Top 5 Security Risks of Cloud Computing That You Need to Know Now
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The recent cloud computing vulnerabilities like Heartbleed and Venom have debunked the belief that cloud computing is a safer platform than traditional computing. As the number of cloud computing service providers and users increased, the security risks involved also spiked exponentially. IDC states that the top challenges of cloud computing adopters are- Security (74.6%), Performance (63.1%), and Availability (63.1%).
So, what exactly is cloud computing security?
Cloud computing security typically refers to a set of processes, services, and technologies implemented to secure data and related information in the cloud computing environment. Most of the guidelines for cloud security have been charted out by a nonprofit organization, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).
A recent Oracle survey found out that almost 82% of users or organizations were concerned with data security. These concerns are regarding a wide range of processes within the cloud –from cloud service providers through data storage providers to application developers.
Top security risks in cloud computing
In the cloud computing environment, security can be compromised at numerous levels and it can be unanimously experienced by service providers and users alike. Some of the top concerns in cloud security are-
According to the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), “multi-tenancy and sharing resources are defining characteristics of cloud computing. This risk category covers the failure of mechanisms separating storage, memory, routing and reputation between different tenants (e.g., so-called guest-hopping attacks). However it should be considered that attacks on resource isolation mechanisms (e.g., against hypervisors) are still less numerous and much more difficult for an attacker to put in practice compared to attacks on traditional OSes.”
Organizations opt for public clouds, which are economical, without fully understanding the threat they pose to security. A single flaw in the shared environment can lead to data loss, malicious data tampering and data breaches for multiple clients in one go.
Cloud transparency policies
Most business are frustrated due to extensive non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) of cloud computing service providers. These agreements restrict users from gaining access to critical information like the data location, the security measures they take or how they process data. One such provider is Google, which has always been tightlipped about the location of their data. At a Gartner event, Google product marketing manager Adam Swidler admitted Google’s outlook towards secrecy about where things are located citing “because we think it’s a security risk.” These industry norms are particularly affecting apprehensive business owners about migrating to the cloud.
Not enough cloud security tools
Security and data breaching issues on the cloud aren’t too different than the traditional physical environment. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough tools to keep up with the scaling and sharing of cloud services today.
Powerful data encryption and cloud key management are the key to a secure, convenient and cost-effective solution for cloud security. Encrypting data and limiting or controlling the access of application programs will increase the security and prohibit illegal data exploitation. Some popular tools are Intuit, CipherCloud, Qualys, Okta etc. These security tools focus on different aspects of cloud security like data encryption, network security, securing devices and web apps, and identity management etc.
Organizations have willingly taken to virtualization services as they allow a single physical server to transform into a host of virtual servers, thus increasing cost efficiency. However, this very nature of virtualization has become a security threat for its end users. Attacking a single host can give access to multiple servers and their data. Virtualization services may be compromised by the presence of existing malware in the server which is hidden from the cloud provider, too. For instance, few years ago, Crisis Trojanware had maliciously entered and infected VMWare virtual machines and Windows Mobile devices. Moreover inefficiently configured hypervisors or firewalls can also lead to virtual servers being compromised.
Provisioning, management, orchestration, and monitoring all use APIs, so the fundamental security of the services provided in the cloud are dependent on the how secure APIs are. As we know, API vulnerability also played a role in the breach at messaging firm Snapchat, which exposed the phone numbers and usernames of up to 4.6 million users. Third party APIs are the most critical of the lot as users cannot identify the difference between the base cloud service and the add-on services to that service. Most cloud service providers consider API as an after thought. However, APIs are an attractive target for hackers as once in, you are exposed to a great deal of information.
Security and its concerns are valid as cloud service providers and users continue to scale at a phenomenal rate. However these should not be reasons why you should steer clear from cloud services. As a provider or user of the cloud infrastructure, you need to consider security with the same weightage as you consider scaling and performance. You can look for companies that are willing to focus on data security along with scale and performance. Constantly monitoring the various levels of service can help you stay ahead of any likely threats to your organization.