Prevalence of Human Errors in Cloud Data Breaches
Prevalence of Human Errors in Cloud Data Breaches

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A Thales Global Cloud Security Study from 2023 discovered an increase in businesses experiencing data breaches in their cloud environment, going from 39% in 2021 to 43% in 2022. The survey, which collected responses from about 3000 IT and security professionals from 18 different countries, also observed an alarming surge in the amount of sensitive data being stored in the cloud. 75% of the respondents admitted to more than 40% of the data in their organization’s cloud environments being classified as ‘sensitive’, a significant jump from the 39% in 2021.

The Human Factor in Data Breaches

The report identified human error as the primary source of cloud data breaches, accounting for 55% of the cases. This percentage was considerably higher than the next most common cause, being exploitation of vulnerabilities, at 21%. Cybersecurity firm Proofpoint corroborated this trend, stating that cyber attackers still saw people and their accounts as the weakest link in the security chain. Their 2023 Human Factor report revealed that 94% of observed cloud tenants were under threat from either precision or brute-force attacks monthly, and 62% of them had succumbed to the attacks.

Proofpoint’s Cybersecurity Strategist, Matt Cooke, explained that attackers are increasingly attempting to exploit usernames and passwords they suspect might be connected to certain companies, making a considerable impact.

Challenges from App-Based Threats

The Thales report noted a 41% rise in SaaS usage from 2021 to 2023, leading to increased complexity in data security due to the replacement of on-premises applications. Additionally, survey respondents ranked SaaS apps as the prime target for attacks in 2022, followed by cloud storage.

Cooke highlighted another key security concern, the increasing incidence of malicious third-party applications being connected to an organization’s cloud accounts. Attackers deceive users into providing permissions to malicious OAuth apps, facilitating access to the user’s legitimate cloud services.

Intricacies of Multi-Cloud Environment

The Thales study also pointed out the ongoing spike in multicloud adoption, with 79% of the surveyed organizations having more than one cloud provider in 2022.

Thales’ EMEA Technical Associate Vice President, Data Security, Chris Harris, stated that multicloud environments introduced greater cybersecurity challenges. As multiple security controls and data protection models need to be understood and applied, the risk of discrepancies and potential gaps increases, heightening the chances of a breach or intrusion.

Preventive Measures

The Thales study highlighted the fact that merely 22% of the respondents reported that 60% or more of their cloud data is encrypted, with only 45% of sensitive data in the cloud being encrypted on average.

Several factors may account for these low encryption levels, including a lack of understanding of cloud encryption operations and concerns about impeding developer productivity. Harris suggested organizations adopt new encryption methods due to the increased complexities brought on by multicloud environments.

The study also underscored the need for the widespread adoption of robust multifactor authentication (MFA) for secure cloud data access, already implemented by 65% of respondents. However, Cooke cautioned against seeing MFA as an infallible solution, noting that cyber-threat actors are becoming increasingly proficient at MFA bypass techniques.

Lastly, continuous monitoring of attempts to target users was recommended as a crucial security measure.