Cloud Migration Security Challenges and Mitigation Strategies

Cloud Migration Security Challenges and Mitigation Strategies
Cloud Migration Security Challenges and Mitigation Strategies

Is your company thinking about moving to the cloud? Cloud computing has undoubtedly grown in popularity in recent years, as have many cloud service providers. The process of migrating digital corporate processes to the cloud is known as cloud migration. The procedure resembles a physical transfer of data, programs, and IT processes from a local data center or legacy infrastructure to the cloud and back.

Cloud Migration Security Challenges and Mitigation Strategies

Businesses are rapidly embracing cloud strategies to take advantage of the technology’s benefits, including cost savings, flexibility, security, mobility, enhanced collaboration, quality control, sustainability, and automatic software updates. Digital transformation is the top reason driving higher cloud usage today, according to 63% of IT experts. Security is the most crucial worry for firms that operate local data centers, according to 66% of respondents.

Cloud Migration Types

  • Migrating from on-premise to cloud computing entails moving data, apps, and other business pieces from an on-premise data center to a cloud computing environment. According to experts, businesses will move 83 percent of their workloads to the cloud this year.
  • cloud-to-cloud migration occurs when a company moves its workload from one cloud platform provider to another in response to changing business needs. This form of cloud migration enables a company to move cloud computing providers without migrating its data and apps to in-house servers. The expense of transferring data from one cloud to another should not outweigh the advantages of switching to a new cloud service provider.
  • Reverse cloud migration, also known as cloud repatriation or exit, is when a business migrates apps and data from the cloud to an on-premise IT infrastructure or datacenter. Firms typically migrate part or all of their company information and applications from the cloud to a local data center on security and control concerns. Due to the cloud’s high prices, other businesses are returning to an on-premise IT environment. A Fortune 500 business withdrew from the cloud, citing a monthly cost savings of $80 million.

Cloud Migration Security Challenges

When a company decides to move its activities to the cloud, it faces several security risks.

Data Exposure, Loss, and External Attacks

Businesses lose data and files throughout the transfer process due to incomplete, corrupt, or missing files. Insiders are targeted by hackers who want to steal valid credentials that allow them to travel about cloud storage to pursue essential data freely.

Hackers use phishing emails to spread malware infections that lead to data loss. They use social engineering to access passwords for crucial company systems and databases.


In some circumstances, companies that move their apps and data to the cloud provide consumers authorization to access sandbox environments, effectively creating new attacks and unauthorized access. Users may, for example, open a network address translation (NAT) gateway from a hybrid networking environment while migrating from a local data center to Amazon Web Services (AWS). This step, however, opens the door to a cloud server employing the NAT gateway to download harmful content such as malware from remote sources.

Insider Threats and Accidental Errors

Employees could make mistakes during the migration process that corrupt, destroy, or expose business data. While transferring workloads from tightly restricted in-house systems, an employee may unintentionally share confidential information files. In addition, the cloud migration process exposes data and applications to insider attacks from the following sources:

  • Unscrupulous employees or partners that mishandle and steal confidential information and install unauthorized software
  • An insider agent or an employee operating on behalf of external hackers can send information. An outside actor hires and pays the employee to steal data.
  • An unhappy employee destroys company data to harm and disrupt business operations.
  • An employee who is attempting to steal company information for personal benefit.
  • An inept service provider jeopardizes security by misusing, neglecting, or allowing unwanted access.

According to a study, financial incentives motivate 47.8% of malevolent insiders, whereas espionage is responsible for 14.4% of deliberate insider attacks. An imprecise cloud transfer process makes it easy to steal data.

Lack of Resources

According to a poll done in the United States and the United Kingdom, 31% of small and medium businesses claimed a lack of internal expertise to meet cybersecurity demands. Furthermore, 27% want to use advanced security technology to combat sophisticated cyber-attacks. Budgets must be set aside to purchase the most up-to-date instruments required to establish a defense-in-depth security posture. The solutions also require a professional team to design and manage defenses for the network, endpoints, and information during the migration process.

Regulatory Compliance Violations

Businesses make modifications to applications and data during the cloud migration process. Most enterprises lag in putting in place controls to ensure that cloud service configuration updates are secure and compliant.

Shortcutting Security During the Migration Phase

CSPs offer powerful management consoles that allow enterprises to deploy a cloud service by simply clicking a link and adding cloud-based infrastructure. On the other hand, this technique might mislead enterprises that rush into a new IT environment without first considering the security risks. There have been far too many new attack vectors and non-compliance problems reported by organizations.

Performing an All-At-Once Migration

The most significant mistake businesses make attempting to migrate everything to the cloud at the same time. Many firms are ready to change to the new IT environment once they have received executive approval to embrace the strategy, rather than prioritizing data and applications to transfer first.

Insecure APIs

When providers leave APIs unpatched and unsecure, they might create grey zones in the cloud computing process. They, in effect, expose lines of communication that hackers can use to steal vital corporate data. Securing APIs is an afterthought that gives cloud providers a false sense of security. In 2018, at least a half-dozen high-profile data breaches were caused by insufficient API security. Un insecure APIs impacted providers and users such as Strava, Panera, Venmo, USPS, and Salesforce.

Cloud Migration Security Mitigation Measures

This collection compiles professional advice on the best security mitigation controls for firms considering cloud adoption or migration.

Baseline the Security Before Migration

Many firms have a security architecture built around isolated security devices, inconsistent security policy application, and fragmented security strategy management. Companies deciding to migrate their applications and data implement tools to secure both in-house and remote environments exacerbating the dilemma. In such cases, an organization must control security sprawl and adopt a centralized security policy by taking the following steps:

  • Please analyze and comprehend your present security posture and the consequences for your business objectives.
  • Check to see if the company has appropriate policies and processes for the current and future IT environments.
  • Conduct a gap analysis to see how a cloud environment may affect security.
  • Determine how a cloud-based network would affect overall risk management.

Similarly, to ensure that recommended security controls satisfy performance needs, a company should model and understand data flows and bandwidth requirements. The baseline for the current environment should also include a map of existing roles and responsibilities and the staff needed to transfer and operate workloads. To save money and time, businesses should also filter out useless data.

The security team should contact the cloud service provider to inquire about their security standards and compliance procedures. The method entails regular communication with the third party for the two teams to stay informed about any evolving changes or security threats. Organizations should determine if the cloud provider conducts regular audits and reviews of their system and organization controls.

Apply Adequate Security During the Migration Phase

Cybercriminals will hack corporate systems during the cloud migration process and steal valuable information. As a result, depending on the apps and information transmitted to a cloud service, security teams need to employ a variety of security controls. A next-generation firewall (NGFW) solution, web application firewall, security information, and event management solution (SIEM), intrusion detection and prevention service (IDS/IPS), and a cloud access security broker are some of the data protection solutions that a company can use (CASB).

Businesses must also ensure that security solutions and policy enforcement are consistent during the migration period, which spans different environments. They should choose appropriate security solutions that work together flawlessly across the whole lifespan. For example, security staff should guarantee that data is encrypted at rest and in transit in their organizations. When information is exposed to the Internet, it is most vulnerable. As a result, enterprises should employ secure transport protocols like HTTPS to transfer data and applications from on-premises servers to the cloud. Businesses may also consider using an appliance to move their workloads. However, it is recommended that the tool encrypts data before it leaves the on-premise data center.

During the cloud migration process, security teams can use decoys or deception papers to help a company uncover hackers and insider leaks. This control notifies security experts when a breach or unexpected user behavior is detected. Furthermore, decoys can fool a hostile actor into believing they have stolen valuable information while accessing a convincing phony document, similar to a honeypot.

A firm migrating to the cloud should use multifactor authentication to prevent password leaks (MFA). When employees access distant information and applications, security professionals add a policy that asks them to validate their identity via a text or email sent to their devices. MFA warns users when a hacker tries to access cloud profiles using stolen credentials.

Furthermore, businesses should ensure that cloud providers incorporate security into the API development process. Users increasingly utilize APIs to integrate better heterogeneous cloud applications, including external programs sourced and used by cloud providers and clients. Unfortunately, API vulnerabilities are challenging to discover and address, necessitating specific tools and knowledge. Enterprises should demand API Security Gateways that follow essential secure product architectural principles, such as:

Self-integrity health checks that scan and detect malicious activity, a secure and dependable operating system, an integrated PKI engine, independent security certifications that validate the product’s security, and independent security certifications that validate the product’s security.

Proper Setup and Protection of User Identities

Users should not be given the authority to introduce new attack surfaces or access to sandbox environments when migrating to the cloud. Maintaining an exact and complete copy of data allows a company to quickly address data exposure faults and loss by restoring files and systems to their previous state.

Businesses shifting to the cloud should restrict data and application access points. Allowing multiple employees access can lead to a user enabling global permissions, exposing data to open connections. In this instance, a business should know who and what has access to cloud-based data and apps. Furthermore, security personnel should keep a close eye on all cloud connections.

Assuring that the cloud computing service adheres to all applicable cybersecurity regulations

What security and data privacy requirements must your company follow when migrating workloads to the cloud? Before using cloud services, businesses should be aware of the compliance consequences. This is especially important if a company operates in a highly regulated industry like healthcare or finance. Security teams should determine organizations’ storage, encryption, backup, and transfer requirements.

Compliance certifications for common legislation such as PCI-DSS, GDPR, and HIPAA are available from almost all major cloud service providers. Businesses should encrypt or omit personally sensitive information before shifting to the cloud, even with these accreditations. Certain restrictions may compel businesses to maintain certain types of data only on-site.

Establish Proper Logging and Monitoring

Businesses transitioning to the cloud should implement proper logging, monitoring, and security analysis, especially when moving data and applications from on-premises servers. They should look for basic script faults that could interrupt business operations or expose security flaws that hackers could exploit. During cloud migration, automation techniques introduce unanticipated annoyances that businesses should solve. Security teams can set up granular monitoring and control of cloud resources. SIEM (security information and event management) is critical because it allows users to centralize alerts and tracking while also adding analytics, automation, and machine learning to discover and flag anomalous activity. By analyzing activity to develop a standard user profile for an employee and their device to access cloud resources, user analytics and monitoring tools can help discover breaches faster. The monitoring system promptly provides a warning to security teams if any action deviates from the user profile expectations, suggesting the presence of an outsider.

Data Backup before the Migration

Companies should back up their data in many locations when moving apps and data from on-premise data centers to the cloud. A complete backup and restore solution for cloud workloads allows a company to restore business processes in the event of problems during the migration process. Essentially, a business can employ a third-party backup service that includes data recovery, backup to a different cloud provider, an easy-to-use solution, automated processes, expandable storage, security certifications, and data privacy protection.

Phased Migration

It’s not as simple as transferring bytes into a selected storage type to move workloads to the cloud. Before beginning the copying, the migration activity necessitates thorough planning. Identifying and prioritizing data and applications is a valuable technique to avoid problems caused by moving everything at once. Businesses can then consider a gradual migration to allow security employees to become more familiar with cloud security concerns and solutions. In this instance, they can begin migrating low-priority apps and redundant data to allow security teams to test setups and identify and fix security flaws before transferring sensitive data and systems.

Cloud vendor lock-in can be avoided with a phased migration approach. A cloud service provider’s first expectations are usually high. However, businesses may learn that a provider lacks the appropriate security policies to protect sensitive data and applications after beginning the migration process. If a firm move everything to the cloud, switching providers becomes time-consuming and expensive, forcing the company to continue with a single provider that does not match its security requirements. Migrating a workload in stages allows a business to test the cloud provider’s capabilities and compare their findings to the migration goals.

Implement a Disaster Recovery Strategy

According to a 2019 survey, 96 percent of businesses experienced at least one outage in the first few months of cloud usage. These disruptions were caused by various circumstances, including hardware failures, power outages, software problems, data corruption, external security breaches, and unintentional human errors. Seventy-five percent of small and medium-sized firms do not have adequate disaster recovery strategies. While shifting to the cloud, another 39% of SMBs lack an incident response plan to deal with unanticipated security risks and data breaches. According to the report, by 2021, 59 percent of businesses will use a cloud-based disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).

In addition to security concerns, most businesses are concerned about the availability of a cloud environment while transitioning to a new IT system. A firm must have an appropriate disaster recovery strategy during the transfer process to ensure the availability, performance, and safety of business data and applications.

Employee Awareness

According to research, only 45 percent of companies make formal security awareness training required for all employees. Optional training programs are available in 10% of businesses. Only 6% of businesses provide monthly training, while 4% provide quarterly training. According to these results, only 10% of the 24 percent of companies with formal training programs deliver training regularly.

Employees should be educated about the security concerns associated with cloud migration. Furthermore, the team in charge of the project should be aware of the necessary access and integration needs with on-premise systems. During the workload transfer window, this method assists an organization in identifying and addressing the weakest penetration. Businesses should not cease investigating and learning in a changing and adaptive industry. Employees should be aware of the most recent vulnerabilities and developments in the cloud. For example, when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to comprehending the technology’s dangers and mitigation strategies. Organizations should invest in cyber threat research and training to secure emerging technologies.

Businesses should be aware of the shared responsibility model used by cloud service providers. The level of responsibility that users bear is determined by the cloud services that they acquire. Cloud providers provide dependable tools and services to help enterprises deal with cloud security issues.

Outsourcing Security Roles to an MSSP

To manage the transition from a local data center to the cloud, a company needs different capabilities. Creating a cybersecurity program and hiring the necessary professionals to develop and maintain it may be expensive, and it often necessitates the purchase of expensive and specialized hardware and licensing. Furthermore, organizations require sufficient time to train internal staff during the relocation period to deal with security challenges.

In these circumstances, a company might work with a managed security service provider (MSSP) to supplement its cybersecurity strategy with outsourced staff, procedures, and technology. Outsourcing security requirements to an MSSP provides better data and application protection, lowers costs, allows a company to focus on other tasks, and manages any problems. MSSPs keep a cutting-edge set of security technologies and methodologies that security specialists have used across various enterprises confronting diverse dangers during cloud migration trips. They provide cost-effective security operations centers as a service and cyber threat hunt operations that use new technologies and capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and threat intelligence.

Finally, a successful cloud migration should include transitioning to a new IT environment with a good security posture. The benefits of cloud computing should not fool organizations and the convenience of cloud management promised by providers into compromising security when migrating data and apps to the cloud. Preparation is essential before embarking on the cloud migration path, as it protects a business from unforeseen cyberattacks and allows for successful cloud adoption. The procedure necessitates a company’s attention and resources to install appropriate controls to detect and respond to security issues during cloud migration.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.