Enterprises need to get a 'firm grasp' on attack surfaces as cloud breaches surge

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Cloud breaches have been rising steadily in recent years, according to a new report from Thales, with nearly half of firms having recorded a serious incident. 

Analysis by Thales shows that 14% of firms experienced a cloud breach in the last year, and the most common cause was human error and misconfiguration.

The firm warned that threat actors are also ramping up exploitation of known vulnerabilities, with 28% of all recorded breaches due to this. Similarly, a failure to use multi-factor authentication (MFA) was behind around 17% of all breaches.

The main targets were SaaS applications, cited by 31%, followed by cloud storage at 30%, and cloud infrastructure at 26%.

These attack surfaces are increasing, Thales warned, which involved a survey of nearly 3,000 organizations with revenues of between $100 million and $250 million.

Two-thirds of organisations are now using more than 25 SaaS applications, and nearly half of corporate data is rated as being sensitive. Despite this, however, data encryption rates remain low, with fewer than 10% of enterprises encrypting 80% or more of their sensitive cloud data.

"The scalability and flexibility that the cloud offers is highly compelling for organizations, so it’s no surprise it is central to their security strategies," said Sebastien Cano, senior vice president for cloud protection and licensing activities at Thales.

"However, as the cloud attack surface expands, organizations must get a firm grasp on the data they have stored in the cloud, the keys they’re using to encrypt it, and the ability to have complete visibility into who is accessing the data and how it is being used."

Data sovereignty considerations boom amid rise in cloud breaches

Cano added that new considerations such as data sovereignty and growing scrutiny of privacy practices means it’s vital that organizations bolster cloud security capabilities moving forward.

Nearly half of organizations said it's more difficult to manage compliance and privacy in the cloud, compared with on-premises.

Companies are modernizing and increasing their investments to meet these new security challenges, however. For those that prioritize digital sovereignty as an emerging security concern, most chose to refactor applications to logically separate, secure, store, and process cloud data ahead of other measures such as repatriating workloads back to on-prem.


Future-proofing cloud environments was the leading driver behind digital sovereignty initiatives, cited by more than three-in-ten organizations, while adhering to regulations came in at a distant second at 22%.

The rise in cloud attacks comes amid a renewed focus on cloud migration among enterprises globally. In a recent study by Gartner, the consultancy predicted that by 2027 more than 70% of enterprises will use industry cloud platforms.

This marks a sharp increase compared to the 15% recorded in 2023, Gartner noted.

As a result of this, the consultancy said it expects cloud security investment to grow by 24% in 2024.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.