Cloud security - Challenges | Solutions

Cloud security challenges - 1. Data breach, 2. Demonstrate regulatory compliance, 3. Securing privileged access, 4. Visibility loss, 5. Careless cloud migration

Digital Delivery
10 min
Digital Delivery
Cloud security - Challenges | Solutions

The cloud offers many benefits for businesses, including scalability and availability, reduced costs, and fast implementation time.

However, these benefits come at a price as cloud security remains an important consideration. With more data being stored in the cloud, it is essential to mitigate potential risks.

Here we’ll discuss the most significant cloud computing security challenges companies face in moving to the cloud and give you some tips on protecting your company against cloud security threats.

Biggest cloud security challenges

Cloud deployments have become increasingly standard across business operations, but they are also becoming more common to host enterprise applications never intended to be on the cloud.

Cloud providers offer a broad range of services that enterprises rely upon without considering the security implications.

As enterprises increasingly rely on the cloud for business-critical applications, it’s essential to consider the security and service availability implications and potential risks

One of the biggest security risks is data loss. Cloud service providers have access to sensitive data, including financial, personnel, intellectual property, and proprietary research.

Additionally, most cloud vendors maintain customer activity logs, which may be valuable to hackers. There are several challenges companies can face when securing their cloud environments. A few challenges include:

1. Data breach & misconfigurations

Cloud environments have a larger attack surface, which makes them more vulnerable to security issues such as phishing, account hacking, ransomware, malware, distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, etc.

According to IBM, cloud misconfiguration was the third-most common attack in 2021.

Increased attack surfaces in cloud environments pose significant threats to critical operational systems. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 30% of organizations will result in a security breach that will halt mission-critical cyber-physical systems. 

Cloud infrastructure has unique security configurations. Due to the complexity, human error is common. As a result, it can be challenging to identify and correct issues before damage occurs.

2. Compliance

To maintain compliance with regulatory rules such as HIPAA or GDPR, organizations must track and report on cloud data usage and traffic flows in their cloud environments.

This becomes even more critical in the public cloud environment, where there is no physical control over data storage or network traffic. As companies move to cloud environments, many find it difficult to demonstrate regulatory compliance. 

3. Securing privileged access

In enterprises, privileged identities can escalate their privileges to become admins and access critical data. This makes it possible for cyber attackers to access critical systems. 

According to Data Science Alliance, 34% of identity-related breaches involve privileged access accounts.

However, only 38% of organizations currently use multifactor authentication (MFA) to secure their privileged accounts. According to a Microsoft report, more than 90% of cloud identities are using less than 5% of the permissions they’ve been granted.

This enables attackers to exploit accounts with misconfigured or unused permissions to gain access to critical data undetected by security teams.

4. Loss of visibility and control

As data and workloads are increasingly distributed across the cloud, monitoring and troubleshooting issues become harder.

Incidents are harder to predict and resolve, making it increasingly necessary to monitor and report cloud resource status. However, achieving visibility and control is difficult in the cloud due to the shared responsibility model and reliance on vendor-controlled infrastructure. 

5. Careless cloud migration

Before taking the cloud plunge, make sure you know the threats that exist in the cloud. If your business is already exposed to known vulnerabilities, determine how you will handle them when you move to the cloud.

You must understand what threats you are exposed to, and how to migrate the data securely to the cloud. Planning is key to minimizing many of these security risks.

Customers that deploy their software in the cloud without a secure architecture in place, will suffer serious downtimes. This is because cloud computing presents a new set of security vulnerabilities that organizations need to understand and address.

So, in addition to threat assessment, also focus on implementing an appropriate protocol for securing your organization's data in the cloud.

Best practices for securing cloud environment

Addressing security challenges in the cloud is important. From the risk of data breaches to your data compliance requirements, these challenges demand your attention. Following best practices in cloud security will help reduce the risks.

1. Cloud access security brokers (CASB)

CASBs are a cloud security posture management tool. CASBs are observability tools that sit between cloud service users and cloud applications.

These tools monitor user activity and enforce security policies. By monitoring cloud service user activity, CASBs detect and block unauthorized attempts to access sensitive data.

They also monitor cloud applications for malicious activity and shut down vulnerable apps before hackers exploit them. 

2. Multifactor authentication (MFA)

MFA requires users to present two or more pieces of evidence before gaining access to a system. This can be a physical object, such as a security token or a smart card. Or it could be something only the user knows, such as a password or PIN.

Multifactor authentication as a data protection method is often used for remote access and privileged accounts requiring elevated permissions on systems and networks.

Many organizations use MFA with BYOD (bring your own device) policies because it assures only authorized users can access corporate assets from personal devices. 

3. Privileged access management (PAM)

PAM is cybersecurity strategies and technologies for managing, controlling, and monitoring privileged user access to systems, applications, data, and other resources.

As an identity and access management solution, PAM detects and prevents unauthorized privileged access. The technology helps organizations condense their attack surface and prevent employees from inadvertently misusing access privileges. 

PAM may sound similar to MFA, but the two solutions are quite different. PAM solutions store the login credentials for privileged admin accounts in a secure repository. Privileged users have to go through an MFA process to access a system or resource.

4. Micro-segmentation

Micro-segmentation is a popular cloud security solution. It involves dividing a network into multiple segments with separate security controls.

Micro-segmentation provides additional security by closing the gaps between disparate security tools and solutions.

This is achieved by using virtual firewalls and other technologies to create isolated yet interconnected networks, with each network dedicated to protecting a particular application or resource.

This way, even if one part of an application or service becomes compromised due to a vulnerability in its code or configuration, the remainder will remain secure because it resides behind a separate virtual firewall.  

5. Cloud vulnerability and penetration testing

Penetration testing involves actively seeking out and exploiting vulnerabilities in your cloud implementation to assess its risk.

Often, the most significant threats come via the application programming interfaces (APIs) facilitating communication between two systems over the internet.

That said, penetration testing in cloud environments involves verifying API security. On the other hand, vulnerability testing involves scanning your cloud implementation for weaknesses or flaws exposed to malicious actors.

While these practices sound similar to security audits, they are quite different. Audits are a one-time event, and you may or may not implement solutions for the issues uncovered. Vulnerability and penetration testing involves actively trying to break into the cloud and exposing new vulnerabilities.  

6. Encryption

Encryption involves securing data at rest and data in motion. Encrypting data at rest involves securing information stored on databases or files.

This method converts data to an unreadable format. An attacker would need to decrypt the data before being able to use it. Only authorized users with an encryption key can unlock the data. 

Encrypting data in motion means encoding both transmitted and received messages, preventing malicious third parties from accessing it.

This is a critical step for organizations exchanging sensitive data with remote users or partners, as well as for organizations storing information on their mobile devices.

Encryption in motion can be achieved by integrating encryption capabilities into your email client (such as Microsoft Outlook), instant messaging applications, and mobile devices.

In addition to encrypting data at rest and in motion, an organization should also consider encrypting data when the application is processing it.

This ensures that third parties cannot extract information from the memory or hard drives while the application runs.

How Adservio can help

Today’s businesses embrace digital deployment efforts requiring robust, resilient, scalable, and high-availability IT environments for superior user experiences. As your business grows, your application must operate with the same exceptional performance and security day after day.

Any business looking to regain control over its cloud security can reach out to Adservio for assistance. We will identify potential security risks and implement a security plan to protect your company from the damaging consequences of a cybersecurity incident.

Reach out and let us assist you with implementing a solution that brings you maximum value for your digital transformation projects.

Published on
June 23, 2022

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