Security in the cloud

Cloud Computing 13876574_xxl

agendaNi considers some of the issues around data and cloud storage.

For those worried about hacking and data security, events over the past two months will probably have caused some sleepless nights.
In July researchers hacked into one of Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Cherokees. Using just a laptop the pair was able to take control of the vehicle, eventually crashing it into a ditch. That incident forced the company to recall 1.4 million vehicles.

Then in early August Carphone Warehouse said personal details of up to 2.4 million of its customers had been hacked into. Probably the best known attack directly on cloud storage was the hacking of Apple’s iCloud in 2014, when private pictures of celebrities found their way into the public domain.

These incidents signal the inherent vulnerability of data storage to hacking. As more companies use cloud-based services to share sensitive data and hackers become ever more sophisticated, concerns around cloud storage grow.

Cloud storage allows data to be saved on an off-site system that is managed by a third party. It is usually cheaper than conventional storage, allows files to be accessed anywhere via an internet connection and is often used as a back-up plan for companies, providing a second copy of important data.

Systems such as Dropbox, iCloud and Google Drive have all had security breaches, which give fuel to sceptics. In 2012, Dropbox’s security was breached, resulting in email addresses being spammed. In 2013 it was claimed that nearly 5 million Gmail accounts had been hacked and Apple had the aforementioned celebrity breach.

However in support of cloud storage, industry observers argue that the makers are incentivized to make their products as secure as possible, as it is the core product and not just incidental, therefore making any data breach potentially devastating event.

Furthermore supporters say that the level of security around cloud storage way surpasses that of an onsite system, with multiple layers of encryption and security as well as a small army of dedicated professionals monitoring the system. In fact, cloud providers put themselves through more rigorous audits than on-premise systems, say supporters.

One of the big concerns for businesses, or indeed personal users, of cloud storage is that seemingly control of the data is taken away from them and placed in the hands of a third party. Backers of the system say that access and controls around the data are much more important than the location of it, from a security viewpoint. Essentially then, for some, it is a mindset problem, the feeling of losing direct control of a process, which encourages fears around the cloud system.

On the other side of the debate there are those who argue that the vast volume of information stored on cloud systems, sometimes with thousands of companies’ data stored on large servers, it gives extra purpose to hackers to find breaches. And once a breach is made it can have much more serious ramifications.

In August at Los Angeles’ ‘Hacker Convention’, researchers detailed how, by gaining access to just one victim’s account they can steal files placed in the sync folder (a system used in cloud storage), giving them access to millions of accounts.

The debate is unlikely to end any time soon, but as recent data and security breaches have shown, as yet there is no such thing as 100 per cent security when it comes to technology.

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