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    Let’s start with the basics first.

    What is Cloud Computing?

    Simply put Cloud Computing means the availability of computer resources on demand. The entire range of computing services – both hardware and software- including servers, storage space, database, networking (hardware), analytics, and intelligence (software), are available on-demand from the cloud.

    Traditionally these resources were stored in in-house data storage centers like huge servers, depending on the quantum of data one has to process. With the internet gaining speed and bandwidth, this function of data storage, retrieval, and analysis has been shifted from the backyard to the cloud. This facility not only relieves business owners from the problem of installing costly resources but also reduces the operating costs and thereby allows for smoother functioning.

    Need and necessity for the present day business

    In the context of the current business competition as well as the processes, data is the king. It calls for gigantic IT resources, implying massive expenditure and management. Cloud Computing provides an escape from this debilitating scenario to the business owners. Additionally several other factors like

    • Scale
    • Speed
    • Productivity
    • Performance
    • Reliability
    • Security

    have necessitated entities to move on to the cloud.

    Let’s discuss threats in detail.

    Like any other technology, Cloud Computing has its own disadvantages. While the business owners have increasingly moved over their business assets to the cloud for its obvious advantages, oblivious of the pitfalls, of late more and more have come to realize the damage it can do to them.

    The threats emanating from cloud computing have been the talk of the town with more and more evidence coming out against this practice of parking one’s sensitive data in a remote server. Hackers seem to be getting one up over the internal teams that guard the servers. This looks like a continuous strategic battle and has drawn the attention of the Computer Security Alliance (CSA) to list out a host of cloud computing threats. Below, we will see what these threats are, what they mean to business, and how they can be tackled.

    Lack of secured cloud architecture

    Most enterprises using cloud computing for the first time or those we can call novices in cloud computing are unfamiliar with the shifting procedures from traditional to the cloud. More often than not, they ‘replicate’ the in-house IT infrastructure on to the cloud, resulting in opening up grave opportunities for cyber attacks.

    Impact:
    • Loss of valuable and sensitive data due to possible cyber attacks.
    • Business and reputation loss
    Remedies:
    • Put in place proper and authentic security architecture before migrating to the cloud.
    • Ensure that the architecture is commensurate with your business goals
    • Upgrade the security architecture continuously and apply it universally.

    Poor access and control management

    Failure to change passwords and cryptographic keys, lack of multi-factor authentication, and lack of credential management protocols are grave give-away for hackers to thrive. Coordinated Access and control management steps are essential when using cloud computing.

    Impact:
    • Data falling into unauthorized people’s control might lead to losses at multiple levels
    • Hackers can manipulate, alter or delete data apart from snooping on in-transit data
    • Possibility of infusing malware by hackers
    Remedies:
    • Ensure to put in strict identity control and access to data
    • Clamp multi-level authentication to sensitive accounts
    • Segregate accounts and introduce need-based access controls
    • Change passwords, cryptographic keys frequently

    Data breach

    Data breaches have become a norm over the last few years. A cybersecurity attack or stealing of data in any other form or usage of data by unauthorized individuals amount to the data breach.

    Impact:
    • Loss of reputation and client/customer confidence
    • Possible loss of IP (intellectual property) to competitors
    • Resultant penalties from regulatory bodies can severely impact finances
    • Legal issues may crop up
    Remedies:
    • Tighter encryption protocols though they may hamper system performance
    • To put in place a fool-proof and efficient incidence response plan

    Easy accessibility to insiders

    Insiders have unhindered access to computer systems, data, passwords, networks, and virtually no firewall facades to breakthrough. A malicious insider can wreak havoc under a cloud of trust.

    The impact would be similar to a data breach, as mentioned above.

    Remedies:
    • Proper screening and training for insiders concerning installation, configuration, and monitoring of computer networks, mobile and backup devices.
    • Regular exercise to all staff regarding methods to stay clear of phishing
    • Frequent overhaul of passwords and credentials
    • Minimizing privileged access security systems to select a few

    Insufficient Change Controls

    Improperly configured computing networks and assets are a virtual red-carpet welcome to hackers. Such systems are highly vulnerable and a sure red flag to the entity. Unpatched systems, non-existent security controls, improper permission protocols are a few examples of misconfiguration and change controls.

    Impact:
    • Mostly dependent on the misconfiguration nature and the extent of the breach
    Remedies:
    • Plan configurations properly as opposed to traditional networking
    • Cloud-based resources are sophisticated as well as dynamic necessitating a deeper understanding of the configuration matrix

    Interface and API inadequacies

    The weakest links in any IT resources are its User Interface and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). While designing these highly vulnerable interfaces, care must be taken to ensure they are robust and complicated to penetrate through.

    Impact:
    • Poorly designed UIs and APIs can provide a leisurely walk through to hackers and give access to sensitive data, thereby resulting in severe financial, reputational, and business losses.
    Remedies:
    • Using the first-class APIs is the solution
    • Be on the lookout for abnormal activity and implement regular audits
    • Implement proper protection to secure API endpoint

    Abuse of cloud

    Misuse of cloud services is usually related to individuals hosting malware on cloud services. Watch out for phishing activities, malware, suspicious email campaigns, DDoS attacks, etc.

    Impact:
    • Hackers can piggyback on financial details of customers
    • Attackers can camouflage malware as genuine and can be propagated at will
    Remedies:
    • Put in place Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technologies to hinder data exfiltration
    • Entities must ensure to monitor their employees’ cloud activity

    Account hijacking

    Attackers target subscription or cloud service accounts to obtain a total control on any account, which is much more dangerous than a data breach. It is a full compromise and poses severe implications to the cloud users.

    Impact:
    • Being a wholesome compromise, the fall out can be catastrophic for the entity
    • All apps reliant on the account, function, business logic and data get compromised
    • It can lead to business and reputation loss and can open up the entity for legal wrangles
    Remedies:
    • Putting in place IAM controls

    Limited visibility

    Ignorance about whether cloud computing is beneficial and safe for the organization can lead to a limited cloud usage visibility problem.

    Impact:
    • The absence of awareness can land the data control in the hands of the employees than the company
    • Lack of governance and control among employees can lead to compromising data
    • Improper setting up of cloud service can endanger not only the current data but compromises the future data
    Remedies:
    • Compulsory training in policies guiding the usage of cloud and protocol to all the staff
    • Analyze outbound activities through the installation of relevant remedies such as cloud access security brokers (CASB)
    • All inbound activities to be controlled and monitored through the installation of web application firewalls.
    • Implement a completely zero-trust environment in the organization

    Failure in metastructure

    Robust metastructure is prerequisites for an impregnable usage of cloud infrastructure. Poorly designed APIs provide attackers with a gateway to disrupt cloud users’ business.

    Impact:
    • Severely affects all service customers
    • Misconfigurations, at the end of the customer, might adversely impact the financial and operational aspects of the user
    Remedies:
    • Providers of Cloud service must ensure visibility
    • Customers on their part must implement robust technologies in native apps

    Weak control plane

    The two planes of Control Plane and Data Plane are the vital organs of cloud services. The former provides stability to the latter. A thin control plane implies that the person in charge of the data plane does not have full control of the data logic structure, security, and verification protocols.

    Impact:
    • The imminent loss of data resulting in financial, regulatory and legal complications
    • Users will be at a disadvantage in protecting their business data and applications.
    Remedies:
    • Cloud providers must ensure to provide adequate security controls for customers to carry on their business activities successfully.
    • The cloud customers on their part must conduct due diligence while choosing the cloud provider.

    Conclusion

    When choosing to use the cloud infrastructure, care must be taken to safeguard against the inherent pitfalls it has. While it is an excellent solution for data storage, process, and analysis and comes at a fraction of a cost as compared to the traditional systems, the cascading effect of the system’s inherent threats can be catastrophic.