Cloud computing security issues and challenges

cloud computing security issues and challenges

Cloud computing is flexible and cost-effective, allowing employees to access data remotely from anywhere around the world. Cloud computing benefits are well documented, however, security issues and challenges are probably more difficult to identify.  Undoubtedly, migrating your sensitive information to third party infrastructure will have security implications.

Here we present the cloud computing security issues and challenges, common methods used by hackers to exploit these pitfalls, and how organizations can overcome these issues.

cloud computing security challenges uptake

Cloud computing issues

Depending on the cloud deployment model selected by organizations, and whether you opt for SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS cloud services, companies may face or at least need to consider, several issues when migrating to the Cloud.

The table below highlights the most likely type of issues faced by organizations as part of their Cloud migration. You will note that many the issues faced are similar in nature to the issues faced with traditional computing environments.

Software as a service (SaaS) Cloud security issues

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) Cloud security issues

Private Cloud security issues

Absence of any visibility into what data is held within cloud applications

Inadequate visibility into what data is in the Cloud
Inconsistent security controls spanning traditional and virtualized private cloud infrastructures

Unable to monitor data whilst transiting from, or to, cloud applications

Lack of ability to monitor cloud workload systems and applications for vulnerabilities
Growing complexity of infrastructure needing more time/effort for implementation and maintenance

Shortage of staff with the requisite security skills to manage cloud applications

Insufficient staff members with the necessary skills to secure cloud infrastructure
Shortage of staff with skills such as virtual compute, network, storage, to manage security for a software-defined data center

Threats and attacks, of an advanced nature, against the cloud application provider

Advanced threats and attacks against cloud infrastructure
Advanced threats and attacks

Unable to assess the security of the cloud application provider’s operations

Absence of consistent security controls over multi-cloud and on-premises environments
Lack of complete visibility over security for a software-defined data center, for example, virtual compute, network, storage

Unable to maintain regulatory compliance

Wide spread of an attack from one cloud workload to another

Lack of visibility of cloud applications being provisioned outside of IT (e.g., shadow IT);

Data theft from a cloud application by a malicious actor

Lack of complete control over who can access sensitive data

Unable to prevent misuse of data or malicious insider theft

What are the top security issues in cloud computing?

At a high-level, organizations face the same cloud computing security issues and challenges as they do with traditional computing environments.

However, unlike in a traditional data center, managing cloud-based computing services involves sharing the responsibility for mitigating any risks and threats with the cloud service provider.  This additional layer of complexity presents some unique security issues and challenges which are specific to the cloud environment.

Here we present five of the common security issues unique to cloud computing faced by organizations when moving to the Cloud:

1. Unauthorized Access

The ability to provision features on-demand through self-service capabilities offers improved efficiency for implementing PaaS and SaaS products.  However, it also increases the likelihood of unauthorized use.  Organizations are particularly exposed when services and features provisioned or used without IT’s knowledge (referred to as shadow IT).

Employees able to access remotely hosted data from remote computing devices such as tablets, laptops, and mobiles, could introduce external security threats, presenting cloud computing security issues and challenges for businesses, particularly where employee negligence and misuse of credentials is involved.

2. Reduced Visibility and Control

When migrating to a Cloud-based computing model, organizations will lose a degree of visibility and control, with some of the responsibility for policies and infrastructure moving to the cloud provider.

The actual magnitude of shifts in responsibility will be determined by the cloud service model(s) used, SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS, and the lack of visibility and control can create numerous Cloud computing security issues and challenges for organizations.

Unauthorized access, replication of data, and improper handling can result in cloud data protection issues, reducing the effectiveness of security control methods. Implementing incident response plans to analyze data and identify unusual user activities can help alleviate such risks. The lack of visibility is the most one of the common cloud security issue that organizations face.

3. Unsecure APIs and Interfaces

Unsecure APIs and interfaces can contribute to cloud computing security issues and challenges. APIs are essential for customized cloud experience, but at the same time, present a threat to security. APIs allows companies to customize the cloud solution features according to their needs. Moreover, it offers encryption, access, and data recognition.

Poorly designed interfaces tend to be exploitable and lead to confidentiality breaches of data. While APIs are helpful for developers, at the same time, if not scrutinized for poor design and security, can cause security risks too.  However, the proper tracking of activity through access management could help detect any unsecured APIs and interfaces.

4. System Vulnerabilities

Cloud infrastructure networks are complex and supported by a third party, and therefore more prone to system vulnerabilities. Exploitable bugs often make systems vulnerable, thereby permitting hackers to leverage and loopholes violate the confidential information.

System vulnerabilities present several cloud computing security issues and challenges – such as unsafe operating systems and shared memory and resources.  These can often become gateways to significant data thefts, acting as the entry points to malicious attacks.

5. Data breaches, loss, or leakage

A significant asset and key to collaboration in the Cloud is the ease of data sharing in the Cloud.  However, this also creates serious issues relating to data breaches, loss or leakage.

The Cloud makes it easy to share the data stored within them. However, when your data is accessible online, there is always a risk of a data breach. Cloud-based systems allow data to be shared easily, via direct email invitations or by sharing a public link, with other parties. Tools are readily available to search the Internet for any unsecured cloud deployments, presenting a risk to that data.

cloud computing security issues customer responsibility

Five most common cloud computing challenges

Businesses adopting cloud technologies often choose applications or services without being fully informed of the risks involved.  This, in itself, exposes the organization to countless commercial, financial, technical, legal, and compliance risks.

Presented below are the common challenges organizations face when migrating to cloud-based services.

1. Inadequate access control

Insufficient access control is one of the core threats which can impact the very foundations an organization’s Cloud migration. Malicious actors, posing as legitimate users, can obtain crucial data when it is in transit, and in the majority of cases, malicious software originates from legitimate sources. Implementing sufficient access management would contribute to preventing this kind of situation.

Read more: Types of malware businesses must protect against

2. Insufficient contract regulation

Cloud service contracts may state restrictive clauses on how and where to use particular information before the users are granted access to the Cloud. Some clauses state may further state that certain cloud services can share all the data available with third parties, thereby breaching confidentiality agreements.

3. Unsafe software interfaces

More often than not, unsafe software interfaces become the root cause of data leaks or information thefts. In general, these interfaces are well-documented in an attempt to make them easily-usable for customers.

The documentation designed for the customer can also be used by a cybercriminal to identify and exploit potential methods for accessing and exfiltrating sensitive data from an organization’s cloud environment.

4. Data loss & delays in deleting data

In a multi-tenancy environment, data is spread over a number of different storage devices within the Cloud Service Provider’s (CSP) infrastructure. Consequently, customers have reduced visibility into where their data is physically stored in the Cloud and are unable to verify the secure deletion of their data.

In addition, data deletion procedures may vary amongst providers.  As such, customers are not always able to verify that their data has been deleted in a secure manner, and that remnants of their data are not available to attackers.

5. Inability to maintain regulatory compliance

Organizations have to be compliant with different industry standards, so it becomes a headache for cloud security professionals. Organizations have to follow various compliances, such as:

  • For private health information, they have to follow HIPAA
  • For student registration, they have to follow FERPA
  • They have to follow industry and government regulations as well

So, it becomes difficult for companies to protect their data because they don’t know who can access it and where is their data.

cloud computing security issue and challenges threats

Techniques used by hackers to exploit cloud security issues

Hackers use below-given hacking tactics to breach confidential data.

  • Malware Injection – Hackers use to embed specific codes in the cloud servers. When the particular codes are injected into cloud servers, it opens the door for the hackers to get personal data. In cloud systems, malware injection has become a significant threat.
  • DDoS Attacks – When cloud computing was in early-stage and was starting to gain popularity, no one might have thought about the Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. It wasn’t easy to attack cloud solutions, but the use of so many computer devices and smartphones have made DDoS attacks more easy and viable.
  • Accounts Hijacking – As cloud computing is becoming popular, the accounts hijacking rate is also increasing at a much rapid pace. Now, employees log in their accounts on different devices, and it allows hackers to remotely access the cloud-stored sensitive data. Moreover, hackers can manipulate this data as well. Some other hijacking methods are reused passwords and scripting errors. All these acts allow attackers to gain access to confidential data and manipulate or misuse it.
  • Social Engineering Attacks – As the clouds are open for employees and managers and everyone can remotely access the data, so it opens a window for social engineering attacks and phishing. Once you keep your account logged in, it makes it easier for the hackers to access your system from anywhere. So, employees and top authorities must know about phishing and social engineering attacks so that they can take preventive actions.
  • Insider Threat – Many organizations don’t pay attention to insider threats. Employees can misuse the accounts, and it opens the door for hackers to hack your cloud-based servers. Whether they do it intentionally or mistakenly, but it can hurt your organization significantly. So, along with external threats, you can’t ignore the internal threats. It is the ultimate responsibility of the cloud security professionals and employees to pay attention to everything they do and don’t allow hackers to breach your data.
cloud computing security issue and challenges risks

How to overcome or avoid cloud security challenges and issues?

Cloud computing solutions are considered to be the best storage options of modern times, but they are challenging security professionals as well.

Many of these cloud security issues can be prevented by using a dedicated data protection system. Moreover, you must be aware of the tactics that hackers use for a data breach. Set a secure security system and use secure APIs to stay ahead of the hackers.

Cloud computing has changed the business computing environment. However, this change comes with its own set of security issues challenges.

Cloud computing is gaining popularity rapidly, and it’s opening the door for hackers to access sensitive data. So, organizations using cloud solutions have to be more conscious of security issues. They need to take more and serious steps for improving the security of their cloud servers. Employees and cloud security professionals must know all the above loopholes so that they can deal it in a much better way.

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