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While careful cloud adoption can enhance an organization’s security posture, cloud services can introduce risks that organizations should understand and address both during the procurement process and while operating in the cloud. Fully evaluating security implications when shifting resources to the cloud will help ensure continued resource availability and reduce risk of sensitive information exposures. To implement effective mitigations, organizations should consider cyber risks to cloud resources, just as they would in an on-premises environment.

This document divides cloud vulnerabilities into four classes (misconfiguration, poor access control, shared tenancy vulnerabilities, and supply chain vulnerabilities) that encompass the vast majority of known vulnerabilities. Cloud customers have a critical role in mitigating misconfiguration and poor access control, but can also take actions to protect cloud resources from the exploitation of shared tenancy and supply chain vulnerabilities. 

Descriptions of each vulnerability class along with the most effective mitigations are provided to help organizations lock down their cloud resources. By taking a risk-based approach to cloud adoption, organizations can securely benefit from the cloud’s extensive capabilities.

This guidance is intended for use by both organizational leadership and technical staff. Organizational leadership can refer to the Cloud Components section, Cloud Threat Actors section, and the Cloud Vulnerabilities and Mitigations overview to gain perspective on cloud security principles. Technical and security professionals should find the document helpful for addressing cloud security considerations during and after cloud service procurement.


Cloud Components

Cloud architectures are not standardized and each Cloud Service Provider (CSP) implements foundational cloud services differently. Understanding a CSP’s cloud implementation should be part of a customer’s risk decision during cloud service
procurement. Four cloud architectural services are common to most clouds:

Identity and Access Management

Refers to controls in place for customers to protect access to their resources as well as controls that the CSP uses to protect access to back-end cloud resources. Secure customer and cloud back-end IdAM, both enforcement and auditing, is critical to protecting cloud customer resources.


Clouds generally rely on virtualization and containerization to manage and isolate customer computation workloads. Serverless computing, the dynamic allocation of cloud compute resources to run customer code, is built upon either virtualization or containerization, depending on the cloud service. Virtualization is a cloud backbone technology, not only for customer workloads, but also for the cloud architecture itself. 

  • Virtualization is an enabling technology that provides isolation in the cloud for both storage and networking. Virtualization typically implements and secures internal cloud nodes. 
  • Containerization is a more lightweight technology that is commonly used in clouds to manage and isolate customer workloads. Containerization is less secure of an isolation technology than virtualization because of its shared kernel characteristics, but CSPs offer technologies that help address containerization security drawbacks.


Isolation of customer networks is a critical security function of the cloud. In addition, cloud networking must implement controls throughout the cloud architecture to protect customer cloud resources from insider threat. Software Defined Networking is commonly used in the cloud to both logically separate customer networks and implement backbone networking for the cloud.

Storage (Objects, Blocks, and Database Records)

Customer data is logically separated from other customer data on cloud nodes. Security mechanisms must exist to ensure that customer data is not leaked to other customers and that customer data is protected from insider threat.