Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

7/28/2020
10:00 AM
Charles DeBeck
Charles DeBeck
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

As Businesses Move to the Cloud, Cybercriminals Follow Close Behind

In the wake of COVID-19, data theft is by far the top tactic, followed by cryptomining and ransomware.

COVID-19 has introduced many new normals for business, and IT operations are no exception. Despite tighter technology budgets in the wake of the economic recession, companies are moving full steam ahead toward the cloud due to the agility and scale it provides.

According to a recent report from Flexera, 59% of companies surveyed plan on increasing their spending on cloud services in the post-pandemic world, with 30% of companies planning to spend "significantly" more. But cybercriminals and other threat actors are adapting to the technology, too, taking advantage of the fact that organizations are still discovering best practices surrounding cloud security and incident response.

The risk is high — with cloud systems often holding an unprecedented amount of valuable and sensitive data that can put both organizations and their customers in danger if breached. Our team of security incident responders at IBM X-Force IRIS have taken the opportunity to analyze the most common types of cloud compromises we've seen over the past year, how they're being used to cause harm, and where organizations should focus to reduce their risks. Here's what we found.

How Threat Actors Are Compromising Cloud Environments
While there are several ways we've seen cybercriminals target cloud systems, the most common initial infection vector was remote exploitation of cloud applications. In fact, this top attack pathway accounted for 45% of the cloud-related cybersecurity events we examined in our recent "Cloud Threat Landscape Report" (registration required). In many cases, vulnerable applications were present in the environment but remained undetected. Addressing these remote vulnerabilities has been challenging, in part due to the lack of public cataloging of discovered issues.

In addition to vulnerabilities, another core issue is security flaws introduced by users via misconfigurations. We've seen threat actors take advantage of misconfigured cloud servers to siphon over 1 billion records from compromised environments in 2019. The subsequent data leaks remain one of the greatest sources of record loss across the board and can quickly allow access to sensitive information from organizations. Threat actors are often able to take advantage of both these configuration errors and vulnerabilities within the applications due to employees standing up new cloud apps on their own, outside of approved channels, making shadow IT a core concern when it comes to cloud security.

How Threat Actors Use the Cloud to Cause Harm
While we have seen hackers target the cloud for activities like cryptomining and ransomware, data theft is by far the top tactic we see attackers taking once they've breached cloud systems. The cloud is ideal for hosting large amounts of information, and this data can be stolen by threat actors and quickly sold on underground marketplaces. The types of data stolen can vary, but the most common targets are sensitive personally identifiable information and financial data such as credit card numbers. In one case, we found unauthorized access to cloud assets leading to losses of more than $50,000 in less than one hour. While the type of data stolen largely depends on threat actor motivations and sophistication, in cloud environments the amount of data available can be much greater, making the potential impact of a breach that much more damaging to the organization.

4 Takeaways to Enhance Cloud Security  
When executing a cloud security strategy, we recommend the following:

1. Have the right tools. Cloud assets should always be included in overall incident response plans. Test your cloud security incident response at a tactical level to ensure the tools you have are working across all cloud environments.

2. Automate incident response. Implement security automation in cloud environments to improve your detection and response capabilities — this has the potential to significantly speed response and reduce damages.

3. Redeploy, don't reimage. Don't terminate your cloud instances. When you do, your team loses potentially valuable forensic artifacts. Instead of destroying this data, isolate affected systems and stand up known clean images to allow forensic investigators to understand what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future.

4. Use threat intelligence. Threat actors are always evolving and augmenting their tactics, techniques, and procedures with new capabilities specifically to target cloud environments. As these capabilities continue to develop, leverage your threat intelligence to monitor changes in targeting and implement effective defense.

Related Content:

 

 

Register now for this year's fully virtual Black Hat USA, scheduled to take place August 1–6, and get more information about the event on the Black Hat website. Click for details on conference information and to register.

Charles DeBeck is a senior cyber threat intelligence strategic analyst with IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS). Charles brings 7 years of experience working for the National Security Agency, Deloitte & Touche LLP, and IBM. He firmly believes that ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
RyanSepe
50%
50%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2020 | 11:12:00 AM
Larger threat surface
This isn't a smear post because I very much like the functionality that cloud offerings have brought to IT. However, there is a risk vs reward discussion that should defiinitely be had within an organization. It increases the threat landscape because now its common knowledge where your public SaaS infrastructure is AND misconfigured S3 buckets are commonplace (for AWS). We have seen quite a few of these in the news as to why organizations have had breaches of data.
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-9079
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-11
FusionSphere OpenStack 8.0.0 have a protection mechanism failure vulnerability. The product incorrectly uses a protection mechanism. An attacker has to find a way to exploit the vulnerability to conduct directed attacks against the affected product.
CVE-2020-16275
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
A cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the Credential Manager component in SAINT Security Suite 8.0 through 9.8.20 could allow arbitrary script to run in the context of a logged-in user when the user clicks on a specially crafted link.
CVE-2020-16276
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
An SQL injection vulnerability in the Assets component of SAINT Security Suite 8.0 through 9.8.20 allows a remote, authenticated attacker to gain unauthorized access to the database.
CVE-2020-16277
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
An SQL injection vulnerability in the Analytics component of SAINT Security Suite 8.0 through 9.8.20 allows a remote, authenticated attacker to gain unauthorized access to the database.
CVE-2020-16278
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
A cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the Permissions component in SAINT Security Suite 8.0 through 9.8.20 could allow arbitrary script to run in the context of a logged-in user when the user clicks on a specially crafted link.