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:

 

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.
Commentary
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
Edge-DRsplash-11-edge-ask-the-experts
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
News
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Zero Trust doesn't have to break your budget!
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-31476
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of Foxit PhantomPDF 10.1.3.37598. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability in that the target must visit a malicious page or open a malicious file. The specific flaw exists within the han...
CVE-2021-31477
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of GE Reason RPV311 14A03. Authentication is not required to exploit this vulnerability. The specific flaw exists within the firmware and filesystem of the device. The firmware and filesystem contain hard-...
CVE-2021-32690
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Helm is a tool for managing Charts (packages of pre-configured Kubernetes resources). In versions of helm prior to 3.6.1, a vulnerability exists where the username and password credentials associated with a Helm repository could be passed on to another domain referenced by that Helm repository. This...
CVE-2021-32691
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Apollos Apps is an open source platform for launching church-related apps. In Apollos Apps versions prior to 2.20.0, new user registrations are able to access anyone's account by only knowing their basic profile information (name, birthday, gender, etc). This includes all app functionality within th...
CVE-2021-32243
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
FOGProject v1.5.9 is affected by a File Upload RCE (Authenticated).