Cloud-Based Cybersecurity Issues and Best Practices
A hack or security breach at the enterprise level, whether from outsider or insider threats, should remain in the front of mind for technology companies in 2022 and beyond.
Multinationals and governments alike depend on the health of their cyber networks to operate, and cyber-criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to steal data and exploit proprietary systems that cost billions of dollars to develop and implement.
Forecasts indicate the market will reach over $275 billion by 2028, as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes increasingly omnipresent, virtual private networks (VPNs) proliferate, and businesses increasingly rely on remote employees to carry out day-to-day operations.
One way to get ahead of cybersecurity criminals is by seeking out secure cloud-based solutions that give you total control of your network and your data.
Benefits of Cloud-Based Solutions
While using the cloud for your networking or data storage may seem like an insecure option as compared to hosting data on your own physical servers, there are some major benefits to embracing the cloud, and trusting cloud-based solutions for your networking needs.
The cloud is high-speed and allows for immediate deployment of network solutions and new software that you may be implementing. When you operate in the cloud space, you are also privy to automatic software updates and integration and somewhat counterintuitively, increased data security. Cloud service providers employ special permissions and access management for network users to ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive data or programs.
Cloud-based solutions are also cost-efficient, and given the service provider agreements, they can be easy to budget for when planning your business expenses. Trying to handle data management and storage in-house and hiring dedicated information technology professionals to maintain and monitor data can be extremely expensive.
When you outsource to the cloud, you get the advantage of specialized IT professionals who, without direct access to your data, are maintaining the back end of your network and keeping an eye out for any anomalies that could signify a data breach.
10 Common Cloud Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
While the benefits of operating in the cloud are clearly numerous, there are some risks to joining a network managed by a third-party service provider. There are a number of things that can go wrong, but if you communicate well with your team to understand how everything is working, you’ll be able to identify any risks and mitigate breaches in real-time to ensure your data is safe.
Cloud misconfiguration can occur when there are glitches or errors leaving your network or data vulnerable during cloud adoption. They can be caused by any number of security threats, including malware, hackers, or even internal threats.
Cloud misconfiguration is one of the largest security gaps — so much so that in 2020 the United States National Security Agency issued a report warning about the major cloud misconfiguration issues that could affect organizations. We can only imagine that cybersecurity threats have become more sophisticated since then.
Part of avoiding cloud misconfiguration errors falls on information technology experts to check, check again, and re-check cloud configurations on a constant basis. It is far too common for dev-ops teams to migrate data or systems to the cloud, make sure it’s working properly, and then forget about it.
Hackers are constantly improving and they seek out networks that don’t show evidence of recent testing because they know they are vulnerable. It’s easy to avoid if you make sure your systems are constantly tested.
Who has access to data in the cloud is critical for your security. Access control refers to the intended permissions for various users, and it can be a point of vulnerability as well. Changing network URLs or using a custom API attack tool can allow even authorized users to enter the cloud in an unauthorized manner to wreak havoc on the systems. This could mean acting as a user without logging in, so your organization can’t track an actor’s movements, or even acting as an administrator while logged in as a user.
Users may access your network by manipulating metadata, for example changing a JSON web token (JWT), cookies, or hidden fields to change access privileges for users or affect invalidation credentials. Testing for fraudulent access is also imperative for your network to stay safe in the cloud. Cloud best practices will have your IT team checking all the ways to manipulate access so you can be ahead of the cyber-criminals.
Cloud storage and file certainly have their data sharing risks. Employees may use personal devices or non-secured devices to access the cloud network, leaving their data at the mercy of unprotected or ambiguously protected hardware. You also need to have very robust data sharing standard operating procedures to ensure that new additions to the network or former employees aren’t allowed access to sensitive materials without the appropriate permissions.
Some other risky aspects of data sharing in the cloud include the lack of a centralized document retention policy and the lack of audit logins. Data retention policies inform network users regarding when specific data or documents should not be deleted for internal or legal purposes.
As regulations expand, the policy will help network users know what they should be sure not to remove from the cloud network. The same goes for having an audit log system. This will allow you to see who is using the cloud network, where, when, and how. Easy access to this information is critical should there be any network issues.
Cloud-based networks are vulnerable to data breaches, which occur when confidential or sensitive information is distributed to unauthorized parties. They tend to be provoked by changes in technology, or user behavior. When hardware changes, sometimes the cloud technology your network runs on is not up to date to block any intended hacks within the system.
The same goes for user behavior in general. Most technology users in the cloud-based network are not IT professionals and don’t fully understand the risks associated with logging into the network from an unrecognized device, for example. If you are going to take your working systems remote, it makes sense to work with a trusted IT team that can help inform your network users of the vulnerabilities associated with the cloud-based system and make sure they are trained on updates to the cloud continuously.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are software intermediaries that are meant for two distinct applications to communicate on a network. In theory, they streamline cloud computing processes to let you manage a variety of applications on your phone or tablet in a single interface. However, if left unsecured, they can become opportunities for individuals to exploit private data and access systems from an overlooked point of entry.
Cybercriminals are drawn to APIs because there are so many of them, and many are created by novice developers who are not necessarily concerned with ensuring the highest levels of security. Over the years as we shift from the desktop personal computer to using our smartphones for nearly everything, APIs are increasingly common and cybercriminals seek them out because of their tendency toward vulnerability.
Depending on how your cloud is set up, visibility can be limited. This means that you may not be able to see and assess whether cloud services are being used safely or are open to malicious attacks. Organizations using the cloud are generally also legally required to understand where their data is at all times, and limited visibility can be a weakness that results in problems with policy compliance.
Typically, cloud service providers collate metadata, which may not provide all the information needed to find security issues or blind spots, especially in hybrid situations where traffic travels between public clouds and on-premises infrastructures. The lack of visibility is certainly more of an issue when working in multi-cloud environments. By implementing an agnostic cloud management platform, businesses can avoid this cybersecurity risk.
Malware is a problem both on and off the cloud but can be harder to track and black in the cloud environment. While malware affects a computer, system, or network, cloud malware is more malicious.
It hijacks entire cloud systems and uses them to infect other cloud systems that are connected. They become transport mechanisms for malicious code and can spread incredibly fast before becoming detected.
The good news is that by using simple control methods, cloud malware can be blocked. Through layers of security including an agent installed on your organization’s web gateway, you can detect and block malicious calls and disconnect the malware from its control center.
The threat also tends to occur more in popular cloud applications, so enabling a cloud application security system can help your security team to receive alerts when suspicious activity is flagged.
Denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) are a major risk in the cloud environment. They specifically go after services and resources, making them unavailable, by sending fictitious traffic through the cloud network. This type of attack is cloud-specific, and the source of the attack is usually dispersed with multiple machines engaging in the attack simultaneously to overload servers. These attacks clog cloud systems and make resources unavailable.
These attacks directly affect revenue through economic losses due to network downtime, service downtime, dependent service downtime, and overall negative business repercussions due to service failure. They can also contribute to energy consumption costs as servers work to process the flooding demands, and the cloud could be inaccessible for large periods of time.
Cloud account hijacking is commonly associated with identity theft. It is when a cybercriminal steals cloud access information to act maliciously within the system under the guise of an authorized user. This is different from misconfiguration or access manipulation since the user is technically authorized to operate within the cloud. This is more akin to someone stealing your ATM pin number and acting as you to withdraw funds.
Employee awareness and training can be the critical factor that saves you from accounts becoming hijacked by hackers seeking to infiltrate your cloud network. Account security best practices like password requirements and secure password storage providers like LastPass or 1Password can help shield network users from hackers seeking to use their accounts for more nefarious means.
Finally, the main threat to cloud-based network security is simply human error. As the number of people working or studying remotely grows, and our per capita number of connected devices does the same, there is no doubt that security is at risk due in part to people making mistakes, or being uneducated about the security processes they need to follow to keep cloud networks safe.
According to The Fintech Times, 88% of cloud breaches are due to human error, primarily based on unauthorized access to devices, data loss, or theft. The massive amounts of user credentials and passwords that we each use on a daily basis, not to mention the numerous device users we may have in our homes or workspaces, make it continuously more difficult to be sure we are keeping our cloud-computing spaces safe from threats. Consistent training and reminders can contribute to minimizing our inevitable human error.
Cloud Best Practices for Optimal Protection
Despite all the risks associated with moving your data to the cloud, there are ways you can safeguard your network. By following a few best practices you can rest assured your data will be secure.
Start with encryption. Identify any sensitive data and use your own encryption keys to protect them. Most cloud service providers offer encryption features, but to be completely safe, you’ll want to use your own. If you depend on the cloud service, you will be vulnerable if they become compromised in an attack.
So how do you develop your own encryption system? You’ll most likely still need to rely on a third-party service provider, but separating your encryption and maintenance provider from the cloud storage provider adds an additional level of protection to your data. The more you can diversify who could potentially have access to your data, the better.
Real-time monitoring is critical to your cloud network safety. Several leading cybersecurity solutions offer cloud management and monitoring tools, such as Palo Alto Networks and SentinelOne. These tools assist with measuring the state of your cloud-based infrastructure. They help you to track performance, safety, and the availability of critical cloud-based programs and services.
Monitoring in real-time allows administrators to identify patterns and highlight when something seems a little off. It can also help you to identify any defects that may be potential risk points for hackers and will help you prevent what may seem like minor issues from turning into major problems down the road.
Data Backup and Recovery
Cloud backup will ensure that your organization can maintain a version of assets stored in the cloud in case you do experience a data breach or information technology crisis. Storing data in the cloud makes it easy to transfer assets across locations very quickly, so if you notice a vulnerability, you can move any sensitive data right away.
When it comes to data back and recovery, there are so many options to choose from. Just conducting a little research or speaking with an expert can help you choose the most effective data backup solution for your needs.
When the cloud first emerged as a tool for storing and sharing information on the internet, it was like the wild west of online interactions. Now, there are a number of laws and regulations that apply to using the cloud, both personally and professionally.
Depending on the location of your cloud network users, regulations may vary. Some countries have extremely strict data protection laws, data localization laws, and data sovereignty laws.
You may also want to consider access to information laws that let governments or other third parties access data that is stored in the cloud. Be sure that the team managing your cloud access and data storage is well aware of local and international regulations, like the United States CLOUD Act, or the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP).
Protect your network with comprehensive cybersecurity solutions by contacting Compuquip now. Our experts will help you evaluate your cybersecurity needs and provide you with advice on the best solutions to help secure your data.