SecurityBrief Australia logo
Australia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

SaaS and IaaS environments fragmented as cloud privileges are misconfigured

By Shannon Williams
Wed 4 Aug 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Forty four percent of cloud privileges are misconfigured, a new report has revealed. 

The Varonis 2021 SaaS Risk Report uncovers key risks organisations face when trying to control unsupervised identities and shadow privileges that can put data at risk.

"Cloud apps make collaboration a breeze, but unless you’re keeping a close watch on identities, behaviour, and privileges across each and every SaaS and IaaS you rely on, you’re a sitting duck," the report says.

The cloud blurs the lines between personal and corporate accounts and non-admin users can break least privilege with the click of a “share” button. Securely offboarding contractors and employees from dozens of SaaS apps is error prone and often results in shadow identities that attacker’s prey on.

"If you’re not watching closely, users can silently copy, delete, or expose your mission-critical data to just about anyone. And that data can be anything from your Salesforce customer list, your source code in GitHub, and your documents in Box and Google Drive."

High-impact cloud identities

According to the report, 43% of all cloud identities sit abandoned and unused—and exposed. Unused identities that are abandoned by users who are no longer using a cloud service are sitting ducks for account takeovers and therefore substantially increase an organisation’s attack surface. Unused identities, which multiply quickly, need to be continually monitored and identified so that they can be immediately removed from all operation-critical SaaS apps and cloud services.

The report found 3 out of 4 cloud identities belonging to external contractors remain active after they leave the organisation. Most ex-contractors have not been fully de-provisioned when they leave, which typically means that they retain access to the organisation’s cloud services where they can continue to access—and potentially steal—IP and data. When a contractor leaves, their identities, privileges, and access must be fully catalogued for complete removal. In addition, their activities over the 60 days prior to termination should be audited for potential data theft or other compromises.

One in four identities in SaaS apps and half in IaaS services are non-human. Non-human identities include APIs, serverless applications, virtual machines, etc. Unlike human identities, they are under threat of compromise 24x7 because they are always logged in and are typically overlooked by security teams since they operate in the background. Like human identities, non-human ones need to be closely monitored to ensure they haven’t been compromised and that their permissions are not overly-broad in relation to the functions that they are required to perform.

Misconfigured cloud privileges

The report says 44% of cloud user privileges are misconfigured. Users often have overly-broad privileges which are mis-assigned due to a security team oversight or malicious activity. This can open up an organisation to account takeovers and data exfiltration. User privileges must be continuously monitored for misconfigurations and unauthorised changes so that overly-broad privileges can be right sized and least privileged access effectively enforced.

Three out of five privileged cloud users are shadow admins. Shadow Admins are privileged users who have unauthorised privileged access acquired outside of the security team’s purview. They can perform admin-level changes that can cause damage across a cloud service. Shadow Admins should be monitored the same way that you monitor your regular admins, though in most cases their privileges need to be right-sized to their role and aligned with the privileges of the non-privileged user group to which they are assigned.

High risk cloud activities

According to the report, 15% of employees are transferring business critical data to their personal cloud accounts. Business critical data doesn’t always stay in sanctioned cloud services. Employees often transfer data to rogue cloud services — including personal accounts. At best this means the data resides outside of your security team’s control, and at worst is an indicator that the data has been stolen. Security teams need to enforce usage policies that prevent documents from being transferred out of sanctioned apps to private accounts.

And 16% of all cloud users perform privileged actions and 20% of them have access to sensitive corporate data. Privileged actions — ones typically reserved for admins but are often performed by Shadow Admins — should be of highest concern to organisations, especially if the perpetrators also have access to large amounts of data. These actions can negatively impact the entire cloud service or a major part of the experience for everyone, not just a single user or data set. Security teams should constantly review all identity privileges to identify Shadow Admins and right-size their permissions to the minimum needed to do their jobs or remove their access if it is determined that their privileges were escalated for malicious purposes.

Cloud Security Checklist

  • Reduce your cloud blast radius by ensuring employees have the minimum access needed to do their job. This requires continually mapping access control lists across your disparate cloud services to pinpoint and revoke excessive privileges.
  • Monitor user activity for anomalies or out-of-policy activity. Pay close attention to privileged users abusing admin privileges for non-admin related activities that can place your organisation at high risk.
  • Eliminate shadow identities by monitoring account activity (or lack thereof). Remove or disable human and non-human identities, such as application tokens that are inactive to limit your attack surface and avoid account takeover.
  • Perform entitlement reviews regularly so that business unit leaders can see who has access to their data and applications
  • Employ cross-cloud threat detection to ensure you can spot malicious activity that spans multiple cloud apps. Some SaaS providers have built-in logs and alerts, but can only see a fraction of an attack. Unified SaaS monitoring gives you more robust threat models and makes investigations faster.
  • Audit cloud sharing configuration settings. This will help prevent accidental oversharing or leakage of business-critical data. A sensitive file carelessly dropped into a folder with broad sharing rights can result in a data breach.
  • Set up processes for off-boarding remote employees and contractors. This can be a challenge when cloud services are managed outside of your SSO. Adopt a unified, cross-service IAM solution that allows you to revoke permissions
  •  
     
Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Cybersecurity
‘Windows shops’ target admin rights to de-risk their environments
New data shows up to 75% of critical vulnerabilities could be mitigated through a rights and privileges crackdown
Story image
Microsoft
8x more users attacked via old Microsoft Office vulnerability in Q2
"Criminals craft malicious documents and convince their victims to open them through social engineering techniques."
Story image
Cloud Security
Lookout named Strong Performer in 2022 Gartner Peer Insights
Gartner has recognised Lookout as a Strong Performer in the 2022 Gartner Peer Insights Voice of the Customer for Security Service Edge (SSE).
Story image
Gartner
Fortinet attributes Gartner-reported growth to ZTNA approach
Zero-trust is slowly becoming a dominant enterprise security strategy for businesses, and the Gartner report highlights that although prominent, it is often underutilised.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Study looks at gender dimensions of AU security sector
A new study will explore solutions to overcome pressing skills and diversity challenges in the Australian security sector.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Claroty research unveils new attack that targets PLCs
Claroty has released research detailing a new type of cyber-attack, one that weaponises programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Concentric AI protects sensitive data with new capabilities
The new capability reveals sensitive data shared across email and business messaging platforms and highlights who has inappropriate access to content.
Story image
Ransomware
Sophos reveals latest ransomware trend impacting orgs
Sophos has announced in a new whitepaper that Hive, LockBit and BlackCat, three prominent ransomware gangs, consecutively attacked the same network.
Story image
University of Melbourne
The University of Melbourne implements data ecosystem with Talend
Talend has announced that The University of Melbourne (UoM) has selected Talend Data Fabric for its cloud data platform.
Story image
Biometrics
Can biometrics help? 123% increase in Gen Zs scammed online
In the three years leading up to 2022, the number of Gen Zs who fell victim to online scams rose by 123%, according to Ping Identity.
Story image
Data breach
Weak breach data disclosure laws for IP theft leaves vital Australian industries vulnerable
Infoblox has seen unprecedented levels of demand for cyber protection from companies outside of the Critical Infrastructure Act who have discovered security events and those who fear falling victim to IP theft.
Story image
Malware
Kaspersky uncovers new attacks by advanced persistent threat group
The attacks involved modifications of the well-known malware, DTrack, as well as the use of a brand-new Maui ransomware.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft, NSW partnership to accelerate digital transformation
The renewed partnership is designed to maximise the value of Microsoft solutions to various NSW Government agencies.
Story image
VMware
Latest VMware threat report reveals truth about deepfakes
"Cyber criminals have evolved. Their new goal is to use deepfake technology to compromise organisations and gain access to their environment."
Story image
Australian Defence Force
Cloudera and ADF partner for e-health management system
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has selected Cloudera as a strategic data partner to help transform its e-health management system.
Story image
ExtraHop
Organisations exposing highly sensitive protocols to public internet
More than 60% of organisations expose remote control protocol SSH to the public internet, while 36% of organisations expose the insecure FTP protocol.
Story image
Machine learning
Sysdig releases CDR offering to combat cryptojacking
Sysdig has unveiled a cloud detection and response (CDR) offering powered by machine learning to combat cryptojacking.
Story image
Gartner Magic Quadrant
Gartner names Lookout a Visionary in 2022 Magic Quadrant
Gartner has recognised Lookout as a Visionary in the 2022 Magic Quadrant for Security Service Edge (SSE) and one of the top three offerings in the 2022 Gartner Critical Capabilities for SSE report.
Story image
Privileged Access Management / PAM
The importance of stopping identity sprawl for cybersecurity
The 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) shows that 61% of all breaches involve malicious actors gaining unauthorised, privileged access to data by using a compromised credential. Unfortunately, it is often too late when the misuse of a credential is detected.
Story image
Ransomware
Big business in cryptocurrencies and cybercrime
As of June this year, about a quarter (26%) of Australians considered cryptocurrency as a good investment, and over 36% have at one point considered buying cryptocurrency as an investment.
Story image
Cyber attacks
Dramatic uptick in threat activity with exploits growing nearly 150%
"While it’s not a surprise given increased attack opportunities like remote work, it’s still a worrying development and one we cannot ignore."
Story image
Collaboration
Lacework launches new capabilities for better threat detection
Lacework has announced new capabilities that enable organisations to uncover more critical threats to their infrastructure and empower teams.
Story image
consumers
Data protection: How SMEs can secure online consumers’ trust
Consumers believe how a company treats their data reflects how they treat their customers, according to a new survey.
Story image
Email scams
HelpSystems shines light on impact of response-based threats
Response-based attacks targeting corporate inboxes have climbed to their highest volume since 2020, representing 41% of all email-based scams.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Australian IT security concerns higher than before pandemic
Australian organisations are more concerned about cyberattacks than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.
Story image
Remote Working
Cybersecurity concerns higher than before the pandemic - report
BeyondTrust's new survey shows Australian organisations are more concerned about cyberattacks than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Education sector seeing highest volumes of cyber attacks
When breaking down the numbers to education attacks by region in July 2022, A/NZ was the most heavily attacked.
Story image
Data analytics
Pressure on orgs to up their data analytics game - study
A recent report from Sisense highlights data transmission, analysis, and risk management remain top concerns for data professionals in APAC.
Story image
Data Protection
VMware introduces advanced workload protection for AWS
VMware Carbon Black Workload for AWS delivers comprehensive visibility and security across on-premises and cloud environments for AWS customers.
Story image
IDC
High level of Customer Identity & Access Management adoption
The study from Okta revealed that the pandemic has either accelerated or highlighted the need for digital-first strategies.
Story image
Network Management
Superloop helping Aussie K12 schools with latest offering
Superloop has launched CyberEdge, a new cybersecurity platform that will give K12 schools in Australia the tools to optimise, secure and manage their network.
Story image
Data Protection
Safeguarding your financial data
As the digital revolution marches on, managing data security has never been more important. Here are five important steps to take toward better financial data security.
Story image
Microsoft
Avast reveals zero-day exploits targeting Chrome and Microsoft
Avast, released its Q2/2022 Threat Report today, revealing a significant increase in global ransomware attacks, up 24% from Q1/2022.
Story image
Mobiles
Demand grows for future-proof mobile access solutions
HID Global, in partnership with IFSEC Global, recently released the 2022 State of Physical Access Control report for the fourth year running.
Story image
DevOps
Dynatrace extends application security capabilities for runtime environments
Dynatrace has announced that it has extended its Application Security Module to detect and protect against vulnerabilities in runtime environments.
Story image
Dark web
Beware the darkverse and its cyber-physical threats
A darkverse of criminality hidden from law enforcement could quickly evolve to fuel a new industry of metaverse-related cybercrime.
AWS Marketplace
Learn how security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) enhances your security strategy.
Link image
Story image
Data Protection
Zero Trust, but verify - finding the OT in ZerO Trust
The move to remote and cloud-based technologies has shifted the goalposts for cybersecurity. It now needs to cover multiple people, devices, platforms, and networks.
Story image
Gaming
Attacks on gaming companies more than double over past year
The State of the Internet report shows gaming companies and gamer accounts are at risk, following a surge in web application attacks post pandemic.
Story image
Government
Mandiant researchers uncover significant new disinformation campaign
Researchers from Mandiant say they have uncovered a significant disinformation campaign from the Chinese Government in the wake of U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.
Story image
Cloud Security
Tenable makes additions to Cloud Security portfolio
Tenable has announced additions to Tenable Cloud Security that represent the next step in assessing threats related to cloud vulnerabilities.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Datacom research explores reality of zero trust in A/NZ
Zero trust is fast emerging as global best practice in cybersecurity and local leaders are on board, with 83% considering it essential to security.