Cloud Misconfigurations

November 15, 2023 by
Mark Nash

Misconfiguration of cloud solutions is a potential vulnerability that is often overlooked when companies plan cybersecurity strategies. Cloud apps are designed to be quick and easy to sign up for, which can lead users to assume that they don't need to worry about security because it's handled. Never assume a cloud solution will be safe by default. Cloud security is a shared model, which means the solution provider handles securing the backend infrastructure, but the user is responsible for configuring security settings in their account. The potential problems that can arise from misconfiguration are huge, with it being the number one cause of cloud data breaches. A finding in The State of Cloud Security 2021 report sheds light on how common this issue is, with 45% of organizations experiencing between 1 and 50 cloud misconfigurations daily. Some of the leading causes of misconfiguration are:

  • Lack of adequate oversight and controls
  • Lack of security awareness
  • Too many cloud APIs to manage
  • Lack of adequate cloud environment monitoring

In order to try and remedy this issue, this post will cover tips on cloud configuration to help reduce your risk of a cloud data breach and improve security.

Enable Visibility into Your Cloud Infrastructure

Do you know all the different cloud apps employees are using at your business? If not, you're not alone. It's estimated that shadow IT use is approximately 10x the size of known cloud use. When an employee uses a cloud app without authorization, such that it falls outside the knowledge and management of a company's IT team, it's considered "shadow IT." Shadow IT is a major threat to any organization; how can you protect something you don't know about? As a result, it often results in breaches due to misconfiguration. Work to gain visibility into your entire cloud environment, so you know what you need to protect. One way you can do this is through a cloud access security application.

Restrict Privileged Accounts

A privileged account is one that has permission to manage security configurations, and the more chances for modifying security, the higher the risk of a misconfiguration. There should be as few users as necessary that can change security configurations. After all, you don't want someone that doesn't know better to accidentally create a vulnerability. Audit privileged accounts in all cloud tools, then reduce the number of administrative accounts to the least needed to operate.

Put in Place Automated Security Policies

Well-built automated security processes can remove the potential for human error, as they will reliably perform the same action every time they are executed. So, automating as many security policies as possible can help prevent cloud security breaches. For example, if you use a feature like sensitivity labels in Microsoft 365, you can set a "do not copy" policy to follow the file through each supported cloud application. Users don't need to do anything to enable it once you put the policy in place.

Set Up Alerts for When Configurations Change

Even after you've got your cloud security settings right, there is no guarantee they will always stay that way. Several things can cause a change in a security setting without you realizing it, such as:

  • An employee with elevated permissions accidentally changes them
  • A change caused by an integrated 3rd party plug-in
  • Software updates
  • A hacker that has compromised a privileged user credential

Be proactive by setting up alerts for any significant change in your cloud environment. For example, we frequently espouse the benefits of multi-factor authentication, so if it gets turned off, you should have an alert set up to let you know right away. This allows you to take immediate steps to research and rectify the situation.

Have a Cloud Specialist or Cloud Security Audit Tool Check Your Cloud Settings

Most business owners, executives, and office managers aren't cybersecurity experts. While they should have enough cybersecurity knowledge to keep themselves safe, such as knowing how to identify phishing attacks, no one really expects them to know how to configure and maintain their organization's cybersecurity infrastructure. Instead, you should have a cybersecurity expert from your IT department or a trusted IT company check your cybersecurity infrastructure. Of course, this also applies to your cloud cybersecurity. Alternatively, you could use an auditing tool, such as Microsoft Secure Score for example. Cloud security audit tools are used to scan your cloud environment to identify and inform you of any vulnerabilities or other security problems that need to be fixed and, ideally, also provide recommendations for implementing those fixes.