Top 7 Cloud Storage Security Issues & Risks (+ Mitigations)

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Top 7 Cloud Storage Security Issues & Risks (+ Mitigations)

Maine Basan
Cloud storage security issues refer to the operational and functional challenges that organizations and consumers encounter when storing data in the cloud. The issues stem from internal lapses or deficiencies and may not always include external threats. Cloud storage risks involve potential external threats and vulnerabilities that jeopardize the security of stored data. Risks can lead to issues, but at the same time, you can prevent the risks by addressing these issues.
We’ve identified the top cloud storage security issues and risks, along with their effective mitigation strategies. We’ll illustrate these concepts below with real-life examples of events highlighting vulnerabilities in cloud storage.
Table of Contents
Common cloud storage security challenges include data transfer speed, availability and reliability, data portability, integration, and lack of control and visibility. Compliance issues, vendor lock-in concerns, and lack of skilled personnel also pose potential threats to stored data security and functionality.
Data transfer speeds, or the rate at which data moves between locations, affect the efficient flow of huge datasets, reducing productivity and user satisfaction. As businesses expect immediate data access, slow speed and delays pose dangers, possibly exposing data in transit. Extended delays in transmission allow malicious actors to intercept or compromise data, risking its security and integrity.
To address poor data transmission speeds in cloud storage, optimize network setups, use content delivery networks (CDNs), and implement efficient data compression techniques.
Cloud storage service outages affect business operations and hinder access to crucial data. Downtime limits incident response, increases the risk of data breaches, and can be used as leverage for DDoS attacks.
Implement a strong infrastructure, redundancy mechanisms, and geographically dispersed data centers to reduce downtime. Monitor and employ automated failover to improve resilience while minimizing attack incidents.
Data portability involves transporting data between cloud providers and on-premises systems. Organizations face barriers in seamless migration, which affects flexibility and provider-switching goals. Migration challenges result in incomplete transfers, which expose critical information to risk.
Establish defined protocols and compatibility procedures to ensure a smooth transition between providers and on-premises systems. Regular testing, customization of data transfer methods, and attentive monitoring all contribute to reduce risks and improve security during the migration process.
Integrating cloud storage with existing on-premises systems or other cloud services can be tricky. Compatibility concerns, data consistency, and established protocol demands contribute to the difficulty of integration. Seamless integrations maintain a fluid workflow and ensure data interoperability.
Use advanced data interoperability solutions, and build clear communication routes between on-premises and cloud systems for workflow efficiency.
Insufficient visibility into the cloud architecture causes delays in threat responses, increasing the risk of data breaches. Failure to enforce security regulations and implement appropriate encryption may result in accidental data exposure.
Regular reviews, enhanced analytics, and incident response methods improve security. Use solutions such as Cloud-Native Application Protection Platforms (CNAPP) to reduce risks and speed up response times in the event of a breach.
Regulations and compliance requirements for data storage and processing vary by industry and area. Examples include GDPR in Europe, HIPAA in healthcare, and PCI DSS for payment card data. Failure to meet regulatory requirements can jeopardize data security, subjecting businesses to legal action and reputational harm.
Stay updated on relevant rules and adjust their storage rules accordingly. Implement strong data governance policies, conduct regular compliance audits, and employ cloud services that offer features matched with industry standards.
Vendor lock-in occurs when an enterprise becomes overly reliant on a single cloud service provider, reducing its flexibility and options. Transitioning away from a supplier can be difficult and expensive. Concerns arise as enterprises desire the option to easily switch providers or implement a multi-cloud strategy to reduce risks and gain a competitive edge.
Using containerization and abstraction layers, such as Kubernetes, guarantees that programs are portable across several cloud environments. Regularly analyzing contractual terms, planning exit strategies, and seeking interoperable solutions help to reduce reliance on a single provider.
Without qualified personnel, companies may fail to analyze and mitigate security issues. Complicated cloud technologies need specialized expertise for successful adoption and management. Inadequate knowledge of cloud security procedures, configurations, and potential vulnerabilities leads to misconfigurations, insufficient access controls, and overall security weaknesses.
Invest in training and employing qualified individuals. Allowing staff to gain knowledge of cloud security practices, certifications, and specialized platforms broadens their capabilities. Collaborate with external cloud security specialists or managed service providers to enhance internal capabilities.
Cloud storage risks include misconfiguration, data breaches, insecure interfaces, DDoS attacks, malware, insider threats, encryption issues, and patching issues. Fortunately, there are mitigation strategies available to address each risk.
Cloud misconfigurations, recognized as the most common vulnerability in NSA research, come from the lack of best practice awareness and insufficient peer review in DevOps/infra teams. Configuration errors can expose sensitive data or services, resulting from incorrectly assigned permissions, unchanged default configurations, and mismanaged security settings. This impacts all users relying on data stored in the misconfigured environments.
To effectively manage cloud misconfigurations, here are the five key practices to prioritize:
According to Statista’s data breach report, the US experienced 1,802 breaches, with 422.14 million records exposed. Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) also reveals that inside actors were responsible for 83% of 2022 data breaches. Breaches often stem from exploited vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure or applications, with hackers using methods such as software vulnerabilities, phishing, or compromised credentials.
Anyone with sensitive data stored in the cloud is vulnerable in the event of a data breach, so adopt the following precautions to lower your risk:
Attackers exploit API weaknesses to gain unauthorized access, manipulate data, and implant malicious code into cloud settings. Users connecting to cloud services via APIs deal with these risks, as do businesses that rely on secure data exchanges. As APIs become more prevalent in modern programming, securing them becomes critical to mitigating typical attack types such as code injection and vulnerability exploitation of access control and outdated components.
Users with data exposed to potential security concerns due to weak interfaces/APIs can use the following mitigating strategies:
The average distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack duration increased from 30 minutes in 2021 to 50 minutes in 2022. DDoS attacks are malicious attempts to disable a web service by using vulnerabilities in the network or application layers to interrupt normal operations. It floods cloud systems with traffic, overloading capacity and causing service failures. It impacts CSPs and customers relying on the affected cloud services for data access and storage.
To lessen the risk of a DDoS attack, implement the following methods:
There were 5.5 billion malware infections worldwide in 2022. Malware poses a huge threat to cloud storage security when it infects a cloud provider’s systems. As with on-premises systems, attackers can exploit users via malicious email attachments or social media links. Once activated, the malware might evade detection and jeopardize data security by eavesdropping or stealing information from cloud service apps.
Reduce malware threats in cloud storage using these strategies:
Malicious insider threats occur when people get illegal access to a company’s resources. These insiders may purposefully abuse their access or accidentally expose critical data through misconfigurations. Insider risks can be attributed to a lack of awareness, employee unhappiness, or social engineering attacks. Malicious insiders may also leverage successful phishing attempts or lax credential security, resulting in unauthorized access to cloud resources.
Use the following measures to mitigate insider threats:
Insufficient data encryption in cloud storage happens when information is not properly protected during storage or transport, making it exposed to unwanted access. This lack of encryption creates substantial dangers, such as unauthorized access, interception during data transfer, breach of confidentiality, data tampering, and compliance violations.
These strategies against insufficient data encryption should be implemented by both cloud service providers and the organizations or users utilizing cloud services:
Inadequate security patching is the delayed or incomplete installation of required security fixes to a system or program. When security patches are not applied on time, the system remains vulnerable to cyberattacks. Malicious actors frequently target known software vulnerabilities, using the delay in patch installation to gain unauthorized access or jeopardize the security of the cloud environment.
Users relying on cloud services to ensure a secure and resilient cloud environment may do the following to address inadequate security patching:
Some of the biggest instances of cloud storage vulnerabilities that happened in the last five years include Cam4’s largest data breach incident, MEGA’s critical security issues, and LastPass’ malicious insider threats. Read on to learn more about each vulnerability and how these organizations addressed it.
Cam4 holds the record for the greatest data breach of all time, with 10 billion compromised accounts. In early 2020, researchers uncovered a large data breach from adult site CAM4 caused by a misconfigured Elasticsearch database. The theft revealed 11 billion records, including sensitive user information such as names, emails, passwords, and payment details.
Fortunately, Safety Detectives, a security firm, discovered the compromised database before the cybercriminals. Granity Entertainment, CAM4’s parent business, quickly took the database down. While there’s no proof of stolen user information, the incident underlines the dangers of blackmail, sextortion, and credential stuffing assaults. CAM4 responded by protecting the server and eliminating personally identifiable information, lessening the impact of the breach.
In 2022, ETH Zurich researchers discovered critical security flaws in the MEGA cloud storage service that jeopardized user data confidentiality. With over 10 million daily users and 122 billion files shared, MEGA, recognized for user-controlled end-to-end encryption, was at risk of privacy breaches and unwanted data access. The attacks included plaintext and framing attacks, integrity attacks, and a Bleichenbacher-style RSA encryption attack.
MEGA responded with software updates to fix critical vulnerabilities, attempting to improve the security of its cryptographic architecture. By the end of 2022, they had fixed all vulnerabilities in the webclient and in the native apps.
LastPass announced a security incident in February 2023 where a senior engineer with special access to LastPass’ critical systems had his home computer hijacked, resulting in the theft of authentication credentials. Exploiting these credentials, the attackers got access to LastPass’ Amazon S3 cloud storage, compromising production backups, other cloud resources, and important database backups.
Following the hack, LastPass increased security safeguards on its AWS S3 storage, including improved logging, alerting, and tighter IAM controls. They deactivated previous development IAM users, enforced limits on long-lived IAM users, rotated production service IAM user keys, imposed severe IP restrictions, eliminated obsolete IAM users, and implemented IAM resource tagging enforcement with periodic non-compliance reporting.
Addressing cloud storage risks guarantees data integrity and protection against unauthorized access, breaches, and compliance violations. Implementing strong security measures, such as encryption, training, and regular audits, is fundamental to shield businesses against financial losses, reputational harm, and legal ramifications of compromised data and privacy breaches.