In today’s digital landscape, few businesses can go without relying on cloud computing to build a rock-solid IT infrastructure. Boosted efficiency, reduced expenses, and increased scalability are just some of the reasons behind its increasing popularity.
In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, cloud computing refers to running software and services on the internet using data stored on outside sources. So, instead of owning and maintaining their infrastructure locally and physically, businesses access cloud-based services as needed.
And what is found in the cloud? Well, any crucial business data that you can imagine. Customer information, business applications, data backups, and the list can go on.
Given this data’s sensitivity, cloud computing security is of utmost importance.
Unfortunately, cloud computing isn’t the only aspect that keeps evolving. So do the risks, issues, and challenges threatening its security.
Let’s review the most significant security issues in cloud computing and discuss how to address them adequately.
Understanding Cloud Computing Security Risks
Cloud computing security risks refer to potential vulnerabilities in the system that malicious actors can exploit for their own benefit. Understanding these risks is crucial to selecting the right cloud computing services for your business or deciding if cloud computing is even the way to go.
A data breach happens when unauthorized individuals access, steal, or publish sensitive information (names, addresses, credit card information). Since these incidents usually occur without the organization’s knowledge, the attackers have ample time to do severe damage.
What do we mean by damage?
Well, in this case, damage can refer to various scenarios. Think everything from using the stolen data for financial fraud to sabotaging the company’s stock price. It all depends on the type of stolen data.
Whatever the case, companies rarely put data breaches behind them without a severely damaged reputation, significant financial loss, or extensive legal consequences.
The business world revolves around data. That’s why attackers target it. And why companies fight so hard to preserve it.
As the name implies, data loss occurs when a company can no longer access its previously stored information.
Sure, malicious attacks are often behind data loss. But this is only one of the causes of this unfortunate event.
The cloud service provider can also accidentally delete your vital data. Physical catastrophes (fires, floods, earthquakes, tornados, explosions) can also have this effect, as can data corruption, software failure, and many other mishaps.
Using (or reusing) weak passwords as part of cloud-based infrastructure is basically an open invitation for account hijacking.
Again, the name is pretty self-explanatory – a malicious actor gains complete control over your online accounts. From there, the hijacker can access sensitive data, perform unauthorized actions, and compromise other associated accounts.
In cloud computing, communication service providers (CSPs) offer their customers numerous Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These easy-to-use interfaces allow customers to manage their cloud-based services. But besides being easy to use, some of these APIs can be equally easy to exploit. For this reason, cybercriminals often prey on insecure APIs as their access points for infiltrating the company’s cloud environment.
Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks
Denial of service (DoS) attacks have one goal – to render your network or server inaccessible. They do so by overwhelming them with traffic until they malfunction or crash.
It’s clear that these attacks can cause severe damage to any business. Now imagine what they can do to companies that rely on those online resources to store business-critical data.
Not all employees will have your company’s best interest at heart, not to mention ex-employees. If these individuals abuse their authorized access, they can wreak havoc on your networks, systems, and data.
Insider threats are more challenging to spot than external attacks. After all, these individuals know your business inside out, positioning them to cause serious damage while staying undetected.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
With advanced persistent threats (APTs), it’s all about the long game. The intruder will infiltrate your company’s cloud environment and fly under the radar for quite some time. Of course, they’ll use this time to steal sensitive data from your business’s every corner.
Challenges in Cloud Computing Security
Security challenges in cloud computing refer to hurdles your company might hit while implementing cloud computing security.
Shared Responsibility Model
A shared responsibility model is precisely what it sounds like. The responsibility for maintaining security falls on several individuals or entities. In cloud computing, these parties include the CSP and your business (as the CSP’s consumer). Even the slightest misunderstanding concerning the division of these responsibilities can have catastrophic consequences for cloud computing security.
Compliance With Regulations and Standards
Organizations must store their sensitive data according to specific regulations and standards. Some are industry-specific, like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) for guarding healthcare records. Others, like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), are more extensive. Achieving this compliance in cloud computing is more challenging since organizations typically don’t control all the layers of their infrastructure.
Data Privacy and Protection
Placing sensitive data in the cloud comes with significant exposure risks (as numerous data breaches in massive companies have demonstrated). Keeping this data private and protected is one of the biggest security challenges in cloud computing.
Lack of Visibility and Control
Once companies move their data to the cloud (located outside their corporate network), they lose some control over it. The same goes for their visibility into their network’s operations. Naturally, since companies can’t fully see or control their cloud-based resources, they sometimes fail to protect them successfully against attacks.
Vendor Lock-In and Interoperability
These security challenges in cloud computing arise when organizations want to move their assets from one CSP to another. This move is often deemed too expensive or complex, forcing the organization to stay put (vendor lock-in). Migrating data between providers can also cause different applications and systems to stop working together correctly, thus hindering their interoperability.
Security of Third-Party Services
Third-party services are often trouble, and cloud computing is no different. These services might have security vulnerabilities allowing unauthorized access to your cloud data and systems.
Issues in Cloud Computing Security
The following factors have proven as major security issues in cloud computing.
Insufficient Identity and Access Management
The larger your business, the harder it gets to establish clearly-defined roles and assign them specific permissions. However, Identity and Access Management (IAM) is vital in cloud computing. Without a comprehensive IAM strategy, a data breach is just waiting to happen.
Inadequate Encryption and Key Management
Encryption is undoubtedly one of the most effective measures for data protection. But only if it’s implemented properly. Using weak keys or failing to rotate, store, and protect them adequately is a one-way ticket to system vulnerabilities.
So, without solid encryption and coherent key management strategies, your cloud computing security can be compromised in no time.
Vulnerabilities in Virtualization Technology
Virtualization (running multiple virtual computers on the hardware elements of a single physical computer) is becoming increasingly popular. Consider the level of flexibility it allows (and at what cost!), and you’ll understand why.
However, like any other technology, virtualization is prone to vulnerabilities. And, as we’ve already established, system vulnerabilities and cloud computing security can’t go hand in hand.
Limited Incident Response Capabilities
Promptly responding to a cloud computing security incident is crucial to minimizing its potential impact on your business. Without a proper incident report strategy, attackers can run rampant within your cloud environment.
Security Concerns in Multi-Tenancy Environments
In a multi-tenancy environment, multiple accounts share the same cloud infrastructure. This means that an attack on one of those accounts (or tenants) can compromise the cloud computing security for all the rest. Keep in mind that this only applies if the CSP doesn’t properly separate the tenants.
Addressing Key Concerns in Cloud Computing Security
Before moving your data to cloud-based services, you must fully comprehend all the security threats that might await. This way, you can implement targeted cloud computing security measures and increase your chances of emerging victorious from a cyberattack.
Here’s how you can address some of the most significant cloud computing security concerns:
- Implement strong authentication and access controls (introducing multifactor authentication, establishing resource access policies, monitoring user access rights).
- Ensure data encryption and secure key management (using strong keys, rotating them regularly, and protecting them beyond CSP’s measures).
- Regularly monitor and audit your cloud environments (combining CSP-provided monitoring information with your cloud-based and on-premises monitoring information for maximum security).
- Develop a comprehensive incident response plan (relying on the NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] or the SANS [SysAdmin, Audit, Network, and Security] framework).
- Collaborate with cloud service providers to successfully share security responsibilities (coordinating responses to threats and investigating potential threats).
Weathering the Storm in Cloud Computing
Due to the importance of the data they store, cloud-based systems are constantly exposed to security threats. Compare the sheer number of security risks to the number of challenges and issues in addressing them promptly, and you’ll understand why cloud computing security sometimes feels like an uphill battle.
Since these security threats are ever-evolving, staying vigilant, informed, and proactive is the only way to stay on top of your cloud computing security. Pursue education in this field, and you can achieve just that.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.