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6/5/2009
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The 6 Worst Cloud Security Mistakes

A look at the most common missteps when choosing a cloud-based service -- and how to avoid them

It's only natural for security pros to be control freaks. Being charged with securing a company's data and intellectual property requires a healthy dose of paranoia and protectionism. But sometimes that leads to false impressions about cloud security. "One common mistake is that as soon as you talk about the cloud, [organizations] assume it's less secure than their own IT security operation," says Chenxi Wang, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "More control does not necessarily lead to more security."

In fact, with services such as Google's SaaS, data loss is less likely because the information is accessible from anywhere and anytime without saving it to an easily lost or stolen USB stick or CD, according to Eran Feigenbaum, director of security for Google Apps. And Google's security-patching process is more streamlined than a typical enterprise because its server architecture is homogeneous, he says. "Many attacks [come from a] lack of patch management and server misconfiguration...For Google, when the time comes to patch, we can do so across the entire platform in a uniform fashion," he said.

Then there's the more global view SaaS and other cloud providers have, Feigenbaum says. "As an enterprise, you only see a small slice of what's affecting you [threat-wise]," Feigenbaum said during a panel on cloud security at the RSA Conference in April. "A cloud provider can have the economy of scale for a holistic vision...the cloud shifts security and also makes it better," he said.

But that doesn't mean you should blindly trust your cloud provider, though the larger ones do tend to have a better handle on threats due to their size, Forrester's Wang says. "These people deal with security issues at more complex levels than your own IT team sees on a daily basis," Wang says. "It's a misconception to say cloud security is definitely less capable or more problematic."

Thus far, security has been one of the main hurdles to adoption of cloud-based services, says Michelle Dennedy, chief governance officer for cloud computing at Sun Microsystems. "Trust in the cloud, more than technical abilities, has been hindering adoption," Dennedy says. "But the cloud can be more secure than a private environment in many cases."

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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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