Intro to Cloud Security: 5 Types of Risk

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Misconfigured settings, poor data management, insufficient employee training, inadequate security policies and choosing the wrong provider can put you at risk in the public cloud environment.

Cloud usage has increased exponentially over the last few years, particularly during the pandemic’s wake. But as cloud adoption grew, bad actors focused their efforts on exploiting common cloud vulnerabilities. (Also read: How to Prepare for the Next Generation of Cloud Security.)

The cloud isn’t going anywhere—so as the threat landscape develops, businesses must ensure they do their part to maintain a secure cloud environment to keep themselves, their clients and their supply chain safe from cyberattack.

On that note, here are the five most common vulnerabilities that put cloud customers most at risk:

1. Misconfigured Settings

Misconfigured settings are often the cause of data breaches in the cloud, with 68% of enterprises now recognizing this as a leading concern relating to cloud security. (Also read: Data Breach Notification: The Legal and Regulatory Environment.)

Since cloud services are designed to make things fast and convenient, access to data may not be as restricted as it should be. And this can open a lot of doors to unauthorized access.

When you work with a cloud provider, you adopt what’s called a “shared responsibility model”—and because of this some may assume it’s is the cloud provider’s responsibility to handle all your security. However, more often than not, configuration will be down to the organization.


This means your company’s IT team needs to review all the settings and permissions and ensure fundamental security controls are covered. This includes limiting access, setting up multi-factor authentication (MFA) and making use of any logging and monitoring tools offered as these can help you track and manage what’s going on.

Regularly checking your cloud audits is also a good idea—to ensure there’s been no suspicious or anomalous activity relating to misconfigured settings.

2. Poor Data Quality Management

It can be harder to maintain visibility over all your data when it’s held within the cloud, which is why it’s especially important to ensure you’ve correctly labeled and categorized your data by order of sensitivity. (Also read: Smart Data Management in a Post-Pandemic World.)

When you have this information, you can then decide on suitable levels of security, keeping access more restricted for highly sensitive data.

Cloud services also make data sharing very easy; but this can be a security problem if not managed correctly. Administrators can configure data sharing access, so it’s a good idea to consider which data should retain these capabilities and which should not. You should also put limitations on the devices that can download your corporate data, as companies can often overlook that aspect.

Finally, ensuring data is as secure as possible while in transfer is imperative for cloud users. The cloud makes it difficult to monitor or intercept traffic, lowering visibility on data transfer, so it’s important to make sure it is properly encrypted. Client-side encryption is best because this will encrypt the data on your side before it is even transmitted to cloud servers.

3. Insufficient Employee Training

Educating staff on best practices and security fundamentals in relation to the cloud is extremely important. (Also read: Encryption Just Isn’t Enough: Critical Truths About Data Security.)

Some hackers will even use cloud-based services as the subject of their phishing emails—for example, sending a malicious link that appears to be from Google Drive or OneDrive, which then asks for confirmation of credentials to access the document. Staff need to understand how to spot these kinds of threats and understand other key risks that could harm the business, like shadow IT.

The use of unknown softwareand devices on a company network causes a lot of problems for organizations, as it’s near impossible to have complete visibility especially with a larger number of remote workers.

Nearly 80% of workers admit to using software as a service (SaaS) applications at work without approval from IT and, often, these apps are cloud-based. Unsecured devices and software can lead to data loss and vulnerabilities, so staff must be educated to minimize these serious potentialities.

4. Inadequate Security Policies

Security needs to be considered within every context; and the cloud is no different. (Also read: SaaS Security: Pitfalls IT Often Overlooks.)

Written policies help to document rules and regulations for users so it is clear how they should be using cloud applications securely.

A cloud security policy should outline:

  • Who can use the cloud.
  • What data should be stored in the cloud.
  • What the correct procedures and best practices are for the cloud’s secure usage.

All employees should be required to review the policies and they should be periodically checked and updated if need be.

5. Choosing the Wrong Provider

There are a lot of cloud providers out there. But choosing one that values security will benefit you and your organization hugely. (Also read: 5 Questions Businesses Should Ask Their Cloud Provider.)

Checking to see if the cloud vendor is aligned with recognized security standards is a good place to start, as is checking for other important functionalities and capabilities—like authentication methods, data encryption, disaster recovery and technical support.


Working from the cloud can be a huge asset for teams big and small. But as adoption of these kinds of services grows, it’s essential that security is not compromised for convenience.

Robust cybersecurity requires implementing the right tools and procedures—and by doing so, you allow your business to reap all the benefits cloud computing has to offer while minimizing the chance of cyberattack and protecting your organization and its employees.


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Clive Madders
Clive Madders

Clive Madders is Chief Technical Officer and Assessor at Cyber Tec Security. With over 25 years’ experience in the industry, Clive has built up an extensive repertoire as an enterprise solution architect, delivering managed ICT support services, cyber essentials certifications and advanced security solutions to help improve the cyber security maturity of businesses across the UK.