Security Vulnerabilities Threaten to Seriously Hamper Promise of Cloud Computing Systems

We’ve written frequently in this blog on what we take to be clear cracks in the secure foundation of online computing solutions. A lot of our position is based on our understanding of the data communications supporting the internet — Ethernet. While low data loss, universal availability, and low costs for consumers are all very compelling, the lack of authentication, and error checking, within the out of the box features of Ethernet data communications, in our opinion, made any choice of this network as the platform on which hyper text mark up language (HTML) web pages would be published a poor one.

But we were wrong. Consumers appeared to be indifferent to the security problems endemic to online computing over public networks. We attributed consumer indifference to service providers insulating consumers from these threat by absorbing the related losses, while continuing to offer service.

James Staten, an analyst working for Forrester Research, now thinks the Prism Program of the U.S. N.S.A. will finally slow down the spread, worldwide, of online computing services. In a blog post published on August 14, 2013, titled The Cost Of Prism Will Be Larger Than ITIF Projects, Mr. Staten estimates Prism will end up costing the world wide cloud computing business $180 billion by 2016, “or a 25% hit to overall IT service provider revenues in the same timeframe.” (quoted from Mr. Staten’s blog post, a link to which has been provided in this post).

The problem Mr. Staten aptly notes applies not only to so-called public cloud services, where multiple consumers share the same resources, but also to private cloud services supporting a single consumer. Prism has been equipped with a capability to monitor any/all communication over the internet (an Ethernet network). No claims of secure, proprietary data communications capabilities for any cloud service will hold up to scrutiny any longer.

We think a contributing factor to the chilling effect on cloud computing popularity will prove to be the set of increasingly brazen successful hacks of websites we are all reading about in mid August 2013. When the website of the U.S. Dept of Energy is, once again, compromised by malicious hackers, certainly business customers, if not retail consumers, will be likely to start rethinking cloud computing plans.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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