Cloud Security Risks and How To Mitigate Them

Over the past several years, cloud computing has skyrocketed in popularity. New cloud technologies have made it easier than ever to access files on the go. You no longer need to use a specific computer to collaborate on work documents or just listen to your favorite music. Cloud tools like Google Drive and Dropbox have become ubiquitous in many industries, and many major corporations have even set up their own private clouds. 

Cloud technology has provided workers with a lot of freedom and flexibility, especially in the age of remote work. However, the cloud also presents some unique security risks that you won’t find with on-premise servers. These security risks can lead to devastating data losses and damage to your system if they aren’t managed properly. 

As your organization implements a new cloud strategy, it’s important to keep security in mind. You’ll need to be aware of common cloud security risks and take steps to mitigate them before they occur. Here are seven of the most common cloud security risks and how to manage them. 

1. Insufficient Access Management 

In an attempt to make cloud setups as efficient and accessible as possible, many organizations do not implement access management policies that are strong enough to keep bad actors out. If a hacker gains access to high-level system credentials, they then have the ability to not only steal your most valuable data, but also make changes to your system that cause irreparable damage. 

Hackers use a variety of different techniques to gain access to your cloud passwords. Many rely on social engineering techniques like phishing to get passwords straight from the source. Another popular strategy is installing spyware on target devices. Spyware tracks your keystrokes to figure out your password and other login information. Other hackers use brute force attacks like password spraying to guess common passwords. 

The tricky thing about access management is that it requires your team to be vigilant about their passwords and how they use them. Even if you have strong access management policies, you will need your team to be compliant in order for them to be effective. Additionally, you’ll need to be thoughtful about which users you provide access to, especially if you’re working with third-party vendors.

Luckily, there are many simple steps you can take to prevent access management issues. Here’s what you can do to keep your cloud systems secure. 

  • Implement a zero-trust security model. Limiting the number of users who can access your system will minimize the chances of a security breach. Zero-trust security models require every single user to be continuously authenticated. It’s also important to make sure that only the users who truly need to use the cloud have access. Conduct regular audits of your entire system and revoke access for users who no longer need it. 
  • Use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your cloud. It requires the user to provide three pieces of information to verify their identity – a username, password, and a code sent via text or email. This extra code ensures that even if a hacker gains access to your password, they still won’t be able to log into your account. 
  • Require complex passwords. It’s also very important for your users to have passwords that are not easy to guess. Set up your system so that each user has to choose a password with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. You may also want to consider requiring users to change their passwords at regular intervals. 

2. Misconfigured Cloud Security

One of the biggest cloud security risks is simply human error. Many organizations will accidentally misconfigure their cloud security, which results in structural weaknesses that hackers take advantage of. 

Cloud computing services are designed to be easy to set up and easy to scale as your business grows. For the most part, this is a good thing, as it makes it easy for small businesses with limited resources to use cloud storage. However, this ease of use also means there’s more room for error when setting up your cloud deployment. 

This can be a particularly big challenge for organizations that don’t have much experience with cloud security and aren’t sure where to start with this new technology. Every organization is going to require its own unique cloud structure based on the amount and types of data you have as well as security compliance regulations in your industry. 

Developing clear deployment and security policies across your organization will help you avoid cloud misconfigurations. Here are some steps you can take to avoid these costly mistakes. 

  • Regularly test and reconfigure your cloud security. Your cloud is going to change over time as your business grows. Make sure you are re-evaluating your security levels every time you start using new features or store new data, and make changes as necessary. 
  • Use automated security tools. There are a variety of automated tools that you can integrate into your cloud to identify security risks. This gives you the option to address vulnerabilities that you might have missed on your own. 
  • Define cloud security policies across your organization. To prevent confusion, create company-wide cloud security policies and update them regularly. 

3. Insecure APIs

Most cloud programs use APIs, or application program interfaces, in order to function properly. An API essentially creates a connection between the cloud and the software where the end user will access that cloud data. Unfortunately, APIs can be very difficult to secure, especially as cloud technology is evolving at such a rapid pace. 

Whether your organization has its own private cloud or you’re outsourcing to a cloud provider, chances are you’re using several different APIs to keep the system running. Well-designed APIs will make your systems significantly more efficient, but they are often designed with efficiency rather than security in mind. Hackers are now aware of how vulnerable APIs can be and will often target them to gain access to your systems. 

If you’re working with a third-party cloud provider, there’s not much you can do about the APIs that they are using. However, you can implement a cloud monitoring system to notify you when vulnerabilities arise. 

If you’re running your own cloud system and designing your own APIs, it’s important to make sure you’re designing specifically for a cloud environment. Many developers will take on-premise APIs and move them directly to the cloud without adjusting for the differences between the two environments. Once you’ve developed your APIs, you’ll also need to scan them regularly for potential security risks. 

4. DDoS Attacks

Cloud systems are very vulnerable to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. During a DDoS attack, hackers flood the system with traffic, making it impossible to access. The DDoS attack is typically used as a diversion while these cybercriminals hack further into your system to access sensitive data. 

If you’re using a third-party cloud provider and sharing servers with other organizations, you’re going to be even more vulnerable to DDoS attacks. If another organization on your server is targeted, your systems could be affected as well. If the cloud provider itself is targeted by a DDoS attack, the damage could be even worse. 

This is why it’s so important to be discerning when choosing a cloud service provider if you’re working with a third party. You’ll want to make sure that they have appropriate security measures in place to prevent DDoS attacks from happening. 

To prevent DDoS attacks, you’ll need to configure your systems to minimize the opportunity for intrusion. This means you don’t want to unnecessarily expose your systems to extra ports or applications. You’ll also want to set your systems up so that they can handle large volumes of web traffic. If your system can handle large volumes of traffic, it will be harder for hackers to fully overwhelm it. 

5. Insider Threats

Unfortunately, some of the most dangerous cloud security threats can come from inside your organization. There are a variety of different ways that insider security threats can compromise your cloud security. Disgruntled employees, both former or current, can pose security risks in extreme circumstances. This situation is often difficult to catch and prevent in large organizations where hundreds or even thousands of people have access to your cloud systems. 

There are also instances where third-party vendors or partners unintentionally become an insider threat. When you work with a third party, you’ll often have to trust them with sensitive data in order to get the job done. You’re also not going to have as much control over where your data goes and who can access it once you start working with this third party. 

Here are some of the things you can do to minimize insider threats to your cloud security. 

  • Remove former employee access as soon as possible. When someone leaves your company, be sure to remove their access to your systems as soon as possible. Waiting even one day to revoke access can put your data at risk. 
  • Vet your third-party partners carefully. When working with third parties, conduct a thorough audit of their security practices before you start working together. You’ll also want to make sure to sign a contract specifying exactly who will have access to your systems and how much access they will have as well as the security standards they need to maintain. 
  • Thoroughly wipe all devices before reusing them. Even a small amount of leftover data on an old device is a security risk, so you won’t want to take any chances. 

6. Data Loss

Many organizations store huge volumes of data in the cloud without backing it up. This means you could end up losing all of that valuable data in the event of a cloud security emergency. No matter how secure your organization is, it’s still important to back up your most important pieces of data to an on-premise server at regular intervals. This ensures that even if your cloud environment is compromised, you won’t lose access to your data. 

It’s particularly important to have your data backed up just in case your organization is a target of ransomware. Ransomware holds your data hostage for large sums of money, and it’s often impossible to get back. There are also other forms of malware that can result in data loss. 

In addition to setting up regular data backups, you’ll want to make sure that you have measures in place to protect against malware. Firewalls and anti-virus software programs are a must-have. Your team will also need to avoid clicking on unfamiliar links or opening attachments from unknown sources. 

7. External Data Sharing

Cloud programs have made it easier than ever to share data over the internet. If you need to share a document with a coworker, it takes just a few clicks to give them access or send them a link. And while this comes with plenty of benefits, it also means that your organization’s data can easily end up floating around the internet. 

This is particularly true if you’re regularly sending documents to clients or collaborators. While sharing data is often necessary, it’s important to do this with security in mind. Create company guidelines for sharing data externally. This will help ensure that data is only shared with trusted sources and that the most sensitive pieces of information are kept in-house. You’ll also want to make sure that the data you’re sharing cannot then be forwarded on to others. 

Although these cloud security risks may seem daunting, they can all be managed effectively with a comprehensive cloud security strategy. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to cloud management, consider hiring a managed IT services provider to help you. A managed IT services provider will help you configure your cloud in a way that’s safe, efficient, and compliant.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.