6 security risks of enterprises using cloud storage and file sharing apps

by Mauricio Prinzlau on Friday April 6, 2018

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The following are six of the top risks that must be addressed when using cloud storage and file sharing apps for business.

With the rising popularity of cloud storage, and its ever-increasing versatility, it’s no surprise that enterprises have jumped on the cloud bandwagon. This powerful tool not only meets storage and computing needs, but also helps saves business thousands of dollars in IT investments. This high demand for storage has nurtured the growth of a thriving cloud service industry that offers affordable, easy-to-use and remotely-accessible cloud services.

But as with every kind of new technology, whether physical or virtual, IT experts have warned of the inherent security risks associated with using cloud storage and file sharing apps. In fact, security or the lack thereof has restricted universal adoption of cloud services. The main issue is that enterprises have to entrust the security of their sensitive business data to third-parties, who may or may not be working in their best interest. There are several risks associated with the use of third-party cloud services, here are six of them to focus on:

No Control over Data

With cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft Azure becoming a regular part of business processes, enterprises have to deal with newer security issues such as loss of control over sensitive data. The problem here is that when using third-party file sharing services, the data is typically taken outside of the company’s IT environment, and that means that the data’s privacy settings are beyond the control of the enterprise. And because most cloud services are designed to encourage users to back up their data in real-time, a lot of data that wasn’t meant to be shared can end up being viewed by unauthorized personnel as well. The best way to avoid such a risk is by ensuring you’re your provider encrypts your files during storage, as well as transit, within a range of 128 to 256-bit.

Data Leakage

Most of the businesses that have held back from adopting the cloud have done so in the fear of having their data leaked. This feat stems from the fact that the cloud is a multi-user environment, wherein all the resources are shared. It is also a third-party service, which means that data is potentially at risk of being viewed or mishandled by the provider. It is only human nature to doubt the capabilities of a third-party, which seems like an even bigger risk when it comes to businesses and sensitive business data. There are also a number of external threats that can lead to data leakage, including malicious hacks of cloud providers or compromises of cloud user accounts. The best strategy is to depend on file encryption and stronger passwords, instead of the cloud service provider themselves.

BYOD

Another emerging security risk of using cloud storage and FSS is that they have given employees the ability to work on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) basis. And this trend is set to increase as more employees prefer to use their own devices at work, either because they’re more used to their interfaces or have higher specs than company-provided devices. Overall, BYOD has the potential to be a win-win situation for employees and employers, saving employers the expense of having to buy IT equipment for employees while giving employees more flexibility. However, BYOD also brings significant security risks if it’s not properly managed. Stolen, lost or misused devices can mean that a business’ sensitive data is now in the hands of a third-party who could breach the company’s network and steal valuable information. Discovering a data breach on an external (BYOD) asset is also more difficult, as it is nearly impossible to track and monitor employee devices without the proper tools in place.

Snooping

Files in the cloud are among the most susceptible to being hacked without security measures in place. The fact that they are stored and transmitted over the internet is also a major risk factor. And even if the cloud service provides encryption for files, data can still be intercepted on route to its destination. The best form of security against this threat would be to ensure that the data is encrypted and transmitted over a secure connection, as this will prevent outsiders from accessing the cloud’s metadata as well.

Key Management

The management of cryptographic keys has always been a security risk for enterprises, but its effects have been magnified after the introduction of the cloud, which is why key management needs to be performed effectively. This can only be done by securing the key management process from the start and by being inconspicuous, automated, and active. This is the only way to ensure that sensitive data isn’t vulnerable when it is going to the cloud. Additionally, keys need to be jointly-secured, and the retrieval process should be difficult and tedious, to make sure that data can never be accessed without authorization.

Cloud Credentials

The basic value proposition of the cloud is that it offers near-unlimited storage for everyone. This means that even an enterprise’s data is usually stored along with other customers’ data, leading to potential data breaches via third parties. This is mitigated - in theory - by the fact that cloud access is restricted based on user credentials; however those credentials are also stored on the cloud and can vary significantly in security strength based on individual users' password habits, meaning that even the credentials are subject to compromise. While a credential compromise may not give attackers access to the data within your files, it could allow them to perform other tasks such as making copies or deleting them. The only way to overcome this security threat is by encrypting your sensitive data and securing your own unique credentials, which might require you to invest in a secure password management service.

While the cloud storage and file sharing services can offer great value to enterprises for their flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, it is critical that organizations address these security concerns with the implementation of a comprehensive cloud security strategy before adoption of or transition to cloud services.

Mauricio is the CEO of Cloudwards.net, a data and user feedback driven comparison engine for cloud apps and services. He enjoys writing and producing educational videos around the cloud to help people find the best cloud service for their needs.

Tags: Cloud Security, Data Protection