Security pros detail the common and concerning ways attackers target enterprise cloud environments.

Cloud Attacks

Cloud Attacks

As organizations transition to cloud environments, so too do the cybercriminals targeting them. Learning the latest attack techniques can help businesses better prepare for future threats.

“Any time you see technological change, I think you certainly see attackers flood to either attack that technological change or ride the wave of change,” said Anthony Bettini, CTO of WhiteHat Security, in a panel at last week’s RSA Conference. It can be overwhelming for security teams when organizations rush headfirst into the cloud without consulting them, putting data and processes at risk.

Attackers are always looking for new ways to leverage the cloud. Consider the recently discovered “Cloud Snooper” attack, which uses a rootkit to bring malicious traffic through a victim’s Amazon Web Services environment and on-prem firewalls before dropping a remote access Trojan onto cloud-based servers. As these continue to pop up, many criminals rely on tried-and-true methods, like brute-forcing credentials or accessing data stored in a misconfigured S3 bucket. There’s a lot to keep up with, security pros say.

“When you’re taking your existing security skills and you’re moving into an entirely different environment, then it’s an incredible challenge to figure out what you really need to focus on, as well as what’s going on out there in the real word,” said Rich Mogull, analyst with Securosis and CISO of DisruptOps, in an RSA Conference talk about attack kill chains in the cloud.

Here we discuss some of these common kill chains, as well as other cloud attack techniques, that are top-of-mind for security pros and cybercriminals alike. Anything you’re worried about that we didn’t list here? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section, below.

Credential Exposure Leading to Account Hijack
The exposure of API credentials leading to an account hijack is a high-severity, high-likelihood attack kill chain in the cloud. 'This particular attack is really one of the most common ones,' said Securosis' Mogull in an RSA Conference talk.
By static credentials, he means things like access keys or, in Azure, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) token. 'We have to use these because if you want something on-premise that talks to cloud ... at some point you need the ability to have some sort of username/password credential,' he explained. 
When an attacker gets one of these access keys, they can use it from a host or platform under their control and execute API calls for malicious action or privilege escalation. Keys are often exposed via GitHub, BitBucket, shared images, snapshots -- 'all over the place,' he continued. Attackers decompile Google Play Store apps and pull static credentials, then use those. Someone could break into a developer's laptop or instance and look at their command history or configuration files to find an access key that would let them into a cloud environment. 
'This really is the single biggest vector, I believe, for cloud attacks today ... one of these methods,' Mogull said. 'In particular, posting things publicly.' He advised attendees to minimize use of their credentials and scan for them in code repositories and corporate GitHubs. Once these keys are publicly posted, he said, it's a matter of minutes before they're being attempted against your infrastructure. 
(Image: Luka - stock.adobe.com)

Credential Exposure Leading to Account Hijack

The exposure of API credentials leading to an account hijack is a high-severity, high-likelihood attack kill chain in the cloud. “This particular attack is really one of the most common ones,” said Securosis’ Mogull in an RSA Conference talk.

By static credentials, he means things like access keys or, in Azure, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) token. “We have to use these because if you want something on-premise that talks to cloud … at some point you need the ability to have some sort of username/password credential,” he explained.

When an attacker gets one of these access keys, they can use it from a host or platform under their control and execute API calls for malicious action or privilege escalation. Keys are often exposed via GitHub, BitBucket, shared images, snapshots — “all over the place,” he continued. Attackers decompile Google Play Store apps and pull static credentials, then use those. Someone could break into a developer’s laptop or instance and look at their command history or configuration files to find an access key that would let them into a cloud environment.

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