Top Cloud Vulnerabilities and Tools that Can Help

Learn about critical vulnerabilities affecting cloud environments and how automated tools can help you resolve them.

What Is Cloud Vulnerability Management?

As organizations increasingly move workloads to the public cloud, their security processes must also evolve. Organizations must revise their existing vulnerability management processes to account for the changes introduced by the public cloud. This means understanding their part of the shared responsibility model, gaining visibility over workloads and data they are running in the cloud, identifying vulnerabilities and remediating them.

Cloud vulnerability management solutions are becoming a critical part of cloud security. They allow organizations to automate this process. These solutions provide vulnerability assessment, remediation, and reporting workflows that provide a single pane of glass view into an organization’s security hygiene efforts.

In this article:

Top Cloud Security Vulnerabilities

The following are some of the main security vulnerabilities affecting cloud environments.


You must manage your own configurations in the cloud, which is a problem if your teams haven’t mastered the different options. Cloud resources rely on configuration settings to determine who can access data and applications. Misconfiguration vulnerabilities expose systems and data, enabling breaches or misuse.

Different cloud providers offer different configuration options, but you are responsible for understanding and implementing the right configurations. 

To mitigate misconfiguration:

  • Enforce zero trust and least privilege policies to restrict access to your cloud resources.
  • Implement cloud service policies that keep your resources private.
  • Establish business guidelines outlining the appropriate configuration settings for your resources.
  • Study the CSP’s security configuration settings.
  • Encrypt data by default. 
  • Look for configuration errors using tools like Open Raven and Intruder. 

Insecure APIs

APIs are useful for streamlining cloud operations, making it easier to share data between applications. However, APIs often introduce vulnerabilities that allow attackers to access company data or launch denial of service (DoS) attacks. A sophisticated attacker can evade detection when exploiting insecure APIs.

To protect your cloud deployment from API attacks:

  • Perform regular penetration tests to simulate attacks.
  • Encrypt transmitted data with SSL/TLS. 
  • Use multi-factor authentication.
  • Secure API keys and destroy them when no longer needed.

Shadow IT

Attackers can create public cloud accounts to transfer data and provision services. If you misconfigure your security options and allow users to create shadow IT deployments, you can expose your cloud system to exploits. While shadow IT is less of a threat if you implement modern security practices, you must enforce proper practices and configurations. All departments and users must adhere to your standards to prevent vulnerabilities.

Data Breaches

The cloud provider is responsible for securing the infrastructure, but the customer must secure the cloud internally, including managing access control management. 

You are responsible for preventing attackers from exploiting data vulnerabilities. For example, stolen customer data can expose your organization to legal and business consequences. If an attacker modifies or deletes critical internal data, it can impact your business operations.

Data breaches often result in serious penalties, including fines for violating data safety standards. Following a breach involving customer data, the litigation processes can be time-consuming and expensive. You can mitigate these risks by implementing data protection measures and ensuring proper security configurations.

First-Party Cloud Vulnerability Assessment Tools

All three of the major cloud providers offer a vulnerability scanning solution as part of their cloud services. Let’s see what is provided by these first-party solutions.

AWS Vulnerability Scanning

Amazon Inspector is a vulnerability management service that continuously scans AWS workloads for vulnerabilities. It automatically detects and scans Amazon EC2 instances and container images in Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR), identifying software vulnerabilities and accidental network exposure.

Amazon Inspector creates a “finding” when it identifies software vulnerabilities or network issues. These findings describe the vulnerability, identify affected resources, assess the severity of the vulnerability, and provide remediation guidance. You can use the Amazon Inspector console to review findings in your Amazon account, or view findings within other AWS services.

Related content: Read our guide to AWS cloud security

Azure Vulnerability Scanning

Microsoft provides Defender Vulnerability Management, a solution that provides asset visibility, assessment, and built-in remediation tools for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and networked devices. It can be used to secure resources in the Azure cloud and elsewhere.

By leveraging Microsoft’s extensive threat intelligence database, Defender Vulnerability Management automatically assesses the business and device environment and performs breach forecasting. It can quickly and consistently prioritize and assign risk scores to vulnerabilities in a company’s most valuable assets, including both software vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, and provides actionable remediation advice to mitigate the impact.

Related content: Read our guide to Azure cloud security

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Vulnerability Scanning

Google provides the Security Command Center, which offers three key vulnerability scanning features:

  • Continuously monitors container images to identify suspicious changes and remote access attempts. The service can detect common container runtime attacks.
  • Monitors cloud logs for your organization’s Google services and detects threats using detection logic and threat intelligence feeds from Google.
  • Scans web applications running on Google App Engine, Google Compute Engine, or Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). The service can scrape application URLs, execute user input, and test for vulnerabilities such as legacy libraries, mixed content, and cross-site scripting (XSS).

When the Security Command Center identifies vulnerabilities, it can raise alerts via its dedicated Command Center Console, or through cloud logging events.

Related content: Read our guide to Google cloud security

How to Select the Right Cloud Vulnerability Scanner

Many organizations look beyond the default vulnerability scanners offered by their cloud provider. Here are features to look for in a third-party cloud vulnerability scanner:

  • Automation—a vulnerability scanner needs to be equipped with automated scanning and alerting capabilities to ensure productivity. Additionally, it should perform automated modification of security controls as needed.
  • Centralization—a cloud vulnerability scanner should enable you to centrally-manage scanners and agents to ensure efficiency. 
  • Dashboards—cloud vulnerability scanners provide important insights about vulnerability severity levels. Ideally, the scanner should provide this information via user-friendly dashboards and reports. 
  • Tracking—not every vulnerability requires immediate action, but all should be inventoried and tracked over time, including low- or moderate-risk vulnerabilities.
  • Scanning—ideally, your scanner should not be limited to scanning only the network perimeter but also inspect your internal network to provide more comprehensive coverage.
  • Reports—a cloud vulnerability scanner should enable you to generate custom reports for internal purposes and to satisfy external auditing and compliance requirements.

You can use the above list of recommended features to check various vendors and compare their offerings. 

Cloud Vulnerability Protection with Aqua Security

Vulnerability Scanning and Management, protect cloud native applications by minimizing their attack surface, detecting vulnerabilities, embedded secrets, and other security issues during the development cycle. Gain insight into your vulnerability posture and prioritize remediation and mitigation according to contextual risk.

Risk-based insights, focus on the most important and urgent vulnerabilities to prioritize those that pose the highest risk to your environment, based on the workloads you run, availability of exploits in the wild, and level of exploitability. More details:

Scan, monitor and remediate configuration issues in public cloud accounts according to best practices and compliance standards, across AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and Oracle Cloud with Aqua Cloud Security Posture Management – CSPM. More details here

Aqua CSPM continually audits your cloud accounts for security risks and misconfigurations across hundreds of configuration settings and compliance best practices, enabling consistent, unified multi-cloud security. Get detailed, actionable advice and alerts, or choose automatic remediation of misconfigured services with granular control over chosen fixes.