Top 4 Access and Credential Management Challenges in the Public Cloud

Working in the public cloud opens up great opportunities for flexible application development and delivery. Since companies and DevOps professionals are interested in deploying code and functions as soon as possible, moving to the public cloud is one of the most important stages of digital transformation. According to a Radware study, 70% of work applications are now running in the public cloud. This means that the term “cybersecurity” is increasingly used to refer to the security of the cloud.

The speed and agility of cloud environments, in addition to the benefits and opportunities for flexible work, presents a number of security threats that organizations must also consider. For example, access and credential management in the public cloud can become such a problem.

Access Permissions = Attack Surface

Development of applications hosted in the public cloud is, by definition, done remotely. Access uses a remote connection using mechanisms and APIs provided by the public cloud service provider. Administrators no longer have physical control over resources, and all access to their resources is done remotely. However, hackers, attackers, and other third parties can also access the same resources using the same standard protocols, APIs, and methods.

Development security depends on who has access to the applications and the permissions granted.

In essence, this means that the more permissions you give, the larger the attack surface for your organization. Security in the public cloud starts with permission control and identity and access management (IAM).

Different networks, similar problems

Radware’s customers are increasingly deploying applications to the cloud, and Radware’s experts have identified several common issues they face.

As already mentioned, many of them are related to managing permissions and credentials.

  • Giving users redundant permissions that are not required to complete their tasks

  • Misconfiguration of cloud environments and client security policies

  • Public access to online assets without proper (or non-existent) security controls

  • Unauthorized access to the cloud environment by third parties with malicious purposes

Let’s look at each of these points and see why the difficulties arise:

Problem #1: Excessive Permissions

Managing permissions and access is a critical IT security task no matter where online resources are located, but in the case of the public cloud, this becomes a problem.

The reason is that there is often a need for greater development flexibility and operational capabilities behind the move to the cloud. In the cloud, it’s much easier to add new resources, deploy new code, and accelerate development processes, which reduces application launch time.

But this flexibility comes at a cost in terms of security. For the sake of convenience, cloud administrators often give users more permissions than they need to work. Practice shows that users have enough of a small part of these powers, and they do not need them in full. If the credentials of such users fall into the wrong hands, they will have wide access to confidential information and resources. And this is a serious breach in the security system.

Problem #2: Incorrect IAM system setup

The speed of the cloud and confusion about who is responsible for different aspects of security in many companies cause misconfiguration of the cloud environment and the emergence of vulnerabilities.

Identity and access management (IAM) is a weak point for many companies due to the variety of configuration options and the associated difficulties that can arise with password policy, authentication misconfiguration, logs, reports, etc.

The presence of these problems is also confirmed by industry research. According to the Gartner Cloud Privileged Access Management report, by 2023, 75% of cloud security breaches will be due to improper management of credentials, access, and privileges. As a result, it will become more difficult to trace malicious and unauthorized actions when gaining access to infrastructure and applications.

Issue #3: Inadvertently sharing resources publicly

The next problem is public access to online assets. It refers to the inadvertent release of public access to applications in development without proper security controls (or none at all).

When you move to the cloud, your assets are out of direct reach. The problem is that you need to protect such assets from public access and provide access to them only to those who have the right to do so.

Often a company moves to the cloud to gain more flexibility, and as a result, access to their systems is not always correctly restricted. According to Gartner, by 2021, 50% of companies unknowingly or mistakenly open public access to IaaS storage, applications and APIs.

Problem #4: Unauthorized Access

Another important cloud security issue is unauthorized remote access. We are talking about access to cloud-hosted applications under development using stolen user credentials.

According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2020 (DBIR), information breaches were most often the result of phishing attacks and credential theft.

The IBM report The Cost of Data Breach 2021 states that stolen credentials are the number one cause of data breaches, accounting for 20% of incidents. On average, one such leak costs the company $4.37 million.

This means that for the security of your cloud environment, it is necessary to provide protection against unauthorized access and constant monitoring of access.

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