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Georgia Tech warns of emerging threats in cloud, mobile

Antone Gonsalves | Nov. 12, 2013
Study finds that threats call for security measures that are not currently offered by service providers.

Companies will face next year emerging threats in cloud data storage that will demand security measures that go far beyond what is offered by service providers, a university report says.

In addition, the Georgia Institute of Technology is warning that the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend among employees using their smartphones for work will present unique challenges that will need to be addressed.

The prestigious university recently released its 2014 Emerging Cyber Threats Report, giving its researchers take on the security landscape and how companies should respond.

Leading the report are the threats employees' use of cloud data services pose to corporate networks. Seven in 10 IT managers either confirm or assume employees are saving business data to the cloud, but few companies are tackling the problem, the report said.

Georgia Tech recommends figuring out how to track data and to have a policy in place for the use of cloud services in order to control risks. The threat of problems arising from data leakage is real, given that the average company's employees use more than 500 cloud services.

In addition, cybercriminals are using cloud services to pilfer data from inside the business or to download malware from a reputable Web site or file-sharing service. "Inventorying a business' cloud use is a good first step," the report said.

Two-factor authentication is recommended for securing sensitive data in the cloud. To protect against legal requests by a sovereign government, data should be encrypted before being exported to the cloud, Sasha Boldyreva, associate professor in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech, said in the report.

Georgia Tech researchers have developed an encryption system called CloudCapsule that runs on a virtual server. The technology will encrypt sensitive documents and store them separately in Google Drive, Dropbox or other services.

Like other encryption systems, CloudCapsule bolsters security at the expense of making data less accessible, for example, by search engines. Georgia Tech researchers have proposed several secure searchable encryption schemes that enables the processing of encrypted data in the same way and at the same speed as unencrypted data. However, such technology does sacrifice some security, the report said.

University researchers also covered the so-called Internet of Things, which refers to the ever-growing number of Internet-enabled devices, from embedded automotive systems and home automation to industrial control systems and consumer devices. In two years, as many as 25 billion devices will communicate across the Internet, analysts say.

Once on the Internet, any device is open to attack, yet manufacturers have failed to embrace security-by-design as a guiding force in the development process, presenting a threat to corporate customers.

Because many of these devices lack the sophistication to run security software, either manufacturers or their customers will have to monitor them for compromises, Raheem Beyah, associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, said.


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