NSA Offers Guidance on Mitigating Cloud Flaws

A new document separates cloud vulnerabilities into four classes and offers mitigations to help businesses protect cloud resources.

The National Security Agency (NSA) today published a new document outlining common types of cloud vulnerabilities and offering different ways for companies to protect cloud environments.

“Mitigating Cloud Vulnerabilities” addresses how cloud adoption can improve security posture but introduce risks that organizations should understand. It addresses four types of cloud architectural services – identity and access management, compute, networking, and storage – and explains the importance of shared responsibility with cloud service providers. For example, this model affects tasks like patching but varies by CSP, cloud service, and product offering.

It also digs into different types of cloud threat actors, which may include malicious admins who use their privileged credentials to access sensitive data. These may come from the CSP or the customer, NSA notes. Other cloud-focused attacks may come from cybercriminals, nation-state attackers, or untrained or neglectful customer cloud administrators, officials state.

The document breaks cloud vulnerabilities into four classes. Misconfigurations, considered to be the lowest in sophistication, often arise from CSP policy mistakes or misunderstanding the shared responsibility model. It’s the most widespread of the four and could expose an organization to a range of threats including denial of service and account compromise.

Poor access control is another widespread threat of moderate sophistication. This occurs when cloud resources use weak authorization methods or have vulnerabilities that would let an attacker bypass authentication. An attacker could elevate privileges and compromise resources.

Shared tenancy vulnerabilities are considered rare and of high sophistication. Hypervisor flaws are difficult and expensive to find and exploit; CSPs continuously scan hypervisor code for bugs. Containers run on a shared kernel, and a vulnerability in the container platform could let an attacker target containers run by other tenants on the same host.

Supply chain flaws, the fourth type of cloud vulnerability, are also considered to be rare and advanced. These vulnerabilities include the presence of inside attackers, as well as intentional backdoors built into hardware and software. Bringing someone into the supply chain could give attackers an easy route into a target organization.

Read more details and mitigations in the full document here.

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