Cloud applications have become a staple for Australian businesses, and it’s easy to see why. For a small monthly fee, businesses can access powerful software without setting up expensive hardware or maintaining complex IT networks. This setup offers numerous benefits, such as improved productivity, scalability, and cost savings.

However, cloud apps come with their fair share of risks. According to the 2019 Thales Access Management Index, 49% of IT decision makers across several countries (including Australia) believe that cloud apps expose companies to cyberthreats. This makes cloud apps the third biggest source of cybersecurity concerns, trailing behind unsecured web portals (50%) and IoT devices (54%).

Why are cloud apps a target?

Hackers will always pursue Internet-connected systems, and cloud apps are no exception. More cybercriminals will follow as organisations increasingly rely on cloud services to operate and store sensitive information. 63% of survey respondents say that using more cloud apps increases the likelihood of cyberattacks. 

However, it’s not just the increasing volume of apps that draw unwanted attention from hackers. Other commonly cited reasons why cloud apps are attractive targets include:

1. Subpar security measures

Although cloud providers employ security measures on their side, companies also share responsibility for securing cloud vulnerabilities. If they fail to implement app-level security, hackers can infect your apps with malware and other network-based intrusions to infiltrate your systems.

2. Insecure application programming interfaces (APIs)

APIs allow you to customise your cloud apps and even integrate it with other enterprise software. Pair your cloud-based accounting system with your customer relationship management (CRM) app to generate more meaningful insights. If the connection between applications is unsecured, it can leave you open to an attack. In addition, hackers may be able to infiltrate your financial database through an integrated CRM system that’s not so thoroughly protected. 

3. Lack of in-house skills

Problems arise when in-house IT departments do not have much experience with cloud technology. System administrators might not secure cloud data and accounts with sufficient due diligence. 

4. Ineffective identity and access management

Most people (95%) in the Thales report attribute cloud-based attacks to poor access management. Employees with privileged access may misuse cloud apps or leak sensitive information. Meanwhile, others also set generic passwords, which are easy for cybercriminals to guess.

5. Shared infrastructure

Cloud applications are typically hosted on shared infrastructure, meaning multiple customers or tenants share the same physical resources, such as servers, storage, and networking equipment. While the cloud service provider employs various security measures to isolate customers’ data and applications from each other, an attacker who gains access to the shared infrastructure can potentially access or manipulate data stored in the cloud.

For instance, an attacker could exploit a vulnerability in the virtualisation layer, which creates multiple virtual machines on a single physical server. This could allow them to access another virtual machine on the same server, containing sensitive data belonging to a different customer. 

6. Lack of control over security protocols

Cloud service providers largely manage and maintain the public cloud environments that host cloud applications. This means that companies cannot customise or modify security settings to suit their individual needs.

Although top cloud service providers like Microsoft and Amazon have extensive protections, some providers may have subpar security measures and best practices. In other words, you won’t know if your cloud data is handled with the same degree of security as if you were hosting it yourself. This lack of control is a major concern for highly regulated industries like healthcare, with strict data security and privacy requirements.

Minimise vulnerabilities with access management

Protecting cloud apps requires significant policy changes. The most important element to focus on is access management. Training employees to set longer and more complex passwords is crucial. However, relying solely on passwords isn’t enough. You need stronger forms of authentication, such as:

  • Multifactor authentication (MFA) – adds an extra layer of identity verification, usually in the form of temporary authentication codes sent via SMS or email.  
  • Single sign-on – unifies cloud apps under one set of logins to discourage bad password habits like recycling and setting weak passwords.  
  • Biometrics – includes fingerprint scanning and facial recognition.

Moreover, you must also set access restrictions that apply the principle of least privilege. This means users should only be able to access the cloud apps and data they need to do their job. 

Implement app-level security

Deploying robust security measures can also go a long way in protecting cloud apps. For starters, encryption is crucial to protect the confidentiality and integrity of information. End-to-end encryption systems protect your data at the source, at rest, and in transit. This way, if hackers manage to intercept cloud data, all they’ll see is indecipherable code.

Advanced threat protection (ATP) software is also a must. It monitors your systems for any malicious behaviour that could indicate a potential breach. For instance, if cloud apps are being accessed from a suspicious location, ATP alerts security engineers so they can address the issue quickly.

Finally, consider hiring security experts to conduct regular API reviews and penetration testing. These services secure the connections between apps and prevent hackers from accessing sensitive information.

Top-notch providers bolster security

The safest cloud apps you can get your hands on are those offered by leading managed IT services providers (MSPs). These companies apply stringent security controls and watch over your apps around the clock. The best MSPs also provide access management tools and other security software to dramatically reduce the risk of cyberattacks.

If you’re looking for a top-notch cloud provider in Australia, talk to Empower IT Solutions. We offer secure, fully managed cloud software that can be tailored to fit your needs. Call us today to check out our cloud and cybersecurity offerings.

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