“Computation may someday be organized as a public utility”.
As John McCarthy phrased this idea back in 1961, his idea back then was way ahead of its time. For the next few decades, the technology shaped itself and organizations started to draft this idea into action. In 2002, Amazon started AWS to provide services like storage, computation, and even human intelligence. By 2006, Amazon Web Services began offering IT infrastructure services to businesses in the form of web services – now commonly known as cloud computing. Today, this buzz has elongated towards a more flexible approach like “multi-cloud” or “hybrid cloud”.
While cloud computing delivered on most of its promises like increased IT efficiency, flexibility, and scalability, it also came with a continuously evolving challenge: security.
The flexibility of today’s solutions poses a tough situation for organizations as they try to balance it with the increasing threats and challenges of cloud security. As per Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report, 73% of the cybersecurity incidents involved external cloud assets as compared to 27% last year. A recent IDC survey of 200 security decision-makers also highlighted that 98% of the companies had experienced at least one cloud data breach in the past 18 months, compared to 79% in 2020.
Here are some major cloud security challenges encountered by businesses over the past few years:
Misconfigurations of cloud security settings
With cloud adoption accelerating at a rapid pace in the past few years, enterprises are burdened with a large number of configurations to take care of. This leads to critical gaps in the security aspect that leaves the organization and its data at risk. In 2020, cloud breaches due to misconfigurations have exposed around 33 billion records which cost companies nearly $5 trillion. However, as dominating as misconfigurations are, they are still preventable. Businesses have to think beyond using default security configurations today as the usage of the cloud in day-to-day operations intensifies. Some of the major control measures prescribe monitoring of existing credentials, permissions, and the setting up of multi-factor authentication to provide an extra layer of security.
Lack of Visibility and Control
As enterprises continue their cloud migration efforts, it is now more crucial than ever for organizations to have clear visibility of their cloud environment. This not only reduces the risk of cyberattacks but also curtails the possibilities of malicious insider threats within the organization. Partnering with managed cloud service providers has also increased concerns of enterprises over the loss of service visibility and associated lack of control. This problem also alleviates more under hybrid and multi-tenanted environments. Although solutions exist in the market to increase visibility for multi-cloud environments, most of them are not ideal to overcome all types of security visibility issues which may also lead to a false sense of security and overlook some major cloud threats.
Data Privacy has been a major concern for organizations over the last decade. According to IBM’s cost of data breach report, 2021 will incur the highest average data breach cost in the past 17 years. The report also highlighted how organizations have approached cloud security modernization at an early stage and referred to it as a prime strategy to combat data breaches. Also, some of the other consequences of data privacy violations also include the impact on the organization’s reputation, loss of customers’ and partners’ trust, regulatory implications, and reduction in the brand value. While encryption has been widely used to mitigate the concerns related to data breaches, it is often weighed up in the trade-off between cloud performance and user experience. This is why businesses today adopt well-defined cloud security controls and processes, as the onus is now on them to protect their customer and employee data.
Compliance with Industry Regulations
As more and more regulatory compliance standards (GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, etc.) have become prevalent in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for organizations to comply with these mandates. Not only do these compliance measures involve federal regulations, but there is also an added burden to meet different industry standards as well. This has been a problem for mid-size and smaller businesses which until now relied on the security measures provided by cloud providers. Failure to meet such rising regulation requirements often results in fines, penalties and has a negative impact on the industry. This requires organizations to focus more on the granular aspects of their cloud environment which operates in a shared model i.e., cloud service providers are only responsible for “security of the cloud”, while it is the customer’s responsibility to maintain “security in the cloud”.
With the gripping pace picking up on the cloud migration front, security has adopted a more modern-age approach. Too often, cloud migration and cybersecurity are considered separately. However, enterprises today have started focussing on achieving greater business agility by modernizing and integrating their IT approach. In recent years, security-by-design has been more on the forefront. This not only leads them to imbibe leading-edge approaches like intelligent threat detection, DevSecOps, and resilient, well-defined cloud security policies and processes.