Top 6 Cloud Vulnerabilities and Tools that Can Help

Organizations must revise their existing vulnerability management processes to account for cloud vulnerabilities, especially in public cloud environments.

Rani Osnat
July 25, 2022

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.

Malicious Insiders 

Malicious insiders are individuals or entities with authorized access to an organization’s network, systems, or data, who intentionally misuse their privileges to cause harm, steal sensitive information, or disrupt operations.

To mitigate this threat, organizations can:

  • Conduct thorough background checks: Verify the trustworthiness and credentials of potential employees before hiring them.
  • Monitor user activity: Continuously monitor and analyze user behavior to detect unusual or suspicious activities.
  • Implement strong access controls: Use strong authentication methods, like multi-factor authentication (MFA), and enforce password policies.
  • Segregate duties: Divide critical functions among multiple employees to prevent a single person from having excessive control or access.

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.

To mitigate this threat:

  • Create and enforce a comprehensive IT policy that outlines acceptable use of cloud services, software, and devices, along with guidelines for obtaining approval for new tools.
  • Conduct regular audits and continuous monitoring of your network to identify unauthorized cloud services, devices, and software.
  • Ensure that approved cloud services meet security standards, such as data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and regular security updates.

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.

To mitigate this threat:

  • Encrypt data at rest and in transit using strong encryption algorithms to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access.
  • Implement identity and access management (IAM) systems to manage user permissions and restrict access to sensitive data and systems.
  • Establish a comprehensive incident response plan to address security breaches or vulnerabilities in the cloud and ensure that employees are aware of their roles and responsibilities during an incident.

Key Capabilities of Cloud Vulnerability Tools

A robust cloud vulnerability management solution should have a comprehensive set of features that enable organizations to effectively identify, assess, and remediate security vulnerabilities in their cloud environments. Some key features to look for in a cloud vulnerability management solution include:

  • Asset discovery and inventory: The solution should automatically discover and inventory all assets within the cloud environment, including virtual machines, containers, storage, and applications, to provide a complete and up-to-date view of the infrastructure.
  • Vulnerability scanning: The solution should support regular, automated vulnerability scanning across the cloud environment, using both signature-based and behavioral analysis techniques to identify potential security vulnerabilities.
  • Continuous monitoring: The solution should offer continuous monitoring capabilities to detect new vulnerabilities, changes in assets, and emerging threats in real-time.
  • Risk assessment and prioritization: The solution should assess and prioritize identified vulnerabilities based on their severity, potential impact, and likelihood of exploitation, helping organizations focus on the most critical issues.
  • Integration with cloud providers and services: The solution should be compatible with and able to integrate with major cloud service providers and platforms, such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, to ensure comprehensive coverage of the cloud environment.
  • Customizable reporting and dashboards: The solution should provide customizable reporting and dashboards that allow organizations to track the progress of their vulnerability management efforts, measure the effectiveness of their security posture, and demonstrate compliance with regulatory standards.

Cloud Service Provider (CSP) 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

Azure Defender for Cloud is a security service that helps protect Azure resources by scanning for vulnerabilities. It utilizes a Qualys-powered vulnerability scanner extension for enhanced detection capabilities. The process involves four key steps:

  1. Deployment: The Qualys scanner extension is deployed on Azure virtual machines (VMs) and other resources, enabling continuous scanning.
  2. Collection: The extension collects vulnerability data from the VMs and resources in the Azure environment.
  3. Analysis: The collected data is analyzed to identify potential vulnerabilities and threats.
  4. Reporting: Azure Defender for Cloud presents the findings in an easily accessible dashboard, providing insights into the security posture and enabling organizations to remediate vulnerabilities proactively.

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.

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.

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.

Rani Osnat
Rani is the SVP of Strategy at Aqua. Rani has worked in enterprise software companies more than 25 years, spanning project management, product management and marketing, including a decade as VP of marketing for innovative startups in the cyber-security and cloud arenas. Previously Rani was also a management consultant in the London office of Booz & Co. He holds an MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Rani is an avid wine geek, and a slightly less avid painter and electronic music composer.