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Top Cloud Security Risks, Threats and Challenges

Modern businesses rely heavily on the cloud as it not only helps them to overcome issues associated with traditional data centers but also enables them to save a lot of costs. Cloud computing has streamlined a lot of processes and enabled organizations to scale their workflow to a new level. 

But modern cloud environments are plagued with unique security issues, threats, and challenges. Many individuals often consider them to be similar, but, in reality, they are different from each other. 

Understanding the subtle differences between risks, threats, and challenges has become a vital aspect to improve your overall cloud security posture.

So, what is the difference between the three? 

Risks: Risks refer to the repercussions of a cloud vulnerability that might appear as a data loss. They usually indicate potential issues that arise from service outages, compliance failures, misconfigurations, and others.

Threats: Threats in the cloud can be defined as a type of attack that can cause an impact on the overall cloud security posture. It can also be considered a malicious act that exploits different loopholes in the cloud to extract data or disrupt the service.

Challenges: Cloud security challenges indicate complex and daunting security issues that every organization faces while implementing cloud security. Basically, it is the hurdles that they come across while managing access controls, ensuring compliance, implementing policies, and other aspects. 

However, with a comprehensive and robust cloud security strategy, you can easily address all these issues and ensure there is no gap in the overall cloud security posture. When you implement a robust cloud security strategy, it helps your organization address all the risks, safeguard against threats and solve challenges. 

Through this article, we will highlight all the top cloud security issues, threats, and challenges so that you can understand them and build your cloud security strategy accordingly.

 Let’s dive right in!

5 Cloud Security Risks

Modern cloud security has been a game changer, but like many things, it also comes with its own suite of risks. These risks can’t be mitigated completely, and the only thing you can do is manage them. Understanding top cloud security risks will help you stay ahead of the risks and deal with them properly. Here are some top cloud risks you should know: 

Data Breach

Data breach is one of the most common and severe cloud security risks where attackers steal all the crucial information. Nowadays, a huge amount of data is stored in public and private clouds, and it serves as a gold mine for attackers. During breaches, the attackers mostly look for PII, PHI, trade secrets, financial information, and politically valuable information. 

Along with inherent security risks, various other factors like cloud misconfiguration and poor security measures also serve as primary reasons behind data breaches. The impact of the data breaches depends largely on the type of data stolen, but ultimately, it makes an impact on the overall operation of the organization. 


Along with data breaches, misconfigurations are considered to be one of the primary cloud security risks that have been affecting organizations for years. Since most organizations use services from more than one provider, cloud settings vary from provider to provider. 

Each provider has a specific configuration for each of their services, and they usually vary from each other. Most organizations don’t implement stringent security measures to secure their cloud services, allowing malicious actors to exploit the misconfiguration in these services. A lot of attackers mostly target misconfigurations because it provides them easy access. 

Human Error

Human error has always been one of the key cloud security risks, and as Gartner predicted, by 2024, most of the cloud security issues will occur due to human error. It is one of those risks that will persist, and it is amplified when you host resources in the public cloud. 

The lack of awareness, guardrails, and proficient processes contributes to human error as users don’t get the guidance. Implementing robust security control is one of the proficient ways to manage human error as it guides users to opt for a safe and secure approach.

Uncontrolled Attack Surface

The attack surface of your cloud environment serves as the weak spot that makes your cloud security completely vulnerable. Microservices, known assets, unknown assets, rogue assets, unmanaged devices, Shadow IT, workloads, and many other aspects add to the attack surface. 

When these attack surfaces are not managed properly, they make the whole infrastructure vulnerable and enable attackers to exploit them. The use of public clouds is one of the primary reasons behind many unmanaged attack surfaces. 

API Vulnerability

Nowadays, every organization uses an API for their cloud services, and this paves the way for attackers to use it as an entry point. Moreover, APIs are publicly available to all users, and this makes them more vulnerable to risks. 

On many occasions, organizations have to make the API credentials available to third-party vendors, which adds to the vulnerability and creates new cloud security risks. When an adversary gains an API key or token used by a customer to access a cloud service, then the attacker can use the same credential to access other customer’s data.

How to Manage Cloud Security Risks

How to Manage Cloud Security Risks

Managing cloud security risks has become a vital aspect of every organization because it helps minimize the impact that the most common security risks have on offer. Here are a few tips that will help you to effectively manage cloud risks: 

  • Regular Risk Assessment: When you conduct regular risk assessment in your public cloud through constant monitoring and proactive measures, it will help you unveil many potential risks.

  • Implementing Security Controls: Understanding the security risk posture and implementing appropriate security controls is one of the best ways to manage it.

  • Authentication: Utilizing authentication methods such as two-factor authentication or encryption keys can help you manage cloud security risks like data breaches. Centralizing logging is a smart way to manage cloud security risks and investigate events.

  • Documentation and Revisit: You can document risks and revisit them, which will help you manage potential risks lingering in your cloud environment.

  • Access Control for API: It is important for every organization to implement access control for API and employ other best security practices to minimize the chance of unauthorized access.

  • Backup: Keeping a backup of all the sensitive data is a smart way to minimize cloud security risks, as the data can be recovered to maintain business workflow.

5 Cloud Security Threats

Cloud security threats are types of attacks where malicious actors exploit the risks to access your cloud assets. Even though modern security threats are evolving with the advancement of cloud technology, there are certain threats that daunt most organizations.

Here are the top 5 cloud security threats that you should be aware of: 

Zero Day Exploits

Zero-day exploits are a widely popular cloud security threat where attackers exploit gaps and vulnerabilities in applications. The attackers usually target security flaws or vulnerabilities in the applications that were unknown to the security team and don’t have any security fixes. 

It leaves the whole cloud environment vulnerable to attacks and enables attackers to hinder workflow, steal data, or perform other activities. The cloud configuration you have implemented won’t matter because attackers can use the zero-day exploit to easily get into your environment. 

Insider Threat

Another cloud security threat that has affected many organizations is insider threat. This security threat originates from within your organization and is mostly done by individuals who have insider access to databases, business operations, networks, and other aspects. 

However, insider threats do not always have to be employees; third-party vendors, partners, or contractors often serve as the main reason behind insider threats. However, insider threats are not always intentional. Employees negligently exposing API keys, secrets or falling victim to phishing attacks also lead to insider threat. This type of attack is mostly carried out for data theft, operation disruption, or corporate surveillance. 


Almost every organization operating in the cloud has faced cyberattack and they mostly come in the form of DDoS, DoS, phishing attack, and malware. Hackers or adversaries mostly carry cyberattacks for stealing, destroying, exposing sensitive data or crucial assets of an organization, or getting financial gain. 

Many attackers carry out modern cyberattacks like cross-site scripting to steal user data or disrupting website operation. This type of cloud security threat is either launched by individuals or a group of cyber criminals from anywhere in the world. 

Advanced Persistent Threats

Advanced persistent threat, often known as APT, is a sophisticated and covert cloud security threat where an attacker gains access to a particular network and exploits it for a long time while staying undetected. It sneakily establishes its presence in the network and steals sensitive data over a long time period. 

APT is generally carried out by a team of attackers with the aim of collecting a large volume of sensitive information. It is a serious threat to an organization because the attackers gain entry using zero-day exploits and move from one workload to another to extract the required data over a period of time. 

Insufficient Identity, Credential, Key and Access Management

When an organization has weak identity and access management practices like absence of authentication, poor user provisioning, or poorly implemented password policy, it leads to unauthorized access to data. 

When an attacker gets access to an API key, they can not only gain entry into your cloud environment but also make modifications to suit their intent. In modern times, hackers won’t have to rely on traditional attacks. Instead, they have to look for compromised credentials by posing as a legitimate user and gain entry.

How to Handle Cloud Security Threat?

How to Handle Cloud Security Threat?

The number of cloud security threats is increasing with time, and it can be daunting for organizations to prevent all types of threats. However, following some basic guidelines can help the organization in safeguarding its cloud assets. Here are some ways you can handle cloud security threats: 

  • Secure Coding: One of the efficient ways to handle cloud security threats is by maintaining the secure coding standard throughout the development lifecycle. Securing the codes during microservice development will prevent attackers from using zero-day exploits.

  • Security Hardening: Organizations must focus on hardening their infrastructure security from the core, which will reduce the chance of exploiting user identity to gain access. 

Implementing advanced tools like Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management and various security policies will secure identities and prevent attackers from accessing them easily.

  • Checking Cloud Configuration: Checking the cloud configuration at regular intervals will prevent various security threats from appearing. Whenever any cloud configuration is placed, the team should check them thoroughly to ensure there is no gap.

  • Utilizing Threat Hunting: Making use of a threat hunting solution is an offensive way of handling cloud security threats. Rather than waiting for the threats, the security team can use Threat Hunting to identify various types of threats in the cloud environment and mitigate them before they can make any impact.

5 Cloud Security Challenges

Even when an organization has a robust cloud security strategy in place, it still faces numerous cloud security challenges. These challenges are basically the hurdles they have to overcome to implement cloud security practically. Today, we will mention five top cloud security challenges every organization faces when they start implementing cloud security: 

Lack of Cloud Security Skills and Strategy

The lack of cloud security skills and strategy is one of the major cloud security challenges faced by many organizations. Since many organization are still in the transitional stage as they have recently moved from traditional data centers, not every team member has the specific skills and strategies. 

Due to lack of skills and knowledge while creating a security model, it can lead to numerous vulnerabilities. Moreover poor planning of the security strategy can also lead to many unintentional security holes which can be exploited by hackers. 

Shadow IT

Another serious cloud security challenge that has affected many is Shadow IT. This challenge has arised due to the rapid usage of cloud services by developers to accomplish different tasks. While using cloud services, developers also had the ability to use the workloads through their accounts, and this led to the creation of assets that were not always secured properly. 

Employees with the intent to increase productivity and speed up work often utilize the default key to use the application, services, and hardware without the knowledge of the security group. However, this hidden usage introduces numerous risks like compliance issues, data leaks, system compromise, and more. 


Every organization tasked with storing or processing sensitive data has to adhere to specific industry standards like PCI DSS, GDPR, SOC 2, HIPAA, and others. Organizations have to implement necessary security policies and comply with regulatory requirements to ensure the safety of the data as well as cloud-based systems. 

However, maintaining compliance is a considerable challenge due to the dynamic nature, human error, and shared responsibility model. Moreover if access control policies are not properly implemented, it leads to compliance violation. 

Identity and Access Management

IAM, or identity and access management, serves as an essential aspect of cloud security, but it also poses a challenge in its implementation. Implementing IAM is quite tricky as it requires you to define the roles and permissions of hundreds of employees in an organization. 

Importantly, IAM requires you to go through three steps to build a robust strategy, which includes role designs, privileged access management, and implementation. The role design and privileged access management serve as the most crucial steps because you will have to assign roles based on the work and define which role requires more protection. 

Lack of Visibility

Modern cloud is a combination of many components, and it is getting more complex due to the involvement of third-party vendors. Importantly, many organizations operate in hybrid models that involve public and private clouds. 

The complexity of the cloud is going to increase with time as the amount of data, identities, and applications grows. This rapid growth causes organizations to lose visibility over many resources and new assets that are being used. It becomes impossible to have a complete visibility of every component in the cloud that leads to various vulnerabilities causing breach.

How to Overcome Cloud Security Challenges

How to Overcome Cloud Security Challenges

Overcoming cloud security challenges is not an easy task and it requires you to make a comprehensive approach. However, each challenge poses a different issue, and you will have to address them uniquely. Here are some ways to overcome cloud security challenges:

  • Building a Robust Security Strategy: Your primary goal should be to build a robust security strategy which will help you take a comprehensive approach in addressing many common challenges. 

To build a sound security strategy, you will have to automate the vulnerability identification, include security at every level, create identification control, and use encryption.

  • Educate and Train Employees: To properly implement cloud security measures, it is vital that organizations should emphasize on educating and training employees. 

Conducting regular workshops and training on various cloud security aspects and how employees can employ best security practices will ultimately help in building and maintaining security posture.

  • Centralized Visibility: Ensuring a centralized visibility of all the cloud components will be highly useful for organizations to properly implement various security measures and policies. Through continuous monitoring and identification, security teams can govern all the activities happening in the cloud.

  • Utilizing Compliance Tool: One of the best ways to stay compliant is by implementing compliance tools as it ensures regular audit and proper implementation of controls. These tools also make sure everyone follows best security practices to adhere to compliance guidelines.

  • Introducing DevSecOps: DevSecOps brings a shift in the culture where it introduces security at every application development stage. Importantly, it comes highly useful to prevent Shadow IT as it enables security teams to keep track of every resource.

How CloudDefense.AI Can Help?

CloudDefense.AI serves as a top-tier CNAPP platform that offers you all the available solutions to safeguard your organization from code to cloud. It is a powerful agentless CNAPP platform that seamlessly integrates with your cloud and helps you overcome many security challenges you had with traditional methods. 

Most importantly, it provides you a centralized visibility into your cloud environment and ensures you have everything under control. By offering solutions like CSPM, CIEM, CWPP, vulnerability, threat detection, API scanning, SCA, and IaC scanning, it helps you address many security risks and threats like insider threats, cyberattacks, zero-day exploits, and others. 

Adhering to compliance is a significant issue for every organization, but CloudDefense.AI, through its multi-cloud compliance management solution, helps you automate compliance and prevent violations. 

This platform also helps you bring a change in your security culture through Shift Left security and helps you rectify misconfiguration and vulnerability at the earliest. It brings automation to your security strategy, where it automates identification and remediation processes while eliminating the chance of any human error.

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Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, currently co-founds CloudDefense.AI, a cybersecurity solution with a mission to secure your business by rapidly identifying and removing critical risks in Applications and Infrastructure as Code. With a background in Amazon, Microsoft, and VMWare, they contributed to various software and security roles.
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