Many businesses are shifting workloads to the cloud in an effort to increase efficiency and streamline workloads. In fact, according to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report, roughly 90% of enterprises anticipate cloud usage will expand even further as a result of COVID-19. While cloud computing can offer organizations a competitive advantage, it is important not to rush into cloud adoptions without understanding the risks involved as well. A lack of understanding of cloud vulnerabilities can be an organization’s downfall when moving operations to these dynamic environments.
Whether your organization is jumping into the move already, or if you’re still on the fence about whether the shift is worth the risk, there are several key security considerations to keep top of mind. Let’s explore 7 common security risks of cloud computing and review the security measures your organization can implement to keep your cloud services protected.
What are the different types of cloud computing?
Cloud computing can come in various forms, from a private cloud that is used by one user to a public cloud that is available to all users. Depending on the number of clouds an organization may need, there are also hybrid clouds and multi-clouds. Ultimately, there is no best type of cloud, as it is dependent on the needs of your organization.
What is an example of cloud computing?
The cloud can be used for a multitude of things. Some of the more common examples include services like Dropbox and Gmail, where files are stored on the cloud rather than on a physical device. In the financial industry, cloud computing is used as a way to store secure information such as financial information and tax records. Likewise, the healthcare industry uses cloud computing to store sensitive information and also perform diagnostics across different hospital units or even different hospitals. Newer advances in healthcare (such as telemedicine) also use cloud computing services. Even government industries make use of cloud computing to issue things like court summons.
What are the common uses of cloud computing?
Common uses of cloud computing include the storage of files, working with big data, and communication services like emails and calendars. Other uses for cloud computing include:
- Archiving and backing up data
- Disaster recovery
- Testing software
- Software development
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
- Platform as a service (PaaS)
- Communication between platforms
- Social networking
How secure is the cloud?
In many ways, the security threats facing today’s traditional data center environments overlap with those of a cloud computing environment. On both sides, cybercriminals aim to take advantage of vulnerabilities found in software. That said, cloud computing introduces another element in that the responsibility of addressing and mitigating those risks is split between the cloud service provider (CSP) and the organization. Understanding the ins and outs of these relationships is critical to ensuring cloud security as operations move to cloud computing models.
What are the security risks of cloud computing?
There are several security risks to consider when making the switch to cloud computing. Some of the top security risks of cloud computing include:
- Limited visibility into network operations
- Data Leakage
- Inadequate due diligence
- Data breaches
- Poor application programming interface (API)
Let’s take a closer look at these risks.
1. Limited visibility into network operations
When moving workloads and assets to the cloud, organizations forfeit a certain level of visibility into network operations. This is because the responsibility of managing some of the systems and policies shifts to the cloud service provider. Depending on the type of service model being used, the shift of responsibility may vary in scope. As a result, organizations must be able to monitor their network infrastructure without the use of network-based monitoring and logging.
By moving large amounts of sensitive data to an internet-connected cloud environment, organizations are opening themselves up to additional cyber threats. Malware attacks are a common threat to cloud security, with studies showing that nearly 90% of organizations are more likely to experience data breaches as cloud usage increases. As cybercriminals continue to become increasingly savvy with their attack delivery methods, organizations must be aware of the evolving threat landscape.
Data privacy is becoming a growing concern, and as a result, compliance regulations and industry standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS are becoming more stringent. One of the keys to ensuring ongoing compliance is by overseeing who can access data and what exactly they can do with that access. Cloud systems typically allow for large-scale user access, so if the proper security measures (ie. access controls) aren’t in place, it can be difficult to monitor access across the network.
4. Data Leakage
Data leakage is a growing concern for organizations, with over 60% citing it as their biggest cloud security concern. As previously mentioned, cloud computing requires organizations to give up some of their control to the CSP. This can mean that the security of some of your organization’s critical data may fall into the hands of someone outside of your IT department. If the cloud service provider experiences a breach or attack, your organization will not only lose its data and intellectual property but will also be held responsible for any resulting damages.
5. Inadequate due diligence
The move to the cloud should not be taken lightly. Similar to a third-party vendor, when working with a cloud service provider, it’s important to conduct thorough due diligence to ensure that your organization has a complete understanding of the scope of work needed to successfully and efficiently move to the cloud. In many cases, organizations are unaware of how much work is involved in a transition and the cloud service provider’s security measures are often overlooked.
6. Data breaches
One of the most impactful security risks the cloud faces is the potential for a data breach. These are a result of poor security measures that allow malicious actors to gain access to sensitive data across cloud servers. One breach could cost an organization millions of dollars, alongside a blow to an organization’s reputation and the potential for legal liability.
7. Poor API
If the cloud has poor application program interfaces (API), then servers run the risk of having data unwillingly exposed. When it comes to API, malicious actors will employ several strategies such as brute force attacks and denial-of-service attacks in order to weaken the integrity of the system.
Best Practices for cloud computing Security
To take full advantage of the benefits of cloud computing, organizations will need to make deliberate efforts to maintain security throughout their cloud environments. Here are some of the leading ways that organizations can improve security in cloud computing:
Conducting cybersecurity risk assessments is one way to analyze your organization’s cybersecurity posture and the efficacy of the security controls that are currently deployed. The goal of an assessment is to identify any potential vulnerabilities or gaps in security so that your IT team can make informed decisions about how to improve security going forward.
User access controls
Implementing user access controls is another critical component of ensuring successful cloud security, due to its typical ease of access compared to on-premises environments. Organizations should consider methods like zero-trust security, which operates under the idea that no one should be implicitly trusted with open network access. Instead, users are only given access to the critical functions needed for each role.
The threat landscape is constantly growing and cyber attackers are becoming more sophisticated each day. As a result, many IT departments are bogged down with a large number of security alerts coming in at a rapid pace. By automating key initiatives such as cybersecurity monitoring, threat intelligence collection, and vendor risk assessments, teams can spend their time on more high-priority tasks as opposed to manually reviewing all potential threats the network is faced with.
Arguably the most important component of a successful cybersecurity risk management program is continuous monitoring. As organizations increasingly move to cloud computing models, continuous monitoring will become even more of a necessity for ensuring proper cyber hygiene on an ongoing basis. The digital landscape is shifting at a rapid pace, and if organizations are relying on point-in-time assessments to determine their security posture, more often than not it will be too late to act should a problem arise.
Employee security training
While it is more difficult to arrange training over something an organization does not fully own, there are many cloud storage providers that offer training to help educate employees about cloud computing risks and how the cloud operates. It is important for employees to understand how the cloud works and the proper controls in order to maximize productivity and streamline security efforts.
How SecurityScorecard helps you manage cloud computing risks
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.
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.