Managing the Top Cloud Security and Compliance Risks

Hello friend,

Cloud computing has revolutionized enterprise technology over the past decade. As global cloud spend rockets towards $1.3 trillion by 2025, however, cyber risks also compound for organizations large and small.

Have you evaluated whether your company has the safeguards in place to weather the prime cloud threats on the horizon? This comprehensive guide examines the 12 most pressing challenges security leaders need to plan for to realize the full benefits of cloud adoption.

The Accelerating Cloud Revolution

Before analyzing key cloud risks, let‘s briefly recap the factors driving broad cloud adoption:

  • Flexible scalability – Cloud platforms allow companies to scale services and computing power up or down on demand, reducing reliance on costly on-premises data centers.

  • Cost efficiencies – Public cloud and SaaS solutions provide significant total cost of ownership (TCO) advantages compared to traditional models.

  • Business agility – Development teams can roll out, update and iterate SaaS apps faster, enabling innovation.

  • Global accessibility – Cloud services grant anywhere mobile access and global collaboration potential.

Worldwide end-user spending on public cloud solutions will grow by 20.4% this year to total $494.7 billion, reports Gartner. Furthermore, 75% of enterprises already follow a "cloud first" policy when evaluating new IT investments.

This shift generates immense strategic value – but also influences risk management priorities considerably…

12 Prime Cloud Risk Categories

Cybersecurity veterans and enterprise risk management teams have growing responsibilities to understand and mitigate risks related to:

  1. Data exposures and breaches
  2. API and application security
  3. Infrastructure misconfigurations
  4. Identity governance and access management
  5. Architecture flaws
  6. Supply chain dependencies
  7. Cloud skills shortages
  8. Account takeover threats
  9. DDoS attacks
  10. Data loss and destruction
  11. Cloud spend optimization
  12. Regulation and compliance

Let‘s explore each category in detail – from industry threats and impact data to security controls that help CISOs, CIOs and technology executives safeguard critical assets.

#1. Data Breaches and Exposures

Personal information, intellectual property and other sensitive records now largely reside offsite under third-party control – tempting targets for hackers and insiders alike.

  • Data exfiltration constituted the largest single root cause behind 5,212+ publicly disclosed breaches over the past decade according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse statistics.
  • Misconfigured databases and data lakes played a role in 65% of recent cloud data leaks according to DivvyCloud.

Overall costs continue rising exponentially. The average data breach now costs impacted firms $4.35 million in remediation expenses plus legal, regulatory and recovery costs conveys IBM‘s 2022 report.

Beyond headline-grabbing ransomware attacks, common data loss vectors involve:

  • Malicious insiders abusing privileges
  • External threats infiltrating networks
  • Database misconfigurations exposing troves of data
  • Code flaws enabling server-side request forgery (SSRF) attacks against storage
  • Compromised credentials providing backend bucket access

Cloud Data Breach Vectors

Diagram: Major Data Breach Avenues in Cloud Environments

Keeping sensitive information secure requires a combination of:

  • Restrictive access controls and identity management
  • Database encryption plus tokenization
  • Next-gen cloud workload protection platforms
  • SIEM monitoring and behavior analytics
  • Robust cloud security posture management

Implemented holistically – these controls significantly reduce breach risks from both outside attackers and insider threats.

Now let‘s explore another prevalent attack vector – insecure interfaces and APIs…

#2. API and Microservices Insecurity

APIs and microservices introduce attack surfaces that attackers actively exploit:

  • Public cloud APIs can provide direct access to consoles and programmatic control
  • IaaS misconfigurations enable API abuse to pivot across cloud assets
  • Web and mobile APIs facilitate account takeover, data extraction and injection attacks

Research shows:

  • 80% of applications now leverage APIs in some form – presenting integration, automation and extensibility advantages
  • But only 26% of organizations integrate API security into testing processes according to Cloud Security Alliance surveys

Common exploitation patterns include:

  • Broken authentication flaws enabling account hijacking
  • Lack of rate limiting protections against DDoS attacks
  • Absence of input validation checks being susceptible to code injections
  • Overly permissive credentials allowing broad data access
  • Information leaks exposing internals through error messages
  • Lateral traversal across connected systems and resources

API Security Best Practices

API Security Tips

Fig: Core API Security Principles to Follow

API security deserves dedicated focus given increasing reliance on integration fabric and microservices communications across cloud, mobile and IoT initiatives enterprise-wide.

Now let‘s shift our discussion to a pervasive challenge – misconfigured infrastructure…

#3. Insecure Infrastructure as Code

Cloud‘s programmatic agility introduces risks if security isn‘t embedded early across infrastructure layers:

  • Storage bucket permissions and firewall rules protecting cloud data
  • Identity and access controls governing cloud admin accounts
  • Inconsistent security groups and login credentials across accounts/regions
  • Lack of workload isolation for high trust apps (finance, healthcare, PII data etc.)
  • Absence of data encryption allowing plaintext extraction

Research shows misconfigurations play an outsized role in cloud security incidents:

  • 99% of misconfigurations go unnoticed for an average of 200+ days conveys Palo Alto Networks
  • F-Secure consulting found 75% of reviewed AWS S3 storage buckets to have risky or unauthorized access permissions enabled

Infrastructure as Code Risks

Fig: Common areas of insecure infrastructure as code across cloud environments

Getting governance right involves:

  • Infrastructure entitlement reviews ensuring least privilege access
  • Security policy as code to propagate controls across environments
  • "Shift left" testing for secrets, images and infrastructure pre-production
  • Continuous cloud security posture management

Now let‘s explore access control and identity management challenges…

#4. Identity Governance Gaps

Overprivileged identities, loose credential policies and authentication flaws contribute substantially to cloud data breaches each year.

Consider proof points across Gartner and Microsoft research:

  • Privileged credential abuse plays a role in 25% of destructive attacks and 60% of major cloud breaches
  • Just 1-in-10 organizations have implemented cloud-first identity models conveys Okta
  • 90% of enterprises have an identity-first surface area 6x larger than devices managed

Common on-premises identity & access management (IAM) pitfalls magnify in cloud scale:

  • Stale, overly permissive roles and entitlement creep
  • Lack of visibility into managed/federated identities
  • Easy-to-guess passwords relied on alone
  • Failure to integrate IAM across hybrid environments

Addressing such gaps, CISO consensus identifies core must-haves:

Core Identity and Access Principles

Fig: Core identity and access management principles to follow per enterprise security teams

Now that we‘ve covered key access risks, let‘s explore common architecture oversight…

#5. Poor Architecture Decisions

Design flaws that introduce availability, resilience and security gaps represent a fifth primary risk category:

  • Monolithic single-zone deployments invite disruption via DDoS attacks, regional failures and more
  • Lack of logging, audit trails and analytics to monitor administrator/user activity
  • Absence of network microsegmentation and workload isolation
  • DevOps release automation outpacing security reviews
  • Cloud interdependencies chaining risk across vendors

Consider proof points showcasing enterprise struggles:

  • 60% of companies can‘t identify data flows across cloud services conveys Fujitsu
  • 80% operate without consistent data classifications across hybrid environments according to Entrust

Remediating architecture shortcomings involves:

  • Multi-region/zone cloud infrastructure designs
  • Implementation of zero trust access principles and microsegmentation
  • Security automation to ensure controls remain intact through CI/CD
  • Classifying data sensitivity then applying appropriate controls

Now let‘s examine supply chain complexities…

#6. Unmanaged Vendor & Supply Chain Risk

Enterprise attack surfaces expand exponentially as SaaS apps and infrastructure partners multiply across ecosystems:

  • The average company connects with 64 cloud services yet just 20% monitor them for risks according to BetterCloud telemetry
  • Meanwhile, software supply chain attacks increased 650% in 2021 notes Prevalent research

Common blindspots include:

  • Cloud services that don‘t meet internal security standards
  • Vendor deficiencies in encryption, availability and access controls
  • Lack of visibility into data custody across suppliers
  • Absence of compromise detection or incident response planning

Addressing third-party risks in sustainable ways involves:

  • Cloud vendor assessments validating security & compliance posture pre-integration
  • Contract terms codifying customer security guarantees and liability
  • Monitoring, logging and optics into supplier administrators, data flows and tooling
  • Broader cyber risk quantification models reflecting external dependencies

Now let‘s explore skill and staffing gaps inhibiting cloud success…

#7. Talent Shortages

Migrating legacy systems to cloud platforms represents a formidable culture shift for many enterprises. Consider proof points:

  • 58% say skills deficits most significantly hinder cloud security & compliance initiatives according to Intel
  • 77% of organizations struggle integrating security into CI/CD pipelines conveys CheckPoint

Common capability gaps include:

  • Immature DevSecOps practices with disjointed automation
  • Lean teams without necessary architecture fluency
  • Insufficient training managing provisioning and identity federation
  • Perceived loss of data visibility and operational control
  • Integration challenges moving legacy systems, apps, data sets

Expert staff plus managed security service providers help bridge proficiency divides – providing training plus tactical support during major cloud transformations and buildouts.

Now that we‘ve covered internal risks, let‘s explore account compromise threats…

#8. Account Takeover and Identity Fraud

With personal information abundantly available via breaches online, attackers increasingly hijack cloud accounts for profit:

  • Cloud account compromise escalated 630% YoY in 2021 reports Akamai
  • Credential abuse plays a role in 25% of destructive attacks according to Microsoft

Tactics involve:

  • Password spraying to brute force into web consoles
  • Phishing sites tricking users to input their credentials
  • Exploiting misconfigurations like open data buckets
  • SIM card swap fraud to intercept MFA tokens

Implementing robust access controls and monitoring helps counter account takeover attempts:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Identity-aware SSO and proxy solutions
  • User behavior analytics to spot anomalies
  • Passwordless authentication models

Now let‘s examine denial of service conditions…

#9. DDoS Attacks

For decades, denial of service campaigns have threatened online services – with cloud hosting now firmly in the crosshairs:

  • AWS mitigated a record-setting 2.3 terabits per second (Tbps) DDoS attack in 2021
  • The average DDoS downtime outage now costs $221,000 conveys IDC

Key risks include:

  • Direct flood attacks against cloud-hosted sites and apps
  • Abuse of vulnerabilities in connected OT and IoT gear
  • Exploitation of memory and CPU resource limits

Common mitigation principles:

  • Overprovisioning infrastructure capacity
  • Regional scale load balancing
  • DDoS prevention services
  • Web application firewalls
  • Anti-automation protections

Now let‘s explore system integrity and data loss scenarios…

#10. Data Destruction and Integrity Loss

Despite extensive redundancy mechanisms across fault domains, catastrophic data loss remains a threat where backups prove outdated or unreliable.

  • 80% of organizations paid ransomware extortion averaging $1.27M during recovery efforts last year according to Veeam
  • Another 10% endured outages exceeding 25 hours through backup deficiencies

Threats run the gamut – from code flaws deleting databases through administrator errors to ransomware encrypting then exfiltrating terabytes of data:

Data Loss Scenarios

Fig: Common data loss conditions in cloud environments

Data lifecycle management and resilience considerations include:

  • Geo-distributed database architectures
  • Object versioning and snapshotting
  • Isolated, air-gapped backups
  • Encryption plus access controls
  • Data lifecycle automation

Now let‘s switch gears to cost control concerns…

#11. Cloud Spend Waste

Early cloud cost savings often reverse into budget overruns over time:

  • 30% of enterprises expend over $12M more than planned across their initial three years of cloud usage per Gartner
  • Leading drivers include excess storage, idle resources, diminished economies of scale

Consider contributing factors:

  • Complex and dispersed billing across environments
  • Demand variability and overprovisioning
  • Subscription sprawl across unused SaaS apps
  • Infrastructure entanglement across legacy systems

Site reliability engineers have extensive tooling to model, optimize, automate and refine cloud consumption:

  • Usage metering, inventorying and spend dashboards
  • Scheduled autoscaling, resource hibernation and right-sizing
  • RI utilization tracking and volume discounting
  • Decommissioning of stale instances

Now let‘s switch context to explore compliance risks…

#12. Governance & Compliance Gaps

Despite extensive security controls, operational responsibility across cloud providers, partners and subscribers grows ambiguous – magnifying audit, policy and regulatory compliance risks.

Consider research insights regarding governance gaps:

  • 29% of companies now experience weekly cloud security incidents due to compliance failures and misconfigurations according to Palo Alto
  • Meanwhile, 70% of firms defer cloud migrations due to data residency, privacy and regulatory concerns notes IDC

Reconciling complex, conflicting and evolving obligations across regions and hybrid infrastructure requires tight collaboration with cloud service providers to boundary very clearly:

  • Data custody, storage and transmission
  • Incident notification standards
  • Administrative access and activity transparency
  • Anomaly detection and threat notification
  • Contract certification adherence

Key Takeaways

This concludes our analysis of the top dozen cloud security and compliance risk categories that enterprise leaders and technology executives need to address today.

  • Cloud platforms introduce new data protection, identity, architecture and supply chain security considerations – but also bring formidable advantages if managed diligently.
  • As external threats mount in sophistication, reducing enterprise risk exposure requires proactive planning and continuous security modernization.
  • Partnering closely with cloud service providers, auditors and compliance teams while automating security postures can help reconcile gaps.

Hopefully this guide provided a useful overview of priority focus areas in your cloud risk management journey. Please don‘t hesitate to get in touch if any questions arise or if you need assistance shoring up cloud security foundations.

[Your Name] Independent Cloud & Security Advisor