Security Experts:

Most Business Cloud Apps Fail to Protect Enterprise Data: Report

Security firm Blue Coat has analyzed thousands of cloud applications used by organizations and determined that a large majority of them fail to properly protect sensitive enterprise data.

Blue Coat’s Elastica Cloud Threat Labs has conducted research on more than 15,000 enterprise cloud applications and over 100 million documents shared and stored with these apps.

Researchers found that organizations use 20 times more cloud applications than they think, with an average of 841 apps per enterprise. The security firm’s analysis revealed that 99 percent of the tested apps lack security, compliance controls and features needed to protect enterprise data in the cloud.

While applications developed by major vendors, such as Box, Office 365 and Salesforce, are appropriate for business use, a large majority of the other cloud apps are not. Experts determined that 95 percent of apps are not in compliance with SOC 2 (Service Organization Control), which requires applications to have basic security, privacy, confidentiality, processing integrity and availability controls. Moreover, only two percent are ready for the European Commission’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Blue Coat also found that nearly three-quarters of business cloud apps do not provide multi-factor authentication, which experts believe should be a key requirement. Furthermore, one in ten apps are still vulnerable to major exploits, such as FREAK, Heartbleed, Poodle and Logjam.

All the organizations included in the study have experienced at least one minor or moderate security incident in the last year, but 12 percent of them have high risk users and have suffered one or more serious incidents. High risk users are ones whose accounts have exhibited abnormal logins, downloads or sharing – activities conducted by the users themselves or by someone who has hijacked their account.

Data from Blue Coat shows that 37 percent of suspicious cloud activity is related to attempts to hack into accounts, while the rest seems to indicate attempts to exfiltrate data.

“The vast majority of business cloud apps we analyzed do not meet enterprise standards for security and can put companies at risk for compromise even though virtually every enterprise uses them,” noted Aditya Sood, director of security and the Elastica Cloud Threat Labs at Blue Coat. “This is troubling when you think about the financial risks faced by enterprises due to insecure or non-compliant apps. Understanding which cloud applications your employees are adopting and using is an important step to identifying which apps are business ready and which apps need to be replaced with more secure alternatives.”

Blue Coat's Shadow Data Threat Report is available for download in PDF format.

Related: Symantec to Acquire Blue Coat for $4.65 Billion

Related: Many Enterprises Fail to Protect Privileged Credentials

Related: Broadly Shared Files a High Risk for Enterprise Data

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.