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2021’s Biggest Cloud Security Threats

2021’s Biggest Cloud Security Threats

Among the biggest concerns for IT admins in 2021 are issues related to cloud security. The use of cloud technology has grown exponentially in the past year, particularly with the shift to remote work. When employees are working remotely, there are new and increased vulnerabilities in security resulting from this model.

When employees are in the office every day, employers simply have more control over their devices, their security behaviors, and how they’re interacting with the network.

In a recent survey, 74% of respondents said they either agreed or strongly agreed that remote work makes it hard for employees to follow good security practices.

Being proactive and understanding what the risks are is the best way to get ahead of potential threats. With that in mind, the following are some of 2021’s most prominent cloud security threats to be aware of.

Data Breaches

While every organization is probably at a point where they realize how damaging a data breach can be, they don’t necessarily have the necessary strategies in place to fully prevent them. This is especially true due to the rapid cloud deployment that had to take place with the sudden shift to almost entirely remote work in many businesses last year.

One of the best things you can do as far as protecting your data is encrypting it.

Too often, when you’re relying significantly on cloud platforms, you may feel like they’re going to protect your data for you. While yes, this is somewhat true, you still want to be proactive on your end too, no matter what it says in your Service-Level Agreement.

As part of protecting your data in general from breach and loss, you should perform regular backups. Test your backup solutions regularly rather than setting them and forgetting them.

Misconfiguration

So many of the primary cybersecurity threats organizations face now are due to human error and negligence, and as such, are completely preventable.

An example of this is cloud misconfiguration.

Cloud misconfiguration refers to a situation where an admin or user doesn’t correctly set up the security settings for a cloud platform.

For example, unrestricted outbound access could be allowed.

To avoid misconfiguration, one of the first things to do is use multi-factor authentication. That reduces the risk of unauthorized access because of a compromise of credentials.

API Issues

Cloud applications usually communicate with one another through application programming interfaces or APIs. If you put your full trust in APIs, then you’re leaving yourself open to risks.

A cybercriminal can exploit an API that’s potentially not secure through what are called denial-of-service or DoS attacks. They can also use code injections, and both scenarios let them access data.

Gartner estimates that by 2022, APIs will become the most targeted attack surface.

A way to avoid this risk is to use centralized cloud monitoring and review API logs.

Malware

Malware is not a new threat, and it remains one of the most pervasive cybersecurity issues.

Malware is a threat in the cloud, and you need multiple layers of security to protect against it. Since cloud services offer data accessibility, then that, in turn, means malware is also accessible.

Data can be compromised because of the opportunities that arise as it travels to and from the cloud.

Once cloud malware infiltrates a system, it can spread quickly. It can then lead to threats that grow in severity.

There are specific types of malware attacks in the cloud including DoS attacks and hypervisor infections.

To avoid cloud-based malware attacks, one thing you can do is implement a zero-trust model. This contrasts with perimeter-based security, which is no longer adequate for most organizations because of the proliferation of remote work.

With zero-trust models, then there’s the assumption that even within a network no one is to be trusted.

Network segmentation is important too. Network segmentation can help ensure that if you suffer a malware attack, it’s limited in scope and the amount of damage it can cause.

Lack of Access Management Controls

When you migrate to a cloud service, then you might do so too fast without thinking about a concrete plan for access and identity policies.

When you don’t have clear and effective access management policies, it can lead to many types of threats. Using multi-factor authentication, having strong password policies, and regularly doing access audits are ways to deal with this threat.

Denial-of-Service Attacks

We mentioned the potential for DoS attacks above, but they’re worth talking about on their own when it comes to cloud security. A DoS attack prevents users from accessing applications, or it can impede your workflows.

There are brute force DoS attacks, and then there are also more complex attacks that exploit specific systems.

When there’s a DoS attack going on, it impacts resources. The lack of resources to scale then causes stability and speed issues.

To avoid DoS attacks, you can block IP addresses that are a source of attack, you can use firewall traffic inspection features, and you need to make sure your intrusion detection system is updated.

Password Reuse

Finally, password reuse and general password fatigue are issues that can cause security threats.

Every application that your employees are logging into will have different password requirements, which leads to reuse across business and personal accounts and devices.

Then, your resources are left vulnerable because of password reuse.

For example, let’s say your employee falls victim to a phishing scam. If a cybercriminal gains access to one account using their credentials, but they’ve reused that password in other places, then the criminal has access to everything with that password.

You need to have stringent password policies and requirements for your employees.

Again, multi-factor authentication can also help reduce this security risk.

Overall, many of the security issues associated with the cloud aren’t exclusive to the cloud but rather are general cybersecurity risks that you need to consider across the board in 2021 and beyond.


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by Dirk DeBie // Contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.