Cloud Security

Cloud Security Issues: 10 Critical Aspects

This article delves into the top Cloud Security Issues businesses encounter and explores effective strategies to mitigate these risks.

Sharon R.

Written by Sharon R.

August 4, 2023 | 10 min read

As cloud computing continues to revolutionize how organizations handle data and applications, it also brings forth many cloud security issues that demand attention. While the cloud offers unprecedented flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency, it introduces new challenges organizations must confront to safeguard sensitive information.

This article delves into the top Cloud Security Issues businesses encounter and explores effective strategies to mitigate these risks.

Table of Contents:

What is Cloud Security?

Cloud security is a collection of procedures and tools to protect organizations from external and internal threats. As businesses embrace digital transformation and include cloud-based tools and services in their infrastructure, it is crucial to have strong cloud security. In order to ensure a safe and secure cloud computing environment for the organization’s operations and data management, this helps protect sensitive data, apps, and resources from potential hazards.

Security risks have become more complex due to how quickly the digital world is changing, particularly for cloud computing companies. Organizations frequently have little control over how their data is accessed and transferred to the cloud. Companies face substantial risks when handling customer data according to norms and regulations if they do not effortlessly strengthen cloud security.

Top 10 Cloud Security Issues

All organizations have integrated the cloud to different extents into their operations. Yet, along with embracing the benefits, there arises the necessity to ensure that the organization’s cloud security strategy is efficient in safeguarding against the primary threats. Here are a few cloud security issues:

Cloud Security Issues: #1 Misconfiguration

Misconfiguration stands as one of the critical cloud security issues that organizations face. Improperly configuring cloud resources, such as storage buckets, virtual machines, and network settings, can lead to vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. Misconfigurations may occur due to human error, lack of expertise, or oversight during cloud deployment and management.

Some common misconfigurations include leaving data storage publicly accessible, using weak passwords, granting excessive privileges to users, or failing to update security settings to address evolving cloud security issues.

These misconfigurations can result in unauthorized access to sensitive data, data breaches, and even the compromise of entire cloud environments.

Cloud Security Issues: #2 Data Breaches

Data breaches pose many cloud security issues. We refer to a data breach as the unauthorized access and use of confidential information about your company. It is essentially a theft that frequently occurs as a result of dubious credentials or extremely complicated accessibility systems that may grant incorrect rights to the incorrect individuals.

It can be because malware got into your PC. As data systems are what attackers value most in this, they are the target of the majority of attacks. Data can be stolen if the cloud is configured improperly or if there is no protection during runtime.

When information is compromised, different categories of information have distinct effects. Social Security numbers and medical records are private information that identity thieves and phishers buy from criminals on the dark web.

Sensitive information is contained in internal papers and emails. If it were to fall into the wrong hands, it might be exploited to harm a company’s reputation and lower the value of its stock. Whatever the reason for the theft, breaches present cloud security issues to companies who use the cloud to store their data.

Cloud Security Issues: #3 Compliance Violation

The following cloud security issues are compliance violations. Companies that breach compliance run a significant risk of suffering serious repercussions. All firms must use rules like PCI-DSS that secure sensitive data.

You might need to designate a restricted network area for use by authorized workers to comply with these rules. In order to guarantee that compliance rules are maintained, many businesses limit access and what users can do when given access.

The business may receive penalties and fines if compliance laws are not followed, which could be detrimental. Unfortunately, not every cloud service provider follows the security guidelines established by the sector. A serious issue occurs when a cloud-based service is installed without first confirming that it complies with all relevant legal requirements.

Cloud Security Issues: #4 Malware Injections

Malware injections refer to scripts or pieces of code added to cloud services, disguising themselves as “legitimate instances” while operating as Software as a Service (SaaS) from cloud servers. This means malicious code can infiltrate cloud services, appear as a legitimate part of the program or service running on the cloud servers, and cause many cloud security issues.

Once malware injection occurs and the cloud starts functioning alongside it, attackers can eavesdrop, compromise the integrity of private data, and steal sensitive information. A report from East Carolina University analyzes cloud security issues in cloud computing vulnerabilities, explicitly focusing on the risks associated with malware installations leading to cloud security issues. 

Cloud Security Issues: #5 Attack Surface

The attack surface of an environment is what we refer to as its total vulnerability. Each additional duty increases the attack surface. In some circumstances, the utilization of microservices can increase the publicly available workload. Your infrastructure may be vulnerable to cloud security issues in ways you are unaware of once it is attacked if it is not well-managed.

The attack surface also includes subtle information leaks that allow for an attack. You always leave yourself open to outside attacks because of how the internet and cloud operate.

You should keep an eye on it because it can be important to how your business runs on a regular basis.

To mitigate cloud security issues, organizations must implement robust network security measures:

  • Network segmentation and security procedures: In each of your settings, establish security zones and only permit necessary and permitted traffic to flow over the firewall. Give each environment (development, staging, and production) a separate cloud account, if possible.
  • Use the principle of least privilege. Give people access to and the means to use resources.

By implementing these security measures, organizations can enhance the protection of their cloud environments against potential threats and ensure the integrity and confidentiality of their data during network operations.

Cloud Security Issues: #6 Insecure APIs

The application programming interface (API) is designed to simplify cloud computing procedures in an ideal world. However, APIs might increase the attack surface and allow individuals to exploit private data if left unprotected. As the globe gets more digitally connected, it is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss the reality of this threat.

As the reliance on APIs grows, fraudsters have discovered two typical ways to obtain company data.

  • The Abuse of Inadequate Authentication: Flawed user authentication is listed as one of the top API vulnerabilities in the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) 2019 report. In some circumstances, developers construct APIs that do not require authentication. As a result, these interfaces are entirely open to the internet, and anyone can access company systems and data through them. Consider it like strolling around a neighborhood, trying doors until you locate one left unlocked.
  • Profiting from a Rise in Open Source Software Use: A component-based approach to software development has become standard in the IT sector. Many developers use open-source software in their coding to save time. Many apps may be vulnerable to supply chain assaults due to this. For example, a developer could accidentally download components from public online Docker hubs contaminated with cryptocurrency mining code.

Businesses should consider the following recommended practices to avoid cloud security issues or malicious data leakage via APIs:

  • Encourage developers to use proper API hygiene. Authentication, access control, encryption, and activity monitoring should all be considered while designing APIs. API keys must be kept safe and never reused.
  • Rely on industry-standard API frameworks that are built with security in mind. The Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) and the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI) are examples of this.
  • Make certain that you have complete insight into the company’s security environment. Even with detailed regulations for cloud API architecture, security concerns are always there. Businesses must invest in complete visibility solutions, such as network detection and response so that security teams can swiftly identify and solve API security concerns.

By following these best practices and prioritizing API security, organizations can enhance the overall security of their cloud environments and protect against cloud security issues.

Cloud Security Issues: #7 Insufficient Due Diligence

While many of the cloud security issues discussed earlier are technical in nature, this specific security issue is linked to the human errors, or the people factor, within an organization. Moreover, hastily executing a multi-cloud deployment without careful consideration of how the services align with consumer expectations can expose an organization to cloud computing security issues.

This becomes particularly critical for businesses dealing with client financial data or operating under regulatory frameworks such as FERPA, PCI, PCI-DSS, and PII. In such cases, having a well-defined strategy for objectives, resource allocation, and cloud security solutions is vital to ensure compliance and protect sensitive information.

Cloud Security Issues: #8 Abuse of Cloud Services

Abuse of cloud services extends beyond malicious insiders and may enable cyber criminals to leverage such services for illegal benefit. Cloud services can be utilized for malevolent purposes in a variety of ways and cause many cloud security issues.

Cracking Passwords: There is no doubt that it makes the job of the malicious actor much easier if their intended victims choose very basic passwords.

If the victim does not employ a simple password, the attacker will have to resort to other methods to crack a user password, which has gotten more easier (or rather cheaper) with cloud computing.

Using computational resources to conduct a brute force attack (trying multiple passwords repeatedly until the right one is found) is made far more efficient using the cloud.

Malicious Content: There are two components to malicious content hosting.

  • Using providers who have no issues hosting malicious content (or almost any).
  • Using providers to host malicious content in order to bypass the CSP’s acceptable use policy.

BulletProof hosting is employing a provider with lax acceptable usage standards. Malevolent actors have long utilized such services. However, because security companies frequently blacklist such services, the emerging tendency for many malicious actors is to use commercial hosting services that are not blacklisted.

To prevent cloud security issues, organizations should implement robust security measures:

  • Watch your cloud resources and services carefully to notice any unexpected or unsafe behavior.
  • A solid set of rules must be in place to prevent unauthorized access to your cloud resources. Along with other reliable techniques, this should be used to verify someone’s identification.
  • Make sure to encode sensitive data both when it is saved and delivered in order to prevent unauthorized access and data theft.
  • Check and review your security systems frequently to spot any potential issues with cloud security and how cloud services are used.
  • Prepare a clear action plan for when the worst case scenario occurs. By doing this, you may address any concerns with response time and security.

Educating users and employees about the cloud security issues and promoting a security-aware culture can also contribute to preventing such security issues. 

Cloud Security Issues: #9 Hijacking of Accounts

The expansion and adoption of cloud technology in numerous enterprises have introduced a new set of cloud security issues, particularly concerning account hijacking.

In this scenario, attackers can exploit your or your employees’ login credentials to gain remote access to sensitive data stored in the cloud. Once they have hijacked the credentials, they can even manipulate and falsify data within the cloud.

Various hijacking techniques allow attackers to stealthily and frequently steal credentials without detection. These methods include exploiting scripting flaws and the reuse of passwords. For instance, Amazon faced a cross-site scripting flaw in April 2010 that targeted customer credentials. Cloud security issues such as phishing, keylogging, and buffer overflow present similar risks.

A significant new threat is the “Man in the Cloud Attack,” wherein attackers steal tokens used by cloud services to validate individual devices without requiring repeated logins for updates and synchronization. This attack poses a substantial cloud security issues.

Cloud Security Issues: #10 Insider Threat

Because they are already employees of the company and are regarded as trustworthy, insiders can pose serious cloud security issues. They can be more dangerous than outside invaders, malicious or just irresponsible because they do not have to scale external security barriers.

Understanding the numerous insider threat aspects related to cloud security is crucial given that enterprises are increasingly transferring services and data to the cloud. Both human error and malicious intent are important elements in this.

Human Error: Sensitive information and assets could be exposed, lost, or stolen as a result of a non-intentional human error. Personal data, medical information, or even encryption keys are sensitive data and assets. While human error is not specifically linked to cloud platforms and can occur in on-premises deployments, its effects are typically more detrimental in public cloud systems.

Malicious Insiders: All occurrences involving malicious insiders involve the abuse of authorized access to an organization’s vital assets, which creates specific security issues. Security measures focused on perimeters are insufficient to detect and stop hostile insider activities. Insiders also understand the most important assets and how their company safeguards them. Therefore, static and traditional security models that only include dangers brought in by external threat actors are inadequate against internal threats.

The shared responsibility principle, on which cloud security is based, suggests two different insiders:

  • Insiders from the cloud service provider
  • Insiders from the cloud customer organization.

To mitigate all these cloud security issues, you can implement these countermeasures:

  • To prevent theft or compromise, encrypt all data while it is at rest and in transit, and keep the encryption keys safe.
  • Automate infrastructure provisioning and cloud secure configuration tasks to lessen vulnerabilities caused by incorrect configuration, poor management, omitted patches, and errors.
  • Create safe landing zones to stop new attack surfaces from appearing in novel environments like development, staging, and production. Security experts can standardize cloud environments that are provided to DevOps teams by using landing zones. In terms of naming, scalability, and access control, they provide uniformity across all tenants, establishing a security baseline that prevents (accidental) non-compliant or illegal settings.
  • Keep an eye on the efficiency of the security precautions for the cloud. In order to stop potentially dangerous acts, monitoring enables the identification of new hazards, determination of visibility and alerting needs, and prevention requirements per cloud environment.

How does PingSafe help to solve Cloud Security Issues?

Although the cloud provides various advantages to organizations, it also brings forth its unique array of security threats and obstacles. Cloud-based infrastructure differs significantly from conventional on-premises data centers, necessitating specialized security tools and strategies for robust protection.

PingSafe is a complete cloud security tool that will help with all your cloud security issues in many ways, such as:

  • Cloud Misconfigurations: It has auto-remediation of misconfigurations. Graph-based visualization of detected misconfigurations across resources, lateral movement paths, and impact radius.
  •  Flagging Security Defaults: Continuous visibility on the security posture of new or existing cloud services and highlight security gaps and best practices.
  • Infrastructure as a Code: Perform IaC deployment/configuration checks against CIS benchmark, PCI-DSS, etc. CI/CD integration support to block merge and pull requests with hardcoded secrets.
  • Vulnerability Management: Identify cloud resources/assets with known CVEs (Intelligence gathered from 10+ sources with exhaustive coverage). It provides a Zero-day vulnerability assessment. 
  • Threat Watch: Dashboard to stay updated with all the zero-day vulnerabilities and related issues across your environment.
  • VM Snapshot Scanning: Agentless scanning of VMs for vulnerabilities and reporting of software bill of materials (SBOM)
  • Offensive Security Engine: Replicate the attacker’s mindset to simulate zero-day attacks harmlessly to give more extensive security coverage. This helps organizations reduce dependency on external security researchers and bug bounty hunters.
  • Private Repository Scanning for Secrets: Detect and remediate more than 700 different types of credentials in your organization’s private repository. It continuously monitors all developer’s repositories to identify sensitive data leakage belonging to the organization.

Conclusion

In conclusion, addressing Cloud Security Issues is paramount for any organization embracing cloud computing. Businesses can safeguard their data, applications, and reputation by understanding and proactively tackling the challenges of misconfigurations, insider threats, unauthorized access, data breaches, and other vulnerabilities. Embracing robust cloud security solutions, implementing best practices, and fostering a security-aware culture is essential to ensure a resilient and protected cloud environment.