The need for versatile and affordable solutions for storing and processing data in enterprises makes cloud computing an increasingly attractive IT strategy.

Cloud computing provides flexible and easy-to-use solutions. It can also be more cost-effective than traditional storage methods that require a physical server and hardware at your corporate premises, which is one of the reasons why businesses often make the switch.

“Infrastructure as a service” (IaaS) and “platform as a service” (PaaS) from cloud providers such as Google Cloud (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Microsoft Azure are great options when investigating cloud security. Although they all feature cybersecurity as part of their services, you still must develop your own cybersecurity strategy.

The idea of using third-party vendors to provide software applications and other technology solutions to your company via “the cloud” has been gaining traction for years. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive shift to remote working has made cloud computing even more essential, making cloud security imperative.

While cloud solutions are convenient, they expand the number of potential security vulnerabilities, and that broadens the scope of your risk assessments, monitoring, and audits. In addition, managing risks related to cloud storage with third parties must also be prioritized.

This article explains the top security risks of cloud computing and the best practices to avoid them.

Security Risks Unique to Cloud Computing

Intellectual Property Theft or Loss

For intellectual property, embracing the cloud is a double-edged sword. For example, some data uploaded by companies to cloud file management services contain sensitive information. Companies therefore face the risk of having their intellectual property stolen.

Database servers are most frequently targeted for intellectual property theft. As a result, one’s first reaction might be to construct more powerful firewalls to provide additional protection to such servers. Another option is to migrate all protected data to the cloud rather than keeping it on servers.

Data Loss

Natural disasters, malicious assaults, user errors, overwriting data, or service provider deletion are factors that can destroy or lose data on cloud servers. Losing sensitive data may be disastrous for businesses, especially if they don’t have a backup strategy in place.

Examining your provider’s terms of service and backup policies is an essential step in data security. For example, physical access, storage locations, and natural disasters could all be addressed by a backup protocol.

Data Breaches

A data breach has the potential to reveal sensitive data to an unauthorized party. Data breaches affect all industries and can occur for a variety of reasons, including theft.

According to experts, data breaches are one of the most common security risks in the cloud computing era. Many victim companies are random targets for cybercriminals, who extract large amounts of usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, or other private information from their databases for quick financial gain.

Malware Attacks

Malware injection attacks can compromise cloud computing infrastructure. The cyberattacker can install a malicious program through vulnerabilities in software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and platform as a service (PaaS). Information can then be retrieved, exported, or deleted from a company’s IT infrastructure.

As technology improves and detection systems evolve, cyber-criminals also develop new techniques to evade protections and deliver malware to targets.

Compliance Violations

Most companies operate under one or more regulatory obligations. Whether it’s the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for personal student documents or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for private patient records (or many other compliance obligations), regulations and rules exist to assure information security.

An organization can quickly slip into non-compliance if it isn’t’ careful, putting the enterprise at risk of regulatory fines, litigation costs, and damage to reputation. Bring your own carrier (BYOC) is one of the most common ways for a business to violate government or industry regulations due to potentially insufficient security measures.

Contract Breaches with Clients or Business Partners

When a cloud infrastructure allows information to be stored and shared quickly and easily, that also means a greater risk of information getting into the wrong hands. Beyond the data breach, companies can also trigger security headaches by violating the non-disclosure agreements they have with other companies.

Poor or non-existent segmentation mechanisms within a cloud can result in employees unknowingly undermining the cloud infrastructure and violating privacy and data protection agreements between the company and third parties.

Violating business contracts by breaching confidentiality agreements is common, especially when the cloud service maintains the right to share all uploaded data with third parties.

Denial of Service Attacks

You’re probably well aware of how cyber attacks can be used for account hijacking to gain access to your service provider’s platform. Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, however, do not try to get around your security measures. They aim to overwhelm servers completely and preventi any other use of the infrastructure.

DoS is also used as a smokescreen for other malicious actions. Some security devices, however, such as well-prepared web application firewalls, are ready to protect your infrastructure from those attacks.

Service Downtime

The absence of services can be unto itself a significant threat to the organization. Organizations that rely heavily on cloud computing tools for their daily operations or companies that provide services to users can be strongly affected by downtime of cloud computing platforms or infrastructure.

A recent and worldwide visible example was the case of Facebook, which suffered a complete outage in all its systems. This event was not the result of a cyber attack, but rather an internal error during software maintenance.

Revenue Losses

Either as a result of operational delays or reputational backlash, your company could suffer revenue losses related to its cloud computing systems. Facebook’s recent global outage is an example of both situations: While Facebook and Instagram platforms remained offline, they lost substantial ad revenue and the trust of their users was undermined, resulting in an estimated loss of $65 million.

Reputational Damage

Data breach issues at your company can harm your corporate reputation, as customers inevitably feel insecure after these risks strike. For example, massive security breaches have resulted in the theft of millions of customer credit and debit card numbers from data storage facilities. If customer data is not safe in your hands, the customers will likely leave for competing companies.

Preventing Cloud Security Issues

The cloud presents vulnerabilities that must be prevented appropriately. But with comprehensive risk management strategies in place, it’s easy to protect files and authorize only the users who should see them. The following practices will help business decision-makers and enterprise IT managers analyze company data security in the cloud.

Assure Governance Is Effective

Most companies have already established privacy and compliance policies to protect their assets. These policies must create a governance framework that establishes authority and a chain of responsibility.

Audit Business Procedures

Every system in an organization must be audited regularly. These are the three crucial areas that cloud service consumers should audit regularly:

  • Security at the cloud service facilities
  • Accessibility of the audit trail
  • Internal controls at the cloud service provider

Cloud Network Security

Cloud service providers aren’t necessarily aware of what network traffic their users plan to send or receive. So organizations must collaborate with their service providers to establish security measures.

Privacy Policies

Any organization’s success depends on the privacy and protection of personal and sensitive data. Security flaws or breaches can occur when an organization holds personal data. If a cloud service provider does not provide proper security, the company may consider switching providers or not transferring sensitive data to the cloud.

Assess Security Vulnerabilities in Cloud Applications

Different organizations store different data types in the cloud. As a result, the provider and the enterprise face several issues regarding cloud application security. Each party has different considerations depending on the cloud service provider’s deployment model, such as IaaS, SaaS, or PaaS.

Data security in the cloud is a concern you cannot afford to overlook. Spending the time to assure that data is adequately protected is the best defense against security breaches and control cloud security threats.

Protect Your Data with Help from ZenGRC

ZenGRC is an integrated platform for tracking and organizing your company’s governance, regulatory, and compliance data. It can help you automate governance procedures, consolidate proof of compliance, and expose security risks before they become liabilities.

ZenGRC also examines your critical infrastructure for holes in existing controls that could expose your organization or project to hazards. It then displays them on user-friendly, color-coded dashboards that show you where your vulnerabilities are and how to address them quickly.

This one-of-a-kind software-as-a-service ensures that you comply with relevant regulatory and industry frameworks, including SOC 2, ISO, GDPR, and CCPA. You can perform self-audits with a single click whenever you like. Audit-trail documentation is collected and saved in the tool’s “single source of truth” database for simple retrieval during audit time.

Contact us for a free demo to learn more about how ZenGRC can help you protect your company’s data.