Cloud Computing Security Threats & Concerns

Cloud Security Threats & Concerns

The past decade has seen an explosion in the popularity of cloud-computing and cloud-based storage solutions with both consumers and businesses. However, while moving to the cloud offers a number of benefits to businesses, many have concerns regarding security.

While this is no reason to avoid using cloud-based solutions, it is important to be aware of them especially when choosing a supplier. Below are some of the most prominent security threats and concerns facing businesses moving to the cloud.

1. Data Ownership & Control

The move to a cloud-based solution will inevitably lead to some loss of control of your organization’s data as it is stored on the service provider’s servers. This fact of cloud-based solutions can have both negative and positive implications for your organization.

On the positive side, this frees the organization from the burden of maintaining a complicated and potentially expensive infrastructure within their offices or, in the case of very large businesses, removes the need for investment in a dedicated data center.

On the other hand, this can pose a significant security risk and even a degree of uncertainty. Issues such as the geographic location of your data, specific backup processes and the steps taken to ensure your data is private and secure are no longer in your control.

Moving your organization’s data to the cloud also means that the service provider will have some degree of access to your data. In addition to privacy concerns relating to sensitive data, this may also impact on your compliance controls and requirements.

2. Data Loss

Regardless of where and how your data is stored, the permanent loss of data is likely a major concern. Data loss can have a huge impact on a business financially, operationally and even legally as the loss of data may result in the failure to meet compliance policies or data protection requirements.

In addition to the threat of malicious attacks, cloud-based storage solutions are exposed to the same risks as other data storage methods. Natural disaster, technical failure and accidental erasure of data can all affect cloud-based services in the same manner as an internal infrastructure.

Of course, preventing against data loss is not solely the responsibility of the cloud provider. Data loss may also occur when encrypted data is stored in the cloud and the relevant encryption key is subsequently lost. Once the key has been lost, the data is rendered useless.

3. Data Breaches

The threat of data breach exists regardless of whether your data is stored internally or with a cloud-based provider. However, there may be some additional risks associated with hosting data in the cloud as compared to an owned infrastructure.

Some cloud services may be more vulnerable to potential attacks and the hijacking of data. This is partly due to the face that the large amount of data stored on cloud-based services can make them an attractive target for hackers and other users with malicious intent.

The risk of data breaches associated with the cloud may also be increased due to new methods of attack such as “Man-in-the-Cloud” attacks which take advantage of synchronization services to access and extract data, compromise files or attack end-users.

While a cloud provider will implement security measures to mitigate the risk of data breaches, it is important to keep in mind that you are ultimately responsible for the security of your organization’s data and a breach can have serious legal and financial ramifications.

4. Malicious Attacks & Abuse

Cloud-based services are open to potential attacks and abuse not only from hackers but also from authorized users. This can occur when individuals either directly attack the service or commandeer the cloud service’s resources for other nefarious acts.

For example, hackers or authorized users may potentially abuse cloud storage illegal activities. This can include engaging in activities such as using the service to store and spread copyrighted materials, pirated software or even malware and viruses.

Cloud computing resources can also be attacked directly through attacks such as malware injection which have become a major threat in recent years. This involves hackers gaining access to the cloud and then running scripts containing hidden malicious code.

5. Insider Threat

The insider threat involves an employee or other individual within the organization misusing their authorized access. While attacks and misuse of data by your own employees may seem low-risk as compared to some of the other risks you are exposed to, the insider threat is very real.

The risks posed by your own employees may be compounded to some degree by the use of a cloud service. For example, assigning incorrect access levels or neglecting to remove user access for employees can lead to employees having access to information they may not otherwise have.

This can lead to the misuse of important proprietary data such as customer data of financial information. For organizations who handle sensitive information such as those in finance or the healthcare industry this can be a major concern.

Apart from users with malicious intent, the insider threat also exists due to the potential for accidental deletion or release of data. Even well-meaning users could constitute a threat if they are not adequately trained in the proper use of the software.

6. Unauthorized Access

One of the benefits of a cloud-based solution is that your organization’s data is available to users anywhere and at any time. Of course, with this ease of access comes the risk that an unauthorized user may gain access to your data.

Unauthorized access could be due to human error in some cases. For example, a system administrator forgetting to remove user access or an employee setting an easy to guess password or using the same login credentials across several services.

Other potential risks include lax authentication or poor certificate management on the part of the cloud service provider. This can leave the service exposed to the usual risks of password guessing and theft which could expose your organization’s data.

7. Regulatory Compliance

Using a cloud service may impact on the specific regulations and privacy or data protection laws your business must comply with which will vary depending on the specific makeup of your business, your industry and the locations you operate in.

Regulations such as HIPAA, the Sarbanes-Oxley or the EU Data Protection Directive may state how data may be processed and for how long it must be retained. It is important to ensure that the cloud service you choose is capable of meeting these restrictions.

In addition to restrictions on the storage and use of data, it is also important to consider requirements such as audit trails and logs. The cloud service must be capable of providing you with all the necessary data in the event of an audit or investigation.

In addition to existing regulatory compliance requirements, storing data on a cloud service may mean your organization must comply with other regulations as your data may be physically stored in another jurisdiction or even several different ones.

The forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is law from May 2018 will further enforce Data Protection legislation and have widespread ramifications for businesses found to be in breach of its many elements.

8. Denial of Service Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are by no means a new phenomenon, however they have become more frequent, more sophisticated and larger in recent years. Operating on a cloud-based service can increase the risk your company will be affected by a DDoS.

Firstly, using a cloud service essentially increases your attack surface. As you share resources with all other users on the cloud, an attack on another tenant can result in your service being affected. If one company on the cloud is at risk, everyone is at risk.

With the amount of bandwidth consumed by large DDoS attacks, only very large cloud providers will be capable of withstanding at attack. If you use a smaller provider, your service is likely to slow to a crawl or your data may become totally inaccessible.

Moving to The Cloud

Moving your data to the cloud offers a number of benefits to organizations both large and small – so don’t let these concerns put you off making the switch. These risks can be avoided by choosing the right provider so check out our post on the type of questions you should be asking here.

If you are considering moving your data to the cloud, download our free 14 day trial of our cloud storage solution SISCIN by clicking here. Or for more information on cloud storage and how it can help your business, get in touch with the team now by clicking here.