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Top 10 Cloud Computing Security Issues And Challenges

The “Cloud” is a real buzzword these days. Here, it does not refer to the one which exists in the sky but rather the one that relates to information technology. It holds a different meaning for different people. For some, the “Cloud” is the computing service which is provided over the internet and for others, it means outsourcing information technology. To each, their own and yet these definitions are not the true picture of the “Cloud”.

What Is Cloud?

Earlier the data was limited and was stored in the computer’s hard drive. But as businesses grew it became difficult to store everything in the hard drives because data increased in volume. Space became a limiting factor. More secure space was needed to store the information now. This was provided by the “Cloud”. So “Cloud” is that virtual space where all programs and data are stored.

To understand cloud better take the example of an email service. You might have a Gmail, Hotmail or a Yahoo mail account. What happens when you write an email and send it? You first log in to your email account, type your mail and send it. When you hit ‘send’ the mail goes into the cloud. You can access your email account from anywhere in the world. Access location does not matter based on which server the emails are stored on. This is because your email service provider exists in the Cloud which can be accessed from anywhere.    

Meaning Of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a broad term which is used to refer to all the services delivered through the internet. It is the IT computing service world  if it is provided on demand, for a fixed price and includes computation, analytics, applications, database storage etc it could be considered cloud.

A simple example of cloud computing is the Google search engine. When you type in your search criteria, the information passes on to the Google data centers. They retrieve all the relevant data and send it back to you. So, the real work is not done by your computer but a cloud service or data center situated somewhere else in the world.

Advantages of Cloud Computing

When you have a business to run, your time is valuable. You don’t want to waste it in maintaining an intricate system of computers, keeping them secure, doing their maintenance etc. A much simpler option is to purchase the services you desire when you desire. You don’t have to worry about wear and tear and aging of equipment or their replacement. IT security and reliability is no more your headache. In this context, Cloud computing is the most advantageous.

Top 10 Cloud Computing Security Issues And Challenges

Cloud computing has ushered a new era in data storage and its transmission. However, this too is not free from its own set of security issues and challenges.

1. Compliance Issues - Cloud in the true sense is a virtual world that exists in space. There are few reliable controls around it which are by no means sufficient in ensuring compliance and IT governance. In Cloud, there is hardly ever any control over provisioning and so it becomes a management risk. Conversely, it becomes equally hard to monitor and conform to the rules and regulations pertaining to your stored data and programs and its transmission.

2. Security Breaches - A security data breach can occur in the form of compromised login credentials, broken authentication, interface hacking etc. In Cloud, such occurrences are not unheard of. Sensitive data is saved online and not on premise, this makes cloud inadvertently unsafe. As more and more data is stored online the associated risk also increases in the same proportion. For a determined hacker, it is a golden opportunity to test his skills. Studies also show that businesses who use Cloud offerings suffer from more data breaches as compared to those who don’t.

Businesses who use Cloud offerings suffer from more data breaches

1. Migration Challenges - When a company migrates over to the Cloud, many concerns arise. How will customers access their accounts? In the situation that you are using multiple Cloud service providers, how will one Cloud service provider communicate with another? How will data be configured so that it can be easily stored without compromising its authenticity etc.? These are some standard concerns which every company faces while migrating. Sometimes, lack of a proper roadmap while migrating results in security issues. Due diligence at each and every step of migration is called for.

2. Hijacking Or Account Seizing - Data that is stored online can be accessed from anywhere. Physical presence in the office is no longer a restricting factor. Hackers or cyber attackers use the login credentials of the employees or owners of a firm to remotely access their cloud data. Once they have access they can falsify or manipulate data to their advantage. In some cases, the attackers tend to hold the data captive until a ransom is paid. Phishing, scripting bugs etc. are other common ways of gaining unauthorized access.

Those who have the data, have the power

1. Injecting Malware - A malware program or bug can be directly injected into the Cloud. You will not even come to know of it as it will mimic the SaaS interface and look like a part of the normal process. Such malware can act as a Trojan stealing and eavesdropping on data. A great example of this would be hacked cloud based websites, they can cause massive data loss and pain to the owner of the site and can even be in breach of fraud for being the ‘owner’ of sites that could look like a bank and be asking clients to enter sensitive information. One of the ways to control such attacks is through robust access control, prioritizing initiatives and implementing a safe and secure technology such as 2FA (Two Factor Authentication).

2. Vulnerable API’s - Every user can customize their Cloud experience using Application Programming Interfaces. These API’s can be insecure because they authenticate, give access as well as affect encryption. The most vulnerable point of an API is the communication which occurs between applications. These points are easy to exploit and pose a potential security threat.

3. Cloud Service Abuse - Over the Cloud, it becomes easy to share pirated software, host malware, spread viruses, save illegal digital items etc. All this because of its seemly near unlimited storage capacity and the fact that it becomes harder to prove ownership of the data. Anybody can open an account and use Cloud services. The only way to limit exposure is by laying down strict guidelines for the employees to follow, give read-only access where necessary etc.

4. Data Loss - A natural disaster, terrorist activity or cyber attack can cause loss of complete or partial data. For a business, loss of any data is devastating and can bring upon strict legal action. It also makes the company less reliable and harms business reputation. In order to counter such a situation, secure backup plans should be in place, sadly most of the companies we onboard do not have any plans or procedures for mass loss of cloud data.

5. Shared Insecurities - The safety of the Cloud is not the sole responsibility of the service provider. It is a shared responsibility. Both the client and the service provider have to take preventive measures to control and restrict unauthorized access. A little awareness like not sharing login details, giving read-only access where required, installing multi-step authentication procedures will go a long way in making Cloud more secure.

6. Denial Of Service Attacks - When legitimate users are denied service it becomes a problem. This is what happens in “denial of service”. Instead of making the site unavailable to illegitimate users smokescreens prevent even the authentic ones. Rather than increasing the user experience, it leaves a bad impression.

Cloud has opened a plethora of options. All of which seem lucrative. The financial viability of Cloud makes it even more attractive. Today, doing without it is impossible. Instead of feeling cheated because of its security issues and challenges, it is time to do your bit with due diligence in making it secure. A deeper understanding of GDPR, monitoring workplaces regularly, Installing two-step authentication procedures, frequently changing passwords and making them stronger are just a few ways in which you can help yourself and your data in the Cloud. Cloud Computing opens a wide vista. If used judiciously is the best thing that could ever happen to your business.

 

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