Top 10 Security Risks Faced by Companies Adopting Cloud Computing

The cloud has been a miracle to many businesses as they merge or migrate their data to the off-site storage service. See, the beauty of the cloud is all about its accessibility. Companies can manage or access data from anywhere they are, putting key information at their fingertips without a trip to the office.

Though we previously covered some of the benefits of migrating to the cloud, it’s become apparent that some companies are making that switch with only half the facts. Here’s a look at the top ten security risks that comes with migrating to the cloud.

10. Data Breach

Data breaches have been a common struggle for most corporations over the last twenty years. The consequences of a breach can be massive, from legal fines and fees to a loss of reputation and customer trust. The full extent of the damage caused by a breach depends on upon the nature and sensitivity of the exposed data, but companies can preemptively mitigate the potential damage by improving their authentication and security protocols (encryption).
While it is true that cloud providers deploy their own security measures, it’s the organization who is ultimately responsible for protecting their stored data. Multifactor authentication and encryption are recommended for optimizing your cloud security.

9. Data Loss

Data can be lost for a number of reasons when it’s stored on the cloud.

  • A user might lose their encryption key, rendering their encrypted data unrecoverable.
  • A hacker could delete data from the cloud either by attacking the provider or the business.
  • Data may be erased with no backups in place.

The list goes on, but the point is that permanent data loss can be a terrible thing for everyone, including both individuals and large companies. There are ample methods for preventing data loss; however, it’s still something that occurs, often times due to negligence or human error.
data breach numbers
New laws in the European Union data protection rules have begun treating data destruction and corruption of personal data as forms of a data breach, necessitating disclosure. Even if data is outright lost, as opposed to stolen, companies in EU would still be liable for damages as though an actual breach had occurred.
Using the cloud is a marriage of efficiency and sensibility: you migrate to make your data more accessible, but you have to do so sensibly, which means not over relying on an imperfect service. There are still benefits to personal storage. It’s simply a matter of using the best of both to achieve optimal efficiency and security.

8. Broken Authentication and Hacked Credentials

One of the greatest lapses in security is implementation weak forms of authentication or doing a poor job managing keys and certificates. A company may have difficulty assigning the proper permissions to its users or forget to remove a user’s access once they leave that company—all of these things contribute to lax security that invites trouble.
Currently, the most legitimate way to combat having your credentials or authentication be compromised is through multifactor authentication systems. By using one-off passwords, smartcards, or phone-based authentication, companies can drastically reduce the usefulness of stolen passwords.

7. Denial of Service (DoS)

Denial of service attacks have long since been a thorn in the side of the Internet, and when it comes to the cloud, it’s no different. A DoS attack for cloud customers could cost them money without allowing them to use their cloud service. It’s far likelier that such an attack would simply impair the service rather than shut it down, which means customers would be stuck waiting, causing them to be billed by their cloud service provider for the duration of the attack.

6. Compromised APIs and Interfaces

One of the security risks involved with cloud service is how access to the service is managed. The trick is to provide the service to multiple users while limiting the damage they could do to the service. So, the application programming interface (API) has become the go-to answer for authentication and user permission management. The problem with public APIs is that it’s difficult to protect against both malicious and accidental attempts to disrupt the service/policy. Developers eventually add value-rich services and further complexity to the API, which creates more room for error and increases the risk of exposure.

5. Account or Service Hijacking

Anything from user error (losing credentials) to malicious attacks can cause an account to be hijacked. Once inside, hackers can eavesdrop on activities, modify data, or manipulate transactions. Intruders may even be able to redirect customers to inappropriate content or a competitor’s site. All of these malicious tactics are business damaging. Worst of all, should a malicious user gain access to your cloud account, they could launch further attacks from within the service, against the company or other users.

4. APT Parasite

Advanced persistent threats, or APTs, infiltrate systems to create a foothold from which they can exfiltrate data and other information over a period of time—all without service provider’s knowledge. And although the cloud providers have their own security measures in place to prevent APTs from infiltrating their infrastructure, it also falls to the corporation or user to institute their own protocols to deter and detect APT attacks.
APT parasites are another way for malicious users to gain entry to cloud accounts and their data, and the real danger is really the quantity of data stored on the cloud, per user.

3. Abuse of Cloud Services

Many of the risks inherent with cloud computing are a shared responsibility between the provider and end user; however, abuse of the cloud services is predominantly something the provider must protect against. Cloud services could be used by cybercriminals to launch distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, host malicious content, or break encryption keys. Protecting against this kind of user requires constant monitoring and the ability to recognize patterns of abuse and traffic behavior.
Customers can talk to their providers to make sure there are safeguards in place to prevent abuse of the service since any such actions could impact service availability and data loss for the provider itself.

2. Malicious Insiders

Threats from the inside aren’t always from those with malicious intent. True, hackers and disgruntled employees top the list of ‘malicious insiders,’ it’s just as likely that a system admin, contractor, or business partner makes a mistake that opens up vulnerabilities and compromises the cloud data. The best way to avoid on-the-job blunders is to give your employees the proper training, and effectively manage permissions while monitoring the cloud for any suspicious activity.
Keeping encryption process and keys off of the cloud, and with those who should have access to them, is another way to reduce the likelihood of malicious activity from occurring within the cloud or your company.

1. Lack of Due Diligence

Perhaps the greatest risk companies face by adopting cloud computing is simple laziness. Not doing the proper research or making the transition without understanding the cloud environment and the risks that it might pose. Migrating to the cloud or merging data with another company through the cloud still requires strong authentication and encryption processes—depending on the cloud provider for your security needs will only put your data at risk.
It’s important to understand the risks and the kind of security you’ll require, but it’s also critical to know what the provider is liable for, and what they aren’t liable for. This is especially essential when it comes to recovering from a data breach or loss of data.
The cloud is a much more effective way to manage your company’s data, but businesses need to have a better grasp on the risk they assume when migrating their website, business, or sensitive data to the cloud.

The cloud is vulnerable for the very reasons it’s so efficient: it can store a large amount of data in one centralized location, back it up, and provide additional methods of accessing that data and its backups. Hackers look for any route they can find to penetrate a system, and when there are multiple backups to attack, or you’ve placed all your information in a single location, it makes the task of targeting vulnerabilities that much easier.
This is why it is so important for companies to have their own security measures in place—something along the lines of multifactor authentication—and to back up your data in other ways, in different locations, to prevent making a hacker’s job any easier. Moving to the cloud can do wonders for efficiency and overhead, but a thorough understanding of the service’s capabilities and risks is fundamental in getting the most from your provider.