The purpose of application security is to protect an application and its users from threats like denial of service, supply chain attacks, hacking, code injections, and data theft. Developers and enterprises implement several application security measures throughout the application development process, including design, testing, and deployment.
However, application security in the cloud is a different ballgame from on-premise applications. It is more challenging because cloud environments are distributed and shared, and the onus of maintaining and securing the application lies with the cloud provider. Developers too need a different approach to securing applications in the cloud. Cloud applications are distributed by nature which means secure access and authorization across multiple devices and users is critical.
Common Cloud Application Security Issues
Let’s first consider the most common security threats facing applications on the cloud.
- Unauthorized Access: Malicious and forced access to corrupt functionality or steal data.
- Account Theft: Use of stolen credentials, force, or social engineering to access the application and take over the user’s account.
- Misconfigurations: Cloud applications have complex security configurations, making it easier for instances of misconfigurations to occur at the development stage. These misconfigurations can expose the application’s code to attacks.
- Unauthorized/ Accidental Leaks: Cloud applications have “secrets”, i.e. shared credentials or other data that allow access to protected resources. These secrets are a favourite of attackers. Unfortunately, cloud application developers accidentally expose secrets when they leave them in repositories or other files.
- API Attacks: Cloud applications typically have more APIs than on-premise apps, and these APIs are exposed online, or to partners and third-parties. APIs by nature are meant to interface and are usually less protected to allow smooth performance. Unsecured APIs are a major ace security risk, and once compromised they can allow attackers to shut down resources, turn off security measures, and access data.
- Distributed Denial of Service: A huge influx of data and requests, intentional or otherwise, can cause service interruptions and prevent users from accessing the application.
- Hypervisor and Shared Tenancy Vulnerabilities: There can be a threat risk despite a cloud application developer ensuring complete application security. The cloud provider’s infrastructure could be less secure due to the hypervisors in cloud systems. Moreover, with shared tenancy in the cloud, security breaches are possible when there is suboptimal logical isolation between tenants, making unauthorized access possible.
Cloud Application Security Best Practices
There are several risks threatening cloud applications, but by employing the best practices suggested here you can better safeguard your cloud applications.
- Eliminate vulnerabilities at the development stage. A certain way to protect a cloud application is to build security into practices, processes, and tools at the development stage. For example, tools like IDE plugins make it easier for cloud application developers to view the results of security tests in real-time as they write their code.
- Focus on architecture, design, and open-source and third-party elements. Limiting security scans to bugs in the code or penetration tests against the system is not enough. Widen the scope of security tests to include all possible vulnerabilities in the application.
- Build application security skills within your development teams. With high-quality training and competencies, security teams will be better equipped to ensure application security. Carefully manage access to cloud applications and user behaviour, and guide employees about security practices. By monitoring user behaviour, you can detect if the information is being poorly handled by internal users.
- Pick the right cloud security provider. Your security partner, or cloud security solutions provider, must be experienced in handling existing and emerging security risks. They must be able to provide the right set of tools and security strategies to ensure maximum coverage.
- Don’t stop with due diligence. We’re so used to cloud technology now, that we take cloud security for granted and connect tools and applications without paying heed to potential security consequences. This cavalier approach to security exposes applications to attacks. It is critical to maintain stringent information security norms and best practices, such as role-based access, multi-factor authentication, and single sign-on.
- Audit and optimize. Regular security audits will allow you to check for new vulnerabilities and continuously optimize your security infrastructure and posture. Audits will show where vulnerabilities have opened up so that rules and policies can be modified.
- Follow password best practices. Cloud application security begins at the perimeter, and strong passwords offer the first level of protection. You must set well-defined policies and standards – such as password lengths, special characters, password expiration, etc. – to ensure your employees are using strong passwords. Additionally, use multi-factor authentication that requires employees to add another authentication code after entering their password. This typically includes entering an OTP that is sent to their mobile phone but can also include automated authentication calls, security questions, mobile app prompts, and so on.