A layered approach to cloud security is the best way to safeguard your data in the cloud era. As cloud technologies become more advanced and popularized, cyberthreats also become more advanced and widespread. Layering your cloud security with multiple lines of defence helps protect your data against cyberattacks from various vectors such as phishing emails, ransomware, network attacks, internal threats, and more.
In this blog post, we’ll cover some common cloud-based exploitations to look out for, as well as different cloud security strategies and approaches to consider when it comes to safeguarding your data in the cloud.
Common cloud-based exploitations
As more and more businesses rely on cloud computing to conduct business, more malicious attackers are taking advantage of cloud-based exploits. A new study published by IBM cited that:
82% of data breaches surveyed in 2023 involved cloud-based data stored in public or private cloud – or across multiple environments.
39% of data breaches spanned multiple environments, costing an average of 4.75M USD. Comparatively, the general average cost of a data breach in 2023 was 4.45M USD, which increased 15.3% since 2020.
Knowing that, organizations can mitigate the risk of common cloud-based exploitations such as:
- Misconfigured cloud resources: Malicious attackers may access sensitive data through misconfigurations in cloud services and resources such as open ports, misconfigured network settings, misconfigured data tags, or accidentally making private records public.
- Identity and access management exploits: Insufficient access controls may result in unauthorized access to sensitive data. This could include compromised credentials, inadequate identity and access management policies, weak methods of authentication, and more.
- API vulnerabilities: API endpoints within cloud resources can be misconfigured and can potentially expose sensitive data through SQL injection vulnerabilities, validation issues, or cross-site scripting.
- Phishing: Malicious actors can launch social engineering and phishing attacks that target the credentials of cloud administrators or users, leading to unauthorized access to sensitive data.
Cloud security strategies and tactics
Each organization has different needs and requirements when it comes to safeguarding cloud platforms and resources, however, there are multiple strategies and tactics that are commonly used amongst most businesses to keep cloud data safe.
Setting up data classification and segmentation
Understanding what kind of data you have is the first step to protecting it. Classifying and segmenting your data helps you understand the different types and functions of data in your organization. The first step to doing so is to identify what types of data you have – determine whether data is highly sensitive, confidential, internal, public, or any other classification you think is appropriate to set for your data. Next, add labels to your data to distinguish between each type of data so you can begin segmentation.
Segmentation helps you sort data into various segments so that you can protect each segment of data with different rules and policies. To segment your data, identify your segmentation criteria – determine what type of business functions your data serves. Compliance and regulatory standards should also be taken into consideration, as your segmentation criteria may need to separate different types of data based on regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, or CCPA.
TIP: To help with data classification and segmentation, use a data loss prevention (DPL) tool to define policies to automatically classify data. DPL tools also scan data at rest and in transit to prevent users from sharing sensitive information like credit card numbers or customer details.
Developing data handling policies
Once you’ve classified and segmented your data, it’s time to define how your users should interact with your organization’s data. Your security is only as strong as your weakest line, which is often your internal users with access to your highly sensitive data. Creating data handling and access policies helps define who can access what information, where your users should store that information, and ensures that only authorized users have access to your most sensitive information.
Data handling policies often include encryption requirements, access permissions, and retention periods. Additionally, policies for data collection, data storage, and data sharing are typically written into your data handling policies.
Administrators should ask themselves:
- Who should be able to access, modify, delete, or share this data?
- Where should each type of data be stored?
- How long should data exist before it is deleted or archived?
- What data needs to be encrypted at rest, in transit, or in use?
- How should highly sensitive data be treated differently to general internal data?
- What data is governed by regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, or other relevant compliance standards?
TIP: Educating your users on the importance of data policies is crucial to data and cloud security. Make sure your IT training educates your users about how they can help safeguard proprietary information and sensitive data, as well as their role in data protection.
Assessing third-party vendors and applying security patches
Introducing any third-party vendor into your environment opens the possibility for risk. That’s why it’s important to assess the practices of your cloud providers; keeping up with the security posture of your supply chain and vendors helps maintain your own security posture. When onboarding any new third-party vendor, gather information such as security breach notifications, SLAs, audit reports, security policies, and evidence of compliance. Additionally, it’s a good idea to regularly review vendor security.
When it comes to cloud security, applying the latest security patch and updating software is essential to maintaining cloud security. While vendors release patches to provide new versions of their products, they also may include measures to guard against newly identified vulnerabilities. To save time, many organizations schedule batch releases on a monthly or quarterly basis.
TIP: Working with a managed service provider (MSP) can help you alleviate this responsibility. MSPs work with partners to provide software and services to their clients and conduct regular evaluations on the third-party vendor software providers they work with. They often have specialized industry experience and knowledge of industry-standard tooling, so you don’t have to do the research.
Performing vulnerability scans
Improving your awareness of your risks and vulnerabilities is one of the best ways to begin improving your cloud security posture. Vulnerability scanning is a powerful tool used to proactively identify and assess risks and vulnerabilities. It allows you to understand and remediate vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious parties.
Vulnerability scanning tools look for vulnerabilities in several areas. A scan can identify vulnerabilities that are specific to cloud platforms and cloud services, such as misconfigurations in your cloud resources, missing updates that need to be patched, potential API exploitations through access control misconfiguration, exposed endpoints, and more.
TIP: Perform vulnerability scans regularly to remain up-to-date and informed on your environment. A fact-based report on your vulnerabilities can help guide your decision-making and improve your cloud security posture. If your organization needs cybersecurity services like vulnerability scanning, reach out to the experts at Microserve.
Seeking help with cloud security
With the complexities and nuances of cloud security, many organizations seek help from MSPs that provide expertise and guidance to ensure cloud data is protected. With over 30 years of experience, Microserve has helped countless organizations to set up private cloud environments, implement proper backup and disaster recovery measures, assess cloud security posture, and remediate cloud vulnerabilities. Reach out to the experts at Microserve today to leverage cutting edge technology, safeguard your cloud data against growing threats, and increase your confidence in your cloud platforms.