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Cloud Security Alliance Names Top 7 Threats To The Cloud

CSA also teams with IEEE in survey of IT pros on security standards gap for cloud computing

SAN FRANCISCO -- RSA Conference 2010 -- The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) here today identified the top seven security threats to cloud computing, covering everything from the nefarious use of the cloud to insecure application programming interfaces.

"This is like the OWASP [Open Web Application Security Project] Top 10 list," says Dennis Hurst, senior application security architect for HP and a founding member of the CSA. "We wanted to develop guidance around cloud security: What things were the big concerns?"

In a related survey, the CSA and IEEE here today also revealed the results of a poll of IT professionals about cloud computing security standards, in which 93 percent said standards are important, and 82 percent said there is an "urgent" need for them.

"It's clear from the survey's findings that enterprises across industries are eager to adopt cloud computing but that it will take security standards development to accelerate cloud adoption on wide scale, largely because of regulatory drivers," said Jim Reavis, founder and executive director of the Cloud Security Alliance.

Close to 45 percent of the respondents said they are involved in cloud computing standards efforts, and 81 percent said they will likely work on the development of cloud security standards in the next 12 months. Standards for data privacy, security, and encryption are at the top of the list, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, the CSA's leading cloud threats -- not in any particular order -- are abuse and nefarious use of cloud computing; insecure application programming interfaces; malicious insiders; shared technology vulnerabilities; data loss/leakage; account, service, and traffic hijacking; and unknown risk profile, according to the CSA's Top Threats to Cloud Computing V1.0 report released here today.

The report is based on input from security experts in 29 enterprises, cloud computing providers, and consulting firms.

Besides the obvious abuse potential for the cloud, such as spamming, cloud providers' APIs are also a risk. "You need to trust that an API is secure," Hurst says. "You find out by audits and testing."

Cloud provider employees could also pose a threat. "You need to understand how they vet their employees," he says. And the technology used by the cloud provider itself must be secure, or otherwise "everyone is a target that's using their service," Hurst says.

Data leakage and loss is another worry: The key is understanding how data is transferred and the type of encryption being used, both in transit and at rest, Hurst says. Account hijacking is also a risk. "Because you're in a shared environment, going to a shared data center -- how is that network traffic protected?" he says.

The CSA/IEEE survey, meanwhile, found that the use of public, private, and hybrid cloud computing will increase during the next 12 months, with public cloud services the hottest right now.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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