As Work from home has become a new norm the reliability on cloud computing has multiplied. Many organizations look at it as a solid option to enable their WFH employees to utilize proprietary applications and enterprise-grade tools right on their own home PC or other net-enabled devices. While cloud computing provides several benefits, it also comes with some inherent risks that can compromise the security of an organization and also have a severe effect on its reputation and revenue potential. So, it is important to keep these things in mind when moving to the cloud. Here are a few risks associated with cloud computing:
Facilitates unauthorized use through self-service
The cloud allows users to increase the size of allocated services through its provisions for self-service on-demand. It is worth mentioning that increasing the number of services through the agency’s cloud service provider doesn’t necessitate the consent of the IT department as a prerequisite. Breaking it down in plain English facilitates and may encourage employees to practice Shadow IT, i.e., using new software for official work without taking consent from your employer/IT department.
Easy and affordable implementation of PaaS/SaaS products increases the chances of using cloud services without authorization. It further reduces the network/data visibility which prevents the organization from securing or monitoring the resources. It exposes the organization to the risk of data theft or malware injections.
Accessing management APIs through the internet
Management APIs used by organizations for mission-critical tasks like asset/user management, provisioning, monitoring, and orchestrations. These APIs may share similar software vulnerabilities as the application programming interfaces for a library, OS, and others.
As opposed to on-premise management APIs with restricted inter-organization access, the CSP APIs can be accessed by wider audiences through the internet. It significantly broadens the digital surface of attacks and makes an organization’s data prone to several threat actors including sophisticated and organized groups.
It enables malicious entities to constantly monitor the soft points of management APIs and, upon discovering the same they can launch an attack to steal, damage, or misuse the cloud assets of an organization.
Risks of leaving the traces/copies of deleted data
Lowered visibility and verifiability of the data stored in the cloud also prevents an organization to confirm the successful deletion of mission-critical data. One of the major barriers here is that the data may be scattered or copied across multiple storage locations and disparate devices within the multi-tenant ecosystem of CSP infrastructure. Besides, different CSPs have different processes for deleting data thus preventing organizations from confirming if the data was fully deleted with zero traces.
Sophisticated hackers and attackers can even glean such traces and devise a way to use them for carrying out their nasty schemes. As some organizations may also use multiple CSPs, it further escalates this risk.
Credentials theft and misuse
Theft of cloud credentials is another major security concern for an organization. Depending upon the rights associated with the stolen cloud credentials, the threat actors can even add other resources through CSP to multiply the impact of their attack. It can allow them to broaden the scope of the target by including admin users of the organization, CSP’s admins, and other key entities. By stealing the cloud credentials of the CSP admin the attackers can easily intrude into the data/data of the agency.
While the access of client admins is limited only to the cloud implementations of that specific organization, the CSP admin has control over multiple services and customers. It is a master key for different areas of CSP infrastructure including network systems and applications.
Depending upon the type of stolen admin credential the attackers can attack either a specific organization or multiple organizations.
Switching to a secure CSP can be restrictively difficult
Each CSP has its proprietary resources that can complicate the process of switching from one CSP to another. It creates lock-in barriers and can multiply the time, efforts, complexities, and costs associate with moving to a different provider.
The instances where substantial responsibilities are transferred to CSPs the organization’s digital assets become more exposed to the unique implementation services of CSP. It further intensifies the complexities associated with switching to another provider. In other words, even if an organization discovers some key gaps in the security fabric of its existing CSP, it may find it practically difficult to switch to a more secured CSP.
The issue further complicates if the exiting CSP is going to wind up the business soon as the proprietary barriers prevent smooth transferring of entire data to another CSP and the client may end up losing the mission-critical data.
Access abusing by employees becomes easier
The instances of data breach by insiders is increasing rapidly and shifting applications/processes to the cloud place those scheming insiders at a more favorable position. They can manipulate the vulnerabilities/limitations of CSPs like shadow IT for abusing their access rights and executing malicious activities. Unlike the in-house IT landscape, the cloud ecosystem lacks sufficient monitoring capabilities and controls.
This limitation prevents the organization from keeping an eye on users’ activity, detecting suspicious actions, or tracing down the culprits.
Losing the data
Organizations’ data can also be lost due to human errors, negligence on CSPs/client’s part, or even technical reasons. In such cases the lost data, if found by the attackers, can be transformed into a tool to make a hole in the security fabric of the organization. It may also allow the attackers to silently make a backdoor entry into the sensitive zones and remotely control the digital backend of the organization. It creates endless opportunities for threat actors to hurt the organization’s interests in different ways.
Lack of enough research before selecting the CSP
There are several things to be considered while migrating to the cloud ecosystem. Organizations may not always be careful/experienced enough to diligently confirm all the points of the security checklist.
Also, the security requirements of an organization inflate with time which means that the existing security may not be enough when a company upgrades or changes its business model. In other words, the security net may become weaker and loose over time thus automatically multiplying opportunities for threat actors to intrude into the system by manipulating new vulnerabilities.
Cloud computing assures many advantages for organizations and employees. In the Work from Home era it has become all the more valuable. However, just like any other digital service, cloud computing also has its share of risks too. So, transitioning to cloud computing should be a deliberated, well-planned process and organizations should take all security concerns into consideration before moving to the cloud.
By Jitendra Bhojwani