Cloud Misconfiguration

Cloud Security Starts with Effective Cloud Configuration

In June 2021, WebsitePlanet and independent researcher Jeremiah Fowler discovered that more than a billion records of US healthcare giant CVS were accidentally posted online with no password protection or any form of authentication. The total size of the database was 204GB and it held approximately 1.1 billion records, including visitor and session IDs and session, customer email addresses, the kinds of devices used, search queries for medications, and more. 

CVS was notified privately about the issue, and the company quickly restricted public access and took down the database. Ultimately, the cause of this situation was linked to the misconfiguration of cloud services. Here, we will talk about what cloud configuration is, the dangers of misconfiguration, how to defend against it, and how to maximize cloud security.

What is cloud configuration?

Cloud configuration refers to the process of setting up different parts of cloud services in a way that would allow for their seamless integration and operation. Cloud providers have to ensure that their clients can easily access their services at various locations and at different levels without any glitches or issues. Moreover, they have to ensure that the cloud environment is secure and keeps unauthorized users out.  

The use of different cloud models – especially hybrid and multi-cloud – can make the configuration process more complex. Organizations have to constantly monitor and manage their cloud configuration to comply with the needs of the hour. To ease this process, there are certain cloud configuration management tools that can help automate testing, provisioning, deployment, installation, and configuration. A cloud environment that has been configured well provides maximum data security, scalability, flexibility, and control.   

In recent years, there has been a steady rise in organizations opting for cloud-based services. The market size for global cloud computing is expected to rise from $371.4 billion in 2020 to $832.1 billion by 2025. Cloud service providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have come up with specialized cloud configuration services to analyze and assess the configurations of your cloud systems. These can help organizations simplify resource management, maintain security, facilitate compliance, and streamline work between frontline and remote employees, thereby optimizing productivity.

How does misconfiguration affect cloud security?

While several organizations are shifting to cloud-based systems, it does pose security risks – the largest one being cloud misconfiguration. This occurs when an organization fails to properly configure its cloud environment, leaving gaps in security that cybercriminals can target. Misconfiguration can lead to data being leaked and posted online with no form of authentication, thereby providing complete public access to all files and any encryption passwords or keys.

Common causes of misconfiguration are inadequate awareness of cloud security protocols, inefficient monitoring of and control over systems, excess of cloud APIs and interfaces in the system, and employee negligence. This allows cybercriminals to perform malicious activities – stealing data, launching phishing attacks, applying digital skimming codes on websites, and denial of service attacks, to list a few.

Cloud misconfiguration is not uncommon, and it is difficult to detect, which makes it a serious threat. Research shows that 198 security breaches took place between 2018 and 2019 due to misconfigurations, exposing 33 billion records and costing a total of $5 trillion in losses.

How can your organization defend against cloud misconfiguration?

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. As such, organizations should be vigilant and pay close attention to their cloud configurations as part of their larger cybersecurity efforts.

  1. Negligent behavior is one of the main causes of misconfiguration. Educate your employees on cloud safety and the dangers of misconfiguration. Conduct regular training and testing to ensure they are aware of the cyber safety protocols to be followed.
  2. Know your cloud. When investing in a cloud model, analyze all the features and settings in order to configure it in an ideal manner. Additionally, if possible, apply customizable configurations that would cater to the needs of your organization.
  3. Some cloud models allow a large number of users to access files, thereby making the cloud environment difficult to manage. To keep your data and resources safe, enforce the policy of restricted access. Implement strong passwords and encryption tools, multi-factor authentication, and employee credential checks to prevent unauthorized access. Moreover, enable network segmentation and permission checks to ensure better security and easier management.
  4. Monitor user activity on all systems and networks to ensure that there is no suspicious activity.
  5. Regularly and vigorously audit all cloud systems for signs of misconfiguration.
  6. Automation is an important tool to manage your cloud environment efficiently. It can perform several processes: regular security patches updates, blocking suspicious emails, network checks, and so on. Of course, even with automation, manual oversight is required to ensure proper management and monitoring of all systems and networks.

Cloud solutions offer a long list of benefits. However, as with any aspect of cybersecurity, when integrating a cloud environment into your infrastructure, you must carefully evaluate the vendor and the platform, and be meticulous when rolling out the solution.