Different types of Cloud Misconfigurations and how to prevent their risks.

Different types of  Cloud Misconfigurations and how to prevent their risks.
Misconfigured cloud assets are an open doorway for malicious actors to steal location data, login credentials, phone numbers, health records and other exploitable personal data.
Different types of  Cloud Misconfigurations and how to prevent their risks.

By 2025, there will be over 100 zettabytes of data stored in the cloud. The rise of Cloud computing in organizations is due to multiple reasons. Mainly because it allows them to move away from traditional on-premises IT infrastructure. Instead, they can rely on cloud-based services to store and manage their data and applications. This helps reduce capital expenditures and allows organizations to focus on their core business operations rather than IT maintenance.

There are three main types of cloud computing deployments: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.

Public Cloud vs Private Cloud vs Hybrid Cloud

  1. Public Cloud: In the public cloud model, cloud resources such as servers, storage, and applications are provided by third-party vendors and are accessed over the internet. Public cloud services are available to anyone who wants to use them and are typically provided on a pay-per-use basis. Examples of public cloud vendors include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform.
  2. Private Cloud: Private cloud computing refers to the cloud resources that are dedicated to a single organization or user. Unlike public cloud services, private cloud resources are not shared with other users or organizations. They are typically hosted on-premises or in dedicated data centres. Private cloud computing provides greater control and security over data and applications, but can also be more expensive and less scalable than public cloud services.
  3. Hybrid Cloud: A hybrid cloud is a combination of public and private cloud services that work together to provide a seamless cloud computing experience. Organizations can use a hybrid cloud to take advantage of the scalability and cost savings of public cloud services for non-sensitive workloads while keeping sensitive data and applications in a private cloud environment. Hybrid cloud computing can also provide redundancy and disaster recovery capabilities by replicating data and applications across multiple cloud environments.

Cloud security and cloud misconfiguration are closely related, as misconfigurations can pose a significant threat to cloud security. Misconfigurations can occur when cloud resources such as servers, databases, or applications are not set up correctly, leaving them vulnerable to security breaches or data leaks.

Hence, organizations should invest in cloud security tools and technologies such as cloud access security brokers (CASBs), cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools, and cloud-native security solutions. These tools can help identify and remediate misconfigurations quickly, and provide real-time threat intelligence to help organizations stay ahead of potential security threats.

Risks with Cloud

Cloud computing offers numerous benefits, including cost savings, scalability, and flexibility, but it also introduces the risks of data security and security breach.

Data Security is a big problem when it comes to storing an organization’s data in the cloud. These include unauthorized access, data breaches, and data loss. Organizations cannot rely on the security measures provided by cloud service providers. They need to implement their own cloud security posture management to protect cloud data. This includes using strong access controls, data encryption, and multi-factor authentication to prevent any kind of security breach.

Cloud computing introduces new security risks, such as vulnerabilities in virtualization software, attacks on cloud management interfaces, and data privacy concerns. Organizations must understand these risks and take appropriate measures to protect their data and applications in the cloud.

A cloud security breach can occur due to misconfigurations, insider threats, third-party vulnerabilities, or other security issues. Lack of network security can result in data loss, financial loss, and damage to an organization's reputation. Hence, organizations must invest in strong data security solutions that offer continuous cloud security assessment.

The Cloud's Achilles Heel: Misconfigurations

Misconfigured cloud assets are an open doorway for malicious actors to steal location data, login credentials, phone numbers, health records and other exploitable personal data. They can also be used to launch attacks such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), Server-side request forgery (SSRF), Cross-site scripting (XSS) and more.According to the 2022 IBM Security X-Force Cloud Threat Landscape Report, cloud vulnerabilities have increased by 28% since the previous year. Along with this, the report also reveals that there has been a 200% increase in the cloud accounts offered on the dark web. Thus, finding the right cloud security solution is extremely important in today’s threat landscape.

Types of cloud misconfiguration

Default credentials

A common reason for cloud misconfigurations is the failure to change the default credentials. Development teams usually create default passwords for ease of authentication during the development process. These passwords are easy to guess and are known to many employees. If left unchanged, these default configurations can create security vulnerabilities.

Organizations can minimize the risk of this misconfiguration by-

  • Changing default passwords on setup.
  • Disabling unnecessary services and features.
  • Educating users and administrators.

Storage Access misconfigurations

Exposing storage assets to threat actors is another type of cloud misconfiguration. Often, organizations using cloud services believe that “authenticated” and “authorized” users are the same. This is not the case.

An “authenticated user” is anyone with an AWS authentication. This means essentially any AWS client. Allowing S3 bucket access to all “authenticated users” instead of the “authorized users” of the application is a simple example of this misconfiguration.

As a result of this misconfiguration, threat actors scanning for AWS S3 buckets might get access to the organization’s storage and steal sensitive information like login credentials and API keys.

To avoid this, security teams must ensure that storage access is limited to the people within the organization. They must also enable strong encryption for crucial data in the storage buckets.

Overly permissive access

Access controls consist of policies applied to individual workloads. When configuring applications, it is important to not grant excessive permissions to employees that do not need them to perform their tasks. These excessive permissions give hackers a direct pathway to exploit the assets of the organization.

Common examples include-

  • Enabling legacy protocols on the cloud host
  • Exposing external-facing ports
  • Exposing sensitive APIs without appropriate controls
  • Enabling communication modes between private and public resources

This cloud misconfiguration can be avoided by securing vulnerable ports. Along with this, organizations need to make sure that legacy protocols for their cloud environment are disabled.

Unrestricted inbound and outbound ports

Security teams must be fully aware of the range of inbound open ports and restrict the ones that are not strictly necessary.

Outbound ports even though not risky by default can compromise an organization’s systems leaving it vulnerable to data exfiltration, lateral movement, and internal network scans. This happens when an infected machine establishes an outbound connection using a port that is not absolutely necessary for operations.

To avoid this misconfiguration, organizations must limit their outbound port access and use the principle of least privilege to restrict outbound communications.

Unlimited Access to Non-HTTPS/HTTP Ports

Open ports are an easy target for attackers. Misconfigured ports can leave an organization’s cloud infrastructure vulnerable to attackers looking to brute force or exploit the authentication. The security teams of the organization must have complete knowledge of all open ports. Any open port that is not absolutely needed for operations must be closed or blocked from the internet.

The security teams of the organization must have complete knowledge of all open ports. Any open port that is not needed for operations must be closed or blocked from the internet.

In the case of essential open ports, the traffic must be restricted to specific IP addresses only. Along with this, the communication must be encrypted using strong algorithms.

Lack of Monitoring and Logging

Lacking efficient monitoring and logging is an issue faced by small and large organizations alike. Most organizations are unable to configure the sophisticated logs offered by public clouds. These logs entail useful information regarding-

  • Identifying Security blind spots,
  • Identifying suspicious actions,
  • Noticing unauthorized actions by employees, etc.

These logs are only useful if they are being monitored continuously. Implementing automated and targeted alerts based on these logs can help identify vulnerabilities and prevent a breach.

Cloud Security Challenges

Technology Gaps

Cloud computing allows rapid scaling of systems. However, it does not come without its own security challenges. One of the most prevalent cloud security challenges is the technological gap.Here are some common ways in which technology gaps impact cloud security:

  1. Lack of visibility - Due to their highly dynamic nature, it is difficult to gain visibility over cloud environments. This leads to blindspots in securing them against potential threats.
  2. Inadequate security tools and solutions - In most cases, traditional security tools are inefficient for securing cloud environments. This leads to gaps in security coverage.
  3. Shared security responsibility - The responsibility of cloud security is shared amongst various functions including cloud engineering, security teams, compliance analysts, outside consultants and the users. This can lead to confusion over who is responsible for securing which aspect of the cloud environment.
  4. Limited control over infrastructure - Organizations rely on the cloud provider for the underlying infrastructure. This includes servers, storage, and network resources. This reliance limits the control that organizations have over their security posture.
  5. Complex configurations - Cloud environments are complex to configure and manage. These misconfigurations can lead to security vulnerabilities.

The Ultimate Insider Threat

Human error is the ultimate insider threat when it comes to cloud security. According to The State Of Cloud Security 2021 Report, “Cloud misconfiguration is a problem born of many causes—all of which can be attributed to human error of one kind or another”.Here are some of the common people factors responsible for cloud misconfigurations-

  1. Lack of awareness and training: Many security breaches occur due to a lack of awareness about the security best practice. Users and administrators need to know how to tackle cloud security risks and use cloud resources securely.
  2. Insider threats: Insider threats are security risks posed by individuals within the organization. These may be employees who have access to sensitive data or systems. These threats can be intentional, or unintentional.
  3. Shadow IT: Employees using cloud services without the knowledge or approval of the security team might lead to security risks. These services may not be compliant with organizational security policies.
  4. Third-party risks: Organizations rely on third-party vendors to provide cloud services and may need to share sensitive data with them. These vendors have their own security vulnerabilities. It is important to assess their security posture and ensure they are complying with security policies and standards before disclosing any sensitive data.

Managing Cloud Misconfigurations

There are a few ways in which organizations can safeguard themselves from Cloud Misconfigurations-

Conduct regular security assessments

Conducting regular security assessments of cloud environments can help organizations identify misconfigurations while migrating operations to the cloud. This helps in proactively addressing security risks and maintaining compliance with industry standards.

Use the Principle of least privilege

Ensuring that services, users, and applications only have the permissions that they need is another way to avoid cloud misconfigurations. This reduces the risk of overly permissive access and limits the impact of security incidents.

Use security automation

Security automation tools and processes that help organizations detect and remediate misconfigurations in real time are important. These can help prevent security incidents before they occur and reduce the time and effort required to respond to incidents. Investing in such tools can boost the cybersecurity posture of the organization.

Educate users

Since the ultimate threat to cloud security is human error, it is wise to educate the users and administrators. They need to know about cloud security, best practices, and the risks of misconfigurations. This practice reduces the likelihood of successful attacks due to social engineering or phishing.

Measuring the Success of Cloud Security

Mean Time to Remediation(MTTR) is the security metric used to measure the average time it takes to restore a system to its normal operating state after a failure.According to The State Of Cloud Security 2021 Report, An attacker can detect a cloud misconfiguration vulnerability within 10 minutes of deployment. However, cloud security teams are slower in detecting these misconfigurations. Only 10% of the security teams can match the speed of hackers.

Threats Exist Even with Great Configuration

Being vigilant about different cloud misconfigurations can help organizations reduce their attack surface and prevent cyberattacks. However, with the easily scalable cloud environment, administrators are finding it harder than ever to maintain oversight over their cloud infrastructure.Investing in an automated asset discovery solution like Horizon can help. Horizon helps you gain control of your entire asset inventory. It also helps organizations find and remediate vulnerabilities in their security posture. With real-time monitoring and remediation recommendations, you can stay one step ahead of the hackers.

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