While the pandemic had massively accelerated cloud adoption, the rush to digitalize had left sustainable cloud security hanging in the air.

In an analysis of customer data in a cybersecurity firm’s cloud ecosystems in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Japan and the Asia Pacific region, there have been clear indications that the global surge in cloud adoption had created security gaps contributing to a spike in cyberattacks in 2020.

The study of cyber incidents occurring between Oct 2019 and Feb 2021 within Palo Alto Networks’ client base was conducted the firm’s threat intelligence arm Unit 42. The data was anonymized and then analyzed against results of previous cloud threat report analytics to glean trend information.

Some of the key findings are:

  • Retail, manufacturing and government sectors suffered spikes in security incidents
    Globally, cloud security incidents studied in the ecosystem had risen over 400% in retail and over 200% in the manufacturing and government sectors. These industries were among those facing the greatest pressures to adapt and scale in the face of the pandemic: retailers for basic necessities, and manufacturing and government for healthcare and pandemic-related vital supplies and aid. 
  • Cryptojacking in the Cloud has been on the decline
    From December 2020 through February 2021, only 17% of organizations with cloud infrastructure showed signs of cryptojacking, compared to 23% from July through September 2020. This is the first recorded drop since Unit 42 began tracking cryptojacking trends in 2018.
  • Sensitive data in the cloud has remained publicly exposed
    30% of organizations protected by the ecosystem were found to have exposed some sensitive content to the internet, be it personally identifiable information, intellectual property, or healthcare and financial data. This degree of exposure indicates that organizations continue to struggle to enforce proper access controls for the hundreds of data storage buckets that may operate in the Cloud, especially when those buckets are spread across multiple cloud providers and accounts.
Security incidents with the greatest increases during the pandemic

The report asserts that organizations in the study had neglected to invest in the necessary cloud governance and automated security controls to ensure that their workloads remained secure as they moved to the Cloud. In turn, they created serious business risks such as exposing unencrypted sensitive data to the Internet and inviting breaches by leaving insecure ports open. All risks were exacerbated by the challenges created by the pandemic.

Faced with this threat, organizations need to build a cloud security program focused evenly around all

phases of the software development lifecycle, in order to establish sustainable cloud security programs that can expand and contract no matter what types of unpredictable events take place in the future.