Use of cloud collaboration tools surges and so do attacks

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The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed companies to adapt to new government-mandated restrictions on workforce movement around the world. The immediate response has been rapid adoption and integration of cloud services, particularly cloud-based collaboration tools such Microsoft Office 365, Slack and videoconferencing platforms. by security firm McAfee shows that hackers are responding to this with increased focus on abusing cloud account credentials.

After analyzing cloud usage data that was collected between January and April from over 30 million enterprise users of its MVISION Cloud security monitoring platform, the company estimates a 50% growth in the adoption of cloud services across all industries. Some industries, however, saw a much bigger spike–for example manufacturing with 144% and education with 114%.

The use rate of certain collaboration and videoconferencing tools has been particularly high. Cisco Webex usage has increased by 600%, Zoom by 350%, Microsoft Teams by 300% and Slack by 200%. Again, manufacturing and education ranked at the top.

While this rise in the adoption of cloud services is understandable and, some would argue, a good thing for productivity in light of the forced work-from-home situation, it has also introduced security risks. McAfee’s data shows that traffic from unmanaged devices to enterprise cloud accounts doubled.

“There’s no way to recover sensitive data from an unmanaged device, so this increased access could result in data loss events if security teams aren’t controlling cloud access by device type.”

Cloud threats increased

Attackers have taken notice of this rapid adoption of cloud services and are trying to exploit the situation. According to McAfee, the number of external threats targeting cloud services increased by 630% over the same period, with the greatest concentration on collaboration platforms.

released this year, security and content delivery company Akamai revealed that it observed 85.4 billion credential abuse attacks against organizations worldwide between December 2017 and November 2019. Of those, 473 million attacks targeted the financial sector.

To better protect their employees’ cloud accounts and prevent unauthorized access, McAfee recommends that companies so employees don’t need to route their traffic through a VPN or use a platform with strict policies for device checks and data controls. If employees need to use their personal devices to access corporate SaaS applications, conditional access should be placed on sensitive data.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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