McAfee Study Reveals 1-in-4 Organizations Using Public Cloud Has Had Data Stolen

New Survey Reports Poor Visibility is the Greatest Challenge to Cloud Adoption


  • Ninety-seven percent of organizations use cloud services (public, private, or a combination of both), up from 93 percent one year ago
  • Eighty-three percent store sensitive data in the public cloud
  • Sixty-nine percent trust the public cloud to keep their sensitive data secure
  • One in four organizations has experienced data theft from the public cloud
  • One in five organizations has experienced an advanced attack against its public cloud infrastructure

(Graphic: Business Wire)

SAN FRANCISCO--()--RSA Conference USA 2018 – McAfee, the device-to-cloud cybersecurity company, today announced its third annual cloud adoption and security report, Navigating a Cloudy Sky: Practical Guidance and the State of Cloud Security. The report outlines the current state of cloud adoption, the primary concerns with private and public cloud services, security implications and the evolving impact of unmanaged cloud use for the more than 1,400 information technology (IT) professionals surveyed.

Lack of adequate visibility and control is the greatest challenge to cloud adoption in an organization. However the business value of the cloud—Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (SaaS)—is so compelling that some organizations are plowing ahead. Fortunately modern cloud security tools and practices don’t require organizations to make that difficult choice between business velocity and data security.

“Despite the clear prevalence of security incidents occurring in the cloud, enterprise cloud adoption is pressing on,” said Rajiv Gupta, senior vice president of the cloud security business unit, McAfee. “By implementing security measures that allow organizations to regain visibility and control of their data in the cloud, businesses can leverage the cloud to accelerate their business and improve the security of their data.”

Cloud Services Nearly Ubiquitous

Almost all organizations are well into cloud adoption. According to the survey, 97 percent of worldwide IT professionals are using some type of cloud service and are concurrently working through issues related to visibility and control.

The combination of public and private cloud is also the most popular architecture, with 59 percent of respondents now reporting they are using a hybrid model. While private-only usage is relatively similar across all organization sizes, hybrid usage grows steadily with organization size, from 54 percent in organizations up to 1,000 employees, to 65 percent in larger enterprises with more than 5,000 employees.

Cloud-First is the Strategy of Most Organizations, but in Cautious Decline

Cloud-First is an IT strategy that states new projects should consider using cloud technology first as opposed to on-premises servers or software. According to the report, Cloud-First is the strategy for IT in many companies and remains a primary objective. Caution seems to have taken over for others, as the number of organizations with a Cloud-First strategy dropped from 82 percent to 65 percent this year. Despite all that, respondents with a Cloud-First strategy still believe that public cloud is safer than private cloud. They understand the risks, and yet the more they know, the more confident IT professionals are that Cloud-First is the course they want to be on.

Sensitive Data Stored in the Cloud

The majority of organizations store some or all of their sensitive data in the public cloud, with only 16 percent stating that they store no sensitive data in the cloud. The types of data stored run the full range of sensitive and confidential information. Personal customer information is by far the most common, reported by 61 percent of organizations. Around 40 percent of respondents also store one or more of internal documentation, payment card information, personal staff data or government identification data. Finally, about 30 percent keep intellectual property, healthcare records, competitive intelligence and network pass cards in the cloud.

Managing the risk of storing sensitive data in the cloud means ensuring the organization has visibility to it and control of it. A focus on fundamental governance and technological steps, such as requiring departments and personnel to participate in asset identification, classification and accountability helps build visibility. Data Loss Prevention integration with cloud providers, including the use of Cloud Access Security Brokers, manual or automated data classification and other technology steps, will help reduce the risk of sensitive information being compromised through cloud services.

Security Incidents Still Widespread

Prominently, 1-in-4 organizations that uses IaaS, PaaS or SaaS has had data stolen, and 1-in-5 has experienced an advanced attack against its public cloud infrastructure. As organizations prepare for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), slated for May 2018, they will be ramping up compliance efforts. Organizations that are more confident in the ability of their cloud providers are more likely to have plans to increase their overall cloud investments in the coming year, while those less confident plan to keep their investments at the current level. Fewer than 10 percent surveyed, on average, anticipate decreasing their cloud investment because of GDPR.

Malware continues to be a concern for all types of organizations and 56 percent of professionals surveyed said they had tracked a malware infection back to a cloud application, up from 52 percent in 2016. When asked how the malware was delivered to the organization, just over 25 percent of the respondents said their cloud malware infections were caused by phishing, followed closely by emails from a known sender, drive-by downloads and downloads by existing malware.

Skills Shortage Decreasing

The shortage of cybersecurity skills and its impact on cloud adoption continues to decrease, as those reporting no skills shortage increased from 15 percent to 24 percent this year. Of those still reporting a skills shortage, only 40 percent have slowed their cloud adoption as a result, compared to 49 percent last year. Cloud adoption rates are highest in those reporting the highest skills shortages.

Best Practices and Recommendations

Based on findings from this year’s study, the report concludes with three best practices that all organizations should actively work towards:

  • DevOps and DevSecOps have been demonstrated to improve code quality and reduce exploits and vulnerabilities. Integrating development, quality assurance and security processes within the business unit or application team is crucial to operating at the speed today’s business environment demands.
  • Even the most experienced security professionals find it difficult to keep up with the volume and pace of cloud deployments on their own. Automation that augments human advantages with machine advantages, such as that found in tools such as Chef, Puppet or Ansible, is a fundamental component of modern IT operations and it is no different with cloud adoption.
  • Multiple management tools make it too easy for something to slip through. A unified management platform across multiple clouds with an open integration fabric reduces cost and complexity and increases security.


  • Navigating a Cloudy Sky Report
  • Report Infographic
  • Cloud Security Landing Page
  • Cloud Report Blog
  • RSA Security Conference attendees can view the following McAfee keynote sessions April 16 at the Cloud Security Alliance Summit, Moscone Center, South, Level 2, San Francisco.
    • Raj Samani, chief scientist and McAfee Fellow, and Christiaan Beek, lead scientist and senior principal engineer, McAfee, will co-present “Appetite for Destruction – The Cloud Edition.” The session will take place at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
    • Rajiv Gupta, senior vice president of the cloud security business unit at McAfee, and Mitch Greenfield, manager of security strategy and architecture at Humana, will co-present “Security in the ‘There’s an app for that’ era.” The session will take place at 1:55 p.m. Pacific Time.

Survey Methodology

In Q4 2017, McAfee surveyed 1,400 IT professionals across a broad set of countries, industries, and organization sizes. Quotas were set to obtain a representative sample of enterprise and commercial organizations in each country, with a particular focus on the financial services and healthcare sectors located in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

About McAfee

McAfee is the device-to-cloud cybersecurity company. Inspired by the power of working together, McAfee creates business and consumer solutions that make our world a safer place. By building solutions that work with other companies’ products, McAfee helps businesses orchestrate cyber environments that are truly integrated, where protection, detection and correction of threats happen simultaneously and collaboratively. By protecting consumers across all their devices, McAfee secures their digital lifestyle at home and away. By working with other security players, McAfee is leading the effort to unite against cybercriminals for the benefit of all.

McAfee technologies’ features and benefits depend on system configuration and may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation. No computer system can be absolutely secure. McAfee® and the McAfee logo are trademarks of McAfee, LLC or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Other marks and brands may be claimed as the property of others.


Tracy Holden, 650-245-8466
Zeno Group
Sarah Erman, 650-801-0937


Tracy Holden, 650-245-8466
Zeno Group
Sarah Erman, 650-801-0937