Cloud squatting is a growing threat for public cloud security. As enterprises increasingly migrate their data and operations to the cloud, the complexity and scope of managing these digital assets expand, bringing to light vulnerabilities like cloud squatting. Awareness of this issue is critical for maintaining security measures and protecting sensitive information.

Errors such as misconfigured storage and databases frequently cause security breaches in cloud environments. These missteps typically stem from human error rather than sophisticated hacking techniques. Organizations often prioritize the acquisition of new security technologies over the necessary training that could prevent these common mistakes. A shift in focus towards educating IT personnel on best practices for cloud configuration and management could significantly reduce these vulnerabilities.

Nature of cloud squatting

Cloud squatting occurs when attackers exploit subdomains that remain associated with cloud resources even after those resources have been deleted. This oversight can lead to severe security threats, including the unauthorized creation of phishing or malware sites that appear legitimate but are designed to steal user data or disrupt operations.

Reasons for prevalence

Provisioning cloud assets is typically a swift process, completed programmatically in seconds. In contrast, deallocating these resources involves more complex procedures that are prone to errors. Failure to adequately manage this process results in multiple active records pointing to non-existent cloud resources. These lingering records are prime targets for cloud squatters, who can use them to facilitate attacks or spread malware.

Mitigation strategies for cloud squatting

Mitigating cloud squatting poses significant challenges, particularly for large enterprises with extensive domain portfolios. Teams responsible for domain security often vary in their levels of training and expertise, which can lead to inconsistencies in handling cloud resources.

Large organizations typically struggle with cloud squatting due to the sheer volume of domains they manage and the diverse skill levels across their security teams. On average, such issues may arise several times per month, emphasizing the need for standardized procedures and training across all levels of the security organization.

Strategic approaches to mitigation

To combat cloud squatting, companies develop internal tools that scan for subdomains linked to cloud provider IP ranges, checking the validity of these links. Using reserved IP addresses and systematically managing DNS records can prevent unauthorized use of old, inactive subdomains. It is also advisable to implement policies that restrict the hard-coding of IP addresses and promote the use of reserved IPv6 addresses provided by cloud services.

Two-phase approach to mitigation

Phase one: Strategy implementation

First, organizations must deploy mitigation strategies to manage their extensive attack surfaces effectively. These strategies include the systematic scanning of domains and the implementation of secure IP management practices.

Phase two: Policy enforcement

Second, companies must enforce strict policies regarding DNS usage and the maintenance of records. Regular updates and checks make sure that old or irrelevant records do not become security liabilities.

Current trends that are increasing cloud squatting risks

The accelerated deployment of cloud services, particularly during the pandemic, has exacerbated vulnerabilities associated with poor domain management. Many organizations hastily allocated domains to facilitate remote work and digital operations, often neglecting the subsequent cleanup of these digital assets.

A notable gap in qualified cloud security personnel worsens the situation. Many organizations rely on certifications rather than practical experience when hiring, which does not always equate to proficiency in managing complex cloud environments. The lack of skilled administrators leads to frequent oversights in domain management, increasing the risk of cloud squatting.

Frequent cloud security breaches are directly linked to inadequate training and a lack of comprehensive understanding among IT staff. Companies often overlook the importance of continuous education and proactive security practices in favor of more immediate, though less effective, solutions like new security tools. Correcting this imbalance is invaluable for improving overall cloud security and reducing incidents of cloud squatting.

Alexander Procter

April 19, 2024

3 Min