Sure the Cloud's insecure; it's like everything else

Worried about security in the cloud ? Fret over this instead: Last month, a hacker surfaced who claimed he can sell access to more than a dozen government, military and university Web sites all cracked easily because of bad programming.

Who needs the cloud for lousy security? It's everywhere!

Consider whose Web sites were hacked and offered for sale to thieves for less than $500 each: the states of Michigan and Utah. And the South Carolina National Guard. And government agencies in Italy and Albania. And, maybe most disturbing of all, the U.S. Army's Communications-Electronics Command, which does software engineering for battlefield systems. These guys really should be getting their programming right.

Oh, it gets worse. The hacker almost certainly hijacked the sites by using a pair of tricks that have been around seemingly forever: SQL injection and buffer overflow. Those attacks don't require an expert black hat €” just a script kiddie with some time to kill.

And those attacks are easy to prevent; programmers just have to set things up so that the system makes sure any input to a Web site is valid. If a form asks for a name and the input turns out to be a snippet of SQL code or 5,000 binary bytes, it should be rejected €” not passed on to a back-end database.

But validating input requires a little extra code that slows down Web servers just a little bit. As a result, many programmers €” and most programming tools €” don't do it automatically because, hey, faster is better, right?

That's been the mantra of the IT industry for 50 years. And it's been a curse to almost everything else of value in IT. Security? Reliability? Flexibility? Maintainability? They've all been sacrificed in favor of cheap little tricks that make things run faster.

That's not a coincidence. It's a philosophy €” one that infects everyone from programmers and network admins in your IT shop to educators, software and hardware vendors and, yes, cloud vendors too.

After all, the faster the servers run up in the cloud, the more customers the cloud vendor can handle at the same cost. When your profit all turns on efficiency, speed is money.

Security? That's expensive. And you can bet it won't be more of a priority to a cost-cutting cloud vendor €” whose standard contract probably includes an uptime guarantee but no security-vetting clause €” than it ever was in your own data center .

You can't change that "faster ber alles" philosophy. So if you want security in the cloud, you'll have to force the issue. You'll have to get some security guarantees written into your contracts, including provisions that allow you to do security testing on your own cloud-based applications.

Then you'll have to reinvest some of your savings from going to the cloud into doing that security testing. Hire some "ethical hackers" to hammer on your cloud applications, trying to break them, hijack them or find ways inside them. Then keep bringing them back periodically to hammer away again €” remember, the cloud is all about constantly moving applications around. What's safe today may be insecure next month.

Does that sound over the top? Maybe €” but it's the only way for you to validate security in the cloud.

And if you don't do it, you can be pretty sure that sooner or later, some hacker will find you.

Frank Hayes has been covering the intersection of business and IT for three decades. Contact him at cw@frankhayes.com .

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags U.S. Armysecuritycloud computinginternet

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

Frank Hayes

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?