What are the Security Issues in Cloud Computing?
Most organisations have grown increasingly concerned about security issues in cloud computing and for a good reason. According to a report by LogicMonitor ( a cloud-based infrastructure monitoring company, as much as 66% of companies organisations around the world cite security as the most significant concern for switching to cloud computing.
While it’s true that cloud technology has revolutionised the way people do business (faster and more convenient), it also presents new challenges in terms of security. The universal truth about any IT/data infrastructure is that it becomes increasingly difficult to protect, the more “decentralised” it becomes. That said, security concerns shouldn’t hold your organisation back from reaping the benefits of cloud computing — cost savings, flexibility, improved collaboration, etc.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the most significant concerns in cloud security and what can be done to mitigate them effectively. Only then can organisations undertake adoption with confidence, knowing that they’re not leaving themselves open to all manner of cybersecurity threats.
So what are the security issues in cloud computing?
Whether an organisation realises it or not, adopting cloud technology means giving up control in many aspects of running a business. As a result, it becomes more difficult to take stock of the data (assets) that your organisation owns. Managing data-related risks and vulnerabilities from within your organisation can prove challenging, but not impossible.
As with everything else security-related, the first step towards mitigating cloud security concerns is awareness. In this regard, we’ve cited the following cloud security issues which more organisations ought to be mindful about.
Cloud Vendor-side risks
Cloud computing brought an end to an era when most organisations hand unbridled control over their IT infrastructure (on-premise). Back then, security issues with vendors were limited to the occasional tinkering with software/firmware updates. That’s obviously, no longer the case today.
Nowadays, organisations adopting cloud technology must take on greater risk with the vendors they choose to work with. After all, cloud vendors take on all responsibilities when it comes to network security and compliance (data security regulations). It can be difficult for organisations to verify and monitor the assurances set forth by their vendors.
So what can your organisation do about it you ask? Well, for starters, your organisation would want to implement a more stringent methodology for risk-profiling your vendors. Only in this manner can a company effectively mitigate vendor-side risks.
Before choosing a vendor, organisations must raise and verify answers to questions surrounding ownership, sustainability and pertinent data security practices. If the vendor is granting access to your assets to a third-party (partners), then your organisation would need to risk-profile these parties as well.
Non-compliance with data regulations
Suppose your organisation is the type that handles personal/financial information from customers. In that case, it is the responsibility of your enterprise to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands. Failure to do so can mean having to face stiff penalties from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office — the agency responsible for enforcing GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which aims to regulate and protect consumer data.
Compliance with data regulations is relatively easy in a traditional IT setting (the organisation has full control of its data and equipment); the same is no longer true once you move to cloud computing.
So how can your organisation get a grip on data compliance? Well for starters, you would want to take a long hard look at your enterprise’s ToS (Terms of Service). Regardless of what type of cloud infrastructure you opt for (hybrid, SaaS, Paas or IaaS), your organisation needs to ensure that your cloud infrastructure is up to spec with local and international data regulations. That includes, among other things, knowing where your data is kept and only working with cloud vendors that have a reputation for data compliance.
Note that while you can rely on your cloud vendor for data security and provisioning workloads/resources, organisations must play their part as well in ensuring cloud computing security.
Consider the following:
- Ensure that all security baselines are covered — NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreement), SLAs (Service Level Agreement), etc.
- Customise all security options — usernames, passwords, 2-factor authentications, etc. Don’t leave any option related to cloud security to default.
- Encrypting all data before uploading everything to the cloud
- Follow your cloud vendor’s recommendations for bolstering cloud instance (a virtual server in a cloud computing environment) security.
- Safeguard encryption keys and never hand them out to anyone outside your organisation. Collect and retain access logs for regular analysis.
- Remain vigilant for malicious activity by deploying what’s called a “honeypot” system that lures intruders with false information about your organisation.
As for auditing your cloud vendor, organisations will need to rely on a reputable third-party to authenticate their claims. These audits can vary (CSA STAR, SOC2, ISO 27001, etc.) so make sure that the scope is relevant to your organisation. You can also hire companies like Imperva and Sparrow to conduct penetration testing (a simulated cyberattack on a cloud infrastructure to uncover vulnerabilities).
The same convenience that cloud technology offers can also be deemed as its “Achilles’ heel” in terms of security. Moving your data to the cloud means that more people will be able to access it, and they can do so from practically anywhere.
Unlike the case of an on-premise setup, there are no physical barriers to accessing data. This makes regulating access rights complicated especially for organisations comprised of hundreds, if not thousands of individuals. As a result, companies are often overwhelmed and lose all sense of control when it comes to safeguarding their data leading to costly data leaks.
So what can your organisation do to bolster cloud computing security and mitigate data leaks? Well, it all starts with educating members about best practices for data security. This can be supplemented with IT management solutions like 2-factor authentication. It boils down to the careful management of user credentials which is the responsibility of every member of your organisation.
Of course, cloud security is an ever-changing landscape and hackers are always finding ways to uncover and exploit vulnerabilities. According to Statista, there have been 540 confirmed reports of data breaches in the first quarter of 2020 alone. Each one can involve thousands (if not millions) of sensitive records getting exposed and stolen.
Cases of large data leaks are widely reported in the news which often includes details of newly uncovered exploits. Organisations would do well to keep tabs of these developments. Learn the mistakes of others and use these lessons to protect your organisation from ever-evolving challenges in cloud computing security.
An organisation’s cloud infrastructure is an attractive target for cybercriminals looking to make a quick buck. It does not help that cloud deployments are technically accessible from anywhere, especially if it’s not appropriately secured.
One of the more notable cases of cyberattack cited by CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies) involved the theft of $10 million from Norway’s State Investment Fund due to compromised business emails.
So how can your organisation defend against cyber attacks? Well, if you feel that your organisation lacks the expertise to handle the matter internally, then the first step is to admit it.
While hiring an expert on cloud computing security presents an additional cost for your organisation, it is generally well worth it and can prove beneficial to your business. Security concerns concerning cloud deployments are relatively unique and demand in-depth technical knowledge of how the cloud works.
Limited Damage control
In the case of a cybersecurity incident, organisations that decide to stick with traditional IT infrastructure have the option to lock everything down. This is because the organisation owns and controls the entire network infrastructure. As you might imagine, this is not an option when it comes to cloud deployment, which makes it a significant cloud computing security concern.
With a cloud-based IT infrastructure, organisations only have partial control and ownership of the network. This nullifies the traditional approach for incident response and a significant impediment to cloud adoption.
So how can your organisation enjoy the benefits of cloud computing security without sacrificing incident response? Well, the most effective way to do that is to promote a culture of data security in your organisation through continuous training/education.
This includes, among other things, implementing policies that confine the creation of state cloud infrastructure to approved VPNs (virtual private networks) only. That way, your organisation can preserve access to security and monitoring tools which is crucial to incident response.
What are the security issues in cloud computing: Conclusion
So there you have it — a few of the most notable concerns in cloud computing security and how to overcome them. As you may have already realised, it’s impossible to guard one’s enterprise against all manner of cloud security threats. It’s impossible, to begin within a closed on-premise IT infrastructure and more so when you’re dealing with a cloud-based network infrastructure. That said, there’s no reason for businesses to remain complacent or refuse cloud adoption altogether.
Businesses need only take the all-important step of identifying and understanding the cloud computing security issues looming within their organisation. Only then can you take steps to mitigate your risks and drastically reduce chances of loss to the absolute minimum.