It’s never good news when your workloads, data, or both get hacked in a public cloud. Fortunately, it’s something that rarely occurs. But as workloads and data sets on the public clouds become more numerous, such a hack could occur.
The best way to recover from an attack, aka a hack, is to remain calm and follow these simple rules.
What to do if your public cloud is hacked
- Do shut down the machine instances as quickly as you can. I’m often taken aback by the number of admins who keep compromised systems up and running. Chances are that the hackers have not yet culled all your data, so you can stop further damage by taking those systems down quickly.
- Do contact your provider right away. It typically has automated procedures to lock things down for you, and even locate the source of the attack.
- Do review your security policies and security tools, at your first opportunity. Something fell through the cracks, and most breaches that I see are due to human error. While it’s fresh in your mind, it’s time to do some self-discovery to ensure something like this does not happen again. Even if this specific breach was the cloud provider’s fault, the next time it could be your fault – so use the incident to review what you control.
- Do contact those whose information may have been compromised. The days of keeping breaches to yourself are long over. If Social Security numbers or credit card data has been compromised, the owners need to be contacted so they can watch for fraud. If it’s personally identifiable information (PII) or other protected data, you need to contact your regulatory authority as well.
What not to do if your public cloud is hacked
- Don’t try to combat the hackers with a counterattack. Shut the systems down first, remove the IP addresses, and then figure out what happened. Retaliation is a macho thing that I’ve seen occur in the last few years – don’t go there. It’s not a street fight. I’ve even seen companies that were attacked launch counter-DDOS attacks at the offending IP addresses. Not smart. In the long run, you’ll just waste more time and money, and possibly open yourself to a full-on vendetta attack.
- Don’t make rash decisions about rehosting. These days, many companies move to the cloud because their on-premises systems got hacked. If cloud-based systems are hacked, I suspect we’ll hear a lot of people say, “We’re heading back to the enterprise data center.” The grass is always greener, and you need to thoroughly think through such a move. Huge and expensive rehosting decisions could turn into huge and expensive mistakes.
- Don’t play the blame game. Although it’s tempting to call people out who you view as responsible, that almost never delivers the outcome you’re seeking.
- Don’t overexplain. Among a great many mistakes I’ve seen included a company sending out several press releases, where one would have done the trick. The public will view such overexplaining as a weakness, and many will assume you’re hiding something in the deluge of explanations – that you’re fast-talking. Make your points and be done with it.