Cloud infrastructure attacks to increase in 2017, predicts Forcepoint

The cloud offers organizations a number of benefits, from simple off-site storage to rent-a-server to complete services. But 2017 will also see cloud infrastructure increasingly the target of attacks, with criminals lured by the data stored there and the possibility of using it to launch distributed denial of service attacks.

That’s one of the predictions for the new year from security vendor Forcepoint.

Hacking a cloud provider’s hypervisor would give an attacker access to all of the customers using the service, Bob Hansmann, Forcepoint’s director of security technologies, told a Webinar last week. “They’re not targeting you, they may not even know you exist until they get into the infrastructure and get the data. Then they’re going to try to maximize the attack” by selling whatever data is gained.

Also tempting attackers is the bandwidth cloud providers have, to possibly be leveraged for DDoS attacks.

As attacks on cloud infrastructure increase it will be another reason why CISOs will be reluctant to put sensitive data in the cloud, he said, or to limit cloud use to processing but not storing sensitive data.

CIOs/CISOs have to realize “the cloud is a lie,” he said. “There is no cloud. Any cloud services means data is going to someone’s server somewhere. So you need to know are they securing that equipment the same way you’re securing data in your organization … are the personnel vetted, what kind of digital defences do they have?”

“You’re going to have to start pushing your cloud providers to meet compliance with the regulations you’re trying to be compliant with,” he added. That will be particularly important for organizations that do business in Europe with the coming into force next year of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)


So answering questions such as now long does a cloud service hold the organization’s data, is it backed up securely, are employees vetted, is there third party certification of its use of encryption, how is it protected from DDoS attacks are more important than ever.

Other predictions for next year include:

–Don’t fear millennials. At present on average they are they second largest group (behind boomers) in most organizations. They do increase security risk because as a tech-savvy group they tend to over-share information – particularly through social media. So, Hansmann says, CISOs should use that to their advantage.

“Challenge them to become security-savvy. Put in contests where employees submit they think are spam or phishing attacks, put in quarterly award recognitions, or something like that. Challenge them, and they will step up to the challnge. They take pride in their digital awareness.”

Don’t try to make them feel what they do is wrong, but help them to become better. “They will be come a major force for change in the organiztion, and hopefully carry the rest of the organization with them.”

–the so-called Digital Battlefield is the world. That means attackers can be nation-states as well as criminals. But CISOs should be careful what they do about it.

Some infosec pros – and some politicians – advocate organizations and countries should be ready to launch attacks against a foe instead of being defensive. But, Forcepoint warns, pointing the finger is still difficult, with several hops between the victim and attacker. “The potential for mis-attribution and involving innocents is going to grow,” Hansmann said.

“Nations are going to struggle with how do they ensure confidence in businesses, that they are a safe and secure place to do business with or through — and yet not over-react in a way that could cause collateral damage.”

–Linked to this this the threat that will be posed in 2017 by automated attacks. The widespread weaponization of autonomous hacking machines by threat actors will emerge next year, Forcepoint says, creating an arms race to build autonomous patching. “Like nuclear weapons technology proliferation, weaponized autonomous hacking machines may greatly impact global stability by either preventing national defense protocols being engaged or by triggering them unnecessarily,” says the company.

–Get ready for the Euopean GDPR. It will come into effect in May, 2018 and therefore next year will drive compliance and data protection efforts. “We’ve learned compliance takes a long time to do right, and to do it without disrupting your business.” Organizations may have to not only change systems but redefine processes, including training employees.

CIOs need to tell business units, ‘We’re here to support you, but if you’re going to run operations through the EU this regulation is going to have impact. We need to understand it now because will require budgeting and changes to processes that IT doesn’t control,’ said Hansmann.

–There will be a rise in what Forcepoint calls “corporate-incentivized insider abuse.’ That’s shorthand for ‘employees are going to cheat to meet sales goals.’

The result is staff falsifying reports or signing up customers signed up for services they didn’t order. Think of U.S. bank Wells Fargo being fined $185 million this year because more than 2 million bank accounts or credit cards were opened or applied for without customers’ knowledge or permission between May 2011 and July 2015. Over 5,000 staff were fired over the incidents.

If organizations don’t get on top of this problem governments will regulate, Hansmann warned.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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