Attacks/Breaches
5/2/2011
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Recent Breaches Spur New Thinking On Cloud Security

Cloud providers might be attractive targets for attackers, but liability can't be outsourced, experts say.

After hackers breached e-mail marketing provider Epsilon in late March, a steady stream of email apologies were sent out to customers. Unfortunately, that same channel of communication is what made Epsilon such an attractive target in the first place.

From an attacker's perspective, cloud services providers aggregate access to many victims' data into a single point of entry, experts say. And as their services become more popular, they will increasingly become the focus of attacks, according to Josh Corman, director of research for The 451 Group, an analyst firm.

"Putting more eggs into fewer baskets leads to massive breaches -- it is a force multiplier," Corman says. "Force multiplication for good and force multiplication for bad, and I think people miss the entire force multiplication concept."

In late March, Epsilon uncovered evidence of a breach. More than 100 companies were affected, including banks such as JP Morgan Chase and Citi, as well as major consumer companies such as Best Buy, Disney Destinations and Target.

The attackers only accessed client email addresses, according to Epsilon, but the marketing services firm gave few other details. Cloud providers and other third-party services firms need to be more forthright with information about breaches, Corman says.

Rather than focusing on contracts and limiting liability in cloud services deals, enterprises should focus on controls and auditability, Corman says.

"We have to let people with expertise in scale do things expertly with scale -- we are not going to stop doing these kinds of things," Corman says. "But we need to have more assurance than we have had to date because most people are very, very bad at IT security. Everyone is doing it wrong. Even the giants are doing it wrong."

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