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7 Cloud Security Challenges

As companies transition to the cloud, they are sure to be confronted with these seven security challenges.

Wiz Experts Team
6 min read

Differences among risks, threats, and challenges in cloud security 

Cloud environments are rife with unique risks, threats, and challenges. Understanding the nuanced differences among the three is critical to resource allocation, response tactics, risk management, and informed decision making. 

Risks are potential negative consequences of a cloud vulnerability. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, however, is an example of a threat. Threats are potential malicious acts, either internal or external, that aim to exploit a cloud vulnerability. As such, common cloud security threats can have far-reaching consequences.

Challenges are complex cloud security issues that organizations may confront in rapidly scaling multi-cloud environments. Many organizations find the management of complex access-control lists challenging, particularly in a multi-cloud environment. Ensuring compliance with different data protection regulations in a globally distributed cloud infrastructure is also a common cloud security challenge.

The top 7 cloud security challenges every organization encounters 

The most common cloud security challenges include:

  1. Securing 3rd party software and APIs

  2. Lack of visibility

  3. Cybersecurity skills shortage

  4. Cloud data governance

  5. Shadow IT

  6. Evolving attack surface

  7. Juggling Multi-cloud security

1. Securing third-party software and insecure APIs

Vulnerable third-party software and insecure APIs can broaden an enterprise’s attack surface by accidentally providing excessive access. Our research shows that only 18% of enterprises establish optimal permission boundaries for third-party applications. The rest provide excessive privileges and expose sensitive data. 

Almost all enterprises commission third-party software to augment their cloud environments and strengthen software development lifecycles (SDLC). These third-party applications in SDLCs are a part of the software supply chain and communicate with each other via APIs. The software supply chain can be susceptible to a variety of cyberattacks if neglected or mismanaged. 

The SolarWinds supply chain attack is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by vulnerable third-party software. Threat actors used the SolarWinds Orion Platform, an infrastructure monitoring and management platform, to inject malicious code in the guise of a software patch. As a result, more than 30,000 organizations that use the platform were compromised. These organizations’ sensitive data remained exposed for more than a year before the attack was detected. 

2. Lack of visibility

A typical cloud environment is a combination of IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS components. Many businesses adopt hybrid models that utilize both public and private clouds. Some businesses configure their cloud infrastructures with on-premises data centers. 

IT environments are complex ecosystems involving third-party applications, digital identities, and sensitive data, both static and in transit. The rapid mushrooming of these resources can result in cloud sprawl, which is when an organization loses control of its cloud resources. The sheer volume of concurrent cloud applications and technologies that need to be managed due to cloud sprawl can overwhelm organizations and make cloud security a nightmare.

In the past, new cloud assets could only be commissioned by a select few IT teams and personnel. Today, many different kinds of users can quickly expand cloud environments. Centralized visibility with no blind spots is vital because these new assets and dependencies spring up across multi-cloud environments at unprecedented speed and scale. 

Your cloud security solution must be able to give you complete visibility into your cloud environments

It's impossible to identify cloud security challenges without a comprehensive view of compute platforms, data platforms, security and identity tools, code technologies, CI/CD tools, workloads, and APIs. A lack of centralized visibility and real-time monitoring means that known and unknown security vulnerabilities can become full-blown security disasters. Suboptimal visibility can also make incident response a delayed and laborious process. 

3. Lack of cloud security professionals

Organizations are trying to fill the worldwide gap of 3.4 million cybersecurity workers.

ISC Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2022

A deficiency of cybersecurity talent often leads businesses to become over-reliant on SaaS products and other external security resources and knowledge banks to solve cloud-native security challenges. A lack of in-house cloud security professionals means that companies may struggle to comprehend and address the intricate cybersecurity needs of their cloud-native IT environments. It also means that now is a good time for organizations to embrace shift-left initiatives and empower their developers to address security challenges early in the SDLC.

There’s no ceiling to the damage resulting from the global lack of cybersecurity professionals. Some companies may see minor incidents, while others might face security disasters that result in financial setbacks and irreparable reputational damage. T-Mobile was the victim of a data breach that compromised more than 37 million customers’ information, which shows the scale of damage companies are up against. 

4. Cloud data governance 

It can't be overstated that data is an organization's prime resource. Within vast banks of cloud data are crown jewels like PII, PHI, and PCI that require the most robust governance and protection. Cloud data governance challenges include:

  • Visibility across AWS, GCP, and Azure public buckets, data volumes, and managed databases

  • Detection of data exposure

  • Understanding data flow and lineage

  • Policy implementation

  • Compliance adherence

Identifying attack paths in cloud environments that lead to sensitive data—and eliminating those paths—are other critical challenges for businesses. 

Data governance failures can have long-term implications. Gartner analysts reveal that between now and 2025, 80% of enterprises will fail to grow their digital operations due to suboptimal data governance.

5. Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to any data that isn’t under the stewardship of an enterprise’s IT or security teams. This data is a part of the shadow IT phenomenon, which is the non-approved use of IT resources, including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services, APIs, servers, and hardware. Shadow IT is a natural byproduct of agile environments where developers and teams bypass bureaucratic processes to commission IT resources on the fly. Shadow IT is an inevitable part of cloud growth, but failure to address its security implications can result in data breaches.

6. Managing a rapidly evolving attack surface

Economical and single-click scalability is one of cloud computing's most significant advantages. However, the trade-off for scalability comes in the form of a rapidly expanding attack surface. This expansion is due to the ever-increasing volume of cloud assets, including human and service identities, virtual machines, serverless, appliances, unagentable workloads, IaC services, and data. These cloud assets are susceptible to numerous security crises, including overprivileged entitlements, accidental public exposure of secrets and access keys, weak credentials and passwords, and misconfigurations. 

Businesses on agile growth trajectories can't afford to decelerate operations to disentangle their complex cloud environments and reduce their attack surface. Therefore, one of the biggest cloud security challenges is continuously managing the risks of expanding and dynamic attack surfaces without sacrificing operational agility.

7. Multi-cloud security

As we’ve seen, the security challenges of cloud computing include data governance, compliance, visibility, workload misconfigurations, IAM complexities, and malware threats. Businesses typically accept many of these threats into their risk appetite and ward off the more serious dangers with robust cybersecurity defenses. However, complications arise when adopting multi-cloud strategies. This is because multi-cloud environments exacerbate inherent cloud challenges and make cloud security a monumental challenge. 

The vast majority of global enterprises have adopted multi-cloud infrastructures and strategies. According to Oracle-commissioned research, only 2% of enterprises using public cloud services do not plan on expanding to multi-cloud infrastructures.

IAM management and access control are among the most significant security challenges in these multi-cloud infrastructures. Simply put, businesses need to know who has access to which cloud resources and why. Without this knowledge, companies can't identify vulnerabilities, predict attack paths, and calculate the blast radius of potential cloud security disasters. 

A better approach to overcoming cloud security challenges 

Companies embracing multi-cloud environments should be ready to face a series of unique risks, threats, and challenges that traditional cybersecurity measures fail to mitigate. That’s why Wiz has developed a unique agentless approach to overcoming cloud security struggles. Our cloud security solutions are powered by an analysis engine that can assess risks across cloud environments by integrating CSPM, KSPM, CWPP, IaC scanning, CIEM, and DSPM. 

Wiz can help you unveil hidden vulnerabilities, toxic combinations, attack paths, and other critical multi- and hybrid cloud security challenges. You don’t have to worry about your security solution putting the brakes on agile dev activities. Wiz integrates into CI/CD pipelines and offers advanced controls and workflows ideal for high-octane cloud environments. Get a demo now to see Wiz’s cloud security approach in action and learn how Wiz can fortify your IT environments and solve cloud-native security challenges. 

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