Top 5 Threats in Cloud Security and How to Fight Them

By Zachary Amos, Features Editor at ReHack

The cloud is key for any business’s digital transformation. However, migrating to the cloud can expose a company to new security threats. Knowing how to identify and fight these risks is essential for any organization that has adopted cloud computing.

These are five of the most important threats to know about and how business IT teams can protect their operations. Companies would be wise to employ these safety strategies and protect their sensitive information.

1. Account Hijacking

A successful phish or similar attack can compromise important accounts, providing hackers with direct access to critical cloud files and systems. Several major hacks, including the 2021 Colonial Pipeline infiltration, happened after hackers used phishing to steal important credentials and hijack accounts.

Businesses can defend themselves by training employees in cybersecurity basics and educating them on phishing and other social engineering attacks.

Network segmentation and similar strategies can help reduce the potential negative impact of a hijacked account.

2. Cloud Misconfigurations

Often, businesses leave their data open to an attack due to cloud misconfiguration. According to one report, these breaches cost companies nearly $5 trillion in 2018 and 2019, leading to more than 33 billion records being exposed.

These misconfigurations are typically caused by a lack of experience or the use of outdated security models. The merging of IT environments can also create significant risks.

Cloud misconfigurations are 100% preventable with the right practices. Prioritizing security from the beginning helps companies avoid the most common issues, like disabled logging systems and poor storage access management. 

The right practices are especially important during cloud migration when easy-to-make mistakes can lead to misconfigurations that may later cause a breach.

3. Limited Cloud Data and Traffic Visibility

An IT or cybersecurity team can’t defend resources they don’t know about. They also can’t do much to protect the network against traffic they’re not aware of. 

Businesses often limit their cloud visibility by splitting resources into multiple “buckets” or otherwise dividing storage management. Many of these companies also rely on traditional traffic monitoring tools that weren’t necessarily designed with the cloud in mind, limiting their effectiveness when monitoring a cloud environment.

Without the right visibility solutions and practices, businesses can store data on the cloud but have limited organizational awareness that it exists.

Many cybersecurity strategies can also help improve cloud visibility — like a least privilege, zero-trust model and shared responsibility model. Adopting these strategies and prioritizing visibility can help businesses limit cloud data and services it isn’t aware of.

Improving cloud visibility can also help a business take full advantage of the data it’s already collected. 

4. Shadow IT Systems

Shadow IT refers to unauthorized systems that run on business networks. They typically include apps and services that employees have downloaded to help in their work, like SaaS productivity tools. 

Shadow IT can also include hardware connected to the business network, like a smartphone or personal laptop, without IT department approval or awareness.

This is growing at a much faster rate than authorized IT, but businesses can manage it with the right policies. Monitoring the network for unauthorized services and apps can help a company identify shadow IT system users. Security audits and reviews can also help uncover shadow IT.

5. Insecure Interfaces and APIs

Application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow different apps and services to communicate with each other, are essential tools for businesses coordinating many different digital solutions. 

However, these APIs can become a major liability if not secure. Businesses that leverage an API but fail to secure it could be providing cybercriminals with a new attack vector.

APIs with effective authentication systems, security-focused frameworks and visibility can help businesses keep track of their APIs and limit potential vulnerabilities.

Defend Cloud Systems Against These Major Threats

Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in cloud systems that they can take advantage of. Familiarity with some of the most common threats can help IT and cybersecurity professionals keep the organizations they work for safe. 

Phishing, misconfigurations, shadow IT, insecure APIs and low cloud visibility are common reasons attackers succeed. Planning for these threats and implementing security policies to mitigate them make the cloud much more secure.

As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics.

Follow Brilliance Security Magazine on Twitter and LinkedIn to ensure you receive alerts for the most up-to-date security and cybersecurity news and information.