Public cloud services can provide useful tools for criminals

Cloud storage might be used to house stolen data virtually undetected

Buying public cloud services passwords as demonstrated this week at the Black Hat D.C. conference is not the only malicious use these computational and storage resources might offer, according to one security expert.

Gartner's Magic Quadrant disses Amazon cloud

Cloud storage might be used to house stolen data virtually undetected, and cloud computing power could be used to mine it, says John Pironti, president of IP Architects, a security consulting firm, and the security track chairman for Interop.

For example, adversaries could use cloud storage capacity as a drop for massive amounts of stolen data that another party could access, download and then purge, leaving no reason to suspect a transfer of stolen data had happened, he says.

Or hackers could gather massive amounts of Internet data about individuals from social networking and job sites as well as blogs, store it in the cloud then mine it using cloud computing power to discover likely answers to password-reset questions. If they can link a person's name with their mother's maiden name or the town they were born in, that can be used to answer authentication questions posed at password reset sites for bank and credit card accounts, Pironti says.

"They could find out what model car you drove in 1994 or your pet's name when you were 12, and sell that information," he says.

The Black Hat briefing focuses on using cloud computing power to crack WPA2 encryption keys and that type of cracking is the most suitable use of that capability, he says.

Until cloud computing came along, only entities as large as countries could amass the computing power needed to effectively crack passwords and codes, Pironti says. Now, with virtually limitless compute power available, anyone with a credit card can launch these criminal activities. "Public cloud has made that level of computing power available to the general public," he says.

Another criminal use of cloud infrastructure is hosting command-and-control servers that direct activities of botnets, Pironti says.

When the servers are discovered and taken down, they can be re-established quickly with servers hired in the networks of competing cloud providers, he says. The command and control servers could be deployed ahead of time in different clouds so if one is discovered the backup is ready to take over. "This could be done with multiple providers to provide high availability for command and control," Pironti says.

Public clouds would not be suitable for launching distributed DoS attacks because even if many virtual servers were set up to attack, the assaults would all be launched from one or a few provider networks and so be relatively easy to shut down, he says. Being distributed is a key factor in making the distributed DoS attacks effective by virtue of there being so many source addresses for the attacking packets that it's difficult to shut them all down.

Flexible cloud services could also be used by criminals to create test labs where they try out new malware against a range of operating systems that they can purchase from public cloud service providers, he says. So with little investment, they could try a new virus against a range of operating systems and applications, get their results and shut down the lab, he says.

Beyond being illegal, such activities likely violate terms of the agreements customers sign in order to get cloud services, Pironti says.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cloud computingcybercrimeinternetGartnerlegalData Centerhardware systemsConfiguration / maintenance

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Greene

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?