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Study Finds Cloud Assets Are Biggest Targets for Cyberattacks

Despite dramatic increase in sensitive data stored in the cloud, on average only 45% of sensitive data is encrypted.

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The newly released 2023 Thales Cloud Security Study found that more than a third (39%) of businesses have experienced a data breach in their cloud environment last year, an increase on the 35% reported in 2022. In addition, human error was reported as the leading cause of cloud data breaches by over half (55%) of those surveyed.

This comes as businesses reported a dramatic increase in the level of sensitive data stored in the cloud. Three quarters (75%) of businesses said that more than 40% of data stored in the cloud is classified as sensitive, compared to 49% of businesses this time last year.

The annual assessment on the latest cloud security threats, trends and emerging risks is based on a survey of nearly 3,000 IT and security professionals across 18 countries. More than a third (38%) ranked Software as a Service (SaaS) applications as the leading target for hackers, closely followed by cloud-based storage (36%).

Lack of Encryption and Key Control Causes Cloud Data Concerns

Despite the reported increase in sensitive data in the cloud, the study found low levels of encryption being used. Only a fifth (22%) of IT professionals reported that more than 60% of their sensitive data in the cloud is encrypted. According to the findings, on average, only 45% of cloud data is currently encrypted.

The study also found a lack of control over encryption keys by businesses, with only 14% of those surveyed stating that they controlled all of the keys to their encrypted data in their cloud environments. In addition, almost two thirds (62%) say they have five or more key management systems—creating increased complexity when securing sensitive data.

Multicloud Causing Operational Complexity

The adoption of multicloud continues to surge, with more than three quarters (79%) of organizations having more than one cloud provider.

Notably, it’s not just infrastructure that is experiencing this growth. The use of SaaS apps is also on the rise significantly. In 2021, 16% of respondents reported their enterprises utilizing 51-100 different SaaS applications, while in 2023 this percentage increased to 22%.

Despite the expansion of cloud usage, a significant challenge remains. More than half (55%) expressed that managing data in the cloud is more complex than in on-premises environments—up from 46% compared to the previous year. Digital sovereignty is also front of mind for respondents. Eighty three percent expressed concerns over data sovereignty, and 55% agreed that data privacy and compliance in the cloud has become more difficult.

Pathways to Better Cloud Security

Identity and access management (IAM) is a crucial measure in mitigating data breaches, emphasizing the significance of strong security practices. Encouragingly, the adoption of robust multi-factor authentication (MFA) has risen to 65%, indicating progress in fortifying access controls.

Surprisingly, only 41% of organizations have implemented zero trust controls in their cloud infrastructure, and an even smaller percentage (38%) utilizes such controls within their cloud networks. These statistics highlight the need for greater emphasis on adopting comprehensive security measures to effectively safeguard sensitive data and enhance overall cybersecurity resilience.

Business Continuity, Business Resiliency, Cloud Based Services, Cloud Data, Cloud Resilience, Cloud Security, Continuity Insights, Cyberattacks, Cybersecurity, encryption, Multicloud, security, Thales, Thales Cloud Security Study

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