How to Develop a Robust Cloud Cybersecurity Strategy in 2022

Organizations are increasingly transitioning to the cloud to take advantage of the many benefits of the cloud ecosystem. 

Moving to the cloud certainly has its benefits—especially in this era of remote and hybrid working models. Cloud computing offers flexibility and scalability you won’t find in traditional legacy systems. Organizations can also save on costs since cloud computing allows scaling companies to pay for only what they need. 

However, the move to the cloud has also introduced a host of new security threats and challenges. The high volume of data flowing into the cloud daily provides opportunities for malicious or accidental leaks of sensitive data.

Hackers and cybercriminals seek to exploit cloud security vulnerabilities to steal data from the victim’s organization network for profit or other illicit purposes. 

But precisely what security threats are inherent in the cloud?

In this article, we’ll discuss the implications of cloud computing, focusing on the various types of cloud security threats to watch for. We’ll also touch on how cloud security works and provide you with a robust 7-point cloud security checklist for your business.


What Sensitive Data Is in the Cloud?

The risk associated with confidential data in the cloud grows by the day. 

McAfee’s 2019 Cloud Adoption and Risk Report shows that information sharing in the cloud increases 53% each year. Of all the data shared in the cloud, 21% contains sensitive information, and 48% of those files are shared online. 

According to the report, the sensitive data include:

  • Company confidential information – 27%
  • Email data – 20%
  • Personally Identifiable Information (PII) – 20%
  • Password-protected data – 16%
  • Payment data – 12%
  • Medical data – 9%

So, how do cybercriminals access this data?


Cybersecurity Implications of Cloud Computing

According to Checkpoint’s 2022 Cloud Security Report, 94% of organizations are concerned about cloud security. When asked about some of the biggest security threats inherent in the cloud, organizations pointed out misconfigurations, insecure APIs, external attacks (malware, adware, etc.), and hijacking accounts as some of the top threats. 

Let’s briefly discuss the top cloud cybersecurity threats and how to mitigate them.

  1. Malware Infections

Malware is an umbrella term used to describe any malicious program designed to harm a computer, network, or server. Types of malware include:

  • Viruses
  • Ransomware
  • Worms
  • Adware and spyware
  • Fileless malware

IT professionals often assume that malware isn’t a real threat to the cloud, especially when they have already implemented client-side walls and endpoint security software. 

However, malware infections are a serious threat in the cloud, and security teams must be prepared to combat them. According to the 2021 ZDNet Cloud Security report, malware delivered over the cloud increased by 68% in Q2 of 2021. Once the malware has infiltrated the cloud, it spreads quickly, opening the door to more serious threats. 


Best Practices for Risk Mitigation

To control the spread of malware in the cloud, be sure to utilize:

  • Antivirus and antimalware solutions
  • Advanced web application firewalls
  • Regular comprehensive data backups
  • Employee training and safe browsing habits
  • Constant monitoring activity
  1. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)

Access to cloud services requires internet connectivity. This reliance on the internet makes cloud services vulnerable to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. 

A DDoS is a cybercrime in which the attacker floods a server with internet traffic to overload online services which makes websites inaccessible. 

Cybercriminals can flood an organization’s cloud network with massive traffic, rendering the resources inaccessible to the authorized parties (employees, customers, etc.)

DDoS attacks have been increasing steadily over the past two years. According to Cloudflare, ransom DDoS attacks increased exponentially between 2020 and 2021 and jumped by 75% in the last quarter of 2021. 


Best Practices for Risk Mitigation

  • Implement content filtering
  • Secure the cloud network infrastructure with a web application firewall
  • Use load balancing to detect potential inconsistencies in traffic
  1. Insider Threats

Insider threats can compromise your organization’s security in many ways. Research shows that 43% of security breaches originate from within the organization. 

Insiders already have access to an organization’s network and the sensitive data it contains. They may accidentally or maliciously leak this data to third parties, which can then be used for malicious purposes. And identifying a malicious insider is more difficult than detecting malware or other cybersecurity threats. So, how can organizations curb insider threats? 

Best Practices for Risk Mitigation

  • Enable surveillance
  • Implement user behavior analytics
  • De-provision access to resources every time you have personnel changes
  • Monitor and control remote access from all endpoints
  • Clearly document and enforce policies and controls
  1. Insecure APIs

Cloud applications typically interact with each other through APIs. 

Unfortunately, many companies often fail when it comes to developing secure APIs. Take Nissan, for example—an API flaw allowed hackers to access some features of the Nissan LEAF, which enabled them to control the vehicle remotely. 

When developers create APIs with insufficient authentication, it results in applications with security vulnerabilities. Hackers can exploit the vulnerabilities by launching DDoS attacks and code injections, both of which could give them access to company data. 

Best Practices for Risk Mitigation

  • Choose a standard API framework—only apply those designed with security in mind
  • Install web application firewalls
  • Implement comprehensive authentication and authorization policies
  1. Hijacking of Accounts

Hijacking of accounts can result from poor password management policies. 

Some corporate employees tend to have weak password security, especially those who reuse passwords or include their names in the passwords. This problem compounds the incidents of phishing attacks and data breaches since a single password can be used on multiple accounts.

Account hijacking is one of the critical security issues resulting from poor password creation and management. A hacker with employee credentials can infiltrate the cloud, steal confidential business and customer data, and even take full control over the various cloud-based applications the user has access to. 

Best Practices for Risk Mitigation

  • Require the use of strong passwords
  • Use multi-factor authentication
  • Implement identity and access control
  • Control/limit third-party access
  • Limit access to sensitive information
  • Train employees on preventing account hijacking

These are some of the major cloud security threats faced by many organizations. 


How Does Cloud Security Work?

Today, organizations are leveraging the power of the cloud, which enables real-time data access and management from any place as long as one is connected to the internet. 

Access to the cloud requires tight cybersecurity to ensure your sensitive data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, which can happen through any of the means discussed above.

So, how does cloud security work?

Securing data in the cloud combines the efforts of the cloud provider and those employed by the organization to ensure maximum data security. 

Effective data security means deploying various technologies that work together to protect data and applications in the cloud from different entry vectors of cyber threats. On the technology front, this often includes firewall, encryption, segmentation, and identity and access management (IAM).

Instead of protecting the perimeter the way network security does, cloud security employs the above methodologies to protect cloud resources. 


Cloud Security Checklist

A “best practices cloud security checklist” reminds you of every task and step you need to take. Included are action items related to software, hardware, configurations, and regulatory compliance. To help, we’ve compiled a 7-step checklist for you to check out. 

  1. Establish Cloud Policies

Responsibilities for secure cloud security solutions fall on both the company and the provider. The first step decision-makers must take is to establish rules. Sit down with all the relevant stakeholders and establish the best cloud security rules and policies. All members must agree to the rules, and that cloud computing is to be governed by those policies. 

  1. Implement Granular Security Controls on All Cloud Platforms

Granular cloud access control is one of the Privileged Access Management (PAM) best practices many organizations fail to achieve. A good PAM strategy lets you control what your employees can see and do on all cloud platforms.

  1. Set Password Policies

Passwords are the bedrock of any good security plan.

Educate your employees on features that make passwords strong or weak and why password security is so important. You should also set policies and standards for your organization’s cloud passwords. At a minimum, enable your systems to require a strong password. 

  1. Enable Anti-Phishing Protection

Email is by far the most common external threat vector. 

While many third-party tools can help mitigate phishing scams, none works with 100% accuracy. The best strategy is to start configuring cloud email providers’ anti-phishing capabilities, then layer additional safeguards and monitoring on top. 

  1. Set External Sharing Standards

Sharing of cloud content can subject your organization to major security risks. 

However, this can be avoided with the use of proper external sharing policies. Start by setting sharing standards for files, folders, drives, and calendars. Files and folders containing sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information and financial data, should rarely be configured to allow external sharing and access. 

  1. Protect Sensitive Data Through Encryption

Make sure all sensitive data is adequately encrypted. 

Better yet, encrypt everywhere. Don’t leave a system or control to chance by not configuring encryption. Use of hardware encryption is recommended. For encryption in transit, ensure that HTTPS is used with strong ciphers and hashes. Also, encrypt stored files, backups, and data in databases with AES-256 or stronger encryption. 

  1. Review Access

Last but not least, review permission access. An authorization and ticketing system should provide access to any system that touches sensitive data. That said, users’ privileges should be reviewed regularly for every system. 

The best practice is to strictly control access to sensitive data and have a system for allowing and revoking access to sensitive data. 


When to Seek Help from a Trusted Advisor

If you’re moving to the cloud or looking to strengthen your existing infrastructure, you may want to seek the services of a trusted cybersecurity advisor. 

These professionals help organizations implement and maintain secure cloud computing systems. They may also help you migrate your existing data and applications to the cloud or develop new applications that take advantage of the cloud infrastructure. 

If you’re looking to migrate to the cloud, contact us today for a smooth transition. With over 15 years of experience in the field, we guarantee that we have the technology and skills to implement, migrate, integrate, and customize solutions that meet your needs. 


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