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Stolen usernames and passwords still cause almost a quarter of all data breaches

Companies and consumers alike love “the cloud”.

But the same security mistakes appear to be helping hackers steal data from cloud-based systems time and time again.

And it’s against that gloomy backdrop that a new report by the Cloud Security Alliance, “Identity Solutions: Security Beyond the Perimeter”, makes a worthwhile read.

According to surveys detailed in the Centrify-sponsored report, 22% of respondents whose companies had suffered a data breach said that compromised credentials were to blame.


In addition, 65% of respondents indicated that the likelihood their company would experience a future breach due to compromised credentials was medium to high.

It’s understandable why home users and businesses love the cloud so much.

Internet-based services bring many benefits, such as automatic updates, the convenience to work from anywhere with an internet connection, increased collaboration and no need to be in the same place as the computer storing your data.

Of course, there are potential pitfalls with cloud-based services too – for instance, can you trust that your provider is taking security seriously?

But it’s not just that you’re placing your trust in a third-party to be acting securely to protect your data’s confidentiality and integrity. The very fact that you are putting your data on the internet, accessible from anywhere in the world, means that potentially there are greater opportunities for hackers to break in.

After all, if the server carrying your sensitive information was on your local network – rather than attached to the public internet – hackers will have a less clear route to your data.

Furthermore, rogue staff inside your organisation could also take advantage of the fact that the data is on an internet server, rather than a more tightly-controlled internal computer, to steal information.

So, if you are going to put your data in the cloud (or on “someone else’s computer” as I prefer to call it) you would be wise to recognize this, and take appropriate steps to protect it:

  • Stop reusing the same passwords in multiple places, or choosing easy-to-guess passwords to secure your accounts.
  • Harden your defences with the use of multi-factor authentication, certificates and cryptographic keys rather than allowing a simple username/password combination to unlock your data.
  • Consider, if possible, encrypting sensitive data before you upload it to the cloud.
  • Educate your staff about the threats posed by malware, and how phishing attacks are designed to steal credentials.

About the author


Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

1 Comment

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  • "22% of respondents whose companies had suffered a data breach said that compromised credentials were to blame"
    Scary stuff indeed. I was also hoping for more information on the other 78% and other things that should be watched out for. Example, scripts that are insecure for various reasons that are uploaded onto servers. But rogue staff is a serious problem too and I know of one case of this, at least.

    "Stop reusing the same passwords"
    The only time I use the same password on different accounts (and it's a complex password that I memorized) is if these accounts also have multi-factor authentication (MFA). So my gmail and outlook use the same password since I use MFA on them. Everything else that doesn't use MFA pretty much all have different and complicated passwords out of my password manager.