Cloud Computing – The Perfect Storm?

by | Aug 8, 2012 | Blog

Cloud Computing

Wired technology journalist Mat Honan was preparing for the weekend last Friday when hackers infiltrated his private accounts.  They utilized security holes at Amazon.com and Apple to get into his iCloud account.  From there, they also gained access to his Gmal account, wiped the data from his personal devices (MacBook, iPhone) and took over his Twitter account.

The hackers used a rather simple approach when stealing Honan’s information.  Here was the process:

  1. They found Honan’s home address and email online
  2. The hackers called Amazon.com tech support and used this information to get the last four digits of his credit card
  3. Once acquired, they called Apple customer support and gained access to his iCloud account using his billing address and credit card numbers to verify his identity.
  4. Honan’s iCloud included his Gmail information and all accounts associated with it, like Twitter.
  5. The hackers then spammed Honan’s Twitter account and wiped an enormous amount of data from his various devices.

Wired investigators tested the hacker’s approach by successfully conducting the process on another account themselves.

Honan, understandably upset, thinks this incident may be a wake-up call to many who store their information using cloud technology.  “My experience leads me to believe that cloud-based systems need fundamentally different security measures,” Honan stated.  “Password-based security mechanisms- which can be cracked, reset and socially engineered- no longer suffice in the era of cloud computing.”

For the entire press release visit http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/06/tech/mobile/icloud-security-hack/index.html

 How Cloud Computing Works

In the past, corporations have had to purchase new computers and software licenses constantly in order to ensure their employees had the correct tools for the job.   Those days are over.  Now, computer users are rejoicing the simplicity and effectiveness of a new technology- cloud computing.

The process is rather simple.  Users load a single application onto their computer, opposed to the surplus of software required in past years.  This allows workers to log into a web-based service which hosts the programs he/she needs for the job.  Independently-owned remote machines run everything from email to complex data analysis programs.  Local computers no longer have to take the bulk of the load while running applications- the cloud consists of network computers that handle this.  Hardware and software necessity on the user’s side plummets, with the only requirement being interface software (which can be as simple as a web browser).  The cloud’s network handles the rest.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

The cloud system has already been applauded and utilized for its variety of beneficial elements, but that doesn’t mean it does not come with downsides.  Here are a few negative aspects for those of you looking to make the jump to the cloud:

1)      You are no longer directly in control.  You can’t simply log onto a server to see what’s happening.  With the cloud, you have to open a ticket just like you were an end user.  SLAs will make sure you receive acceptable service levels, but consider the change that comes from giving up control and relying on someone else.

2)      It’s a poor equalizer.  With cloud services, the CEO of the company is no different than the receptionist- they’re both simply users of the service and ultimately, receive equal attention.

3)      Limited customization.  Typically, clouds use the most current versions of whatever software they include.  However, these programs tend to offer the “cookie cutter” version and only enable the most popular features.

4)      IT staff and hardware are still needed.  Although cloud users may have less servers or IT tasks to deal with, it does not mean they can do away with their equipment and employees altogether.  This may come as a shock to those who thought the cloud would hinder everything before obsolete.

Like most technology, there are positive and negative repercussions from using cloud services.  Although the overall concept seems like an overwhelming benefit to a company, be aware of the negative sides as well.  When considering a cloud service, be sure to read the fine print and ask questions about specific scenarios with your provider before moving forward.