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What Is Cloud Security?

Cloud security helps keep data and applications safe and private across cloud infrastructure, systems, and platforms. Securing cloud systems is a shared responsibility between cloud providers and customers, including individuals, small to medium businesses (SMBs), and enterprises.

Cloud providers host computing and software services on their servers. Since these providers have complete control over the infrastructure, they are responsible for securing this aspect of the environment. Cloud customers must implement additional security measures to keep their data and workloads safe.

7 Common Cloud Security Challenges

1. Data Breaches

A data breach occurs when an entity gains unauthorized access to confidential or sensitive information. Cyber attacks intentionally attempt to breach systems and obtain access to data, and then either leak it, sell it, or ransom it. Data breaches can also occur accidentally due to improper security measures.

2. Cloud Security Architecture

A cloud security architecture helps organizations understand cloud threats before migrating to the cloud. It is typically part of the planning phase that enables organizations to build a cloud security architecture and acquire the expertise and tooling required to secure the chosen environments. 

It involves choosing suitable migration strategies and techniques before deployment and assessing the security programs of each cloud service to minimize the risks introduced by the public cloud vendor.

3. Cloud Misconfigurations

Threat actors use system and network misconfigurations to breach a protected environment. The actor can use these misconfigurations to move laterally in the network or access sensitive resources. Misconfigurations can occur due to overlooked system areas or insecure configurations.

4. Insecure APIs

Cloud vendors use APIs to provide customers with various services and functionality. While these APIs are typically well-documented, organizations can misconfigure them, exposing themselves to security breaches. Additionally, threat actors can use vendor API documentation to find and exploit vulnerabilities so they can steal sensitive data.

5. Insider Threats

Insider threats have access to protected resources or environments and expose the organizations—intentionally or accidentally—to various threats, such as data breaches, loss of consumer confidence, and downtime.

Common insider threats include existing and former employees, partners, and contractors. Organizations can mitigate this threat by implementing security awareness training, strict access controls, and fixing misconfigured cloud servers.

6. Cloud Infrastructure Compliance Violations

Regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and ISO-27001 help protect data. These regulations require organizations to implement certain security measures across their cloud infrastructure. Since non-compliance can result in financial and legal implications, it is critical to secure cloud environments according to regulatory requirements.

7. Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks and Cloud Ransomware

A DoS attack targets a system connected to the public Internet, flooding it with fake requests and traffic to make it slow down and crash until it becomes unavailable to real users. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) uses multiple resources to generate even more traffic to crash the targeted system.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that infiltrates systems to extract data, lock access, and demand a ransom for the decryption key that can unlock the data.

SAP Cloud Security Challenges and How to Overcome Them

SAP Cloud is a cloud computing platform that allows organizations to host mission-critical SAP applications in a cloud environment. Here are the main challenges affecting the security of SAP systems, along with the possible solutions.

Poor Access Controls

Cloud access management must address significant risks to an SAP enterprise system’s integrity. Mismanaged access privileges and controls can result in unauthorized activity, increasing the risk of fraud, data theft, and other attacks. Breaches can disrupt the cloud migration program and hinder business operations, resulting in financial losses.

The complex, fine-grained authorization model used in SAP can make it difficult for organizations to identify issues. Many companies lack the resources and tools required to conduct risk assessments and evaluate the necessary controls to put in place. Some companies take long to disable default passwords, resulting in undetected breaches and data theft.


Companies should:

  • Ensure they have the right tools to identify and analyze risks.
  • Segregate duties to minimize opportunities for attacks and fraud, for example, by using a segregation-of-duties (SoD) matrix to identify access management risks.
  • Configure SAP systems to enforce strong authentication, for example, by using biometrics in two-factor authentication.
  • Ensure strong passwords with clear policies governing password quality and lifetime.

New Regulations and Compliance Requirements

Every organization must ensure its teams and processes comply with industry standards and regulations, implementing the requirements for securely storing, transmitting, and processing data throughout the cloud-based and physical environments. Failing to meet the regulatory requirements impacts security and can lead to expensive and time-consuming litigation.

A major risk to compliance arises when the data security team is not involved in the overall SAP migration process. For example, there may be dedicated security teams for different SAP projects without a holistic view of the overall enterprise environment and who can access what. This common mismanagement issue can cause serious losses.


Companies should:

  • Implement the right resources and processes as part of a robust compliance strategy.
  • Establish a clear, detailed roadmap to secure IT infrastructure during migration to the cloud.
  • Ensure the compliance strategy is flexible and can adapt to new standards.
  • Identify regulations in the cloud and their legal implications.
  • Ensure the security solutions and policy enforcement are consistent across all environments and business-critical infrastructure.

Data Security

Organizations often fail to implement strong security and encryption, especially when transferring data to a new cloud environment. Encoding data in transit does not always guarantee protection without a secure transport protocol like TLS or HTTPS.


Companies should:

  • Encrypt data to deter theft and mitigate impact data breaches during migration to the cloud. Encryption also helps ensure compliance with data security regulations. Cloud service providers usually offer encryption services within the cloud, but organizations must encrypt data in transit.
  • Enforce TLS across all web traffic and limit access to devices connected to the company network or VPN, blocking external resources.
  • Leverage Secure Network Communication (SNC) to protect data in SAP systems before and during migration to the cloud.

Active Content Attacks

Businesses use SAP for many functions, so they rarely restrict it to internal access. Most organizations allow third parties, such as customers, job applicants, and vendors, to upload files to their SAP applications.

However, an attacker could exploit this mechanism to carry out an active content attack. The attacker uses active content like JavaScript or macro that triggers malicious actions when the system displays the file. Thus, an application enabling document uploads is vulnerable to malware attacks that conventional anti-malware programs cannot detect or block.


Companies should ask the cloud provider about the anti-malware solutions available. It is important to avoid standard operating-system programs and choose an SAP-certified solution. Ideally, the anti-malware program will be SAP-specific.

Learn more in our detailed guide to cloud security solutions (coming soon)

Overcoming Cloud Security Challenges Solutions with PathLock

Pathlock provides a robust, cross-application solution to secure on-prem and cloud applications. We offer a comprehensive solution to secure cloud applications which includes access management, privileged access management, user access reviews, separation of duties, and more:

  • Integration to leading cloud and on-premise applications and the ability to map SoD conflicts, violations, and rulesets across systems.
  • Intelligent access-based SoD conflict reporting, showing users’ overlapping conflicts across all of their business systems.
  • Transactional control monitoring, to monitor all activities across applications in real-time as they are happening.
  • Automated, compliant provisioning into business applications to monitor for SoD conflicts when adding or changing user access.
  • Streamlined, intelligent User Access Reviews that highlight unnecessary or unused privileges for removal or inspection.
  • Compliant workflows to drive risk mitigation and contain suspicious users before they inflict harm.

Interested to find out more about how Pathlock is securing cloud applications at scale? Request a demo to explore the leading solution for enforcing compliance and reducing risk.

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