93% of Cloud Applications Aren't Enterprise-Ready

The average business uses 1,181 cloud services, and most don't meet all recommended security requirements, Netskope says.

Kelly Sheridan, Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

February 23, 2018

4 Min Read

Think your company's cloud usage is secure? Think again. Data shows the average businesses has 1,181 cloud services, and nearly all of them — 92.7% — are not enterprise-ready.

This data comes from Netskope, which discovered trends around cloud service adoption and usage by analyzing anonymized data from its Netskope Active Platform. The number of cloud services ranges from a few hundred in smaller organizations to more than 3,000 in large enterprises.

To determine whether an app was "enterprise-ready," analysts used parameters from the Cloud Security Alliance's Cloud Controls Matrix. They researched more than 40 parameters from each cloud service, including business continuity, data security, access control, privacy, and auditing, and used these to rank services as low, medium, high, or excellent.

Human resources and marketing departments are major drivers of cloud adoption. The average count of HR apps across organizations is 139, the highest yet for any given department. "It just keeps rising," says Jervis Hui, senior security strategist at Netskope. "This is the highest average we've seen in the course of the four to five years Netskope has been doing this report."

Researchers are seeing a broad transition from traditionally on-premises HR services to cloud-based apps like Workday, SuccessFactors, and Ultimate Software. Most of these new apps contain sensitive data but aren't always sanctioned by IT, putting the data at risk.

"A lot of these HR apps and marketing apps have a lot of customer information and marketing information that counts as personal data under GDPR," says Hui. "And a lot of them are shadow IT; they're not necessarily brought in or vetted by the IT organization." (The EU's General Data Protection Regulation takes effect on May 25.)

However, Netskope points out, some applications are more likely to be IT-sanctioned than others. "While the aforementioned SuccessFactors, Ultimate Software, and Workday are typically sanctioned by IT, the majority of apps in this category are not, leading to concern for sensitive data leakage and security," the company reports.

When creating policies and access controls to secure information, teams should start with HR and marketing apps, the researchers reported. Many popular apps in these categories contain personal data and require data loss prevention software and access controls to ensure it's used in compliance.

Analysts compiled a list of top cloud services, which mostly consist of storage and collaboration tools and include popular offerings like Outlook, Office 365, Gmail, Facebook, Skype, Google Drive, SharePoint, Microsoft Power BI, iCloud, Twitter, LinkedIn, Box, and Salesforce.

These are common in the enterprise and most are sanctioned; however, even vetted apps can be connected to dangerous ones, Hui points out. Some workflow apps are less popular but contain sensitive data — for example, virtual signature tools that handle important files.

"Those are the apps you really want to look at," he notes. Admins can put security controls on Microsoft services and Box, for example, to prevent sharing sensitive files with non-vetted apps.

Data indicates the majority of malware detections are generic, with threats like Flash exploits and worms making up 41.6% of the total. Backdoors made up 33.6% of malware detections, followed by Microsoft Office macros (8.6%), adware (4%), and PDF exploits (3.2%), with threats like ransomware, Mac malware, JavaScript, and mobile malware falling behind. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency malware made up only 0.4% of the total, but that number is rising rapidly, says Hui.

Businesses will need to crack down on data visibility ahead of GDPR this year.

"Looking at the data … the big thing in terms of compliance is looking at which apps are in use right now in our organization and seeing what kind of big controls you need to put in place," says Hui. "Companies need visibility into which apps are being used and place control over them."

When you find applications putting data at risk, determine which groups of employees are using those apps and how many people are using them. How are they being used? Where is data flowing? Are they accessing those applications on unmanaged devices?

If the app is dangerous and not used often, one option is to block it completely and not let anyone use it. If it's a common app and personally identifiable information is flowing into it, start coaching people away from the app. Have a sanctioned, alternate app ready for a similar service and say "This app is not compliant; please use this service instead."

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Sheridan

Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Sheridan was formerly a Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focused on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial services. Sheridan earned her BA in English at Villanova University. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymsheridan.

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