Out-of-Date and Unsupported Cloud Workloads Continue as a Common Weakness

More than 80% of companies have at least one Internet-facing cloud asset that is more than six months out of date or running software that is no longer supported, according to scan data.

4 Min Read

Companies are doing better at protecting their cloud infrastructure, but holes still remain, with 80.7% of companies having at least one neglected, Internet-facing workload, according to a study published by cloud security firm Orca Security on July 28.

The majority of firms (58%) have a cloud server or asset running an end-of-life operating system or other software — such as Ubuntu 14.04 or Debian 8 — while 49% have a web server that has not been patched in six months. In addition, nearly a quarter of organizations have an administrator or root cloud account that does not have multifactor authentication enabled, according to the "2020 State of Public Cloud Security Risks" report.

Overall, businesses are working to lock down their public-facing cloud assets, but attackers only need to find one way in, says Avi Shua, CEO of Orca Security.

"This really comes down to coverage," he says. "You can be keeping up-to-date on 98% or 99% of the organization, but if you miss 1% or 2%, especially the ones that are facing the Internet, you are open to compromise. This is one of the unfair parts of security."

The report uses data from about 2 million scans of 300,000 public-cloud assets of companies that have tested the company's security service. Because such businesses are already focused on security, the results are likely a best case scenario, says Shua.

While a sprinkling of vulnerable servers, services, or other assets may not seem like a serious threat, the problem is that once inside a company's virtual infrastructure, security is much lower, Orca Security found. More than three-quarters of companies have significant portion of their internal workloads — at least 10% — in a "neglected" security state, with unpatched software and misconfigured services. In addition, about 44% of Internet-accessible workloads also had sensitive access data — "secrets" — and credentials, the firm stated in its report.

"The attackers only need a foothold and then they can rely on lateral movement," Shua says. "Once you go beyond the Internet-facing assets, even if they are not important, then you get into the internal network."

While only 2% of neglected workloads have some sort of sensitive information, more than three-quarters have a public storage bucket open to the public Internet.

Companies are only starting to adapt their security measures to the cloud, especially as the United States continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. More than 92% of security professionals feel that they lack the tools to detect even known security threats nor have the right approach to close vulnerabilities and security weaknesses, according to a report from security operations service provider LogRhythm. The situation has caused significant stress for security teams, with three-quarters of security professionals experiencing more stress than two years ago, the company's survey found.

"With more organizations operating under remote work conditions, the attack surface has broadened, making security at scale a critical concern," James Carder, chief security officer and vice president of LogRhythm Labs, said in a statement. "This is a call to action for executives to prioritize alleviating the stress and better support their teams with proper tools, processes, and strategic guidance."

Overall, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in larger organizations accelerating their move to cloud services, Shua says. Small and midsize companies continue to struggle to expand their security efforts when it comes to the cloud, says Orca Security's Shua.

Cybercriminals have quickly followed businesses to the cloud, focusing on ways to gather credentials from remote workers to gain access to companies' public cloud infrastructure.

Yet companies often do not have adequate visibility into the security of their cloud platforms. More than half of security teams are dissatisfied with the visibility that they have into the security of their remote workers, according to a recent report released by virtual private networking firm NetMotion.

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About the Author(s)

Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline Journalism (Online) in 2003 for coverage of the Blaster worm. Crunches numbers on various trends using Python and R. Recent reports include analyses of the shortage in cybersecurity workers and annual vulnerability trends.

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