10 Cloud Security Issues and How to Manage Them

As businesses across diverse sectors increasingly migrate to cloud-based services, the urgency to implement robust cloud security controls has become a top priority.

This surge in cloud adoption necessitates stringent security measures and a nuanced understanding of cloud vulnerabilities. Addressing these concerns adequately is vital for protecting sensitive information, maintaining the confidence of customers and stakeholders, and bolstering the operational integrity of organizations against the backdrop of continuously advancing cyber threats.

According to the Thales Data Threat Report 2024, malware is the fastest-growing threat of 2024, with 41% of enterprises witnessing a malware attack in the past year – closely followed by phishing and ransomware.

Cloud assets, including SaaS applications, cloud-based storage, and cloud infrastructure management, remain the key targets for cyber attacks.

In this article, we highlight the top cloud security issues and explore how to manage them and protect your cloud infrastructure and assets.

Key Takeaways

  • 43% of enterprises failed a compliance audit last year, with those companies 10x more likely to suffer a data breach, according to the Thales data.
  • Key vulnerabilities like unmanaged attack surfaces, human errors, misconfigurations, and unauthorized access signal the need for organizations to prioritize regular assessments, training, and advanced security protocols such as encryption and access controls.
  • Key strategies for reducing cloud security risks and safeguarding data include implementing security controls, centralizing identity and access management, enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA), and implementing consistent network monitoring.
  • Robust cloud security requires regular risk assessments, secure configurations, encryption technologies, monitoring access patterns, and audits. Identifying and addressing threats promptly is key.
  • Effective cloud security threat prevention includes prioritizing risks by impact and likelihood, implementing security measures such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and encoding, and creating contingency plans and alternative actions.
  • Vital cybersecurity solutions, such as firewalls, encryption, IAM, DLP, CASBs, and SIEM, are crucial for warding off cyber threats.

Understanding Cloud Security Issues

Cloud security involves measures and technologies that protect cloud computing environments against external and internal cybersecurity threats. It covers everything from data protection to user access control, ensuring that information remains safe, private, and available.

Security issues in cloud computing often arise from weak spots in your cloud environment that can often be found in areas such as data storage, where sensitive information might be stored without adequate encryption, or in insufficient identity and access management, where too many privileges can expose data to unnecessary risks.

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Recognizing these vulnerabilities and major cloud security challenges is the first step in protecting your cloud environment.

A chart showing the top 10 cloud security challenges

1. Unmanaged Attack Surface

An unmanaged attack surface refers to the vulnerabilities within a system that cybercriminals can exploit.

To mitigate this risk, organizations must conduct regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify and address potential weaknesses.

2. Human Error

Human error remains one of the leading causes of security breaches in the cloud.

Training employees on best practices for data security and implementing strict access controls can help reduce the likelihood of accidental data exposure.

3. Misconfiguration

Misconfigurations in cloud services can leave sensitive data exposed to unauthorized access.

Implementing automated configuration management tools and regularly auditing cloud settings can help prevent misconfigurations.

4. Unauthorized Access

Unauthorized access to cloud resources can result in data breaches and other security incidents.

Strong authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and role-based access controls (RBAC) can help limit unauthorized access.

5. Insecure Interfaces/APIs

Insecure interfaces and APIs can create entry points for attackers to exploit. Organizations should conduct thorough security assessments of interfaces and APIs and implement encryption and access controls to secure these entry points.

6. Securing Third-Party Software and APIs

Third-party software and APIs can introduce security risks to cloud environments. It is essential to vet third-party vendors for security practices and regularly monitor and update software to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.

7. Cybersecurity Skills Shortage

The shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals poses a significant challenge for organizations looking to secure their cloud environments.

Investing in training and development programs for existing staff and leveraging managed security services can help bridge this skills gap.

8. Cloud Data Governance

Effective data governance is crucial for maintaining data integrity and security in the cloud.

Clear data governance policies, including data classification and access controls, can help organizations protect sensitive information.

9. Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to the use of unauthorized cloud services within an organization.

Implementing robust cloud usage policies, monitoring network traffic for unauthorized applications via a cloud service access broker (CASB), and educating employees on the risks of shadow IT can help mitigate this issue.

10. Evolving Attack Surface

As cyber threats evolve, organizations must stay vigilant and adapt their security strategies to meet the challenge.

Regularly updating security protocols, conducting threat intelligence assessments, and staying informed about emerging threats are essential for managing the constantly changing attack surface.

Security Issues in Cloud Computing

Data breaches resulting from cloud security weaknesses can lead to significant financial and reputational damage. To prevent them, employ encryption, regularly audit and monitor cloud environments, and enforce strict access controls. Awareness and training about phishing and other social engineering attacks are also critical.

Cloud Security Risks

To establish a solid cloud security strategy, starting with risk identification is crucial. This involves understanding the various challenges your cloud environment could encounter, ranging from potential data breaches to compliance issues.

Recognizing these risks is the foundation for a robust cloud security framework, ensuring you’re well-prepared to protect your data and meet regulatory standards.

Strategies to Reduce Cloud Computing Security Issues

Once risks are identified, develop strategies to mitigate them. This could include technological solutions, like encryption, and administrative actions, like implementing strong policies and procedures.

Compliance ensures that your cloud usage meets legal and regulatory requirements, protecting you from fines and reputational damage. Implement governance frameworks to meet these obligations consistently.

Addressing Cloud Security Challenges: 10 Steps to Follow

a chart showing how to manage cloud security issues

  1. Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

    Conducting regular risk assessments helps organizations identify potential security vulnerabilities and prioritize mitigation efforts.

  2. Implement Security Controls

    Implementing security controls such as encryption, access controls, and intrusion detection systems can help protect cloud environments from unauthorized access and data breaches.

  3. Document and Revisit Risks Regularly

    Documenting identified risks and revisiting them regularly ensures that security measures remain effective and up-to-date.

  4. Centralize Identity and Access Management

    Centralizing identity and access management streamlines user authentication processes and enhances security by enforcing consistent access controls across cloud services.

  5. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

    MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple verification attributes before accessing cloud resources.

  6. Implement Secure Configuration Management (SCM)

    Implementing secure configuration management practices helps prevent misconfigurations and ensures that cloud services are set up securely.

  7. Utilize Network Monitoring Solutions

    Utilizing network monitoring solutions enables organizations to detect and respond to suspicious activities in real time, enhancing overall security posture.

  8. Employ Strong Encryption for Data at Rest and in Transit

    Encrypting data at rest and in transit helps protect sensitive information from unauthorized access and data breaches.

  9. Regularly Review and Update Identity Roles and Policies

    Regularly reviewing and updating identity roles and policies ensures access controls align with organizational security requirements.

  10. Utilize Cloud Orchestration Tools for Security Automation and Response (SOAR)

    SOAR stands for security orchestration, automation, and response. SOAR is all about making security smarter and faster, coordinating reactions to security hiccups to keep things running smoothly in the cloud.

Cloud Security Risk Management

Assess your cloud environment regularly using tools and techniques such as security risk assessment tools, vulnerability scanners, and compliance checks.

This helps identify potential security issues before they become actual threats. Monitoring internal storage access patterns helps organizations detect and respond to unauthorized data access and potential insider threats.

Regular cloud audits help organizations assess compliance with security standards and identify areas for improvement in cloud security practices.

Cloud Security Risk Assessment

A structured approach involves scanning for vulnerabilities, analyzing threat intelligence, and considering the impact of identified risks on your business. To effectively address risks, organizations can employ the following strategies:

  • Avoidance: Change business practices to eliminate risk.
  • Mitigation: Implement controls to reduce risk’s likelihood or impact.
  • Acceptance: Acknowledge the risk without action to mitigate or transfer it.
  • Transfer: Shift the risk’s financial responsibility to another party.
  • Risk Sharing: Collaborate to distribute the risk impact across various parties.
  • Contingency Planning: Develop alternative actions for potential risk events.
  • Business Continuity Planning: Maintain essential functions during/after disruptive events.

Actionable Insights

Turn the findings from your risk assessment into actionable insights. Prioritize risks based on their potential impact and likelihood, then mitigate them with appropriate security measures coinciding with your risk appetite.

Tools to Fight Against Cloud Security Threats & Concerns

Threats and concerns are undoubtedly top of mind for business owners, IT security managers, and Blue team defenders.

Here are a selection of tools that can be used in the fight against cyberattacks:

A chart showing the tools to fight against cyberattacks

Technology Description
Firewalls Cloud firewalls, firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), and security groups (SGs) act as virtual firewalls. SGs, by their nature, can be deployed in seconds to address the changing environment.
Intrusion Detection Systems To continuously observe and analyze network and system operations, identifying and responding to any indications of malicious behavior or deviations from established security policies.
Intrusion Prevention Systems To proactively identify and implement measures to prevent recognized threats from reaching their intended targets, ensuring the safety and security of the concerned entities.
Secure Access Service Edge Integrating network security functions and WAN capabilities is essential to meeting modern organizations’ changing, secure access requirements.
Zero-Trust Network Access Access to applications is tightly controlled through rigorous identity verification to ensure safe remote access to an organization’s systems, safeguarding sensitive data and infrastructure from unauthorized intrusion.
Encryption To safeguard data at rest and during transmission from unauthorized breaches, it is vital to employ robust encryption protocols like AES alongside hardware security modules (HSMs), ensuring the utmost security.
Identity and Access Management To secure your cloud environment against unauthorized access, contemplate deploying privileged identity management (PIM), privileged access management (PAM), and just-in-time (JIT) access controls.
Data Loss Prevention To effectively detect and prevent data breaches or exfiltration, sensitive data must be monitored, detected, and blocked across all states while in use, in motion, and at rest. Robust security protocols and encryption techniques must be employed.
Cloud Access Security Brokers They serve as critical tools, offering unparalleled visibility into cloud application usage, robust data protection, and comprehensive governance for a wide range of cloud services.
Security Information and Event Management This allows for the immediate and comprehensive examination of security alerts produced by applications and network hardware, ensuring swift and effective threat detection and response.
Endpoint Protection Platforms To safeguard devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops connected to the cloud against emerging cybersecurity threats.
Virtual Private Networks VPNs, express routes, and private circuits provide a dedicated and encrypted conduit across the internet, significantly bolstering privacy and strengthening data protection.
Multi-Factor Authentication To ensure robust security, multiple authentication methods utilizing independent categories of credentials must be employed to verify and confirm the user’s identity.
Public Key Infrastructure Effectively managing encryption keys and digital certificates is crucial for ensuring secure data transmission and safeguarding sensitive information from unauthorized access or interception.

These controls and appliances form the backbone of a robust cloud security strategy, helping to safeguard against a wide range of cyber threats.

However, if these mitigations and technologies are beyond your budgets and staffing expertise, consider outsourcing to a managed security service provider (MSSP).

The Bottom Line

The landscape of cloud security is vast and complex, yet understanding and implementing the strategies outlined here can significantly enhance an organization’s security posture.

From defending against data breaches and account hijacking to securing interfaces and managing system vulnerabilities, every action strengthens the cloud environment’s overall security.

Recognizing and mitigating risks, ensuring compliance, and preparing for incidents are crucial steps in a comprehensive cloud security strategy. By focusing on both technological solutions and the human element of security, organizations can build a resilient defense against a wide array of cybersecurity threats, ensuring their data’s safety, privacy, and availability in the cloud.

FAQs

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John Meah
Cybersecurity Expert

John is a skilled freelance writer who combines his writing talent with his cybersecurity expertise. He holds an equivalent level 7 master's degree in cybersecurity and a number of prestigious industry certifications, such as PCIP, CISSP, MCIIS, and CCSK. He has spent over two decades working in IT and information security within the finance and logistics business sectors. This experience has given John a profound understanding of cybersecurity practices, making his tech coverage on Techopedia particularly insightful and valuable. He has honed his writing skills through courses from renowned institutions like the Guardian and Writers Bureau UK.