Enterprises increasingly realize the benefits of cloud computing. Migrating some data and assets from on-premises locations to private or public cloud helps organizations drastically reduce their IT operational expenditure. It also increases their flexibility in the ever-changing digital economy and provides greater insight into their larger data ecosystems. As enterprise IT infrastructure continues to become more hybridized, the number of attack vectors vastly expands, creating more opportunities for threat actors to steal or compromise data and assets. In fact, for many businesses, cloud application security is a top priority.

What is Cloud Application Security and Why Is it Important?

Cloud application security refers to the governance and security controls put in place to protect data across the entire cloud environment.

The evolution of the digital landscape has increased the relevancy of cloud application security. Businesses are rapidly migrating huge stores of their data into cloud infrastructure, increasing the potential of security vulnerabilities ripe for exploitation. Undoubtedly, cyberattacks can levy a major financial and reputational blow to an organization.

Following are the 10 most common — and important — security risks organizations with cloud applications face.

1. Misconfiguration

A leading security risks facing cloud applications and systems, misconfiguration often occurs when users inadvertently enable outbound access to cloud networks, allowing applications and servers that shouldn’t be privileged to have access to data and assets. Attackers can easily exploit those vulnerabilities by stealing the credentials of less secure touchpoints.

2. Insecure data sharing

Storing critical data in either on-prem servers or cloud storage repositories or applications encourages employees to exchange greater volumes of data at a much higher frequency. Without a secure way to handle data-sharing between employees, these exchanges can create cloud vulnerabilities resulting in compromised assets.

3. Account hijacking

Hackers have increased their abilities as technology evolved, turning cloud apps into potential attack vectors. Account hijacking occurs when hackers steal account credentials and use them to gain access to critical systems.

4. Ill-equipped staff

For many companies, tech development, IT system diversification and evolving security threats outpace their ability to manage their security needs. Many enterprises lack the budget to hire qualified personnel or the resources to train on new skills. Lacking these personnel can expose the organization to risk.

5. Insufficient access controls

Insufficient access and identity controls are especially risky when companies hybridize their data infrastructure. Without an adequate governance policy to restrict access to data, sensitive information can be exposed.

6. Compliance risk

There are numerous data compliance frameworks businesses must adhere to, including HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GDPR. Failing to comply could land companies in serious compliance risk — which is extremely costly. Businesses should ensure they have proper authentication systems in place to keep all data compliant. Additionally, they must have reference documentation frameworks that outline steps to achieve compliance.

7. Data loss

Companies lacking the proper data management controls and protocols can unintentionally cause data loss. That can happen when data is accidentally deleted or irreversibly changed, or encryption keys are altered, rendering fully intact data inaccessible. Data loss can lead to serious problems for enterprises, so routine data backups are critical.

8. Employee negligence

A leading security threat facing cloud applications results from negligent employee behavior. In particular, this is true for account hijacking, as hackers take advantage of employees unintentionally giving away critical personal information.

9. Outdated firewall

As threat actors learn to more effectively exploit increasingly sophisticated systems and applications, security architecture needs to be constantly updated. An adequate network and cloud firewall should identify security vulnerabilities, giving companies information to patch and prevent future exposure.

10. Unsecure APIs

Customers, partners, and even internal team members interact with cloud apps enabled via APIs, making these a significant attack vector. Any risk management strategy should include API protection and API gateway security.

How Cloud Application Security Risk Can Affect Businesses

Data and asset compromise can have a serious financial impact on businesses, with long-lasting and even permanent consequences. Beyond the immediate financial cost, cloud application security exposures can lead to additional reputational damage. Take note of the nonfinancial effects security risks can have on businesses:

Damaged brand image

A successful cyberattack can force business activity offline for days or weeks. When that happens, customers aren’t getting the products or services they paid for (or intend to pay for). That can cause serious, lasting damage to an organization’s brand.

Lost trust

The advent of mass data sharing in the digital economy means customers entrust companies and organizations with reams of their personal information. If a business suffers a cyberattack, customers may worry their data or assets are not safe with the company.

Organization disruption

In the event of a cybersecurity attack, in most instances more could have been done to prevent the attack. Consequently, this means some team members will be held responsible. This can lead to terminations and replacements, which is disruptive for an organization.

Forced closures

Some security breaches are so damaging that affected organizations never recover. The impacted organization may drastically reduce their operations or close down permanently. These occurrences are rare, but not out of the realm of possibility.

[Related Reading: Top 8 Data Security Best Practices]

cloud application security

How Can You Mitigate Cloud Application Security Risk?

While there is no one-size-fits-all way to guarantee cloud application security, there are several actions enterprises can take to ensure their assets and cloud infrastructure are as secure as possible. Try these four practices to improve your cloud application security:

Password protection

Phishing is one of the most common and successful forms of cyberattack. It happens when hackers gain access to personal account information and passwords and encrypt that data for a ransomware attack. Companies should mandate that employees create secure passwords and change them frequently.

Invest in a cloud security solution

Cloud computing has vastly expanded the reach and capabilities of businesses. However, this also means traditional firewall systems are no longer capable of providing adequate protection. Users can access networks and systems from any device and any location, creating innumerable potential attack vectors for hackers. Companies need to invest in cloud-native security software that can handle security across a hybrid ecosystem.

Conduct regular security audits

Insider attacks, data loss, and employee negligence are the source of numerous cloud application security challenges. To combat these risks, companies should restrict data access to those who absolutely need it. Conduct regular security audits to understand exactly who has access to what data and make appropriate adjustments as needed.

[Related Reading: How to Perform a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment]

Regular systems updates

Hackers constantly improve their capabilities to overcome the latest data security advancements. Some enterprises mistakenly believe that older security software versions still protect against current threats. Companies must regularly update their security software to the latest version to ensure it detects emerging threats.

[Related Reading: Why Updating Software Is Important for Maintaining Your Cybersecurity]

Cloud-native Security Solution for the Enterprise

Effective cloud security starts with having the right security team on your side. At Fortra’s Alert Logic, we collaborate with organizations to provide the technology and expertise for their unique security needs. We provide around-the-clock threat detection and security expertise to ensure companies have the most appropriate response plan to confront whatever threats arise.

Schedule a MDR demo to start transforming your security strategy today.


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