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Unlike external threats, insiders do not need to break into an organization’s computer systems. They already have some level of trusted access. Most unwelcome insider risks are due to negligence rather than malicious intent (Cloud Security Alliance, 2020). Insid- ers can compromise intellectual property, sensitive data, or compro- mise additional credentials. In some circumstances, there is a data breach; in others, it would be described as “data leakage.”
As with any data breach, the organization’s reputation and brand are at stake. Negligence or lack of training can result in a significant negative impact.
The best mitigation for insider threats is the implementation of good role separation, security monitoring and auditing. Addition- ally, annual security training and education that includes policy, as well as technical material, is essential. Reviewing access and privi- leges regularly to maintain a least-privilege posture is important.
There has been a dramatic increase in cyber scams and attacks since the COVID-19 pandemic began (Gallagher, 2020). There has also been an increase in spam and phishing attacks that use COVID-19 in their approach, as well. Many of these are being used to spread malware. Most organizations have existing security protections in place against these types of attacks. Still, to be most effective, security personnel should update spam filters, anti-virus signatures, message hygiene solutions and educate their popula- tion about these current risks.
The cloud can provide benefits for organizations adapting to the new COVID-19 requirements. For example, it provides a mechanism to increase capacity rapidly. Systems residents in the cloud do not require local operations for maintenance. This re- moves some planning and logistical challenges. The trade-off is to ensure your cloud service providers have an effective plan for maintaining their operations during the COVID-19 period (Bridgwater, 2020). Since COVID-19 has forced organizations to embrace remote work, the cloud can be an effective platform to ensure business continuity during a global pandemic (Krill, 2020).
With this in mind, the most direct security threat today is how the edge has shifted from inside the organization’s network perim- eter into each worker’s household. This threat includes using work- stations or mobile devices that are no longer under the enterprise’s direct control.
Employees are accessing and potentially storing the organiza- tion’s data. In fact, to help facilitate work-from-home scenarios, some organizations might be forced to migrate systems and data to the cloud that were previously accessible only within the orga- nization perimeter. Applications and services that never contem- plated this type of remote access might have exposures (SC Me- dia, 2020). These potential exposures need to be evaluated before hastily migrating to the cloud.
Mitigation risk begins with the acknowledgement of the basics of protecting data in transit and protecting data at rest. Virtual private network technologies or other encrypted communications are essential to protect in-transit information. The use of encryp- tion technologies, along with well-written and enforceable security policies, can be used to protect data residing on devices outside the boundaries of the organization. The use of network access control solutions can further protect an organization from compromised end devices.
These will be trying times for organizations and cybersecurity is more important than ever.
Cloud security risks look like the challenges that IT security pro-
fessionals have dealt with since the days of big iron. Changing one’s technology platform to the cloud requires a new set of tools to ad- dress these longstanding challenges.
There are unique risks, but the most prominent are those that have always perplexed CSOs and administrators:
secure the organization’s data, reduce misconfig-
uration, systematically implement security, man-
age identities and access, and defend against the negligent or malicious insider.
Cliff Krahenbill is a professor at Columbia Southern University.
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