Things You Must Know About Cyber Security in the Cloud

Things You Must Know About Cyber Security in the Cloud

Last updated on 05th Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog

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Jagan (Cyber Security Manager )

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Cyber security in cloud computing is a growing concern for many organizations, especially those who use the cloud to store sensitive data of their customers.

 store-sensitive-data

Organizations are increasingly using cloud computing technology to build, deploy, and migrate to cloud-based environments.

While cloud service providers like Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) continue to expand cloud security services to protect their cloud infrastructures, it is ultimately the customer’s responsibility to implement proper cyber security in the cloud and secure their data stored within them.

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Despite an array of benefits, protecting an organization’s data in a cloud environment that is publicly hosted can easily expose the organization to many threat vectors.

A survey revealed that the top cyber security challenges in the cloud are data loss (64%), data privacy (62%), followed by accidental leakage of credentials (39%) tied with compliance issues (39%).

As data continues to move to the cloud, many cyber security professionals are struggling to maintain the security of their cloud environments.

Cloud computing is opening up new challenges.

When using cloud services, be it software-as-a-service (SaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), the customer always has some level of responsibility for protecting their data from attackers.

With SaaS services, their control is primarily with restricting access and encrypting data if SaaS allows it. With platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and IaaS, the organization takes on significantly more responsibility for protecting data.

Overcoming Cloud Security Challenges in Cyber Security

Security issues in the cloud are a major concern for many organizations that are considering cloud computing services. The rapid growth of the cloud has not only highlighted the benefits of the cloud but also focused on the cloud security challenges that exist in its environment.

Is it true? Is cloud computing really insecure?

The answer is complicated.

Individual cloud computing services can be significantly secure by implementing the latest security measures. In fact, many cloud service providers do a great job of integrating security into the cloud infrastructure and making it more secure than many other organizations do.

However, not every cloud service provider is like this, so care must be taken in reviewing the cloud provider’s security posture.

Security in cloud computing is dependent on the users as well. Failing to properly adhere to the security standards and addressing security risks in a timely manner can lead to an otherwise preventable cyberattack or data breach. This requires that companies understand and mitigate cloud security risks in an effective manner.

Most security issues in the cloud are centered around data and access because the majority of shared responsibility models in cloud computing services leave those two aspects completely up to the customers.

As a result, attackers have been targeting their focus on this potential security vulnerability. There are several challenges associated with cloud security. The most common problems for cloud computing security include:

  • Identifying and maintaining the necessary security controls
  • Balancing the shared responsibility of maintaining security between the cloud service provider and the user
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements to secure data in the cloud environment.

In a nutshell, cloud security is quite dynamic, majorly depending on how well the end user understands and addresses the cloud computing security risks and vulnerabilities.

Fortunately, cloud security risks can be largely mitigated by following cloud security best practices. Below, we’ve listed the top cyber security best practices in the cloud that can help you build and maintain a secure cloud environment.

Cyber Security: Best Practices in the Cloud

Want to leverage cloud computing in a secure manner? Here are some of the best cyber security practices in the cloud:

Implement Strong User Access Control / Least Privilege

Similar to the traditional software security process, administrators should implement strong user access control to define who can access the data and to what extent users can access it. This will help ensure that only authorized users can gain access to data in the cloud infrastructure.

Using the least privilege model, you can also ensure that users can only access data that they need to complete their tasks. This process of implementing user access control and least privilege can be easily automated to increase accuracy and save time as existing users and new users onboard to access new servers.

Use SSH Keys and Securely Store Keys

Secure Socket Shell (SSH) keys help establish secure server connections with private and public key pairs. Since they are used to access sensitive data and perform critical, privileged activities, it’s important to properly manage SSH keys and securely store them.

Companies should create special cloud computing and key management policies to monitor how these keys are created, managed, and removed when they reach their expiring period. For instance, any privileged session via SSH keys should be monitored and analyzed to meet both regulatory and cyber security needs.

Implement Encryption in the Cloud

Data encryption in cloud computing is essential for organizations as it helps ensure that the data moving to and from the cloud is encrypted and secure.

While choosing a cloud service provider, you need to be vigilant about your security needs for cloud deployment and data that will be stored in the cloud. Many cloud service providers offer cloud encryption services; many times you may want to manage your own encryption keys and not completely rely on your provider. Just manage this based upon your risk tolerance.

Encryption combined with other security protocols such as the principle of least privilege (PoLP) enables organizations to meet stringent regulatory policies such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR.

Perform Routine Penetration Tests

Cloud penetration tests help identify security vulnerabilities in the cloud infrastructure.

For cloud computing, pen tests are often a shared responsibility which means that both your organization and your cloud service provider can perform penetration tests to detect security vulnerabilities in the cloud.

Is pen testing in the cloud different from other pen tests?

Typically, a pen test in the cloud computing environment does not differ much from other pen tests. While there are key differences in the way the cloud applications and infrastructure are set up, the principles of the pen test remain the same — identifying and mitigating security vulnerabilities.

Hardened and Controlled Images

A hardened virtual server image is basically an image devoid of anything unnecessary to the specific task at hand and has its configuration secured tightly. These images are built in accordance with appropriate cloud security standards with the lowest access privileges and admin permissions, and only the ports and services that are required.

Hardening and controlling images is a key component to a Defense-in-Depth strategy that limits cloud security vulnerabilities and protects your organization.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) protects your company data and user accounts using an array of authentication methods such as one-time passwords, biometrics, security questions, and many others.

How will MFA help ensure better cloud computing security?

By implementing MFA in your cloud computing environment, you can limit the access to data in the cloud to only authorized users and prevent the risk of lost, stolen, or compromised credentials.

Scanning for Vulnerabilities and Unapproved Hardening Processes

Misconfigurations in the cloud computing environment can create exploitable security weaknesses.

According to a report, companies have, on average, at least 14 misconfigured IaaS events running at any given time, leading to an average of about 2,300 cloud misconfiguration incidents per month.

To avoid such cyber security vulnerabilities, you’ll need to audit your IaaS configurations for access management, encryption, and network configuration.

Further, consider automatic scanning of hardened images, docker containers, and all newly deployed servers to identify security vulnerabilities that might have been introduced in the cloud computing environment while deployment or management.

Don’t just look for existing cyber security vulnerabilities, continually scan your environment for any items that are not in the proper hardened configuration. If something has shifted from the hardened configuration, replace it with the approved hardened image. Remember, cattle not pets!

Wrapping Up and Looking Ahead

Cloud computing comes with its fair share of benefits as well as challenges. While cyber security in the cloud is a shared responsibility of both the cloud service provider and the user, many organizations don’t properly fulfill their responsibilities, at the expense of their clients.

Whether due to negligence or lack of knowledge, misuse of your cloud environment can have severe consequences. Make sure you implement stringent cloud computing security policies to ensure your data in the cloud is secure.

Running a cloud infrastructure isn’t an easy task and we get it.

Our security team consists of top security and subject matter experts on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, as well as knowledgeable security trainers who can help you with questions you should ask your cloud service provider before buying cloud services.

We also offer security audits to detect and mitigate security vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure to make it easy for you to secure your cloud environment.

Below are the five things one should know about cyber security that will help you understand it better.

    1. 1.The organization is ultimately responsible for the security of the data and transactions. Cloud vendors know they must do their cyber-security part, but in the end, if a customer’s data is compromised, it is the organization that will have to answer to that customer or pay the fine. Similarly, if an organization falls victim to a ransomware attack, it is the organization that must pay the hacker. This means that just because you’re using cloud computing, you can’t let your guard down. According to one source, two common causes of data breaches in the cloud are misconfigured access restrictions on storage resources and forgotten or improperly secured systems, both of which are the responsibility of the organization, not the cloud vendor. You must still make cyber security one of your highest priorities, ensuring you have trained staff and that your staff stays current on the latest threats and predictions.
    2. 2.Cloud vendors are working to increase security and make it easier for businesses. Cloud vendors have already invested enormous resources in their own products’ security. When the major players include Amazon (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft (Azure), and Google (Google Cloud Platform), you can be rest assured that security has been one of the highest priorities. And now vendors have focussed attention to help their customers improve security. For example, Google offers a Cloud Security Command Centre that acts like a scanner to look for vulnerabilities, and both Amazon and Microsoft have built applications and infrastructures to help. If you’re in doubt about how well you’re securing access and data on your end, approach your vendor for help.
    3. 3.Cloud Computing could improve Security. Sometimes cloud computing offers a security solution. Small to medium size businesses are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks such as ransomware because they don’t have or haven’t spent the resources to improve their cyber security. Moving to the cloud could improve their overall security, because the cloud vendors—as described above—have some of the toughest security in the IT space. In fact, some argue that moving data to the cloud is more secure than keeping it on-site, although that can be hard for some IT managers to accept, given their natural inclination to keep data where they have the most perceived control over it.
    4. 4.Cloud security is an even bigger issue with GDPR. In May of 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became enforceable. Although it applies to residents of the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA), it has far-reaching effects for organizations all over the world because the citizens of these areas often do business with entities outside of these areas. Post GDPR, those entities and organizations must make sure their data practices comply. Although the best way to ensure compliance is through legal counsel, in general, this means both the cloud vendor and the cloud customer must follow data protection practices. For businesses that use a multi-cloud solution, with more than one vendor, each solution must also comply.
    5. 5.Cloud security is already affected by the Internet of Things (IoT). Despite all the progress made in securing cloud solutions, data centres and network infrastructures, we are on the verge of undoing a lot of that progress due to the Internet of Things (IoT). With the explosion of IoT devices comes an explosion of security vulnerabilities, because these devices often don’t have the level of security they should.

It is important, then, to understand exactly where your system could be at risk, and what you can do about it. In this article, we take a look at seven key cybersecurity threats that could affect your cloud computing services: 

    1. 1.Crytopjacking
    2. 2.Data breaches
    3. 3.Denial of service
    4. 4.Insider threats
    5. 5.Hijacking accounts
    6. 6.Insecure applications
    7. 7.Inadequate training

These Learning Paths cover the leading security tools and best practices and include Security labs that allow you to gain real-world experience with implementing security best practices. The labs guide you step-by-step in a secure, sandboxed environment.

1.Cryptojacking

Crytojacking is a fairly new form of cyberattack, and it is also one that can very easily go under the radar. It centers around the popular practice of mining for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. To do this, you need computing power, and cybercriminals have found methods of accessing cloud computing systems and then using their computing power to mine for cryptocurrency. 

Cryptojacking can be very tricky to spot and deal with. The major issue here is the fact that when hackers use computing resources from your cloud system means your operation will be slowed down, but (crucially) it will continue to work. This means that it can seem as if nothing malicious is happening and that perhaps the computers are just struggling with their processing power.

Many IT teams mistake the symptoms of cryptojacking as a flaw with an update or a slower internet connection, meaning it takes them much longer to establish the real problem.

2.Data breaches

Perhaps the most common threat to cloud computing is the issue of leaks or loss of data through data breaches. A data breach typically occurs when a business is attacked by cybercriminals who are able to gain unauthorized access to the cloud network or utilize programs to view, copy, and transmit data. 

If you use cloud computing services, a data breach can be extremely damaging, but it can happen relatively easily. Losing data can violate the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which could cause your business to face heavy fines.

Remember that a data breach can cause many different issues for your business. Aside from the fines and loss of data, you can also lose the trust of your customers, or even have your own intellectual property stolen. 

3.Denial of service

One of the most damaging threats to cloud computing is a denial of service (DoS) attack. These can shut down your cloud services and make them unavailable both to your users and customers, but also to your staff and business as a whole. 

Cybercriminals can flood your system with a very large amount of web traffic that your servers are not able to cope with. This means that the servers will not buffer, and nothing can be accessed. If the whole of your system runs on the cloud, this can then make it impossible for you to manage your business. 

4.Insider threats

When we think of cybersecurity challenges, we often consider the concept of malicious criminals hacking into our systems and stealing data – however, sometimes the problem originates from the inside of the company. In fact, recent statistics suggest that insider attacks could account for more than 43 percent of all data breaches. 

Insider threats can be malicious – such as members of staff going rogue – but they can also be due to negligence or simple human error. It is important, then, to provide your staff with training, and also ensure that you are tracking the behavior of employees to ensure that they cannot commit crimes against the business. 

You should also ensure that you have a proper off-boarding process in place. This refers to the point at which someone leaves the company – you need to ensure that their access to any crucial data is removed and that their credentials no longer work in the system. Many businesses get hacked due to malicious former employees looking to get revenge. 

5.Hijacking accounts

Perhaps the greatest threat to a business that uses cloud computing technologies is the challenge of hijacked accounts. If a criminal can gain access to your system through a staff account, they could potentially have full access to all of the information on your servers without you even realizing any crime has taken place.

Cybercriminals use techniques such as password cracking and phishing emails in order to gain access to accounts – so once again, the key here is to provide your team with the training to understand how to minimize the risk of their account being hijacked.

One of the ways that your business can minimize the risks involved with hijacked accounts, is through proper permissions management. This means that every account across the business should only be given access to the information that they need to do their job. This means that if an account is hijacked, there is less than the criminal can steal. 

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6.Insecure applications

Sometimes it can be the case that your own system is highly secure, but you are let down by external applications. Third-party services, such as applications, can present serious cloud security risks, and you should ensure that your team or cyber-security experts take the time to establish whether the application is suitable for your network before they have it installed. 

Discourage staff from taking matters into their own hands and downloading any application that they think might be useful. Instead, you should make it necessary for the IT team to approve any application before it is installed on the system. While this might seem like a lengthy step to put in place, it can effectively take away the risk of insecure applications.

Of course, it should also be noted here that applications need to be patched whenever possible, so make sure that this is a part of the ongoing role of your IT team. 

7.Inadequate training

Most cybersecurity threats come in the form of outsider attacks, but this issue is one caused by a problem inside the company. And this problem is in failing to take the threat of cybercrime seriously. It is essential to invest in training on the risks of cyberattacks – not just for your IT team, but for every member of staff.

Your team is your first line of defense against any kind of data breach or cyberattack, so they need to be prepared with the latest information or relevant threats to businesses like yours. Allocate time and budget for staff training, and also make sure that this training is regularly updated so that your staff is being taught about issues that are genuinely affecting organizations. 

To prevent cybersecurity threats, it is no longer acceptable to simply have a presentation about phishing emails and setting a strong password from the IT team when someone new joins the business. Cloud Academy empowers enterprises to create structured cloud training plans at scale with a wide variety of content that delivers the theory, technical knowledge, and hands-on practice.

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