Cloud cyber attacks up seven-fold during coronavirus pandemic

A new research study by McAfee explores the correlation between the increased use of cloud services and collaboration tools

A cloud connected to electronic devices

Attacks on cloud accounts have grown by 630% between January and April of this year, according to new findings by McAfee.

A majority of these external attacks were large-scale attempts to access cloud accounts with stolen credentials and usually targeted collaboration services like Microsoft 365.

The research study attempted to explore the correlation between the increased use of cloud services and collaboration tools during the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in cyber-attacks targeting the cloud. The report is based on data from more than 30 million McAfee MVISION Cloud users around the world.

Tools such as Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack have seen an increase of up to 600% in usage between January and April, with the education sector seeing the sharpest increase, due to students being required to attend lessons remotely, according to the cyber security firm.

The research also found that, while overall enterprise use of cloud services increased by 50%, access to the cloud using unmanaged, personal devices doubled, contributing to the risk of company data being stolen.

“While we are seeing a tremendous amount of courage and global goodwill to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, we also are unfortunately seeing an increase in bad actors looking to exploit the sudden uptick in cloud adoption created by an increase in working from home," explained Rajiv Gupta, senior VP of Cloud Security at McAfee.

“The risk of threat actors targeting the cloud far outweighs the risk brought on by changes in employee behavior. Mitigating this risk requires cloud-native security solutions that can detect and prevent external attacks and data loss from the cloud and from the use of unmanaged devices. Cloud-native security has to be deployed and managed remotely and can’t add any friction to employees whose work from home is essential to the health of their organization.”

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On the upside, McAfee's research found that the number of internal attacks, carried out by rogue employees, remained the same, which indicates that working from home has not negatively influenced employee loyalty.

Last month, Microsoft was forced to quickly patch a vulnerability that let hackers take over Teams accounts simply by sharing malicious gifs which produced cookies capable of accessing an entire organisation's accounts.

Hackers were also known to spoof Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, contributing to the rise in coronavirus-related cyber attacks.

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