The rise of cloud storage has enabled much of the rapid digital transformation people have experienced since the onset of the pandemic. Forecasts project that today’s $83.41 billion global market will explode to $376.37 billion by 2029.

While cloud storage opens many opportunities to streamline processes and productivity, let’s keep in mind the arduous risks it poses.

Skyhigh Security found that organizations store 61% of their sensitive data in the cloud, and 97% of organizations experience security challenges with their private cloud, compared to 82% in 2019.

Just recently, the State of Maine suffered a data breach that impacted 1.3 million people—more or less the state’s entire population. The attack was carried out via a known vulnerability in the cloud service MOVEit Transfer. It resulted in stolen data from Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education.

This incident underscores the cyber security risks in cloud storage and the importance of knowing how to protect yourself.

What is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage refers to the online storage of data on remote servers. This data can be accessed via the Internet, making it retrievable from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Cloud storage has become a popular alternative to a local hard drive or other physical storage devices, allowing users to access and share stored data from any device and different locations.

The Cyber Security Risks of Cloud Storage

Source: Norton

In addition to traditional credential phishing, hackers now leverage the cloud to deploy fake third-party cloud apps, tricking users into granting access to their actual corporate cloud data and resources.

These attacks are relatively new, and experts expect they will increase over time.

As with many modern cyber security risks, the real danger lies in the interconnectivity of the technology world, and a significant potential vulnerability for cloud services comes through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

Third-party APIs are ubiquitous and present a vast attack surface. One compromised API could give a hacker a backdoor into your system through that “trusted” interface and overtake your entire tech ecosystem.

According to a report by Netskope, cloud apps are popular platforms for executing cyber attacks. The highest success rate occurs with user execution, with attackers tricking their victims into downloading Trojans in cloud apps.

File-based malware also presents a significant risk for cloud computing. The file-syncing functions of cloud storage make it easy for teams to collaborate on projects across different devices and make systems vulnerable to infected files.

Cloud storage providers usually sync files from local folders on your computer with files stored in the cloud. Downloading a malicious file to your local device can unwittingly provide access to your company cloud, where the file can infect the whole network.

Using an attack technique called “ransomcloud,” cyber criminals can lock up data and cloud-based applications and demand a ransom from an organization to restore access.

4 Cloud Storage Security Risks

Storing data in the cloud opens a company up to four main security risks, including:

Cyber Attacks and Breaches

Data breaches in cloud storage can occur when the security measures of cloud providers are inadequate, risking the exposure of sensitive information. If this information is leaked, it could include private customer details, which can lead to legal issues and financial losses.

Data Loss

Data loss in cloud storage happens when data is deleted, either by mistake or on purpose, and can’t be recovered if the cloud’s rules for keeping data aren’t set up right. Back up critical data and store them in another storage platform.

You can also take the extra step to review the cloud service providers’ service-level agreements and understand the rules for who is responsible for data protection.

Loss of Data Privacy

If an unauthorized user gains access to data on the cloud, a loss of privacy can occur, especially when it comes to personally identifiable information. To maintain data privacy, admins should identify and implement the specific requirements of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Unauthorized Access to Data

Cloud data storage, being internet-based, is susceptible to unauthorized access if it’s not well-protected. Attackers can exploit weak passwords, stolen user credentials, or incorrectly configured user permissions to access sensitive data.

To prevent this, it’s crucial to implement detailed security strategies such as multi-factor authentication, regular password updates, and thorough checks of user access levels and permissions.

Guidelines for Safe Cloud Storage Use

Personal and corporate cloud storage usage will only increase in the coming years, so make sure to implement a plan or regularly remind your users of the following measures:

Pick a cloud storage service

To keep things manageable and secure, ensure your users only use one personal cloud storage service you control. No matter the service you select, stand your ground with your users and ensure everyone uses the one you chose.

Foster phishing awareness

Phishing attempts are constantly evolving and changing. Personal cloud drives are becoming an increasingly popular target. Remind your users regularly that they shouldn’t click on links from unknown senders, even if it’s a Google Drive or Dropbox link.

Enable two-factor authentication

Enabling multi-factor authentication protects your organization against users who still don’t have great passwords in place, and it’s also a safeguard against credentials revealed through phishing attacks.

Strengthen your third-party risk management

Thousands of third-party apps connect to personal cloud data storage services. While the services have suitable cyber security measures, the apps often come from smaller companies that might have different standards.

Thankfully, all personal cloud data storage platforms have admin options that offer protection against insecure apps.

Additionally, implementing security awareness training as part of third-party risk management can significantly enhance protection. This training helps users recognize and avoid potential risks associated with third-party applications, ensuring a more secure cloud data environment.

Create policies for information classification and data loss prevention

Establish information classification and labeling policies and guidelines and inform users of their responsibilities to handle data appropriately. For more advanced protection mechanisms, implement data loss prevention technology for strategic and other sensitive data.

Let your users do their part

While cloud data storage is usually a safe option, it’s important not to get complacent. With the growth of remote work and people interacting with multiple cloud services over unsecured networks, some of the most significant risks to cloud computing come from user behavior.

Managing these risks starts with having robust guidelines for cloud security. Now more than ever, cyber security relies on effective education more than technology.



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