Cloud-10 Nonproduction Environment Exposure

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An IT organization that develops software applications internally employs a set of non-production environments for design, development, and test activities. The non-production environments are generally not secured to the same extent as the production environment. This is to ease and facilitate the development and test cycles. Such non-production environments are not only accessed by the employees of the organization, but also by the outsourced vendors. In a non-cloud environment, the non-production environments are in the data-center of the organization, and are under complete ownership of the organization. Therefore, the organization can appropriately control the access of these environments.

If an organization chooses to use a cloud provider for a non-production environment, then the organization loses control over them. Since cloud is publicly accessible, there is a high risk that an unauthorized user may get access to the non-production environment. A malicious user may alter the environment in such a way that it becomes unusable. Or even worse, a malicious user may completely delete the environment.

A non-production environment may use generic authentication credentials. The passwords used in non-production environment may not conform to the standard password policy of the organization. In such a case, unauthorized access becomes very easy.

An organization may create a non-production environment by copying data from its production equivalent. In such a case, an unauthorized user can steal the sensitive production data. Examples of such data are credit card and social security numbers.

To mitigate non-production environment exposure risk, an organization should consider the following:

1. Ensure that the credentials used for accessing non-production environments are strong, and conform to the same standards as the production environment.

2. The data in the non-production environment is not a copy of the data in the production environment.