Cloud computing offers organisations a secure and smart outlook on business growth and development. It opens gateways for organisations to grow while transforming the way organisations store, use, and share information.
However, despite its advantages, its interconnectedness, along with the scope and availability of data, makes it a target of various cyber threats. Specifically, as cloud computing services is an online architecture, it can easily fall prey to any threat actor with the right credentials.
Its popularity within organisations entails the availability of enterprise data, attracting hackers who attempt hack attacks by studying the system and launching target attacks. This false sense of security most organisations have with cloud services makes the information present all the more vulnerable to exploitation.
Nonetheless, one of the main problems associated with assessing security risks within cloud computing is understanding the risks associated with these cyber attacks. This article, therefore, outlines some of the top cloud computing threats most organisations should be aware of.
What Are The Main Cloud Computing Threats?
The latest threats to cloud computing go way beyond the traditional focus on malicious issues and are more focused on configuration and authentication based vulnerabilities. Some common risks an organisation will encounter when consuming cloud computing are as follows:
1. Data breaches
One of the most common types of cyber threats, a data breach as a broadened term, is any cybersecurity attack involving unauthorised individuals viewing or stealing confidential information. As cloud computing networks are set up for interchangeable flows and storage of information, most cloud cyberattacks result in data breaches.
Date branches tend to have somewhat of a lasting impact on the organisation and often lead to grave issues such as damaging the reputation of a company. A damaged reputation fosters mistrust from clients and partners and could also impact a company’s brand bringing down its market value.
Along with that, data breaches also creates a significant impact on the release of any new product as it leads to the loss of intellectual property to competitors. With that arise various contractual and legal liabilities.
Therefore, a data breach can inadvertently lead to bankruptcy for an organisation. If an organisation manages to avoid this, the financial expenses during incident response and forensics are often too high to handle.
2. Data Loss
Data loss is a considerably harmful cloud computing threat any organisation can come across. Data losses are tough to predict, and most organisations fail to handle them effectively.
Data losses surprisingly occur quite frequently and often happen due to man-induced errors or physical destruction within servers or human error. In short, data loss is the tempering of classified information stored in a cloud database.
Apart from data alteration, accidental erasure of information from the system with no backups is also one reason why an organisation might experience data loss.
There could be other somewhat generic reasons behind data losses, such as problems with the cloud provider’s servers. If not that, often, employees may misplace or forget credentials and encrypted keys, leading to insufferable amounts of data loss.
Although this threat is commonly inferred to be an error within the company’s employees, it is often a result of a targeted attack through a mole.
3. Hacked Accounts
Hacked accounts are perhaps one of the most significant threats companies with cloud computing technology encounter. Should a threat actor gain access to an organisation’s cloud computing platform through a hacked account, it could serve as a carved path to all the information present on the servers.
Additionally, the compromised account would serve as an adequate cover allowing the crime to go unnoticed by the authorities within.
Hacked account incidents are difficult to muster as they require cybercriminals to carry out target attacks. They mostly occur through phishing emails, social engineering tactics, password cracking, or malware infections.
Albeit these attacks are devious, organisations can take up safety measures to ensure they don’t suffer damage through a hacked account.
4. Denial Of Service Attacks
Another quite damaging cloud computing threat is the Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS). This denial of service attack works by shutting down an organisation’s cloud services, making them unavailable to whoever they are shared with, including owners, customers, partners, and employees.
To carry out these attacks, criminals often flood the system with massive and extensive traffic that makes it hard for servers to buffer. Threat actors often break down an organisation’s cloud computing server by exploiting bugs or vulnerabilities.
As scalability is one of the primary reasons for using cloud computing services, DDoS attacks target that very feature. These DDoS attacks are designed to intervene in the service-level agreement (SLA) between the company and its customers.
Disrupting this agreement often impacts the credibility of the company. A DDoS attack skillfully ruptures this agreement by causing speed and stability issues across the overall system. Companies who fall prey to this attack often struggle to identify and disarm the source of disruption.
The cryptocurrency frenzy going around the world has added crypto-jacking to the list of cloud security threats. A typical crypto-jacking attack involves a hacker exploiting an organisation’s computing resources to process cryptocurrency transactions.
For this, once the threat actor gains access to the cloud computing servers, it installs crypto mining scripts that mines cryptocurrency for him. This causes an increased CPU load, which inadvertently slows down the cloud computing system(s).
As cryptojacking attacks require large amounts of computing, which can mine more cryptocurrency in less time, organisational servers become a target to such attacks.
6. Insecure APIs
The system within a cloud infrastructure relies primarily upon Application User Interface or API. This process is used equally by the company’s internal employees and external customers through mobile App’s or web applications.
The outer side of this process that is exposed to consumers is crucial, considering it contains all data transmissions that enable the service, which results in providing all sorts of analytics.
The use of API within this process makes it a significant threat to cloud security. More so, APIs are responsible for collecting information from edge computing devices. Amidst this, organisations should opt for authentication and encryption to have a regulated and safe system.
APIs often pose a risk to security when their configurations are flawed and don’t meet the company’s requirements. Some common issues include access without authentication, clear-text authentication, lack of access monitoring along with opting for previously used token and passwords can also compromise the integrity of an API.
7. Insider Threats
Along with external cloud computing threats, organisations must pay complete heed to any internal threats they might face to their system. An organisation’s employee can be its most significant vulnerability or the biggest strength; it depends on the training provided.
At any point, employees can cause data breaches or privacy violations within the organisation, which can often result from human error or merely due to malicious behaviour.
Besides that, employees can also fall victim to social engineering attacks and serve as a gateway for any malware to error.
Therefore, for an organisation to ensure its cloud security is safe from insider threats, it must train its staff along with having secure passwords. Additionally, to ensure there are no occurrences of malicious behaviour within the team, it is better to monitor employees closely.
8. Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)
Advanced persistent threats are prolonged cybersecurity threats designed explicitly to minority activity and steal information from within a network. These attacks mainly target organisations dealing with high-value information.
Some of the most common victims of APT attacks are the financial industry, national defence, manufacturing (IIoT), and intellectual property, such as governmental information.
These attacks are mainly carried out against targeted victims or with a specific goal where threat actors spend time and resources to find vulnerabilities within a system they later exploit to gain access or design a concealed cyber attack further.
Custom malware is one standard tool used to carry out APT attacks. Traditionally APT attacks were associated with nation-state actors working to steal governmental or industrial secrets. Therefore financial gain or political espionage is considered as one main motive of carrying out these attacks.
However, APT attacks have grown in popularity amongst cybercriminals aiming to steal data or intellectual property that they can later sell or monetise.
Although cloud computing surely is a game-changer for organisations and businesses alike, however, it is crucial to realise that its true potential is only apparent when the cloud threats are dealt with entirely. Online security is gradually maturing, but the number of cyber-attacks is increasing, it is best to secure your organisation with threat intelligence coupled with a cybersecurity partner to ensure its safety and integrity.