Misconfiguration Of Cloud Apps And Online Security

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The misconfiguration of cloud apps and online security protocols is often overlooked when businesses are planning their cyber risk mitigation strategies. Apps located in the cloud are generally easy to access and sign up for, and the consumer often ignores security concerns because they believe that they are already operating in a secure online environment.

This is an incorrect assumption, as the provider will usually secure the backend infrastructure, and it is the consumers responsibility to configure and maintain their own security settings accordingly.

This issue of misconfiguration is very significant, as it is the number one cause of cloud data breaches. Examples include the granting of too many administrative privileges to employees, or neglect, such as maintaining security processes that allow for improper and unauthorised access.

The issue of misconfiguration in the cloud environment encompasses a broad range of negligent behaviour, and it is mostly related to security. Research from The State of Cloud Security 2021 report indicated that 45% of businesses experience between one and fifty cloud misconfigurations a day.

Some of the causes of cloud misconfiguration include:

  • A lack of cloud environment monitoring
  • A lack of expertise in cloud security
  • A lack of oversight and control
  • Negligent behaviour by an insider party
  • Staff lacking appropriate security awareness
  • Too many cloud APIs to manage

Following we have listed some general advice which you can use to enhance your cloud security and to reduce the chance of a cloud data breach.

Enhanced Visibility Of Your Cloud Infrastructure

The term for when an employee uses a cloud-based app without prior authorisation is “shadow IT.” This is because the app is “in the shadows” so to speak, and outside of the immediate view of the IT and systems team.

It is estimated that “shadow IT” use is approximately 10 times the size of known and business-wide authorised cloud use. You cannot secure something that you do not know about, and that is why unsanctioned cloud app use is so often the site of a security breach.

Cloud access monitoring applications can assist with providing visibility and management over cloud application usage by staff and others.

Limit Privileged Accounts

The more privileged accounts there are, the higher the risk of a misconfiguration issue and a security breach occurring.

IT staff can undertake an audit of privileged accounts associated with cloud use, and then reduce the number of privileged accounts to the bare minimum required.

Establish Automated Security Policies

Automated processes help reduce the risk of human error, and by automating as many of your security processes as possible, you will reduce the risk of cloud security breaches.

As an example, if you utilise a feature such as sensitivity labels in Microsoft 365, you can apply a “do not copy” policy to files through its use. This policy will follow the file through each supported application, and consumers will not need to do anything to enable it, once they have applied this policy.

Undertake A Cloud Security Audit

Knowing how secure your cloud environment is, is an important part of maintaining your online security. There may be misconfigurations that you do not know about, and it is important that you are aware of them so that you can correct any issues that do exist.

You can utilise a security auditing tool such as Microsoft’s Secure Score, which will scan your cloud environment and let you know what, if any, problems exist, and the better auditing tools will also provide you with recommended remediation actions that you can take to correct any issues.

Receive Alerts When Configurations Change

Your cloud security settings may change without your knowledge, and your business should be flexible and ready to adapt. Numerous elements of a security environment can change without your knowledge.

Some of these include:

  • A hacker compromises log-in credentials
  • A software update triggers a change
  • An employee with higher permissions accidentally or purposely changes a setting
  • An unexpected change occurs due to a third party plug-in

To be vigilant against the unknown you can be proactive by setting up an alert for whenever there is a configuration change, including for any change in your cloud environment.

For example, if a setting to enforce multi-factor authentication is turned off, an alert can notify your IT team, which will allow them to investigate and rectify the situation if need be.

Another example of where an alert could be triggered is if there is an occurrence of configuration drift.

Configuration drift occurs when a system configuration deviates from its original best security environment over time, which can lead to one or more misconfigured settings, and introduce the risk of a data breach or worse.

Causes of configuration drift can include poor communication or documentation of changes made; the application of security updates or patches with unknown side effects; hardware upgrades; or ad-hoc troubleshooting without proper follow up and oversight.

For example, an employee with higher permissions may attempt a “quick fix” of an issue without the proper knowledge and expertise to realise the consequences of their actions, and they may not communicate that they have made these changes, allowing for an ongoing and unknown misconfiguration to occur.

Employ A Specialist To Analyse Your Cloud Environment On A Regular Basis

Business owners and managers are not cybersecurity experts, and leaving the safety of a business’s online environment to their care is fraught with danger. Many business IT teams do not specialise in any one area, which is why you should employ a dedicated specialist such as Aryon to analyse and monitor your online environment, and its security, regularly.

Configuring and maintaining the online security of your business is a specialised area, and what is considered best practice in configuration settings changes frequently.

Liaising with an IT expert such as Aryon will ensure that your online security settings, including your cloud configurations, are kept up to date and maintained, which will benefit the integrity of your online data.

Improve Your Cloud Security And Reduce The Risk Of A Security Incident

As more data is being stored in cloud environments it’s more important than ever that you do not expose your business to the risk of a cyberattack. Contact Aryon today and we will arrange an online and cloud security assessment for you and your business.

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