Data in the Cloud: Why Cybersecurity is More Important than Ever

By Srikanth
8 Min Read
Data in the Cloud: Why Cybersecurity is More Important than Ever 1

There’s a reason why people store data in the cloud: it’s effortless, cost-effective, and secure. But without the right security controls and frameworks, businesses can face data breaches and attacks that cost a massive Rs 79 crore ($9.48 million) on average.

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This is why it’s absolutely crucial to take extra steps to secure your cloud backups. In this article, I’ll be covering key vulnerabilities you should be aware of, how to control these risks, and some best practices to keep your data safe and secure in the cloud.

The Growing Risks of Cloud Backups

Unfortunately, cloud data breaches are not uncommon. According to the 2024 Thales Cloud Security Study, almost half (44%) of IT and security professionals have experienced a cloud data breach. And over the next five years, global cybercrime costs are expected to increase by 15%.

Plus, advanced technologies such as Generative AI are making it harder to detect and defend against threats. For example, not only can AI create incredibly convincing phishing content, but it can also learn from current defense mechanisms and adapt to evade detection. It is so smart that it can modify its attack strategies in real-time.

The biggest issues with cloud-based solutions are human error and misconfiguration (31%), exploiting known vulnerabilities (28%), and lack of MFA or multi-factor authentication (17%).

Cloud environments can be complex, and misconfigurations can happen while you’re setting up systems or scaling operations. This often leads to security gaps that can be easily exploited by bad actors. To lessen the risk of cyberattacks, I recommend regularly assessing key vulnerabilities in your cloud backups and having a clear plan on how to keep them in check.

Key Vulnerabilities of Cloud Backups – and How to Manage Them

First things first, it’s important to be discerning about the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) or Managed Service Provider (MSP) you’re leveraging. A CSP is a third-party business that offers a cloud-based application, platform, infrastructure, or storage solution. Hyperscalers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google offer their own kind of cloud backup tools.

MSP, on the other hand, is a service provider that works with businesses to manage and maintain their cloud environment, such as Orion Innovation. Whether you’re working with a CSP or MSP, make sure you look at their security standards, protocols, certifications, and history of breaches, if any.

Now, let’s look at the common vulnerabilities involved in cloud backups:

  1. Lack of Access Controls

Cloud tools are known for making data more accessible, but this doesn’t mean your data should be accessible to just anyone. Insufficient Identity and Access Management (IAM) controls can lead to accidental or intentional data exposure.

Secure your cloud environment by implementing the principle of least privilege. This means granting access to certain data, platforms, or resources based on specific roles or necessity. For example, the HR department may have access to employee records but cannot access sensitive financial reports.

You can also reduce the risk of breaches with multi-factor authentication. This is a security measure that involves two or more authentication methods to verify someone’s identity. On top of a password, users may be required to input a one-time code, answer security questions, or scan their fingerprint or Face ID before they can access data in the cloud.

  1. Lack of Encryption

Encryption offers an extra layer of defense in case data does get compromised. It makes data unreadable without the correct encryption keys, and there are generally two kinds: symmetric, which uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt data (e.g. AES), and asymmetric, which uses two different keys (e.g. RSA).

If your data is stored in plaintext or an easily readable format, bad actors who gain access to the cloud environment will have no trouble viewing and misusing sensitive information. This is a major concern, and only a fraction of enterprises—less than 10%—encrypt 80% of their cloud data. Businesses need to step up and protect their data at transit (during transmission) and at rest (sitting in storage) to ensure end-to-end protection.

  1. Insecure APIs

An application programming interface (API) serves as a bridge for exchanging data, features, and functionalities. While APIs enable seamless communication between different cloud applications and services, they may also become a vulnerable entry point that attackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access.

Ensure the security of your cloud APIs through centralized logging and monitoring. Maintain visibility of all API activity to keep track of any unusual requests or behavior. Consider adding web application firewalls and DDoS protection as well.

  1. Poor Patch Management

This is often an overlooked aspect of cloud security, but it can also be the most impactful. Unpatched cloud software can leave your environment vulnerable to data theft, ransomware attacks, or even complete system takeovers. Delayed patches can also make it difficult to deal with zero-day vulnerabilities, unknown vulnerabilities that take the CSP, MSP, and company by surprise.

To reduce these risks, it’s important to keep all your cloud-based systems up to date with the latest security patches.

  1. Incomplete Data Deletion

When data isn’t properly deleted from the cloud, it can be accessed and retrieved without proper authorization. Create and regularly test data recovery procedures to ensure that when someone deletes sensitive data, it is explicitly and securely removed from the system. Otherwise, it would just become inaccessible and vulnerable to being compromised by attackers.

In a similar sense, it’s also important to implement immutability features, such as delay-based retention measures, to prevent data from being changed or deleted without authorization.

  1. Lack of Awareness and Plans

Sometimes, cloud security risks are unintentional. It could be the result of an employee who mistakenly clicked on a phishing email or shared sensitive data with unauthorized people. This is why important to prioritize proactive cybersecurity measures such as organization-wide awareness programs and comprehensive incident response plans.

Being prepared can help businesses detect and respond to potential incidents in a prompt manner. To cover all bases, create cloud-specific threat scenarios, collaborate with CSPs, and leverage tried-and-tested cloud security tools. I also recommend using multi-region backups. Storing data backups across several geographic locations will help with disaster recovery during region-specific outages or threats.

Conclusion

Cloud storage and backups are often a double-edged sword. With its convenience comes risks. Failure to address these risks can lead to severe consequences such as financial loss, reputation damage, and even non-compliance with regulatory frameworks and standards such as GDPR in Europe and HIPAA in the US. Keep cybersecurity front and center by managing vulnerabilities, addressing gaps, and being extra vigilant about keeping your data safe and secure.

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