Clouds computing is such a new phenomenon on the Internet technology landscape that there is often no clear idea how to protect from threats to cloud computing. However, last year, an organization called The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) created a list of the biggest threats the nascent industry. In all, they identified nine threats to cloud computing.
Briefly the list identified the top threats to be data breaches, data loss, account or service traffic hijacking, insecure interfaces and APIs, denial of service, malicious insiders, abuse of Cloud Services, insufficient due diligence, and technology vulnerabilities
These were billed them as the “Notorious Nine: Cloud Computing Threats in 2013.” This authoritative research became a reference point for security specialists involved in designing and maintaining cloud infrastructure.
Cloud users, known as tenants, represent a corporation’s collection of applications and information. This information is often sensitive in nature. Since clouds are huge, their databases consist of multi-tenants. If an intruder could penetrate one tenant’s account due to a design flaw in an application, he or she could leapfrog to other tenant accounts as well. In other words, an intruder who had broken into one tenant’s account could visit any other tenant on the cloud and modify or steal sensitive information.
While a data breach results in data loss due to a malicious intruder, data loss can also occur for other reasons, too. For instance, it could be lost if a disk drive crashes and the data owner has not done a backup or it could be lost because the data is encrypted and the data owner has lost the key to open it.
Account or Service Traffic Hijacking
Hijacking accounts has long been a problem on the Internet. Common Internet scams include phishing, using buffer overflow attacks to exploit vulnerabilities in software, stealing passwords, and borrowing credentials. Hijacking an account on the cloud can prove devastating to the account owner. For instance, a hacker who has taken over a user account can cause all kinds of malicious damage like changing the figures in a transaction, giving customers inappropriate responses to damage the reputation of the business, or even redirecting clients to a competitor’s website.
Insecure Interfaces and APIs
API is an abbreviation for application programming interface. An API allows a third party to connect an application to a service. It’s function is to get permission and gain access by verifying the identity of the third party. However, much like a thief can damage the reputation of a passport holder; an API can be misused on the cloud to create damage to the real third party user.
Denial of Service
According to webopedia, a denial of service attack is “ a type of attack on a network that is designed to bring the network to its knees by flooding it with useless traffic. Many DoS attacks, such as the Ping of Death andTeardrop attacks, exploit limitations in the TCP/IP protocols. For all known DoS attacks, there are software fixes that system administrators can install to limit the damage caused by the attacks. But, like , new viruses DoS attacks are constantly being dreamed up by hackers.” Just as this type of attack can cause mayhem on a network, on a cloud, it can disrupt all cloud-based service to users.
Once malicious insiders gain access to cloud data, they can cause all sorts of problems for tenants. Usually, this is possible if tenants keep their encryption keys on the cloud itself.
Abuse of Cloud Services
There is no limit to how attackers can abuse cloud services. According to the CSA report “It might take an attacker years to crack an encryption key using his own limited hardware. But using an array of cloud servers, he might be able to crack it in minutes.” Another example is that a hacker could use cloud services to liberally give out pirated applications or use it to distribute viruses.
Insufficient Due Diligence
When service providers on the cloud fail to clearly outline terms of service, customers can unintentionally misuse their services and put the service providers at risk for violating legal or regulatory issues.
Finally, since the cloud is a shared infrastructure, a faulty application on an account could begin to compromise applications in other accounts.
Feature image curtsey of Denis Sazhin