Without a doubt, cloud computing has changed the way businesses and individuals operate. Thanks to the increase in worldwide population and information, many companies and network servers have dealt with significantly more data and content.
It’s estimated that we generate at least 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Fortunately, cloud computing has helped us process the bulk of this data and streamline it into bite-sized chunks for consumption. Cloud computing has also saved companies — both multinational and small-medium enterprises — large amounts of money on internal storage infrastructure.
Cloud computing has helped us save space on our devices at a consumer level. When paired with artificial intelligence and machine learning, cloud computing has also made accessing content like photos and videos much easier.
However, like any other form of technology, cloud computing, too, runs the risk of being compromised. As a vital online technology, cloud cybersecurity attacks account for 20 percent of all cyberattacks in 2020, making it the third most-targeted type of technology.
If you think hackers only look for big companies, think again. In 2014, leaked nude photographs of many celebrities, including Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kate Upton, made their rounds on the internet following a massive iCloud breach. But that’s not all; cybersecurity experts have also pointed out that text messages, emails, calendars, and address books were also leaked and stolen. Since the incident, Apple has done a lot to clean up its image and assure customers worldwide that its platforms are safe for use.
To protect yourself from potential damage following a cyber attack on the cloud, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common threats and what you can do to protect yourself if you’re a cloud user.
Common threats cloud computing users face
In 2018, it was reported that unauthorized access is the most common cloud computing security issue. Given the incidents stated above, it’s clear why.
Unauthorized access is essentially the act of a person gaining access to a computer network, system, or any other resources without proper permission. One of the easiest ways hackers can gain unlawful access is to obtain the login credentials of an internal stakeholder. Often, because people have poor password practices, it’s easy for a dedicated hacker to launch a brute force attack to try and gain access to your account.
Cloud account hijacking happens when an individual or company’s account is stolen or compromised by an attacker. This can happen through various means, including brute force attacks, dictionary attacks, and even phishing attacks.
In phishing attacks, a hacker impersonates a person or a company to gain your trust and, in turn, access to an account. To do this, an attacker could pretend to be from a social media network you’re part of. They’ll then send out an email, text message, or private message to inform you that your account has been compromised and request that you click on a link to log into your account if you want to salvage it.
Once you’ve logged into your account, they’ll steal your credentials. While it might not seem like much, phishing attacks are actually really successful. In fact, a 2021 report by Cisco revealed that at least one person has clicked on a phishing link in around 86 percent of organizations.
Unauthorized data sharing
Cloud-based computing and devices make it really convenient to share and store data. However, this also means that it’s easy to share data stored within to external parties who might not be authorized to view them.
Additionally, cloud environments are generally accessible directly from the public internet, which means hackers, too, can access them.
Malicious internal members
Every organization is at risk of insider threats. Because the malicious insider already has access to a certain level of information and data, it can be difficult for companies to prevent these types of attacks from happening.
The best way to circumvent this is to keep proper logs of people who log into particular software and systems, and to limit the permissions given to employees. This lowers the possibility of an incident happening.
As cloud-based infrastructures are directly accessible from the internet, they’re susceptible to attacks from hackers and other malicious actors.
Beyond brute force attacks and phishing, skilled hackers will look for vulnerabilities in a cloud system. As most companies generally hire third-party cloud providers for their service, these providers are earmarked as targets. Hackers will then keep up with news and developments when these providers release new updates for their products or if a bug from one of these recent updates was reported.
How users can protect themselves while on the cloud
Always use strong passwords
Passwords are the first line of defence against any sort of cybersecurity attack. That’s why it’s extremely vital that your passwords are at least 12 characters long and contain a mixture of letters, numbers, and special characters.
While you’re at it, always make sure to avoid reusing passwords on multiple accounts. If you’re finding it hard to manage all your passwords, sign up for a free password management service. A password manager takes the hassle out of having to memorize various different passwords. Instead, you just have to memorize one key password to log into your encrypted vault.
Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (or 2FA) involves using two different methods to verify the log in of an account. Instead of relying solely on a password, users will need to protect their accounts by either scanning their fingerprint or face, entering a code from a text message or an app.
Ditch public Wi-Fi where possible
While public Wi-Fi networks are useful, they’re often unsecured and could allow third parties to see what you’re doing online. They’re also incredibly vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM). MITM attacks occur when a hacker “sits” between two victims. In this case, it’s you and the network server you’re using.
By intercepting the connection, the hacker is able to steal information and other credentials.
If you have to use public Wi-Fi, make sure to connect to a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN helps encrypt all your internet traffic and prevents snoops, hackers and even your internet service provider from seeing what you’re doing online.