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The Top 8 Cloud Application Threats in 2023

In this blog post, we'll discuss 8 of the top threats targeting cloud applications in 2023. Taking steps to protect your cloud applications against these 8 threats will to help keep your business secure and avoid vulnerabilities.

The Top 8 Cloud Application Threats in 2023

Companies with digital business strategies that employ a dynamic software development lifecycle (SDLC) with continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines are living in an increasingly cloud-first world. But there are a growing number of security issues introduced by the cloud that many organizations are not well equipped to address. That’s why it’s important to make cloud application security one of your top priorities.

There are a wide range of attacks that can target the software supply chain, and cloud-first development makes this easier for attackers to do, while harder for application security teams to detect:

  • In 2022 Toyota was the victim of a possible data leak stemming from a code repository that included personally identifiable information (PII) from almost 300,000 customers. This was the result of code containing secrets that was accidentally uploaded to a public, cloud-based repository. Learn more here.
  • One month before the Toyota breach, a widespread software supply chain attack was discovered by CrowdStrike after an installer for the Comm100 Live Chat application was released that included malicious trojan malware. While the total number of victims was unknown (a Reuters article confirmed at least a dozen), the company serves over 15,000 customers worldwide.
  • Another example of a hard-to-detect software supply chain attack hiding in cloud assets was FishPig Magento 2. This is a plug-in that had over 200,000 downloads that exposed eCommerce stores to the Rekoobe trojan. Strong application security, including cloud application security, is a necessity for finding and eliminating this type of threat.
  • And LastPass, one of the world’s largest password managers with 25 million users, was infiltrated after an attacker gained access to developer account credentials and was able to steal some of their source code. They also accessed backup storage that contained LastPass customer data.

8 of the most critical cloud application risks to watch for in 2023

Cloud security threats are pushing organizations to develop formal cloud application security programs to address these new waves of threats. But the impact of innovations like the cloud and DevOps on application security and the need to protect an increasingly vulnerable software supply chain requires a new approach.

There are many real-life examples of what can happen if you don’t prioritize security issues in the cloud. This article will discuss 8 of the most dangerous cloud application security threats that you should look out for in 2023 (for additional reference, OWASP has a similar list outlining their projected top 10 web application security risks for 2023). Let us explore each of these 8 cloud application threats in detail and discuss strategies to help secure your cloud applications against them in 2023 and beyond.

1. Vulnerable or Outdated Components

The first cloud security risk to be aware of are vulnerable or outdated components. This includes open-source libraries, third-party plug-ins for Jenkins, and unpatched or outdated SDLC systems. These components can introduce a wide range of vulnerabilities if they’re not properly maintained. It’s important to keep your cloud application environment up to date with the latest versions and patches in order to reduce the associated risks. That requires a level of awareness about your 3rd party components. One of the best ways to understand and address cloud security concerns (and others) related to 3rd party systems is to maintain a software bill of materials (SBOM) for as many of the external components as possible. Learn more about SBOMs here.

2. Security Misconfigurations

Security misconfigurations are one of the most common cloud security threats. These can occur in the form of inadequate authentication or encryption protocols, or incorrect access control settings. To reduce the cloud security issues associated with misconfigurations, it’s important to regularly audit and update your cloud application development environment and SDLC systems and tools. Failure to do so is one of the more common causes of breaches, which are a major risk for organizations that have sensitive data and development pipelines in the cloud. And as is repeatedly addressed later in this article, it’s important to implement strong authentication and encryption measures to protect against data breaches, as well as have an incident response plan in place should a breach occur.

3. Missing Security Controls and Insecure Design

Missing security controls, which can include platforms for static application security testing (SAST) or software composition analysis (SCA), and insecure product design can also introduce cloud security risks. In order to reduce the risks associated with missing security controls and insecure design, it’s important to have a comprehensive cloud security strategy in place, both to ensure that proper controls are in place and working correctly, and to establish and track activities throughout the SDLC that can have a positive, proactive impact on application security to reduce cloud threats. These should include adequate processes such as two-person code reviews and adequate oversight over developer behavior. Ideally, this promotes the type of behavior that eventually turns your developers into active application security advocates.

4. Identification/Authentication Failures and Missing Multi-Factor Authentication

Identification/authentication failures and missing multi-factor authentication are significant threats to cloud security. These can be addressed by introducing a robust identity and access management system, as well as implementing and enforcing two-factor authentication for all cloud application users and across your SDLC systems and tools. In addition to protecting against unauthorized access, these steps can also help to mitigate insider threats, such as malicious insiders or negligent behavior of cloud application users, which can also be a major cloud security risk. It’s important to have processes in place to understand and control user authentication and access so that you can detect and respond quickly to any suspicious access and activity from cloud application users.

5. Software & Data Integrity Failures

Software and data integrity failures can be major source of cloud security risk. Software and data integrity failures occur when there is a discrepancy between what the cloud provider believes the cloud system should look like, and what it actually looks like. In other words, the cloud provider expected one thing to happen but something else occurred instead. This may occur due to software coding errors or malicious attacks on cloud systems. These failures can compromise cloud security, resulting in unauthorized access to confidential data and services. Such incidents may lead to data corruption, data leakage or even a complete service interruption. It’s important to have an adequate backup system in place to recover from any data or software corruption that might occur. Furthermore, introducing additional layers of encryption and authentication measures can help reduce the risks associated with integrity failures.

6. Unprotected artifact storage

Unprotected software development lifecycle (SDLC) artifact storage can be a major cloud security risk, as it can leave your cloud applications vulnerable to attack. Unprotected artifact storage presents multiple opportunities for an attacker to gain access to sensitive data and potentially disrupt the entire cloud infrastructure. By storing unprotected artifacts, organizations are at risk of a malicious actor gaining access to source code, passwords, secret keys, and other confidential information stored in cloud-based repositories. Additionally, these unprotected artifacts may contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. It’s important to use secure cloud storage solutions and store all software artifacts in a secure location to reduce the risks associated with unprotected artifact storage. Read more on why application security matters, particularly in a DevOps environment, here.

7. Uncontrolled privileged access

Uncontrolled privileged access is another security risk, as it can leave your cloud applications vulnerable to attack by malicious actors. Malicious actors who gain privileged access to your cloud environment present serious security threats to cloud data, either through theft or destruction, and without the right controls in place, these bad actors can be very difficult to detect. To reduce this risk, it’s important to use robust access control measures and ensure that all privileged users have the appropriate security permissions. This includes diligently enforcing multi-factor authentication for privileged user accounts, and limiting privileged access rights to only those who need them. Implementing strong security controls such as encryption and two-factor authentication, as well as regularly auditing and updating your cloud application environment are essential steps in securing your organization against these threats.

8. Vulnerable CI/CD pipelines

Vulnerable CI/CD pipelines can introduce vulnerabilities and risk into the SDLC that can lead to costly data breaches, software and data integrity failures, business disruption, and other malicious activities. They can include a range of malicious code injection attacks that can deliver software to an end user that contains back doors or other potential exploits lurking inside. Techniques such as code signing can prevent code injection flaws from propagating down CI/CD pipelines and prevent production deployment. It’s also important to secure your CI/CD pipeline by implementing strong authentication measures, cloud access control policies, and cloud storage security solutions. Additionally, introducing additional layers of encryption and two-factor authentication will help to reduce the risks associated with vulnerable CI/CD pipelines. By understanding the cloud security risks associated with vulnerable CI/CD pipelines and taking the necessary steps to protect against them, you can help secure your cloud application environment and ensure that it remains safe from attacks.    

Secure your cloud application code today

The cloud application environment is continuously evolving, leading to a growing number of cloud security risks. Cloud and application security programs must evolve with these threats, which is why it’s important to stay informed of current cloud security threats and the strategies to protect against them. That starts with accurately assessing the cloud security risks to your environment and establishing a risk management strategy that includes the right tools and processes to mitigate those risks.

By understanding the 8 cloud security threats outlined above, organizations can take proactive steps to ensure their cloud applications are secure and resilient. This article has outlined a few strategies to reduce their potential impact on your cloud environment. By following common best practices, you can ensure a secure cloud application environment for years to come.

Legit Security helps secure software supply chains and continuously monitors drift from regulatory frameworks like NIST, FedRAMP, and more. To learn more about how the Legit Security Platform was built to help application security teams keep up with fast-moving development teams at scale, schedule a product demo or learn more about our platform.

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Published on
March 14, 2023

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