of sensitive data
Giving unrestricted access to sensitive data is one of the biggest mistakes organizations make in the cloud.
It is best to adopt a “least-privilege” approach when dealing with sensitive data. The principle of least privilege is a data security concept where users only have access to the specific data they need to complete a required task. For example, a graphic designer should have access to a folder called “Presentation templates,” but not “Vendor information”.
3. Establish malware protection
Malware can be processed by cloud-hosted web applications in several ways, including:
- Malware injection attack
SQL injection – placement of malicious code into SQL statements via web page input
Cross-site scripting (XSS) – malicious scripts injected into legitimate websites
Infected file upload – Threat actors can gain access to the cloud workload and infect it with malware. If file-synching is enabled, files you download from the internet can automatically be uploaded to the cloud.
Make sure your cloud systems are protected with strong user credentials and multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access.
Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools are also a must-have to mitigate malware-related threats. EDR can play a key role in several ways:
Isolate an infected endpoint: EDR prevents the lateral movement of an attack by isolating the infected endpoint, whether it is a device or a process on the device.
Incident response: Advanced EDR solutions can automatically run scripts and commands to remove infections and restore endpoints to a healthy state.
4. Put in a data backup and recovery plan
Creating backups of sensitive data is a cybersecurity best practice.
Fortunately, most popular business cloud providers have a data backup solution that can adjust to an organization’s needs. You can choose whether you want manual or automatic backups, and how often you want them.
Enabling automatic backups for all data might be unnecessary and take up a lot of bandwidth. It is best to only enable automatic backups for data that is essential for the organization. Important data should be backed up at least once a week, but ideally once per day.
Data backups allow you to recover files lost due to human error, system malfunction, or a data breach.
5. Continuously administer security patches and updates
Are automatic updates enabled? Do you know who is responsible for applying security patches to your organization’s cloud infrastructure? Just like regular backups, regularly installing the latest patches and updates is vital to your cloud security posture.
6. Practice good password hygiene
Practising good password hygiene and implementing the strongest password security policy are essential in preventing unauthorized access. A strong password security policy typically requires at least one upper-case letter, one lower-case letter, one symbol, and a minimum of 14 characters. Additionally, organizations should enforce employees to update their passwords every 90 days to maintain the utmost protection. Another idea worth considering is implementing an organization-wide use of a password manager.
7. Evaluate your security score
A cloud security score gives you a quantitative measurement of the current security posture of your cloud infrastructure. Several popular cloud service providers have a built-in security score feature. Alternatively, you can seek a trusted third-party security ratings provider like SecurityScorecard.
Manage cloud risk with SecurityScorecard
With so many moving parts to consider, cloud security can be a daunting task to manage. SecurityScorecard provides organizations with the ability to continuously oversee the security of their cloud solutions.
Security Ratings offer an easy-to-read A-F rating of your network environment and cloud services that analyzes against 10 groups of risk factors including IP reputation, leaked information, and web application and network security. This allows your organization to confidently manage its cloud security efforts and make data-driven decisions about how security controls can be improved.
Additionally, SecurityScorecard’s penetration testing service ensures that your environment is safe while helping you achieve compliance. The adage that “the best defense is a good offense” is ever more true when it comes to cybersecurity.
As organizations continue to embrace the cloud, proactive cybersecurity measures will be critical to ensuring a successful and efficient move to dynamic cloud environments. With SecurityScorecard, organizations have the power to oversee their cybersecurity posture and ensure their cloud security infrastructure is secure.