The 5 Biggest Cloud Database Security Risks

Jul 20, 2020 / by SecureCloudDB

More and more organizations are moving to cloud databases, but they do come with risks.

83% of enterprise workloads are already on the cloud. This shift is happening even among SMBs as cloud solutions become more affordable and easier to implement. Gartner expects the enterprise cloud space to be valued at $1.3 trillion by 2022, highlighting the rapid growth of the industry.

This growth comes with a few downsides. Data breaches in the cloud are occurring at worrying rates. Businesses lose $3.92 million on average to a security breach—a huge sum to pay even for large, successful organizations.

Cost of a Data Breach 2014 - 2019

The cost of data breaches on businesses (Source)

These figures prove that securing your cloud database—or any cloud technology for that matter—is more important than ever.

 

Why Traditional Security Does Not Work with Cloud Databases

Security in cloud databases is not the same as on-premises servers. Providers offer multiple versions of cloud databases as a service to businesses. They also provide essential security tools, but this is a starting point rather than an end point. The fact of the matter is that cloud security is a shared responsibility - and this is as true for databases as for the rest of your infrastructure.

The 5 Biggest Cloud Database Security RisksWhy is cloud security different compared to on-premises deployments? Understand why you need to change your security stance in this comprehensive guide to cloud database security.

Your assets need to be safeguarded, and you can’t rely on cloud service providers (CSP) to do the dirty work. Users share the responsibility of securing cloud databases and a Gartner study suggests that by 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will happen due to user failures.

As businesses store and process gigantic volumes of data on the cloud, their exposure to vulnerabilities exponentially increases. The problem further intensifies if users don’t secure cloud data the right way. 

Let’s take a deeper look at these risks and explore ways to mitigate them.

 

5 Major Cloud Database Security Risks to Look Out For

1. Unauthorized Resource Usage

It’s easy to request and provision cloud instances. However, the low costs of cloud resources is a double-edged sword. It’s cheap to deploy and consume cloud services. Unfortunately, developers often forget to properly shut down instances, which inflates your cloud costs. You may not realize the impact of unused resources on your organization until you receive a six-figure bill from your CSP. 

Unused resources also present security risks. They provide an entry point for attackers to breach your system. When a security breach does happen, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the source of the vulnerability due to the sprawl of unused resources.

One way to manage unauthorized resource usage is to hold regular cloud audits. You should go through your logs every week or so to identify unused or underutilized cloud instances. A written policy is also needed to govern cloud resources. Employees should only be able to deploy cloud applications or instances if they have a valid reason to do so, and with permission from team leads.

 

2. Data Breaches

Enterprises deal with massive volumes of data in the cloud. 44% of enterprises deal with over 100 terabytes of data in the modern age. This is not a problem for organizations with sophisticated security teams. Businesses with limited security expertise, however, are at risk. 

Mass volumes of unmanaged data increase a system’s attack surface, especially in enterprises that lack the skills and personnel to manage and secure cloud data. Vulnerabilities can also extend outside of cloud databases.

Data breaches come with hefty consequences. One of them is having to pay expensive non-compliance penalties (e.g. GDPR fines). They also break customer trust, leading to even more financial losses from lost business. 

There are many ways to tackle the risk of data breaches. What most organizations disregard, however, is employee education. Social engineering is one of the biggest causes of enterprise security breaches. The more you train your employees in increasing security awareness and avoiding social engineering schemes, the less likely they will be to fall victim to such attempts.

 

3. Misconfigured APIs

APIs are essential in cloud environments due to the number of tools and providers that enterprises work with. Your organization is likely using services from various cloud-based vendors. The risk is some APIs may not be configured correctly.

Misconfigured APIs pose serious threats as they can affect data integrity and cause downtime in worst-case scenarios. A compromised API can potentially impact the entire system; even more so if it’s business-critical. This situation occurs more often than you might think. In 2019, 16% of companies experienced daily attacks on their APIs.

You can reduce these risks by adopting security best practices when designing your APIs. If you’re working with open-source tools, make sure to dig deep through each software’s source code to ensure they’re designed with security in mind. Also, protect your API endpoints with essential security measures. This includes implementing rate limits and authentication, and encrypting data transfers.

 

4. Insider Threats

Cloud database risks can come from within the organization as well. An employee may gain access to sensitive data and use it for malicious purposes. One common scenario is employees stealing their organization’s financial information to siphon company funds. 

Insider threats are tough for organizations to manage. First, they are difficult to identify without strong detection tools. Like cloud resources, you won’t notice something is wrong until it’s too late. Also, it’s hard to find out the culprits of an insider attack. There’s also the risk of suspecting the wrong individuals, which can lead to lawsuits and damaged employee morale.

Data breach detection timeThe time it takes for companies to detect insider threats (Source).

One way to mitigate insider threats is to identify your high-priority assets. This lets you provide the appropriate security measures for each asset without stretching your resources too thin. Monitoring user activity also helps eliminate insider threats. You’ll know what each employee is doing without fully invading their privacy.

 

5. Poor Visibility

Organizations may struggle with visibility when working with cloud databases. This impacts business operations as they don’t know enough about what’s going on behind the scenes to make informed decisions. Poor visibility also limits how proactive organizations can be when dealing with issues. Often, they respond when the problem has already happened.

You can improve your database visibility by using monitoring tools to discover important insights about your security and performance. Regular updates and patches are necessary to combat newly-found vulnerabilities. 

You should also use vetted third-party software to further secure your database. A dedicated tool like SecureCloudDB provides features like inventory checks, security assessments, and vulnerability scans to help you understand your cloud database’s security standing, thus helping you make clear, informed decisions.

 

Summary

Revamping your approach to cloud database security should be a priority, as the responsibility to secure cloud assets is no longer on CSPs. Keep the above tips in mind to improve and protect your cloud databases against the most common threats.

SecureCloudDB is the industry’s leading tool for cloud database security. Our software works with an extensive range of cloud services—including AWS RDS, Elasticsearch, and PostgreSQL—and tests for vulnerabilities with safe, non-invasive methods.

Schedule a demo today to find out how SecureCloudDB can take your cloud database security to the next level.

Written by SecureCloudDB