What Are The Security Risks Of Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing has become increasingly popular, offering businesses advantages like scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness.

However, with this convenience comes the responsibility to understand and manage the inherent security risks of storing and accessing data in the cloud.

This guide provides a clear and concise overview of the top security threats in cloud computing and equips you with essential strategies to mitigate these risks and protect your valuable data.

What Is Data Security In Cloud Computing?

Data security in cloud computing is a set of technical solutions, guidelines, and strategies that helps you protect cloud-based applications, systems, data, and user access. Data security in cloud computing, such as cloud antivirus, protects digital information from any threat that could compromise its integrity.

In short, data security in cloud computing uses tools and technologies that secure essential data.

Security Risks Of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has benefits like enhanced collaboration, outstanding accessibility, storage capability, etc. But as each coin has two sides, cloud computing also has security risks.

Let’s go through some security risks of Cloud Computing:

1. Data Loss

The most common security risk in cloud computing is data loss or leakage. This risk is of data in which data may be removed or corrupted. Or sometimes, data is unreadable by users or systems. It is mostly due to redundant servers and data storage functionality in different geographic zones. So if the cloud service provider faces a violation or attack, your firm’s essential data may fall into the wrong hands, or you may face a data loss issue.

2. Regulatory Compliance

Personal health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets, and intellectual property are often subject to data breaches and require some of the highest levels of security in cloud computing. When using cloud services for your data, you must ensure that the service provider satisfies the data access and storage needs associated with personally identifiable information (PII) by HIPAA, GDPR, or other specific business areas.

3. DDos Attacks

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks send tons of data or fake requests on the servers, which are extremely risky in cloud computing settings. A DDoS attack can cause extended service outages, and a business may face downtime and loss of earnings. Denial of service (DoS) attacks happen when the system gets lots of traffic to buffer the server. DoS attackers generally ask for money to recover the data.

4. Account Hijacking

Account hijacking is one of the serious cloud computing risks. In this risk, generally, potential data of a user or a company like a bank account, eMail ID and password, or social media data are robbed by attackers. And then hackers do some unauthorized actions using that stolen information.

5. Vulnerable Web Applications

Hackers can exploit web applications to connect companies and their clients to cloud services. Some web application vulnerabilities include encryption configurations, authentication control, corporation logic, and more, which generates security risks in cloud computing.

6. Lack of secure API (Application User Interface)

The application user interface (API) executes control in cloud computing. Any external API can cause unauthorized access by hacking a firm’s potential data and misusing services, increasing cloud security risk. Some API-related risks are inoperable authentication, extreme data vulnerability, safety misconfiguration, etc.

Relevant Term: What is API testing?

7. Malware Attacks

When we decide to move our large amount of data to the cloud infrastructure, we open our firm to malware attacks. Malware attack is one of the cloud security risks to cloud security, and as per the studies, 90% of firms are mostly facing malware attacks as cloud usage expands. As malware attackers become more sophisticated, all firms must know the rapidly changing threat landscape.

8. Loss of Visibility

When we move our data to the cloud, firms lose some visibility level into network functions. And the responsibility of handling some of the assets and apps transferred to the cloud service provider. Without using the proper technique, you may lose visibility of the cloud service and data uploading. So you must be able to control their network infrastructure without having network-based monitoring and logging.

9. Spectre & Meltdown

Spectre & Meltdown enables systems to analyze and make data available on the system. It can operate on a personal system, mobile phones, and the cloud. In this attack, passwords and confidential data can be stored in the system memory, like pictures, emails, and business records. And this is one of the security risks of cloud computing.

10. Misconfigured Cloud Storage

As per the State of DevSecOps, in the last 2 years, misconfigured cloud storage services in 93% of cloud deployments directed to 200+ breaches, revealing 30 billion+ data. It is increased with the service’s complicatedness gains. It can harm the data by manipulating, deleting, or disclosing data. Misconfigured cloud storage is needed to maintain the security of potential data.

11. Vendor Lock-In 

Sometimes, when a firm decides to move its system or operation from one CSP to another, vendor lock-in becomes an issue. It takes more time, money, and effort to transfer than before because of the non-standard data formats, APIs, etc. These executions need modifications when a capability is transferred to a separate CSP. If a specified CSP is removed, it becomes a significant issue as data can be misplaced or cannot be moved to another CSP on time.

Relevant read:

Other common cloud security risks

  • Data Loss or Leakage: Sensitive data can be accidentally deleted, corrupted, or stolen due to various factors like human error, system failures, or malicious attacks.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Cloud storage of certain data types (e.g., healthcare information) may require adherence to specific regulations like HIPAA or GDPR. Choosing a compliant cloud service provider is crucial.
  • DDoS Attacks: Malicious actors can overwhelm cloud servers with a flood of requests, causing service outages and financial losses.
  • Account Hijacking: Hackers can gain unauthorized access to user accounts, potentially leading to data breaches and misuse of resources.
  • Vulnerable Web Applications: Poorly secured web applications connected to cloud services can be exploited by attackers to gain access to sensitive information.
  • Insecure APIs: Weakly configured APIs can allow unauthorized access to data and cloud services, increasing security risks.
  • Malware Attacks: Malware can infiltrate cloud systems through various means, potentially compromising data integrity and system functionality.
  • Loss of Visibility: When data resides in the cloud, organizations may lose some level of control and visibility over its security. Implementing proper monitoring and logging is essential.
  • Spectre & Meltdown Vulnerabilities: These hardware vulnerabilities can allow attackers to steal sensitive data from cloud systems. Cloud providers and users should implement mitigation strategies.
  • Misconfigured Cloud Storage: Improper configuration of cloud storage buckets can expose sensitive data publicly, leading to breaches. Implementing proper access controls and monitoring is crucial.
  • Vendor Lock-In: Switching to a different cloud provider can be complex and costly due to non-standard data formats and APIs. Carefully evaluating vendor options and considering lock-in risks is essential.

How Secure Is The Cloud?

Data stored in cloud servers are more secure than the data available on your system’s hard drives. Cybercriminals can hack our computers using malware or phishing emails and steal potential data. But the security measures provided by leading cloud services providers are more robust in protecting our data.

Cloud computing has “unique attributes that require risk assessment in data integrity, recovery and privacy, and an evaluation of legal issues in e-discovery, regulatory compliance, and auditing.”

Gartner report on Assessing the Security Risks of Cloud Computing.

Strategies To Mitigate Cloud Risk

Cloud security is critical to protecting the integrity of your data and business. While cloud systems, applications, and networks are not physically under your control, the responsibility for security and risk mitigation is certainly yours. Organizations (and users) should evaluate the controls provided by cloud service providers to understand security risks and issues.

1. Data Access

Therefore, cloud service providers must manage the risks associated with cloud computing environments. So that you can identify, assess, and prioritize these risks, improve security, increase trust in cloud services, and reduce organizational concerns about usage. Understanding the importance and privacy of different data types will help prioritize security measures and resources when defending against cloud-related security threats. Given these risks, all data moving to the cloud must have robust security measures to prevent data loss.

2. Right Tools and Techniques

Using the right tools and techniques can greatly reduce security risks. Check for malware and other security issues in the cloud, including botnets, using the tools described above. While remote storage and cloud computing come with cyber risks, businesses can mitigate these risks with regular monitoring and improved security protocols.

Relevant Term: Cyber security definition, types, and examples

3. Standardized Cloud Service Assessment

Organizations often move to the cloud so quickly that security controls that have historically been applied to their on-premises data centers cannot effectively migrate to the cloud. As your company moves its workloads from on-premises and colocation data centers to a cloud provider, assess the associated risks and determine how to mitigate them.

4. Regular backups

It’s even better if you synchronize your enterprise risk management strategy with cloud computing, allowing you to access your organization’s data anytime, anywhere on any device. If your business has to comply with strict regulations or is concerned about being responsible for corrupted data, you may want to consider a cloud-to-cloud backup solution. Managing risk in this environment and aligning with existing security structures is paramount.

How data loss can occur

  • Accidental deletion: Human error, such as mistakenly deleting files or overwriting data, can lead to permanent data loss.
  • Hardware failures: Equipment malfunctions like disk failures or server crashes can cause data loss if not properly backed up.
  • Security breaches: Malicious actors can steal data through various methods like hacking, malware attacks, or phishing scams.
  • Software errors: Bugs in software applications can lead to data corruption or loss.
  • Synchronization issues: Data inconsistencies may occur when syncing data between different devices or cloud instances.

Mitigation strategies

  • Data encryption: Encrypting data at rest and in transit renders it unreadable even if intercepted, significantly reducing the impact of breaches and unauthorized access.
  • Regular backups: Implementing a robust backup strategy ensures data can be recovered in case of accidental deletion, hardware failure, or other data loss incidents. Backups should be stored securely and regularly tested for successful restoration.
  • Access controls: Implementing strong access controls restricts unauthorized access to sensitive data. This includes using multi-factor authentication, role-based access control (RBAC), and least privilege principles.
  • User training: Educating users about good data security practices, like recognizing phishing attempts and using strong passwords, can significantly reduce the risk of human error-related data loss.
  • Regular security assessments: Conducting regular security audits and penetration testing can identify vulnerabilities in cloud systems before attackers exploit them.

Final Words

As per one research, the cloud computing market size is predicted to increase from $371.4 billion in 2020 to $832.1 billion by 2025 worldwide. But as its use increases, the risk of data stored in cloud computing increases. Therefore, it is important to consider the shared strategies to mitigate security risks of cloud computing.

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