A recent report has concluded that the biggest threats to businesses using cloud technology are their employees, and that it is down to them to prevent most security issues.
Not-for-profit organisation the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) published its Top Threats to Cloud Computing report with the aim of raising awareness of cloud security issues. The paper identified 11 security risks, and explained the potential business impact of each of the threats, and examine whether it can be prevented by the customer or the cloud solution provider (CSP).
Although in the early days of the cloud, users were often concerned about possible technology vulnerabilities or the risk of data loss, the CSA concluded that it is the customers who are responsible for most security issues, not the cloud provider.
In other words, the cloud won’t pose more or fewer security threats than an on-premise system. Instead, the customers and the security practices they implement can make the biggest difference to the safety of cloud tools.
Cloud migration doesn’t improve weak security
According to the CSA, the shift towards user responsibility is due to the evolution of the cloud and the “maturation of the consumer’s understanding” and “indicate a technology landscape where consumers are actively considering cloud migration.”
However, the CSA warns that migrating from on-premises systems to the cloud doesn’t improve weak security practices and that it is actually the source of security issues when the migration isn’t carried out properly.
Besides highlighting the importance of carrying out a correct system configuration, the CSA also warns about threats involving targeted attacks.
In the accountancy sphere, convincing fake emails that contain malicious links or that ask for passwords or payments are an ongoing concern for practitioners, who are finding it is increasingly difficult to tell whether the emails they receive are genuine or not.
In a recent Any Answers post, an AccountingWEB reader sought advice after a client made a payment to a fraudsters’ account after the accountants’ email account was hacked.
Top security threats
Although the full list includes a total of 11 risks, the following are the top five security threats in the cloud, according to the CSA:
- Data breaches: Happening as a result of targeted attacks, human error and system vulnerabilities, the responsibility to prevent this type of issue is both down to the customer and the cloud service provider.
- Misconfiguration: Users are solely responsible for this second most common issue. As an example, the CSA points at leaving stored files unsecured, using the default credentials or not adapting the configuration settings to the business, which puts it at risk of data breaches and unauthorised deletion or modification of resources.
- Lack of security architecture: Many businesses are migrating their IT infrastructure to unsecured cloud servers, leaving their data exposed and putting them at risk of cyber-attacks.
- Insufficient access management: This occurs when users fail to use strong passwords, multifactor authentication and don’t follow the necessary steps to protect credentials and keys.
- Account hijacking: Cloud service accounts or subscriptions are the ones with the highest risk of this type of threat in which attackers take full control of an account, as well as its services and data.
Other risks identified by the CSA include insider threats, insecure interfaces, limited user visibility and the misuse of cloud resources.
Vulnerabilities and malware, the CSA concludes, are no longer the prime concern in cyber security. The focus should now be in the areas of configuration and authentication as well as “developing and enhancing cloud security awareness, configuration, and identity management”.