Cloud Security Explainers:
Cloud Security Threats: Top Threats and 3 Mitigation Strategies
What Are Cloud Security Threats?
Cloud security is a top priority for most organizations today. The large volume of information travelling between cloud service providers and organizations creates opportunities for intentional and accidental leaks of sensitive information to malicious third-parties. Insider threats, human error, weak credentials, criminal activity, and malware play a part in many cloud service data breaches.
Cybercriminals (for example, state-sponsored hacker groups), attempt to use cloud service security vulnerabilities to gain information from the target organization’s network for illicit purposes. Attackers commonly exploit built-in-tools offered by the cloud services to move laterally and exfiltrate sensitive data to systems that they control.
Cloud services present novel security threats associated with public and authentication APIs. Generally speaking, the characteristics that make cloud services accessible to IT systems and employees also make it hard for organizations to manage and stop unauthorized access.
Why Should You Care About Cloud Security?
The cloud offers the potential to provide greater security than conventional on-site solutions, but this potential does not guarantee security. Security ultimately depends less on the cloud itself and more on how organizations deal with management, oversights and security — what matters is how you use the cloud. Infrastructure alone won’t protect you from cyber threats.
On average, the cost of a data breach in the world today equals $3.86 million (or $148 per compromised record). This is a global average — the average cost within the U.S. is nearer to $7.9 million.
However, if an organization manages to address a breach within 30 days, they can save approximately $1 million. If the threat is stopped completely, then an organization can save millions of dollars.
Cloud security might appear to be expensive and resource-intensive, but not when you consider the above figures. In reality, it is a cost-effective investment with a remarkable ROI.
Common Security Threats Facing Cloud Services
Here are some of the most prevalent security threats affecting organizations in the cloud:
Misconfigured Cloud Services
A security misconfiguration is a failure by a cloud user or administrator to correctly apply a security setting. A classic example of cloud misconfiguration is an Amazon S3 storage bucket which is exposed on the public Internet with no authentication.
Misconfiguration is a leading cost of cloud data breaches, and research shows the number of data records exposed by misconfiguration is rapidly rising. Misconfiguration not only enables data breaches directly, but also opens the door for brute-force access attempts and other exploits.
A major benefit of the cloud is the ease of collaboration, but cloud services often make data, including sensitive data, too easy to share. Many cloud services enable sharing by default, and if permissions are not carefully restricted, users can share data with unauthorized parties, either accidentally or intentionally.
In recent surveys, a majority of cybersecurity professionals said data leakage was their top cloud security concern. Data breaches generate multiple costs for an organization — financial losses, reputation damage, compliance fines, and also the high cost of recovering or recreating the data.
Insider threats can take the shape of malicious insiders with ill intent, careless insiders who ignore security policies and allow access to attackers, or attackers who compromise privileged accounts and pose as trusted insiders. Insider threats are difficult to detect and can have disastrous consequences.
Even in on-premises environments, traditional security tools are often unable to detect insider threats. In a cloud environment, the problem is exacerbated, because of the large number of endpoints and service accounts that could be compromised by an attacker, and the easy connectivity between resources in a cloud network.
Denial of service (DoS) attacks involve hackers flooding systems with automated empty connections, overwhelming resources and denying service to legitimate users. In the cloud, because systems are often exposed to public networks, there is a much larger threat of DoS.
Attackers can also leverage the massive scalability of the cloud to drive their attacks. In some cases, attackers compromise cloud accounts and launch cloud instances to perform DoS attacks against others. This can result in high cost to the victim, and legal exposure, because the DoS attack originates from their own cloud environment.
A metastructure is a set of protocols and mechanisms that allow cloud infrastructure to communicate with other parts of the IT environment. For example, the AWS API and the CloudFormation template engine are critical parts of the metastructure in the Amazon cloud.
While large cloud providers have formidable development and security resources, they are not perfect. The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) discovered several cases in which APIs were poorly implemented by cloud providers, or improperly used by customers, resulting in security risks. Another risk is zero day attacks — hackers discover a vulnerability in a metastructure API, which allows them to attack thousands or even millions of organizations, before the cloud provider discovers the vulnerability and patches it.
Any functional or security failure in the metastructure could lead to large-scale service disruption, financial losses and data loss for a large number of cloud customers.
Addressing Cloud Threats: 4 Mitigation Strategies
To minimize cloud computing security threats, there are three strategies every organization can use.
Related content: Read our explainer on Cloud Security Best Practices.
Behavioral profiling, also called User and Entity Behavioral Analytics (UEBA) is currently a key element of IT security and is a central component of Threat Detection solutions. These solutions may dramatically reduce the time it takes to isolate and react to cyberattacks — identifying threats that conventional products miss by using context and visibility from both on-site and cloud infrastructure.
The central advantage of UEBA is that it permits you to automatically identify a wide variety of cyberattacks. These include compromised accounts, insider threats, brute-force attacks, data breaches and the creation of new users.
DevOps and DevSecOps have been shown time and time again to improve the quality of code and to reduce vulnerabilities and exploits. They can also increase the speed of feature deployment and application development. Integrating development, security processes, and QA within the organization unit or application party — rather than depending on stand-alone security verification teams — is essential to functioning at the pace today’s organizational environment requires.
Application Deployment and Management Automation Tools
The security skills shortage, together with the growing pace and volume of security threats, indicates that even a highly trained security professional might not keep up. Automation that does away with mundane tasks and supplements human advantages with machine advantages is an essential part of today’s IT operations.
Related content: Read our explainer on Cloud Security Tools.
Centralized Management of Services and Providers
No one vendor or product can provide everything, but having several different management tools can make it difficult to unify your security strategy. A unified management system together with an open integration fabric decreases complexity by streamlining workflows and uniting components. Lastly, when trade-off decisions have to be formed, improved visibility should be the top priority, not more control. It is more helpful to be able to view everything in the cloud, rather than having to manage incomplete parts of it.
Cloud Security with Exabeam
Even if an all-cloud initiative is not in motion, it’s likely your organization will be moving operations into the cloud in the near future. Before taking this step, it’s critical to assess how you will go about securing cloud operations by understanding related security and compliance issues. Fortunately, a modern security information and event management (SIEM), or extended detection and response (XDR) solution will let your analysts address enterprise cloud security with advanced monitoring, behavioral analytics and automation.
A modern approach automatically collects alert data from across multiple clouds, detects deviations in normal user and entity activity using behavioral analytics, and helps analysts quickly respond to attacks on cloud applications and infrastructure. A modern SIEM or XDR can help you combat increasingly targeted and complex attacks and insider threats by augmenting other cloud security solutions like Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) to better detect, investigate and respond to cloud-based attacks, all while minimizing the detection of false positives.
As cloud-delivered offerings, Exabeam Fusion SIEM and XDR address cloud security in multiple ways to ensure the protection of sensitive data, applications and infrastructure. As the leader in Next-Gen SIEM and XDR Exabeam dramatically improves SOC productivity, allowing teams to detect, investigate and respond to cyberattacks in 51 percent less time. Here are a few of the ways Exabeam supports Cloud Security:
- Collects alert data by direct ingestion from dozens of cloud security tools and popular cloud-based services across multiple enterprise clouds, in addition to hundreds of other products
- Detects new and emerging threats with behavioral analytics
- Provides machine-built timelines to improve analyst productivity and reduce response times by automating incident investigation
- Includes response playbooks using pre-built connectors and hundreds of actions to contain and mitigate threats
- Offers pre-built compliance packages (Exabeam Fusion SIEM)
- Supports detection and investigation with mappings to MITRE ATT&CK and the availability of the Exabeam Threat Intelligence Service, a daily updated stream of indicators of compromise (IoCs) such as malicious IP addresses and domains
- Augments other cloud security solutions like IAM and CASB to better detect, investigate and respond to cloud-based attacks while minimizing the detection of false positives