Application attacks against clouds jumped 45 percent last year, according to a new report from Houston-based cloud security firm Alert Logic, Inc.
The report was based on an analysis of one billion security events in the IT environments of more than 3,000 enterprise customers, and showed that 78 percent saw incidents of application attacks last year, up from just 48 percent the year before.
"The increase doesn't surprise us because more and more companies are moving to the cloud," said Rahul Bakshi, Alert Logic's senior director of product management.
Cloud environments also saw a 36 percent increase in suspicious activity, such as attempts to scan the infrastructure, and 27 percent increase in brute force attacks.
However, while attacks against cloud deployments are rising fast, they still haven't caught up with attacks against on-premises infrastructure. For example, the average cloud customer saw 68 incidents of Trojan attacks, compared to 108 incidents for on-premises customers. The average cloud customer saw 101 instances of brute force attacks, compared to 201 for on-premises.
In application attacks, however, clouds are a juicier target -- the average cloud customer saw 118 confirmed security incidents, compared to 98 for customers with on-premises deployments.
"Customers are moving more and more production workflow to the cloud, including sensitive information, so they're becoming bigger targets," said Bakshi. "And web applications are target-rich. There are fantastic applications that are being developed for the cloud that make our lives easier, and have great functionality and user experience. But often, there's not enough security built into these applications."
Different companies are attacked in different ways, but the main determining factor was the number of online interactions with customers, as opposed to, say, a company's IT infrastructure.
"These companies have different ways of conducting business," said Bakshi.
Web applications attacks are more common for business with large volumes of customer interactions, such as online retailers.
Attackers targeting companies with limited online customer interactions, such as, say, heavy equipment manufacturers, are more likely to be going after intellectual property and prefer brute force or phishing attacks.
Industries where application attacks were the most common vector include advertising, computer services, manufacturing, real estate, retail, and transportation.
Brute force attacks dominated in the financial, healthcare and accounting industries. In the financial sector, for example, brute force accounted for 33 percent of attacks and 18 percent were application attacks. Reconnaissance and other types of suspicious activity account for 37 percent, and Trojans for 17 percent.
In the mining industry, the most significant attack vector was Trojans.
The mining industry offers fewer avenues for brute force and application-based attacks because there are fewer user accounts to try to break into, and fewer external web applications.
Trojans are not easily detected and are built for espionage and intellectual property theft, so are a favorite choice for attackers looking to steal geophysical data to sell to unscrupulous business competitors.