IBM: Security in the Cloud remains challenged by complexity and shadow IT


IBM Security has new data examining the top challenges and threats impacting cloud security, indicating that the ease and speed at which new cloud tools can be deployed can also make it harder for security teams to control their usage. According to IBM survey data and case-study analysis, basic security oversight issues, including governance, vulnerabilities, and misconfigurations, remain the top risk factors organizations should address to help secure increasingly cloud-based operations. The case-study analysis of security incidents over the past year also sheds light on how cybercriminals are targeting cloud environments with customized malware, ransomware and more.

With businesses rapidly moving to cloud to accommodate remote workforce demands, understanding the unique security challenges posed by this transition is essential for managing risk. While the cloud enables many critical business and technology capabilities, ad-hoc adoption and management of cloud resources can also create complexity for IT and cybersecurity teams. According to IDC, more than a third of companies purchased 30+ types of cloud services from 16 different vendors in 2019 alone. IDC CloudPulse Summary Q119 This distributed landscape can lead to unclear ownership of security in the cloud, policy “blind spots” and potential for shadow IT to introduce vulnerabilities and misconfiguration.

In order to get a better picture of the new security reality as companies quickly adapt to hybrid, multi-cloud environments, IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) and IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS) examined the unique challenges impacting security operations in the cloud, as well as top threats targeting cloud environments. Top findings include:

· Complex Ownership: 66% of respondents surveyed IBM Institute for Value Survey of 930 senior business and IT professionals say they rely on cloud providers for baseline security; yet perception of security ownership by respondents varied greatly across specific cloud platforms and applications.2

· Cloud Applications Opening the Door: The most common path for cybercriminals to compromise cloud environments was via cloud-based applications, representing 45% of incidents in IBM X-Force IRIS cloud-related case studies. IBM X-Force IRIS: “Cloud Security Landscape Report” In these cases, cybercriminals took advantage of configuration errors as well as vulnerabilities within the applications, which often remained undetected due to employees standing up new cloud apps on their own, outside of approved channels.

· Amplifying Attacks: While data theft was the top impact of the cloud attacks studied3, hackers also targeted the cloud for cryptomining and ransomware4 – using cloud resources to amplify the effect of these attacks.

“The cloud holds enormous potential for business efficiency and innovation, but also can create a ‘wild west’ of broader and more distributed environments for organizations to manage and secure,” said Abhijit Chakravorty, Cloud Security Competency Leader, IBM Security Services. “When done right, cloud can make security scalable and more adaptable – but first, organizations need to let go of legacy assumptions and pivot to new security approaches designed specifically for this new frontier of technology, leveraging automation wherever possible. This starts with a clear picture of regulatory obligations and compliance mandate, as well as the unique technical and policy-driven security challenges and external threats targeting the cloud.”

Prashant Bhatkal, Security Software Leader, IBM India/South Asia, “While companies have been slowly moving to the cloud for years, the global pandemic has served as a forcing function for businesses to drastically accelerate their cloud adoption. The pandemic has created a premium on agility, which the cloud and associated services can provide. Businesses need the ability to adapt quickly and access tools and systems remotely, making cloud the inevitable solution for the “new normal”. While agility is essential, rapid technology shifts lead to new opportunities for cybercriminals. In the case of the cloud, we are moving to a very flexible and dispersed IT landscape that is easy to deploy and scale, but more complex to manage and control. As the rapid move to the cloud has likely exacerbated these challenges, companies must quickly re-evaluate their security policies for the new normal. Customers in India before the pandemic focused around on-prem deployments of critical applications and data. As they started moving to SaaS-based offerings in the last couple of months to allow availability and access to data anywhere, they realized the need to re-imagine their security posture. We are working with clients to help migrate their mission-critical workloads to Cloud by ensuring security is baked in at every level. We are partnering with customers on how they can shift their security approaches to protect increasingly dispersed, hybrid-cloud environments. Cloud today is a key enabler in providing secure environment to applications and data across various platforms.


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