Hacking the Cloud: When Your Data ISN’T Safe…

If you’re a Play Station “fan boy” (or girl), you probably received an email from Sony offering you free games (in exchange for something about account security).  The PlayStation Network shut down it’s cloud after “an external intrusion” that resulted in the theft of personal information belonging to 77 million customers.  In fact, PSN said they’re moving their network infrastructure and data center to a new, more secure location.

Or, you might remember when Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud and Elastic Block Storage platforms were offline during an April 21 outage that had major websites unavailable for three days.

Outages and security breaches like these have inspired fear that the Cloud may not be secure – or is less secure than a traditional data center; however, eWeek.com points out that major security holes are not unique to cloud services.  PSN uses both cloud services and traditional data centers.  Amazon's outage drew attention to data availability issues and reliability.  Security concerns exist in both cloud and traditional data center environments.  Cloud security is not inferior to data center security, where information can be accessed by a slew of hacking techniques.

eWeek adds, “People generally [haven't heard] about outages in [traditional] data centers because they affected only one organization and were smaller scale, but they often add up to far more lost time, money and business…”

The problem traces back to encryption.  EVERYTHING should be encrypted in both traditional data centers and on the cloud, from network traffic to S3 storage to file systems.  And the sensitive data?  That information should be especially encrypted.  The tools are out there, but companies might not realize just how secure their data needs to be.  An article by George Reese on the O’Reilly community adds:

“You should create a security system with the assumption that someone will gain unintended access to your data. It’s not that the cloud makes it more or less likely; it’s simply that a) there are attack vectors in the cloud that you have less control over and b) it’s a good idea anyways.”

What is the Cloud?

What is the Cloud: www.educationatlas.com

What is the Cloud: from www.educationatlas.com

You may have heard by now that Digital Lifeboat offers cloud-based online backup systems. But you’re probably wondering just what is “the cloud” and how is it better than backing up to an external hard drive, for example?

Let's start with how your PC works. You open an application, like Microsoft Word, and you type a letter, and save the content on your hard drive. The application (Word) and the data (your letter) are on your PC. Cloud computing is an approach which involves the creation and deployment of services and applications over the internet, supported by a coordinated infrastructure. When you open your email, the application is “in the cloud” and when you send the email to a friend, the email is stored “in the cloud.” Lots of services like search engines, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook operate this way.

The popular buzzword, “cloud” simply means storing digital files on someone else's computer and accessing it by internet.

What people like about “the cloud” is that they can access content on-demand. What businesses like about “the cloud” is that it shares computing resources (networks and servers), that requires minimal management and effort to both access and release. With cloud computing, it’s easy to partition resources for you to use, and when you’re done using those resources, it’s easy to re-integrate those resources back into the cloud for others to use. Cloud computing is an efficient way to increase network capacity and utilization, without having to go out and purchase more equipment that – in the end – will just contribute to the growing problem of e-waste.

With all the different methods and applications used in cloud computing, it would be more accurately described as “sky computing”, with little grouped clouds for each application or service – one for Facebook, another for Salesforce.com, another for YouTube, etc.

 

Next up: What's up with “hacking” the cloud?

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