Cloud computing is a type of computing in which groups of remote servers are linked to allow centralized storage of data and online access to information technology services and resources. Cloud technology provides scalable information services at reduced costs, anytime and anywhere, instantly. But due to the cloud’s very nature as a shared resource, it is imperative that the products and services shared on the cloud are protected from breaches and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure its safety and security. This is done by taking appropriate security measures for computing in the cloud.
Cloud computing security (or cloud security) is a subdomain of information security. Cloud security should address issues like protecting identity, maintaining privacy, and controlling access. It must also ensure that there is business continuity and disaster recovery options with regular, continuous cloud backups in case of a breach or disaster.
Cloud breaches come in many ways. The cloud service provider’s servers could fail due to a lack of security, for instance. Hackers or unhappy customers could attack the cloud resources. There may be availability and reliability issues, legal and regulatory issues, insecure application programming interfaces, data loss/leakage, malicious insiders, and service and traffic hijacking, just to name a few sources of breaches.
With so many ways to breach a cloud environment, we need a structured approach to prevent potential breaches. This is done in three steps: identifying assets, identifying threats, and identifying countermeasures.
First, identify which assets you are trying to protect and what properties of those assets must be maintained. Next, identify what attacks may be mounted and if there are other threats, such as natural disasters. Lastly, identify how those threats can be countered.
Common Threats to Cloud Computing Security
As identified by AltiusIT, common cloud security threats include:
Malicious insiders: One of the benefits of cloud computing is that your organization doesn’t need to know the technical details of how the services are delivered. The provider’s procedures, physical access to systems, monitoring of employees, and compliance-related issues are transparent to the customer. Without full knowledge and control, your organization may be at risk.
Data loss and leakage: With shared infrastructure resources, organizations should be concerned about the service provider’s authentication systems that grant access to data. Organizations should also ask about encryption, data disposal procedures, and business continuity.
Account hijacking: Organizations should be aware that account hijacking can occur. Simple Internet registration systems, phishing, and fraud schemes can allow a hacker to take control of your account.
In addition, phishing, fraud, and exploitation of software vulnerabilities could compromise your credentials. If your credentials are compromised, attackers could get access to your cloud computing service account(s). This will further compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of those services.
Preventing Security Breaches
Security breaches are costly and can take away a big chunk of an IT budget, destroy brands, and eventually lead to a loss of business. So how do you prevent data breaches? This might sound like a difficult question, but it is actually very easy! Do your homework and research before you pick a service provider. Ask about encryption key management. Who is going to manage the keys? Who has access to the keys? Pick your own encryption keys and self-manage them. Do not allow your service provider to control your keys. In addition, avoid the risk of account hijacking. If, beyond your control, your account is hijacked, act immediately to mitigate the effects by limiting the amount of data in an encryption and/or distributing your data across multiple servers.
Cloud computing usage has grown in the past few years, and such growth has definitely contributed to increased security threats as hackers continue to experiment with new ways to attack. As a result, security threats are becoming a daily occurrence. Data compromise could happen to anyone, from a huge corporation to an individual. However, IT professionals have been responding vigorously by implementing technologies to mitigate the risks, educating stakeholders to invest in risk-assessment tools for data protection, using encryption, carefully choosing secure infrastructure, and acquiring compliance certifications. As a result, the numerous threats in the cloud—data breaches, data loss, malicious insider attacks, and hijacking—will be under control.