Report: Among simple, yet effective web app attacks, cloud environments hit hardest

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A new security report found that web application attacks ranked the highest among threats to data-hosting infrastructures, particularly cloud environments.

On Tuesday, Houston-based cloud security firm Alert Logic released its “State of Cloud Security Report,” which found that, among its customer base using cloud-hosting providers to store data, 52 percent were impacted by web application attacks.

Additionally, a substantial number of clients, 39 percent, who hosted their data in traditional enterprise environments were affected by these threats.

“This is the only threat category in which a higher proportion of cloud-hosting provider (CHP) customers are impacted than enterprise data center customers,” said the report of web app threats. “The majority of these attacks are perpetrated using common and freely available tools, such as Havij, which enable less sophisticated hackers to easily launch attacks.”

Alert Logic found that SQL injection attacks were the most common method to exploit web applications.

Stephen Coty, director of threat research at Alert Logic, said that while SQL injection doesn't require much effort on the attacker's part, the method remains effective because of inadequate patching.

In cloud environments, professionals often make the mistake of relying too heavily on cloud-hosting providers to secure their infrastructure.

“This doesn't mean the cloud is less secure than anywhere else,” Coty told Tuesday. “You just have to do your homework where the cloud-hosting provider's responsibilities end and yours begin. They'll make sure your [product] is patched, but it's up to the end-customer to make sure their code is secure.”

Last month, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) published a new supplement that included best practices on safeguarding data going to the cloud.

The guidance defines common service models for cloud environments, the roles of third-party CHPs and the businesses that hire them, and operational and technical security challenges faced by these organizations.

PCI SSC also urged organizations to shoulder more responsibility when protecting customer or client data, particularly when allowing a third party to manage data flow and security.

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