1. Introduction

Cloud Computing has started becoming more prevalent in many different fields. In the EU, 41% of enterprises use Cloud Computing to a degree in their workflows (mostly in e-mail hosting and data storage). Resulting in a 5% increase as compared to the previous year. Further on, according to these statistics, 73% of the said enterprises use them in a plethora of fields ranging from security software, database hosting, computing platforms, or testing and development (Eurostat, 2021).

Use of cloud computing, by enterprise size (Figure 1)Use of cloud computing, by enterprise size (Figure 1)

Leading to the assumption that the use of cloud computing, in general, is becoming more widespread in all enterprises across Europe. This situation is not limited to big enterprises either. We see that the overall growth of Cloud Computing in the context of small enterprises has gone up by 5% (Figure 1). 

Cloud computing usage by smaller companies, by country (Figure 2)Cloud computing usage by smaller companies, by country (Figure 2)

Though we see an overall increase in Cloud Computing usage across all enterprises, the specific usage case for Cloud Computing itself varies (Figure 2). We can see that overall, 79% of them house their e-mails, 46% of them host their databases, and 66% store their files on cloud systems. This begs the question, just how dependable are current security measures against breaches, and how can the existing ones be improved upon. This very question is the focus of the article: Laying the groundwork for what Cloud Computing is and its components, later focusing on cloud computing security. 

The previous article laid the groundwork for Cloud Computing with an introduction surrounding the basics, and from there moved on to the explanation of key concepts such as cloud business model, cloud types, and the difference between on-premises and cloud storage. Here, in the continuation to that article, we will be analysing the security measures surrounding Cloud Computing, detailing the security measurements that are currently being used and the possible threats that are imposed on the Cloud, to highlight the status quo in the field itself.

2. Cloud & Security

2.1. Cloud Computing

Starting with a brief overview of the previous article, Cloud Computing in its most fundamental form is the delivery of computing services, i.e., servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence, over the internet (The Cloud). It offers enterprises to select what they will be using and drops the requirement for unnecessary in-house hardware. 

The business model of cloud computing is based on the term on-demand services. Under these, you usually do not have a fixed service that does not budge, but one that is easily scalable according to the needs of your enterprise. For instance, if you need more storage or computing power in your processes, the Cloud service you are using can adjust these accordingly. 

2.2. The Status quo of Cloud Computing Security

2.2.1. Security Techniques

Cloud Security is a concept that many enterprises have an issue with. This is naturally born from the distrust that companies have surrounding their sensitive data and the new nature of cloud technologies, resulting in pre-emptive distrust even before putting the service itself into consideration. 

To get a sense of the scope in which cloud security itself runs, here is a list of the devices and platforms that are aimed to be protected:

Devices that need SecurityDevices that need Security

The hereby section aims to teach the fundamentals of Cloud Computing Security Techniques, explaining the purpose of each one. The methods for this are as follows:

Encryption: Encryption is a way of scrambling data so that only authorized parties can understand the information. If an attacker hacks into a company's cloud and finds unencrypted data, they can do any number of malicious actions with the data: leak it, sell it, use it to carry out further attacks, etc. However, if the company's data is encrypted, the attacker will only find scrambled data that cannot be used unless they somehow discover the decryption key (which should be almost impossible). In this way, encryption helps prevent data leakage and exposure, even when other security measures fail.

Data can be encrypted both at rest (when it is stored) or in transit (while it is sent from one place to another). Cloud data should be encrypted both at rest and in transit so that attackers cannot intercept and read it. Encrypting data in transit should address both data traveling between a cloud and a user, and data traveling from one cloud to another, as in a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environment. Additionally, data should be encrypted when it is stored in a database or via a cloud storage service.

Identity and Access Management: Identity and access management (IAM) products track who a user is and what they are allowed to do, and they authorize users and deny access to unauthorized users, as necessary. IAM is extremely important in cloud computing because a user's identity and access privileges decide whether they can access data, not the user's device or location.

IAM helps reduce the threats of unauthorized users gaining access to internal assets and authorized users exceeding their privileges. The right IAM solution will help mitigate several kinds of attacks, including account takeover and insider attack (when a user or employee abuses their access to expose data). The different services that include IAM are Single sign-on (SSO), Multi-factor authentication (MFA), etc.

Security system: A cloud security system supplies a layer of protection around cloud assets by blocking malicious web traffic. Unlike traditional firewalls, which are hosted on-premises and defend the network perimeter, cloud firewalls are hosted in the cloud and form a virtual security barrier around cloud infrastructure. Most web application firewalls fall into this category.

Cloud firewalls block DDoS attacks, malicious bot activity, and vulnerability exploits. This reduces the chances of a cyber-attack crippling an organization's cloud infrastructure.

Data Loss Prevention: Data loss prevention (DLP) services offer a set of tools and services designed to ensure the security of regulated cloud data. DLP solutions use a combination of remediation alerts, data encryption, and other preventative measures to protect all stored data, whether at rest or in motion.

Data Loss PreventionData Loss Prevention

Security Information and Event Management: Security information and event management (SIEM) supply a comprehensive security orchestration solution that automates threat monitoring, detection, and response in cloud-based environments. Using artificial intelligence (AI)-driven technologies and SIEM technology give IT teams the ability to successfully apply their network security protocols while being able to quickly react to any potential threats.

Security Information & Event ManagementSecurity Information & Event Management

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) is a set of processes and techniques used to help an organization recover from a disaster and continue or resume routine business operations. It is a broad term that combines the roles and functions of IT and business in the aftermath of a disaster.

2.3. Threats

Above we have discussed the safety measurements and techniques that Cloud Providers use to hinder any outside interference to the cloud itself. However, knowing the threats only is simply not enough, but acknowledging where the attacks come from will bring an overall coherence to how essential security is for cloud systems. 

2.3.1. Cloud Security Threats

Security ThreatsSecurity Threats
2.3.1.1. Integrity Threat

Integrity threats focus on the inadequate use of technology in supplying the Cloud customer security and overall accessibility to their data, or applications. These can also encompass the mismanagement of the stored information itself, resulting in lower quality data. Accessibility issues result from service issues that are about the client’s ability to enter the cloud platform itself. One other threat here is that access issues can lead malicious third parties to access information assets that are otherwise securely stored in the cloud system itself.

2.3.1.2. Availability Threat

Availability threats include organization non-accessibility, physical interruption of assets, and inefficient recovery strategies. First is the effect of progress on the board that incorporates the effect of the testing client entrance for different clients, and the effect of foundation changes. Both equipment and application changes inside the cloud condition negatively affect the accessibility of cloud organizations. Next is the non-accessibility of services that incorporate the non-accessibility of system data transfer ability, and assets. It is an external risk that affects all cloud models. The third is its physical disturbance to IT administrations of the service providers, cloud customers, and wide area network (WAN) specialist organizations. The fourth is weak recuperation techniques, such as deficient failure recovery which affects recovery time and effectiveness if there should develop an occasion of a scene (Khan, 2016).

2.3.1.3. Confidentiality Threat

As the name itself implies, under confidentiality threats here we have a risk of external attacks resulting from insider activities. These do not only encapsulate in-house attacks but rather, also have attacks that occur on services that an enterprise uses. For instance, an enterprise using AWS for data storage being breached by an AWS operator themselves would be counted as a confidentiality threat. These are not always caused by either party directly pulling information but are mostly caused by security weak points that the systems themselves inadvertently possess.

2.3.2. Cloud-attack Mediums

Above the potential security threats of the cloud were addressed. However, these are intrinsic qualities that every cloud has to some degree. Now, the discussion has come to the point of classifying the four types of attack types that can exploit the abovementioned security deficiencies. 

2.3.2.1. Network-based

Network-based attacks can be traced back to several sources. Here, the major source of such attacks is usually precluded by a port scan. A port scan serves as a way for the attackers to assess the security of the attacked, allow for the collection of relevant data, and is followed by a full-on breach in most cases. Port scans are not one-off actions that occur before a specific attack, but are continuous, and done so until sufficient information regarding the cloud system is achieved. One other attack could occur from botnets, which are the result of malware contamination on web-associated devices, which in turn can be altered by attackers to gather information. The last possible threat would be spoofing attacks, wherein the attackers impersonate the identity of existing users in the cloud environment, using this as a jumping board to manipulate the system, access sensitive data, or disrupt processes. 

2.3.2.2. Storage-based

Storage-based attacks are the result of data that is not completely removed from the cloud system itself. Here, attackers resort to data scavenging, which is aimed to recover the, said, cut data for nefarious usage.

2.3.2.3. Application-based

Applications that run on the cloud are always under threat of being targeted by such attacks. One of such, malware infusion, as abovementioned is the result of malicious parties implanting malware into the application itself for them to gather information about the cloud clients. The attacking front of these can come from all cloud-based applications, i.e., web-operated applications, and cloud storage on said applications.

2.3.2.4. Virtual Machine-based

Virtual Machines-based attacks usually result from the infusion of malicious code into the VM image itself. Which, when installed, will be embedded in the VM itself. Thus, resulting in security breaches that are relevant for all processes that occur in the compromised VM.

3. Conclusion

In this article we aimed to give a series of fundamental information about the status quo of cloud computing itself and its underlying themes. The aim was here to create awareness and knowledge into topics that go undetected for the regular user, which usually results in distrust towards Cloud Computing as a whole.

By highlighting all the processes that go into the creation of Cloud Computing in general and explaining how security for it is established, also where attacks or security breaches may occur aimed towards creating an understanding that these are inherent issues in the process that will, with time and technology, be mitigated and made irrelevant as they appear.

While this article itself does not bring an innovative approach on how to handle security threats, it used the current literature to contextualize just where we are when it comes to securing online activities, in particular Cloud Computing.

4. Bibliography

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https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Cloud_computing_-_statistics_on_the_use_by_enterprises

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Eurostat. (2021, December). Cloud computing - statistics on the us by enterprises. Retrieved from europa.eu: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/SEPDF/cache/37043.pdf

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