Cloud computing and a mobile workforce have become the norm for most organizations, whether they adopt the cloud completely or use a hybrid setup. While this is convenient and improves a company’s ability to reach its operational and business objectives, it also increases cybersecurity risk by potentially leaving a company more vulnerable to threats.
When operating in the cloud, it is important to understand your vulnerabilities, the threats and risks you face, and how to address them. Let’s start by explaining the difference between a vulnerability, threat, and risk.
Vulnerability vs. Risk vs. Threat
Vulnerability, threat, and risk are not the same. Instead, these exist on a continuum, as follows:
- Vulnerability – This is something that exposes your company to existing threats. They include human vulnerabilities and technical vulnerabilities. Examples include a bug in code or an employee clicking on a link in a phishing email.
- Threat – This is a malicious cyberattack or event, such as a ransomware attack, that exploits one or more vulnerabilities, which gives an attacker or adversary the opportunity to access your network and systems and have a negative impact on your operations.
- Risk – This is the potential for you to experience damage or loss due to a threat event or attack.
With a solid understanding of what each of these means in relation to one another, let’s look at how each manifests in cloud computing.
Cloud computing vulnerabilities act as a gateway into your network and systems. Therefore, minimizing your vulnerabilities is your first line of defense against malicious attacks. There are several cloud vulnerabilities that can expose your operations, employees, and customers to threats. These include:
- Human error
- Misconfigurations in cloud systems and applications
- Unsecured APIs connecting cloud software with applications
- Insufficient access management
- Shadow IT
- Lack of encryption
An overall lack of visibility into potential vulnerabilities of cloud computing will increase your exposure to the existing threats.
The more vulnerabilities you have, the more exposed you are to the existing threats. While it is not possible to completely remove vulnerabilities from cloud computing, you can minimize them by doing the following:
- Educating and training employees to recognize phishing emails
- Creating a cybersecurity culture in which everyone takes responsibility for the security of the company
- Establish a password policy that requires the creation of strong, complex passwords
- Implementing zero-trust and a strong Identity and Access Management (IAM) framework and multifactor authentication
- Use data encryption
- Classify sensitive data, so you know what data you have and where it lives
- Place restrictions on file sharing so users can’t easily share folders that contain multiple files
- Routinely check the configuration of your cloud storage containers to ensure no unauthorized changes have been made, that they aren’t accessible via the public internet, and that all default passwords are changed regularly
Cloud threats that can take advantage of vulnerabilities can be separated into two broad categories:
- External threats
- Internal threats
External threats include malicious individuals and groups from outside the organization that can launch a cyberattack, such as a malware or phishing attack. A cyberattack becomes an advanced persistent threat when the attacker gains undetected access to a network or system and steals sensitive data over an extended period.
Insider threats come from inside the organization. They can be from a past or current employee, a partner, vendor, or other third party with direct access to the company network. This person usually has some level of access to sensitive data and knowledge of company policies and business processes.
While you cannot control the threats you may be exposed to, if you work to reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities, you can keep them at bay or minimize their impact on your organization.
When you are exposed to a threat, the potential risks that come with that exposure include:
- Data breaches with the goal of stealing, altering, or destroying sensitive data and information
- Interruption to operations
- Control of computer systems
- Reputational and financial damage
According to IBM, the global average of a data breach is $4.45 million US. This provides context into how a small vulnerability can lead to devastating consequences for a company. With this in mind, it is critical that you identify any cloud computing vulnerabilities you have and resolve them to ensure there are no weak points in your virtual armor. This will improve your cybersecurity in 2024 and beyond.
At Platinum Technologies, we take cloud security seriously. We offer cloud security assessments and can help you create a robust action plan to eliminate existing vulnerabilities and mitigate threats to your operations. Contact us today to learn about how we can help you protect your cloud environment, your people, and your operations.