Circle Opinion

The 9 Biggest Challenges in Cloud Security

Charlotte Day

Demand for cloud-based offerings has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the importance of flexibility and agility now being realised. Without adapting, businesses risk being left behind, but what are the benefits and how do you know if it’s the right solution for you?

We shared the key advantages of cloud adoption in our previous blog. This time around, we identify the biggest challenges of cloud security.

Cloud adoption has become increasingly important in the last two years, as businesses responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, a 2020 survey reported that cloud security was the biggest challenge to cloud adoption for 83% of businesses. [1]

As cybercriminals increasingly target cloud environments, the pressure is on for IT leaders to protect their businesses. Here, we explore the most pressing threats to cloud security you should take note of.

1. Limited visibility

The traditionally used tools for gaining complete network visibility are ineffective for cloud environments as cloud-based resources are located outside the corporate network and run on infrastructure the company doesn’t own. Further, most organisations lack a complete view of their cloud footprint. You can’t protect what you can’t see, so having a handle on the entirety of your cloud estate is crucial.

2. Lack of cloud security architecture and strategy

The rush to migrate data and systems to the cloud meant that organisations were operational before thoroughly assessing and mitigating the new threats they’d been exposed to. The result is that robust security systems and strategies are not in place to protect infrastructure.

3. Unclear accountability

Pre-cloud, security was firmly in the hands of security teams. But in public and hybrid cloud settings, responsibility for cloud security is split between cloud service providers and users, with responsibility for security tasks differing depending on the cloud service model and provider. Without a standard shared responsibility model, addressing vulnerabilities effectively is challenging as businesses struggle to grapple with their responsibilities.

In a recent survey of IT leaders, 84% of UK respondents admitted that their organisation struggles to draw a clear line between their responsibility for cloud security and their cloud service provider’s responsibility for security. [2]

4. Misconfigured cloud services

Misconfiguration of cloud services can cause data to be publicly exposed, manipulated, or even deleted. It occurs when a user or admin fails to set up a cloud platform’s security setting properly. For example, keeping default security and access management settings for sensitive data, giving unauthorised individuals access, or leaving confidential data accessible without authorisation are all common misconfigurations. Human error is always a risk, but it can be easily mitigated with the right processes.

5. Data loss

Data loss is one of the most complex risks to predict, so taking steps to protect against it is vital. The most common types of data loss are:

Data alteration – when data is changed and cannot be reverted to the previous state.

Storage outage – access to data is lost due to issues with your cloud service provider.

Loss of authorisation – when information is inaccessible due to a lack of encryption keys or other credentials.

Data deletion – data is accidentally or purposefully erased, and no backups are available to restore information.

While regular back-ups will help avoid data loss, backing up large amounts of company data can be costly and complicated. Nonetheless, 304.7 million ransomware attacks were conducted globally in the first half of 2021, a 151% increase from the previous year.[3] With ransomware attacks surging, businesses can ill afford to avoid the need for regular data backups.

6. Malware

Malware can take many forms, including DoS (denial of service) attacks, hyperjacking, hypervisor infections, and exploiting live migration. Left undetected, malware can rapidly spread through your system and open doors to even more serious threats. That’s why multiple security layers are required to protect your environment.

7. Insider threats

While images of disgruntled employees may spring to mind, malicious intent is not the most common cause of insider threat security incidents. According to a report published in 2021, 56% of incidents were caused by negligent employees. [4]

Worryingly, the frequency of insider-led incidents is on the rise. The number of threats has jumped by 44% since 2020.[5] It’s also getting more expensive to tackle insider threat issues. Costs have risen from $11.45 million in 2020 to $15.38 million in 2022, a 34% increase. [6]

8. Compliance concerns

While some industries are more regulated, you’ll likely need to know where your data is stored, who has access to it, how it’s being processed, and what you’re doing to protect it. This can become more complicated in the cloud. Further, your cloud provider may be required to hold specific compliance credentials.

Failure to follow the regulations can result in substantial legal, financial and reputational repercussions. Therefore, it’s critical to handle your regulatory requirements, ensure good governance is in place, and keep your business compliant.

9. API Vulnerabilities

Cloud applications typically interact via APIs (application programming interfaces). However, insecure external APIs can provide a gateway, allowing threat actors to launch DoS attacks and code injections to access company data.

In 2020, Gartner predicted API attacks would become the most frequent attack vector by 2022. With a reported 681% growth of API attack traffic in 2021,[7] this prediction has already become a reality. Addressing API vulnerabilities will therefore be a chief priority for IT leaders in 2022 and beyond.

Check out our comprehensive guide to cloud security for more


[1] 64 Significant Cloud Computing Statistics for 2022: Usage, Adoption & Challenges
[2] Majority of UK firms say cyber threats are outpacing cloud security
[3] Ransomware attacks in 2021 have already surpassed last year
[4] – [6] Insider Threats Are (Still) on the Rise: 2022 Ponemon Report
[7] Attacks abusing programming APIs grew over 600% in 2021

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Charlotte Day