SJUK Exclusive: What can we expect from the cloud?

February 22, 2022

Stephen Crow, Head of Security & Compliance at UKFast shares his five cloud cybersecurity predictions for 2022.

Cloud computing undoubtedly plays a critical role in today’s IT operations, providing organisations with huge benefits, from greater flexibility, improved resilience and faster deployment times.

These benefits have led to the stratospheric rise in cloud computing over the last decade, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Last year, Gartner predicted that global spending on cloud services was expected to exceed $480 billion this year, with International Data Corporation (IDC) anticipating that over 90% of worldwide enterprises will be using some form of multi cloud environment. For most organisations, the cloud is here to stay.

But with significant benefits also comes clear risks. Like with any IT environment, cloud platforms can only be secure if they’re properly configured and have the right cybersecurity technology supporting them. Organisations need to be fully aware of the security risks of cloud computing.

To help IT leaders plan and prepare accordingly, here are my top five cloud security predictions for 2022, with some recommendations on how to stay safe:

Cloud misconfigurations remain the biggest vulnerability

Research by Check Point shows that the misconfiguration of cloud technology has been the highest ranked cloud threat now for several years. This includes any errors or gaps that leave you vulnerable to risk. In fact, human error continues to be the leading cause of cloud security failure this year, with Gartner predicting that, through to 2023, at least 99% of cloud security failures will be due to cloud environments not being properly configured.

Since the start of the pandemic, the challenge of cloud misconfigurations has become particularly acute. The need to pivot to remote working meant that many organisations quickly moved to the cloud to keep their businesses going, without having the time or resources for the governance, security or change management processes that would usually accompany such a shift. Now, the challenge for organisations is to make sure their cloud environments are properly configured and any security risks are resolved.

Recommendation: Cloud environments are becoming larger, more complex and more challenging to manage. If you are not sure where the vulnerabilities are in your environment, running a cybersecurity audit, perhaps with a managed security partner, is an effective way of diagnosing any risks and improving your overall security posture.

Cloud data breaches will escalate

Last year, 40% of organisations suffered some kind of data security in cloud computing breach, according to the ‘2021 Thales Global Cloud Security Study’. Unfortunately, since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of cyber-attacks, including ransomware, DDOS, phishing and more. Instability has always been a magnet for hackers and fraudsters – and the last two years have been nothing if not unstable.

In 2022, there’s every chance that these rates of data breaches will increase. As misconfigurations in cloud environments expose organisations to huge risks, cyber criminals will continue to get smarter at exploiting them.

Recommendation: Work closely with a managed security services provider (MSSP) to identify any gaps in your security posture, with a particular focus on tightening up identity and access management (IAM) controls. Also, ensure your IT team can govern access on a granular level, so only the right people have access to sensitive data.

Ransomware will continue to be the number one cybersecurity threat

Of all the security attacks that have increased in the last couple of years, ransomware has been the most prominent. In 2021 alone, the number of ransomware attacks doubled according to the 2021 Verizon ‘Data Breach Investigations Report’ – it is highly likely this trend will continue through 2022.

Ransomware poses a significant threat for organisations because it essentially holds a three pronged risk: Threatening vital business data; Reputational damage; Financial security. But, as well as this, there is a real danger that even if you pay the ransomware demand, you won’t get your important data back. According to Intermedia, there’s a one in five chance that you won’t get your data back, even if you agree to the ransom demands. That’s why it’s so important your organisation is proactively protected against ransomware attacks, so you can be sure your data, reputation and bottom line are safe – whatever happens.

Recommendations: Ensure that redundancy and backups are built into your cloud environment by default so you can easily recover or roll back data if a ransomware attack occurs. Also, make sure anti-malware is deployed, with up-to-date signatures to keep ransomware risks to an absolute minimum.

The cost of non-compliance will continue to rise

Over the last few years, data protection laws have become increasingly more stringent, with the most eye-catching being the EU’s GDPR law, which came into force in 2018. Similar legislation has appeared around the world over the last few years, such as the Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD; 2020), the Japanese Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI; 2020) and New Zealand’s Privacy Act 2020. One thing these laws all have in common is that they place stringent standards on the use of personal data and even stricter financial consequences for non-compliance.

And yet, almost four years after the introduction of GDPR, non-compliance remains rife. According to official figures, the total amount of fines issued over the last four years has now surpassed €1 billion, with the largest single fine being almost €750,000. Regulators are increasingly chasing organisations that can’t adhere to their compliance obligations. In 2022, the cost of non-compliance, in terms of both financial cost and reputational damage, will continue to be a significant threat to organisations of all shapes and sizes around the world.

Recommendations: Work with a legal and compliance expert to run a thorough audit of your IT environment and assess any gaps and vulnerabilities. It’s also important to get a handle on access controls and permissions. Ultimately, the more people who have access to sensitive information across your organisation, the more vulnerable to a cybersecurity breach you become. Make sure you have effective access controls in place to govern where sensitive data is stored and who has access to it. Then, assess your IT environment with a view to making sure that compliance is built in by design and that there are as few risks for vulnerabilities, data breaches and human error as possible.

Supply chain cybersecurity attacks will accelerate  

As more organisations are changing their technology and migrating to cloud platforms, there is a continued rise in the amount of organisations outsourcing functionality and support to third party service providers and vendors.  However, with every new third party provider comes an increased attack surface and with that a rise in the risk to your business infrastructure.

In 2021, there was a major increase in supply chain security attacks that targeted an organisation’s infrastructure via their third party partners. Malicious entities achieve this by targeting the code bases of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and open source tooling to compromise business networks.

Recommendation: Continually risk assess all access that third party partners or providers are given to your organisation and review what outsourced functionality you are resourcing. Whether its data stored in SaaS applications or inbound automation to improve efficiencies, all supply chain access should be regularly reviewed and removed if no longer required. Also, ensure that third party access is siloed to the absolute minimum; this helps combat any malicious use spreading across your whole organisation. Only use reputable vendors who have certifications against industry baselines and ensure correct due diligence is done regularly.

It’s clear that in 2022, the cybersecurity risks that have plagued organisations over the last few years will continue in their severity. While cloud computing offers the potential for powerful and significant security protection, as hackers get smarter and more sophisticated, cloud platforms are unfortunately not always secure enough by design. In order to stay protected, organisations need to ensure they’re configuring their platforms properly, regularly auditing and assessing their risks and using the right security solutions to keep their sensitive data safe.

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This article was originally published in the February edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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