Since the emergence of cloud technology, there has always been a high degree of focus on the security of data stored in the online environments. As cybercriminals figured out new and innovative ways to breach this information, cloud users' concerns about the safety of their personal information grew. And with the most recent breach of Apple's iCloud service – an event some are calling "The Fappening"- which exposed nude photos of several well-known celebrities, cloud security is in the crosshairs once again.
However, there are certain elements and activities that put a higher level of risk upon cloud environments than others. Being aware and understanding these attack vectors can help companies and individuals better protect their cloud-based resources, and effectively lower their chances of experiencing a security incident.
Let's take a look at the top factors that put cloud systems at risk:
1) Data breaches and data loss
By now, nearly every cloud user – be it an established business or startup company – is aware of the threat posed by data breaches. There have been numerous examples of this kind of incident that shows just how destructive a data breach can be – case in point being this recent incursion of the iCloud system. And while this event didn't include the leakage of sensitive enterprise information, it does illustrate the ease with which hackers can discover and exploit a flaw within a system. InformationWeek noted that a data breach that results in the loss of important, sensitive data is a primary concern for nearly every business leader today.
"It's every CIO's worst nightmare: the organization's sensitive internal data falls into the hands of their competitors," a Cloud Security Alliance report stated, according to InformationWeek.
Losing information in this fashion is more than just a worry in the back of administrators' minds: It is a primary concern that is typically the first issue to be addressed to prevent their company's mission-critical content from ending up on underground marketplaces. Enterprises leverage a range of protection strategies to guard against data breaches and resulting losses, including user identification credentials and two-factor authentication to ensure that no unauthorized parties are able to access the system.
2) Malicious insiders
When enterprise leaders imagine a data leakage scenario, they often picture an external hacker sitting in front of a computer screen with an evil smile, maliciously typing away until they breach the company's platform. While many attacks come as the result of a cybercriminal that is not associated with the business, others occur due to a malicious person inside the organization.
Cloud Security Alliance noted in their Top Threats to Cloud Computing report that by now, this is a threat that is not often overlooked by decision-makers, but is compounded by a lack of transparency with service providers.
"For example, a provider may not reveal how it grants employees access to physical and virtual assets, how it monitors these employees, or how it analyzes and reports on policy compliance," Cloud Security Alliance stated in the report. "This kind of situation clearly creates an attractive opportunity for an adversary…This level of access granted could enable such an adversary to harvest confidential data or gain complete control over the cloud services with little or no risk of detection."
To prevent this type of activity from happening, many organizations leverage unique authentication credentials for each user, providing increased oversight of assets for administrators and supervisors. With this measure in place, one cannot connect with the cloud without entering their username and password.
In addition, companies should also seek as many details as possible about the access and maintenance of the service from their cloud provider. Boosted transparency can help the business and its cloud vendor work together to increase protection of cloud-based materials.
3) Denial of service attacks
Another threat to cloud environments is denial of service attacks, which make cloud platforms inaccessible to users due to the emergence of an overwhelming amount of automated service requests. InformationWeek noted that while this attack style has been utilized for quite some time now, it is still an impactful threat.
The Cloud Security Alliance report noted that for corporate cloud users, "experiencing a denial-of-service attack is like being caught in rush-hour traffic gridlock: there's no way to get to your destination, and nothing you can do about it except sit and wait." InformationWeek pointed out that besides not being able to reach the cloud service, this kind of attack could impair the platform without shutting it down, meaning the user will still be billed for resources utilized during the attack.
While a denial of service attack is difficult, if not impossible to stop once it's been put in motion, there are techniques companies can utilize to prevent such an incursion. Monitoring activity on the network can help administrators pinpoint instances of traffic spikes, which, if not explainable by internal actions, could point to the start of a denial of service attack. Once this activity is recognized, network engineers can work to mitigate the threat and stop the damage.
Other cloud risks:
Cloud Security Alliance's report also noted several other threats that could impact cloud security, including:
- Account or service traffic hijacking
- Insecure application programming interfaces
- Abuse of cloud services
- Insufficient due diligence
- Shared technology resources
- Unknown exposure of sensitive information
However, by working with a trusted cloud security provider, like Trend Micro, these risks can be addressed and mitigated. Trend Micro provides layered cloud security systems that are easy to install and utilize and can be implemented in addition to the cloud protections the company already has in place. The systems are also designed to be highly dynamic and adaptable, allowing them to shift to meet new protection demands. In addition, Trend Micro's cloud protection focuses on the top trends in the cloud security environment, including endpoint protection of every device, the protection of virtual data centers and the prevention of targeted attacks.
With a security provider like Trend Micro on their side, enterprise cloud users can rest easy knowing their cloud environment is secure.