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Recent cloud critics, including Wozniak, intensify debate

Brandon Butler | Aug. 10, 2012
Cloud computing has taken some heat this week. First, over the weekend Apple co-founder and tech icon Steve Wozniak said he's worried about the "horrendous" problems cloud computing could cause as users yield control of their data to service providers.

The move to a cloud-computing dominated IT is a slow and steady process that is still in its early days. Think back, Mann says, to a decade ago when consumers and businesses would have thought online banking would not be safe, and today it's commonplace. But many CIOs are still concerned about the public cloud, reinforcing Wozniak's point. If a business hosts sensitive data in the cloud and its provider has a breach, that's a problem the customers will end up dealing with. It's up to the end users to put protections in place themselves when using the cloud, Mann says.

The takeaway from Honan's incident and ensuing criticisms stem from basic human error and a lack of common sense by both customer service support staff at major companies and end users, says Alan Shimel, managing partner at The CISO Group. Honan describes how the perpetrators allegedly socially engineered the attack by gaining access to his accounts and resetting his passwords through a customer service representative. Honan even admits himself that he could have had more hardened security and backup procedures in place.

Shimel isn't buying all of the solutions cloud service providers are offering. "Federating across multiple providers won't stop a disaster," he says, noting that Honan had multiple accounts hacked simultaneously. And if cloud service providers hold the keys to the encryption code, than the encryption is worthless, he says.

It comes down to using common security sense, and providers eliminating human and process errors that allow hackers to exploit users. Reports this week indicate that Amazon and Apple have amended their security practices, particularly related to password security in customer service calls.

If a hacker can call into Amazon and get a password reset by answering questions that could be found out about a person on the interview or through a five-minute conversation with them at a bar, there is something wrong with the system in general, Shimel says. "We need to move beyond passwords," he says. One step, on the personal cloud computing end, is to use two-factor authentication, as Shimel argues in a recent blog post, which ultimately is a protection end users put in place themselves, not relying on their providers to do it for them.



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