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Cloud Is Real Culprit In iPad/AT&T Security Hole

The recent revelation that over 100,000 iPad users had their email and account information exposed to hackers due to a mistake by AT&T made a lot of news this week and caused no small amount of embarrassment for AT&T and Apple. Bu the big news isn't the security failure itself, it's the reminder that in the modern world of cloud computing, security goes well beyond personal devices.
The recent revelation that over 100,000 iPad users had their email and account information exposed to hackers due to a mistake by AT&T made a lot of news this week and caused no small amount of embarrassment for AT&T and Apple. Bu the big news isn't the security failure itself, it's the reminder that in the modern world of cloud computing, security goes well beyond personal devices.

In this recent security failure, users of the recently released 3G enabled iPad had their email addresses and unique device ID exposed because of a hole in AT&T's network. This could have been a much bigger problem if it had involved more vital information such as social security numbers or credit card numbers but it was still bad enough.

And while this situation is embarrassing to Apple, it didn't really have anything to do with the iPad itself. By most standards of current security, the iPad is a pretty secure device, certainly much more secure than a Windows system and also more secure than a standard Mac system.

But that fact didn't really matter in this situation, because the sensitive data that was exposed lived in the cloud, not on the device itself. And as more and more information and data moves to the cloud and service-based applications, this type of situation will become more and more common.

Think about it? If you use online banking or tax preparation or a service to manage your business operations, you have very sensitive data living outside of your systems. And if any of those services are compromised, you're in trouble, and in the end it didn't matter if you were using Windows, a hardened Linux system or an iPad, your data has still been stolen.

Situations like this remind us that things like Google's proclamation against using Windows systems internally, while interesting news, may not mean much in the end.

That's because the bad guys in the cyber world always go where the data is. That used to mean Windows systems. But nowadays that often means online services and the cloud.

And outside of making sure you trust your service providers and making sure you have someone to blame if things go bad, there's not much you can do to protect that data (other than not put it in the cloud). And in the end, how secure your personal device is won't protect you from these types of exploits.

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Kirsten Powell, Senior Manager for Security & Risk Management at Adobe
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5