Do Recent Security Issues Spell Trouble For The Cloud?

Security in the cloud

Security in the cloud

Wired magazine’s Mat Honan recently fell foul of security shortcomings at online giants Amazon and Apple, to have his whole digital existence completely destroyed. The attack was a fait accompli across MacBook, iPad, Gmail, Twitter and Amazon in a matter of minutes and Honan only realised something was amiss when he picked up his iPhone and was asked to enter a PIN number, a PIN number he didn’t have… The motivation of the hackers was said to have been a desire to take control of Honan’s enviable Twitter account, @mat….

The attack on Honan was made possible by the small differences that existed between Amazon and Apple’s security procedures. Essentially, by gaining access to Mat Honan’s Amazon account – at a relatively low security threshold – once through, the hackers were provided with enough information to gain access to Honan’s iCloud account. From there, it was just ten minutes or so and Honan’s entire online existence was wiped.

Telephone Updates At The Core of Apple’s Security Problems

The security flaws which allowed this breach have now been eliminated – with Apple now having terminated user security changes over the phone, the key point of entry for the hackers in this case. But various commentators have said this is clearly a case of closing the stable doors once the horse has bolted – asking, will this sort of thing happen again and is the centralised storage of our digital lives ‘on the cloud’ such a great idea?

Well, it’s easy to see where the risk lies. If you put all your eggs in one basket – as iCloud essentially is – you benefit hugely on the convenience and accessibility stakes – but the collateral damage when that basket crashes to the ground is potentially enormous. Compartmentalising our digital lives, is clearly less of a convenience but at the cost of convenience, we remain firmly in the driving seat when it comes to security control – provided that is, we make the most of the security controls available to us. Obviously, using the same login and password on all your accounts, as your grandma might, is the worst of both worlds – a siloed existence but with all siloes fairly vulnerable. Ultimately, a lot of this boils down to personal preference – some like this writer himself – would never put so much of their information in one place – for others – the gain in convenience, the ability to live the Apple envisioned ‘simple life’, is overwhelmingly compelling.

Burgeoning Cloud Services

But it seems the trend is very much towards life in the cloud and away from physical storage at arm’s length. While iCloud which was launched last year, has met with what for Apple is quite modest success – 150 million users – the growth in mobile technology particularly, points towards cloud storage growing bigger and bigger. Few of us now and especially Apple loyalists, who are identified in the industry by their large disposable incomes, are dependent on just one internet-enabled device – and the recent proliferation of mobile devices – tablets and smartphones in particular, suggests centralised storage for at least a significant proportion of our digital lives, is fast becoming a reality. The rapid succession of cloud service releases from many of the world’s biggest players – Microsoft’s Skydrive and Office 365, Google’s Google Drive and Amazon’s ‘Glacier’ – suggests there’s smart money on the cloud and clearly the increasing commoditization of cloud data, at ever decreasing costs, seems to underline the general direction of travel. John Sculley, former CEO of Apple, speaking earlier this year, acknowledging the growing importance of the cloud as far as personal storage is concerned also pointed toward the overall impact on industry and technological progress in the coming decades in general. The medical industry in particular, which Sculley himself is very much involved with, will increasingly rely, diagnostically-speaking, on collection and storage of vast amounts of data….

Noone Can Assume They Are Immune From Cloud Security Lapses

Recent lapses in security reveal both the risks of hub-style storage on the cloud but also the aggregated risk to users of various online services with different security procedures/policies in place – a risk of which users must be ever more mindful given the new cloud services becoming available seemingly every week. The fact that even Wired‘s Mat Honan could fall victim should reveal to us all that these risks are there for everyone without distinction, and especially perhaps for those real technology enthusiasts.

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