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Cloud Configurations Continue to Pose Data Center Security Challenges

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Despite a great deal of attention to the problem, cloud configuration continues to be a major issue. When data and applications are moved from on-prem environments to the cloud, proper access controls don’t always follow.

Last month, online job site Ladders exposed more than 13 million user records it was hosting on Amazon Web Services’ cloud. The reason? Misconfigured access controls on their instance of AWS Elasticsearch Service.

In May, security researchers at UpGuard reported that data of more than 500 million Facebook users was exposed by third parties storing the information in unprotected Amazon S3 buckets. Chtrbox confirmed the accidental exposure but said that the scope of it wasn’t as big as reported.

According to a report released last month by the SANS Institute, 31% of organizations reported unauthorized access by outsiders into cloud environments or cloud assets, up from 19% in 2017. While the leading vector for these attacks was credential hijacking, poor configuration was in second place.

These poor configurations aren’t just about databases open to public access. Other cloud systems, like container management platforms, are also popular targets.

Palo Alto Networks recently discovered more than 40,000 container hosting services using default configurations, including over 20,000 each on Kubernetes and Docker, the two most popular container platforms, with configuration problems that could make the organizations vulnerable to attacks.

For example, in April Docker admitted that hackers had accessed one of its Docker Hub databases and could have stolen data from 190,000 accounts. According to Palo Alto threat researcher Nathaniel Quist, the hackers exploited weak security configurations of key and token storage.

The recent Ladders breach was a perfect example of a basic container misconfiguration that had significant consequences, Quist added.

“The lessons learned from the Ladders breach should be at the security configuration forefront for all organizations deploying container services,” he wrote in a report.

Attackers search the cloud for open ports or particular naming conventions, said Adam Kujawa, director of Malwarebytes Labs. “And then they can say, ‘Hey, I found the login page for this cloud management platforms, and the credentials were the default ones’ — or they don’t have any at all.”

According to an Attivo survey of security professionals conducted late last year, the cloud attack surface was the single greatest threat to enterprises.


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