Cloud Misconfiguration: What it is & How to Avoid it?

man standing in front of cloud database looks confused

The recent rise in cyber threats comes as a result of the increase in cloud adoption across the globe, intending to increase business agility and resilience. However, that doesn’t mean electing to use cloud-based-hosted environments will make an organization more susceptible to a cyberattack. Securing a cloud environment requires a different security strategy than on-premises infrastructures because traditional security solutions aren’t suited to secure cloud-hosted environments.

A recent survey by Accurics showed that 93% of cloud deployments had some misconfigured cloud storage services. In addition, 70% of businesses are relying on the cloud for operating some aspect of their business. With businesses worldwide relying on the cloud and outdated security tools to protect them, hackers have found much of their success in targeting misconfigured clouds. In this article, we will dive into what cloud misconfiguration is, the several factors that cause it, and how to prevent it.


What is Cloud Misconfiguration?

Cloud misconfiguration can be defined as any errors, glitches, or gaps in your cloud environment that can leave you exposed to a cyber-attack. This cloud security risk could come in the form of data breaches, cloud breaches, insider threats, or external bad actors who leverage vulnerabilities to gain access to your network.

Cloud infrastructure is designed to be highly accessible and to permit data sharing with ease but makes it difficult for organizations to guarantee that data is only accessible to authorized parties. In addition, businesses utilizing cloud-based infrastructure don’t have full visibility or power to manage their critical environments, meaning they heavily rely on their cloud service provider to secure them. Because of this, it’s easy for a misconfiguration, leaving your business vulnerable to hackers. Below are the leading causes of misconfigured cloud infrastructures:


Unauthorized Access

Cloud-based deployments take place outside the parameters of the network, and they can be easily accessed through the public internet. While this offers extraordinary value for the business, it can also make it easier for a hacker to gain unwarranted access to an organization’s sensitive information without the organization knowing it.


Insecure Interfaces

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer several Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and interfaces for their clients. This creates potential issues if the client has not properly secured the interfaces for their cloud-based infrastructure. Generally, these interfaces are detailed to make them comprehendible by the client but still leave room for error.


Lack of Visibility

Organizations that already migrated to cloud-based infrastructure have their resources outside the corporate network and solely operate by relying on infrastructure that the company cannot manage. Because of this, companies that lack cloud-focused security tools are coming to realize that their traditional security tools are ill-equipped for dealing with cloud-based infrastructures.


External Sharing of Data

Cloud-based infrastructures are designed to make data sharing among internal members of the organization easier. While data sharing with ease is beneficial, it’s also a common cause of security issues. In addition, 3rd parties with access to internal data can put your organization at high risk, especially if their cyber posture is mediocre. You’re only as secure as your weakest partner.


Malicious Insiders

Insider threats will continue to be a major security risk for any organization. A malicious internal actor has authorized access to the organization’s network and its data. In cloud-based environments, detecting malicious insiders becomes more difficult.



Cybercriminals treat hacking like a business. Cybercriminals choose the companies they target based on their probability to profit from the attack, and a misconfigured cloud-hosted environment increases their odds tremendously.


Denial of Service Attacks (DoS)

A DoS attack is an event in which the attacker demands a ransom to halt the attack. This has caused large enterprises like JBS, Kia Motors, and the Colonial Pipeline, to put a pause on operations until they could get their systems back up and running by paying the proposed ransom. These attacks are extremely damaging for the brand and cost $170,000 USD, on average, to receive restoration of the data stolen (Sophos State of Ransomware Report, 2021). In fact, in previous cases, organizations have paid the ransom and still did not receive full restoration.


Protecting the Cloud

Despite many organizations deciding to migrate to cloud-hosted storage services for securing their sensitive data and important applications, 93% of business leaders are extremely concerned about cyberattacks sourced from misconfigured cloud set-ups (Help Net Security, 2021). Below are tips for preventing a cloud misconfiguration attack in your organization:

  • Implement Log Tracking: Turn on logging to manage the number of users making changes within your cloud environment. By tracking changes, you will identify the cause of any misconfiguration events.
  • Enable encryption: enabling encryption protects data from unauthorized personnel.
  • Check Permissions: limit permissions to only those individuals who need access to perform their job functions. Widespread access creates weak links in your overall security; you’re only as secure as your weakest link.
  • Conduct Misconfiguration audits often: ensure your cloud environment stays secure by performing full audits to look for signs of misconfiguration and other weak areas within your critical environment.
  • Add layered security: Add security services like a Security Operations Center-as-a-Service (SOC), Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), and Extended Detection and Response (XDR) tools to catch any potential threats that appear in your cloud.

The more cloud security automation you can use, mixed with human-backed services, the better your organization will be in reducing its cyber risk and the chance of falling victim to a cloud-misconfiguration-based breach. As cloud adoption continues to accelerate, it’s important to manage your security risks within your growing number of cloud services. One single misconfiguration can lead to a serious data breach.

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