The Security Risks of Cloud Computing and How to Mitigate Them
Pablo Baldomá Jones
Cloud computing provides many benefits to tech startups and large enterprises. The strategic management of this technology can help reduce costs, improve performance, and increase business agility.
However, the security risks of cloud computing are a primary concern to its successful operation. It is crucial to discuss relevant cloud computing risks. Otherwise, all your hard work in cloud adoption will be for nothing—or worse, result in security disasters.
In this article, we’ll explore five common security risks of cloud computing and the security measures your organization can implement to protect your cloud services.
Understanding Data Security in Cloud Computing
In cloud computing, data security refers to the deployment of tools and technologies that improve organizational visibility of critical data. Today’s cloud service providers (CSPs) deploy an array of robust tools and high-level security protocols to keep your data safe and secure.
Nonetheless, it is reasonable to question the cloud's security before entrusting it with critical business data. Once you save something to the cloud, you no longer have complete control over preventing unauthorized access. The CSP must inform you of any cloud computing risks and take the necessary precautions to mitigate them.
5 Security Risks of Cloud Computing
There are several security risks to take into account when making the switch to the cloud. Here are five of the most significant cloud computing risks your organization must be aware of:
1. Cloud Misconfiguration
Incorrect cloud infrastructure configurations continue to be the leading cause of cloud computing security breaches worldwide. A data breach report from Adobe Creative Cloud, for example, revealed that a misconfigured cloud-based database exposed nearly 7.5 million user records.
A cloud misconfiguration occurs when an enterprise fails to properly set up its cloud system, leaving it vulnerable to hacking. It frequently happens because of default cloud security settings, deformed data access, and mismatched access management.
2. Data Loss and Leakage
Data loss is a security risk that is challenging to predict and even more challenging to manage. More than 60% of respondents in a 2021 survey identified data loss or leakage as the biggest cloud security concern.
Cloud computing requires organizations to relinquish some of their control to the CSP. This means that some of your organization's sensitive data will be in the hands of someone other than your IT department. If the CSP experiences a breach or attack, your organization will not only lose its data and intellectual property—you will also be held liable for any subsequent damages.
3. Weak APIs
CSPs typically provide their clients with several application programming interfaces (APIs). In general, these interfaces are well-documented to make them as user-friendly as possible for the customers.
However, this could lead to problems if a customer has not correctly secured the interfaces for their cloud-based infrastructure. A cybercriminal can use the documentation designed for the customer to identify and exploit methods for accessing and extracting sensitive data from an organization's cloud environment.
4. Limited Network Visibility
When your organization migrates to the cloud and delegates the management of some systems and policies from your in-house team to the CSP, you also give up some visibility into network operations. This can restrict your ability to monitor and protect your cloud-based resources from cyberattacks.
5. Poor Due Diligence
When partnering with a CSP, it is vital to conduct thorough due diligence to ensure that your organization understands the scope of work required to successfully and efficiently migrate to the cloud. In many cases, organizations are unaware of the magnitude of the work involved in a transition, and the CSP's security measures are frequently neglected.
How to Bolster Security in Cloud Computing
To fully reap the benefits of cloud computing, organizations must make concerted efforts to maintain security in cloud environments. Let's look at some of the ways organizations can lead digital transformation by improving security in cloud computing.
1. Manage User Access Controls
Given the ease of access to the cloud ecosystem, enterprises must enforce stringent user access controls to prevent insiders from leaking sensitive data. Only a few people should have access to critical functions to keep data safe from unauthorized users.
2. Implement MFA
The traditional username and password combination is frequently inadequate to protect user accounts from hackers, and stolen credentials are one of the most common ways cybercriminals gain access to your online business data. Once they have your user credentials, hackers can access all the cloud-based applications and services you use daily to run your business.
Protect all your cloud users with multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that only authorized personnel can access your cloud applications and sensitive data.
3. Conduct Risk Assessments
Analyze your organization’s cybersecurity posture and the effectiveness of deployed security controls by performing regular risk assessments. The objective of an assessment is to identify any potential security vulnerabilities or gaps so that your IT team can make informed decisions to improve cloud computing security.
4. Use Cloud Automation
The threat landscape is constantly evolving, and cyber attackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. As a result, many IT departments are overburdened with a large volume of security alerts arriving at a rapid rate.
By automating key initiatives such as cybersecurity monitoring, threat intelligence collection, and vendor risk assessments, IT teams can focus on higher-priority tasks rather than manually reviewing all potential network threats.
5. Provide Cloud Security Training for Employees
Cloud security is a shared responsibility in any organization. New or untrained employees can put your data at risk, so train your workforce to know how to identify and avoid cyberattacks.
Here are some of the security-related topics you should include in your training:
- Email and Internet. Define internet security protocols and train employees to use cloud tools responsibly.
- Sharing. Teach employees the proper process for sharing information within and outside the organization.
- Social Engineering. Train employees to recognize online attacks like phishing, spamming, and malware.
- Compliance. Regularly train your staff on data privacy and protection regulations.
As organizations continue to adopt cloud computing, proactive cybersecurity measures are essential to ensure a successful and efficient transition to dynamic cloud environments. Following industry best practices for selecting, installing, and managing cloud services can help you get the most out of cloud computing while maintaining a high level of data security.
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