November 10, 2020

Top Cloud Security Challenges and Their Solutions

When adopting cloud solutions, most organizations fail to balance the benefits of the cloud against the cloud security threats. Cloud infrastructure is a pivotal asset for business growth and continue critical operation. Understanding the cloud security challenges and risks and finding their best solutions to create a secured organisation. Here are the top cloud security challenges and their solutions. Hope you find them useful.

DDoS attacks

As more and more businesses and operations move to the cloud, cloud providers are becoming a bigger target for malicious attacks. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is more common than ever before. Verisign reported IT services, cloud and SaaS was the most frequently targeted industry during the first quarter of 2015.

Data Breaches

Known data breaches in the U.S. hit a record-high of 738 in 2014, according to the Identity Theft Research Center, and hacking was (by far) the number one cause. That is an incredible statistic and only emphasizes the growing challenge to secure sensitive data. Consequences of a data breach may include:

  • Impact on reputation and trust of customers or partners
  • Loss of intellectual property (IP) to competitors, which may impact products release
  • Financial expenses incurred due to incident response and forensics
  • When business-critical information is moved into the cloud, it’s understandable to be concerned with its security. Losing data from the cloud, either though accidental deletion, malicious tampering (i.e. DDoS) or an act of nature brings down a cloud service provider, could be disastrous for an enterprise business
  • Misconfiguration and Inadequate Change Control
  • This is one of the most common challenges of the cloud. In 2017, a misconfigured AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) cloud storage bucket exposed detailed and private data of 123 million American households. The data set belonged to Experian, a credit bureau, which sold the data to an online marketing and data analytics company called Alteryx. It was Alteryx that exposed the file. Such instances can be disastrous.

Lack of Cloud Security Architecture and Strategy

  • Worldwide, organizations are migrating portions of their IT infrastructure to public clouds. One of the biggest challenges during this transition is the implementation of appropriate security architecture to withstand cyberattacks. Data are exposed to different threats when organizations assume that cloud migration is a “lift-and-shift” endeavor of simply porting their existing IT stack and security controls to a cloud environment. A lack of understanding of the shared security responsibility model is also another contributing factor.
  • Cloud computing introduces multiple changes to traditional internal system management practices related to identity and access management (IAM). In both public and private cloud settings, cloud service providers and cloud consumers are required to manage IAM without compromising security.

Insecure access points

  • One of the great benefits of the cloud is it can be accessed from anywhere and from any device. But what if the interfaces and APIs users interact with aren’t secure? Account hijacking is a threat in which malicious attackers gain access to and abuse accounts that are highly privileged or sensitive. In cloud environments, the accounts with the highest risks are cloud service accounts or subscriptions. Phishing attacks, exploitation of cloud-based systems, or stolen credentials can compromise these accounts.
  • The security and availability of general cloud services are dependent on the security of these APIs. From authentication and access control to encryption and activity monitoring, these interfaces must be designed to protect against both accidental and malicious attempts to circumvent the security policy. Poorly designed APIs could lead to misuse or—even worse—a data breach. Broken, exposed, or hacked APIs have caused some major data breaches. Organizations must understand the security requirements around designing and presenting these interfaces on the internet.
  • A behavioral web application firewall examines HTTP requests to a website to ensure it is legitimate traffic. This always-on device helps protect web applications from security breaches.

Weak Control Plane

  • Moving from the data center to the cloud poses some challenges for creating a sufficient data storage and protection program. The user must now develop new processes for data duplication, migration and storage and—if using multi-cloud—it gets even more complicated. A control plane should be the solution for these problems, as it enables the security and integrity that would complement the data plane that provides stability and runtime of the data. A weak control plane means the person in charge—either a system architect or a DevOps engineer—is not in full control of the data infrastructure’s logic, security, and verification. These limitations could result in data corruption, unavailability, or leakage.

Cloud Security Solutions

Limiting Access Control

To reduce the attacks on publicly accessible services few limitations are recommended in the cloud environment.

  • Reviewing the Cloud Environment Architecture.
  • Identity Access Management User/ AD User permissions and policies need to be reviewed.
  • For accessing Compute Services, Storage, Database or API, the Network Security Groups policies need to be reviewed and whitelisting the organization IP.
  • Cloud User account permission should be limited to access to specific services.
  • Using a Virtual Private Network to prevent anonymous access.
  • PCI DSS Segmentation Control Testing to limit access within the environment.
  • Frequent Firewall Rule Review should be done.

Hardening Servers

To minimize the cyber-attacks Operating System and Application Hardening is recommended.

  • Removing Unnecessary Programs – Running unnecessary programs or services is another potential entry point for attackers. Services or programs running in an environment requires few ports to be opened. This will increase the risk level of the publicly hosted applications.
  • Patch Management – Keep up-to-date and install the latest versions. Planning, testing, implementing, and auditing patch management software should be part of a regular security regimen. Make sure the OS is patched regularly, as well as the individual programs on the client’s computer.

Version Control

  • Assigning permission or policy to any of the services, versioning should be enabled. Removing the previous policy versions when assigning lower permission to a user/service is recommended. Previous versions allow an unauthenticated user to change the version and gain high privileged access and able to enumerate other services in the environment.

Encryption/Decryption

  • It is recommended to encrypt all the objects/files in the environment. By default, encryption will not be enabled. Files cannot be readable when it is copied locally from the cloud. If Cloud SMS services are enabled, then encryption of data is recommended.

Key Management

  • Credentials are provided directly to many of the applications. Especially accessing databases. All the keys used in the cloud should be maintained by KMS and those keys should be rotated after a period. Instead of proving passwords, KMS keys should be tagged. Maintaining a master key to access other keys and only privileged/limited users are recommended to access keys.

Increasing Application Security

  • Prevention of direct IP/URL access of server or API then Web Application Firewall (WAF) is recommended to implement. Implementing WAF helps to protect web applications or APIs against common web exploits that may affect availability, compromise security, or consume excessive resources. WAF gives you control over how traffic reaches your applications by enabling you to create security rules that block common attack patterns, such as SQL injection or cross-site scripting, and rules that filter out specific traffic patterns you define. The Managed Rules for WAF address issues like the OWASP Top 10 security risks.

Notifications and alerts

Awareness and proper communication of security threats are a cornerstone of network security and the same goes for cloud security. Alerting the appropriate website or application managers as soon as a threat is identified should be part of a thorough security plan.

  • Creating alerts when a user tries to login with an incorrect password and this prevents the brute-force attack.
  • Alerts should be enabled when policies and permission are changed.
  • Alerts for deleting data inside any of the services.
  • The threshold level for accessing each service should be enabled.
  • Email and SMS alerts should be enabled for unauthenticated access to critical services.

Understand your cloud infra’s security posture with Cloud Security Risk Assessment

Cloud Security Risk Assessment helps in analysing organisation’s business-critical cloud security posture and take required steps. Reach out to us to talk to our experts today.


Reference:

  1. Cloud-Based DDoS Protection and Managed DNS Services Helping to Increase Operational Efficiency and Thwart Large Attacks
  1. https://www.riskbasedsecurity.com/reports/2014-YEDataBreachQuickView.pdf
  2. https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/us/security/news/virtualization-and-cloud/data-on-123-million-us-households-exposed-due-to-misconfigured-aws-s3-bucket
  3. https://d0.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/KMS-Cryptographic-Details.pdf