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Cloud computing has completely revolutionized the professional landscape, enabling companies of all sizes to keep up with the accelerating speed of business.

As organizations around the world continue to embrace cloud technology, the global cloud services market continues to grow. In fact, cloud computing is expected to reach $257.9 billion by the end of 2020 — a 6.3% increase from 2019. But with all the benefits the cloud has to offer, it comes with a caveat: cloud vulnerabilities.

One survey found that 93% of companies are worried about the dangers associated with cloud computing. Does this mean that the risk is greater than the reward? Not really.

Let’s explore five cloud vulnerabilities to watch out for in 2021 and how to create a cybersecurity strategy to protect your data while safely reaping the rewards of cloud computing.

1. Account Hijacking

Account hijacking, also known as session riding, is a cloud threat that steals account credentials from users. CSO ranks account hijacking at number five on their list of cloud computing threats and vulnerabilities seen in 2020.

There are several ways attackers can hijack accounts, including:

  • Phishing: Directing users to an unsecured website to steal their information or hijack their session ID
  • Keyloggers: A program that records the keystrokes made by users, including user IDs and passwords, and sends the information to attackers
  • Buffer overflow attacks: Overwriting data in memory with malicious data designed to give the attacker unauthorized access
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks: A type of injection attack where the attacker sends malicious scripts via a web browser to access vulnerable accounts
  • Brute force attacks: When attackers gain access to accounts by guessing the password — usually with the help of software

Account hijacking isn’t new. In 2014, an Egyptian-based researcher discovered a PayPal vulnerability that left approximately 150 million accounts open to this type of attack. Fortunately, the threat was corrected before any damage occurred. Seeing a corporate giant like PayPal vulnerable for PCI Compliance data breaches served as a warning to everyone to look at their own cybersecurity strategies.

How do you stay protected against account hijacking?

First and foremost, create secure passwords and change them regularly. That will help keep you protected against brute force attacks. You should also consider using multifactor authentication (MFA) whenever possible. This will add an extra layer of security, making it harder for attackers to remotely access your account.

Many successful account hijacking attempts happen because of phishing. Exercising caution when clicking web and email links, and when receiving requests to reset passwords will go a long way in protecting you from attacks. And if you have employees using cloud services, be sure to educate them about cloud computing vulnerabilities so they know how to identify account hijacking attempts.

Consulting with a threat detection expert is also an effective way to prevent account hijackings. They can look for potential vulnerabilities within your network and introduce steps that will keep your data better protected from these types of attacks.

2. Data Breaches

Did you know at least 3,800 data breaches occurred in the first half of 2019? Not only did those breaches equal approximately 4.1 billion compromised records, but they also lead to a 54% year-over-year increase.

Data breaches are a problem that can result in the loss of millions of dollars each time. According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of victims were small businesses. One of the main reasons why small businesses bear the brunt of data breaches is because they don’t have the same level of protection as global corporations. They are easy targets, and they tend to get hit the hardest when their data is compromised.

The consequences of a data breach could include:

  • Negative impact to brand reputation and loss of trust from partners, clients, and customers
  • The loss of important intellectual property
  • Regulatory fines and other penalties
  • Legal actions

On top of that, you should factor in other expenses related to cybersecurity, such as forensics and incident response.

In 2019, Capital One experienced one of the largest data breaches in the United States, costing the company more than $300 million to remediate the problem.

Data breach can be devastating for businesses of all sizes.

How do you stay protected against data breaches?

There are several ways you can fall victim to a data breach. Someone in your company could downloaded malware, or an attacker could exploit various cloud security vulnerabilities to remotely bypass your network security. Attackers can also physically access your computer to steal information.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to preventing data breaches, but some good practices include:

  • Routine security audits so you know who has access to your data at all times
  • Secure and encrypted servers that allow you to retrieve your data through your cloud center
  • A comprehensive incident response plan that includes cloud security

Gartner: The Cloud Strategy Cookbook 2021

3. Insecure APIs

Application user interfaces (APIs) are a popular method to streamline cloud computing. Commonly used in offices, APIs make it easy to share information between two or more applications. Known for their convenience and ability to boost efficiency, APIs can also be a source of cloud vulnerabilities.

By exploiting insecure APIs, attackers can easily access enterprise data and launch DDoS attacks. What’s more, sophisticated attackers can use several measures to evade detection when launching API attacks.

As companies increase their dependence on APIs, there have been a growing number of attacks targeting them. According to Gartner, API-related abuses are believed to become the most common attack vector by 2022.

How do you stay protected against API attacks?

There are a few steps you can take to safeguard your cloud system from API attacks:

  • Conduct penetration tests that emulate API attacks
  • Use SSL/TLS encryption on transmitted data
  • Strengthen your authentication controls with MFA
  • Be selective with whom you share your API keys with, and dispose of API keys when they’re no longer needed

These are all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of your APIs, but developers are also responsible for creating APIs with stronger authentication.

4. Malicious Insiders

Even if you safeguard yourself from the other types of cloud security attacks, you could still be vulnerable to malicious insiders, including current and former:

  • Employees
  • Contractors
  • Business partners

Enemies with unauthorized access to your systems could steal information, destroy data, and sabotage your IT systems. According to a 2020 Ponemon report:

  • Insider attacks increased by 47% since 2018
  • The cost of insider attacks increased by 31% since 2018
  • Only 23% of insider threats were malicious; most insider attacks were due to negligence

How do you stay protected against malicious insiders?

Unfortunately, companies are more susceptible to insider threats than external attacks for one simple reason –– the threat doesn’t (usually) exploit cloud vulnerabilities to access sensitive data.

The good news is that insider threats can be prevented by being proactive. This means limiting access to critical data –– granting individuals access to the information they need to know and nothing more. You should also conduct regular security audits, revoking access when needed.

You can decide how often to run audits, but best practice is at least twice a year. Some organizations run quarterly audits, while others perform one every month.

For insider threats that are not malicious, consider holding training sessions covering best practices for protecting data and systems. Teach employees how to avoid phishing attempts, the importance of regularly changing passwords, and other important security protocols.

5. System Vulnerabilities

System vulnerabilities are another of the more common cloud security vulnerabilities and they can occur for many reasons. The integration of an insecure third-party application could create system risks or they could arise due to poorly configured security tools within your cloud systems.

Some of the more common system vulnerabilities that could negatively impact your cloud services include:

  • Lack of input validation on user input
  • Insufficient logging and monitoring
  • Improper error handling
  • Not closing your database connections

How do you stay protected against system vulnerabilities?

There are several steps you can take to address system vulnerabilities, including encrypting your data and implementing a comprehensive intrusion detection system that works on cloud, on-premise, and hybrid environments.

You could also try deploying a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to protect your web applications from various cloud computing threats and vulnerabilities, such as DDoS attacks, SQL injections, and Man-in-the-middle attacks.

Gartner: The Cloud Strategy Cookbook 2021

Protecting Your Cloud Systems

Developing a strong cybersecurity strategy in 2021 will help you avoid the expenses and headaches that come with data breaches. Alert Logic can help you safeguard your data and address cloud security vulnerabilities before they turn into bigger problems.

Our managed detection and response (MDR) solution offers top-notch protection that can be custom-tailored to suit your business needs. Watch our video on MDR to see how Alert Logic can help you enhance your cloud security.

Related Reading: Top 5 Cybersecurity Threats in 2021

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