Posted by Kalyani M. on Feb 20, 2014
Recently we have examined both the conveniences and concerns regarding cloud services, and the conversation is most likely far from over. National Security Agency surveillance has definitely raised concerns about privacy of user data in cloud services. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden indicate that the NSA has been collecting huge amounts of user data by cracking encryption technologies, using backdoor methods, and in some cases providing legal notice. As enterprises are using well-known cloud services like Amazon or Google, the PRISM revelations might lead to a negative impact on U.S. cloud storage companies, as the surveillance activities of the spy agency have taken a toll on the reputation of technology companies. People are becoming increasingly concerned about the privacy and security of their data stored in the cloud.
The NSA is basically devising all possible ways to break the security controls on the web to track and collect huge amounts of user data. The news about the NSA cracking encryption of common online security products and placing secret doors at the access points can further undermine the confidence of foreign businesses. The NSA has been successful in cracking the majority of the encryption codes on the Web, by using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders, and behind-the-scenes persuasion. Apart from deciphering the encryption of online products, the NSA has devised programs to deliberately insert vulnerabilities in commercial products, so that they may collect more information by exploiting those vulnerabilities. The NSA asks these companies to deliberately make changes to their products in undetectable ways like leaking encryption keys, making random number generator less random, adding a common exponent to a public-key exchange protocol, and so on.
According to research done by the information technology and innovation foundation (IITIF), NSA surveillance may end up costing U.S. cloud service companies $22 billion through 2016. The prediction by IITIF assumes that the U.S. might lose about 10% of its cloud computing market to European and Asian competitors. The United States is considered a leader in cloud computing usage and innovation, but PRISM revelations might cause a shift away from leading data storage providers like Google, Yahoo, and IBM. Salesforce.com recently lost one of their major clients due to government surveillance activities. This is just one example showing the negative impact of surveillance on cloud services. In the future, if the government does not take a stand on reforming the surveillance programs, cloud service companies in this country might have to bear huge loss.
Taking all of the security concerns into consideration, many companies have requested the government to allow them to publish a transparent report of mass data collection requests made my the NSA. In order to gain the trust of their customers, it is extremely important for cloud service providers to be transparent regarding the storage and sharing of sensitive user information. The government needs to take action towards reforming the surveillance program, and allow companies to reveal more details about what data has been requested of them by the government. It also needs to establish international transparency to gain the trust of foreign customers.
Similarly, cloud service providers also need to implement strong security controls to ensure better safety of their customers from surveillance programs. It would be wide for them to construct strong encryption standards such as 256 bit-AES for better security. Encryption has time and again proved to be the most secure method for protecting data in the cloud. The keys used for encrypting sensitive customer data should be managed effectively by periodic key rotation and re-encryption of data with new keys. Employees should be not be given more access than what is needed to complete their tasks. Cloud storage companies should require strong passwords, longer keys, or complex hash algorithms to make it difficult for anyone to access user data.
I believe by implementing security measures and being transparent data usage, companies can gain the trust of their customers, and those who have been enjoying the benefits of U.S. cloud services might think twice before moving to alternate services. Under the light of NSA surveillance, cloud startups whose prime goal is to secure their customer data will see a huge growth in their business in the near future.
Protect your personal data from NSA surveillance with SpiderOak: SpiderOak encrypts the files in your computer before uploading them to the server. As a result, you, and only you, have access to your unencrypted data. Even SpiderOak cannot read your data because the keys used for encryption only belong to you. It is impossible for someone to gain control of your data by hacking into SpiderOak. This way, even if programs like NSA’s PRISM continue to stand unchallenged, people can rest easy knowing that their data is truly protected. SpiderOak offers amazing products like SpiderOak Hive and SpiderOak Blue to secure consumer and enterprise data. SpiderOak Blue provides enterprises with a fully private cloud service featuring all of the benefits of cloud storage along with 100% data privacy. And for the average web user, SpiderOak offers the same protections with lower costs and smaller storage space. You can sign up for this product now.
Posted by Kalyani M. on Feb 18, 2014
Cloud services are becoming increasingly popular these days, both among the public and business enterprises. While convenient, Cloud services can be extremely vulnerable to Denial of Service attacks (DoS). As more organizations are relying on cloud computing technology for their business operations, denial of service attacks, one of the most common forms of attack on the cloud, can prove extremely damaging. A DoS attack makes your network or machine unavailable to the intended users by flooding them with connection requests. Within the eighth annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report from security provider Arbor Networks, it was revealed how cloud services increase the risk of attacks. The report indicated: “94% of data center operators reported security attacks, 76% had suffered distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks towards their customers, while just under half (43%) had partial or total infrastructure outages due to DDoS and yet only 14% of respondents had seen attacks targeting any form of cloud service.”
Posted by Kalyani M. on Feb 13, 2014
With healthcare data doubling every year, it can be extremely difficult for medical institutions to manage such a huge amount of information using traditional IT systems. This is one of the reasons why the healthcare industry is gradually moving towards the use of cloud services. A cloud storage system allows organizations to place data on a centralized electronic system that can be accessed anytime from anywhere. Cloud services can help the healthcare industry to access and manage health records effectively in order to provide better patient care. A properly implemented cloud storage system allows hospitals to process tasks effectively and quickly, without causing a drop in performance. Cloud computing has proven extremely beneficial and cost effective for patients and healthcare providers.
Posted by Kalyani M. on Feb 11, 2014
Cloud computing has become the driving force of today’s IT industry. More and more enterprises are moving towards this technology because of its flexibility, cost effectiveness, and easy deployment. According to the technology researchers at Gartner, the cloud services are expected to grow to $210 million by 2016. However, cloud computing is vulnerable to several security breaches and cyber attacks. The fact that the cloud hosts a tremendous amount of data makes them an attractive target for the cyber criminals. It is also extremely difficult to track or investigate cyber attacks on cloud services because of an ever changing set of users and data centers.
Posted by Kalyani M. on Feb 7, 2014
Security researchers have devised a unique method to trick the hackers trying to crack encrypted information. As you may know, encryption is one of the most effective methods of protecting data. However, it is seen that in many cases intruders are successful in getting into the system by trying different encryption-cracking methods. There are several sophisticated pieces of software that are capable of deciphering secure data. Keeping these security concerns in the forefront, two security researchers, Ari Juels and Thomas Ristenpart, from the University of Wisconsin Madison, have come up with a new encryption system called “Honey Encryption”.
Posted by Kalyani M. on Feb 4, 2014
The Point-of-Sale (PoS) malware attacks seem to be on the rise since last year. Many retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus became victims of such attacks. Recently, the RSA brought into light another PoS malware called “ChewBacca”. In the past three months, this Trojan has stolen credit and debit card information from dozens of retailers. While the majority of the retailers are based in the U.S., the attack has also been noticed in few other countries like Russia, Canada, and Australia. Due to lack of security controls on the PoS machines, they have become the easy target of financially motivated attacker, who is able to access millions of customer’s data. Let’s take a look at how the ChewBacca malware works. Continue reading…
Posted by Kalyani M. on Jan 28, 2014
The Internet of Things has become an emerging trend in today’s age. As the number of devices connected via Internet grows, the risk of cyber attacks also increases. By connecting so many unsecured smart devices like TVs, refrigerators, etc. to the Internet, we are opening the doors to many malicious activities. Recently, a security research firm, Proofpoint, revealed an Internet of Things cyber attack that compromised more than 100,000 Smart TVs, refrigerators, and other smart appliances; 750,000 malicious email communications were sent out from these devices. Proofpoint noticed this attack during the holiday season, from December 23,2013, to January 6, 2014. The researchers observed thousands of malicious email messages coming a particular range of IP addresses. When they conducted further investigation, they realized that these messages are not coming from PCs, which are the most common medium for launching these attacks, but from unidentified devices running on the standard Linux platform. On pinging those devices, they found out that they were smart appliances connected within households.
According to Proofpoint, just as personal computers are compromised by botnets to launch attacks, cyber criminals are exploiting the vulnerabilities in smart home appliances by transforming them into “thingbots” to carry out malicious activities. One of the major intentions behind such kinds of attacks is to collect personal information about the victim. The more information the attackers have in their hands, the more powerful they become. Another reason why Internet connected devices have become more appealing to the attackers is because they have poor security controls and can be infected easily. The researchers of Proofpoint noticed during their investigation that the majority of the smart appliances were not configured properly or used default passwords. Unfortunately, when we talk about Internet security, most people visualize securing their laptops or tablets. We forget that other than our laptops, PCs, or Tablets, there are many more household appliances that are connected to the Internet, and it is equally important to implement security controls to protect them from attacks.
Lack of security awareness among the users of smart appliances it the most important reason why connected devices are more attractive to cyber criminals than PCs or laptops. People need to educate themselves about the vulnerabilities in the Smart appliances and implement recommended security controls to ensure protection. They should make sure that they change the default passwords of these devices before putting them to use. Users should always choose strong and complex passwords for better security, and change them on a regular basis. Often times, the industries developing these devices find it difficult to find and fix vulnerabilities compared to PCs and software appliances. They do not have the expertise or ability to patch the weaknesses in these devices. According to security expert Bruce Schneier, most common home routers run on old version of Linux operating system. The vulnerabilities may have been patched earlier, but it is extremely important to apply patches to them more frequently, because as the systems age their security vulnerabilities increases.
In order to apply patches the users need to manually download and apply them. It is rarely done because the users are never alerted about security updates, nor do they have the expertise to monitor the systems regularly and update patches. So, the best way to ensure protection from malicious attacks is to change your default password, and replacing them with strong, difficult-to-crack passwords. Keep your appliances connected to the Internet only as long as required; if you do not need your devices, disconnect them from the Internet. The 24/7 availability of connected devices makes them more vulnerable to attacks. Lastly, take the security precautions of connected devices just as seriously as your PCs or laptops.
Secure cloud storage service that protects your data
SpiderOak is a secure cloud storage service that protects its user data from government surveillance. This service provides users with fully private cloud storage and syncing, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy. SpiderOak is available with onsite deployment and private servers or outsourced deployment through a private and secured public cloud server, so that users and small businesses of all sorts and sizes can tailor the service to fit their needs.
SpiderOak protects sensitive user data with 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. This way, even if programs like NSA’s PRISM continue to stand unchallenged, people can rest easy knowing that their data is truly protected. SpiderOak’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing for full flexibility and mobile access. SpiderOak offers amazing products like SpiderOakHive and SpiderOak Blue to secure consumer and enterprise data. You can sign up for this product now.
Posted by Kalyani M. on Jan 21, 2014
As has been the trend of businesses, the makers of malware are also moving towards cloud services because of its flexibility, cost effectiveness, and easy maintenance. Malware distributors are embracing cloud services as a method of hosting malicious codes and adware. They are doing so either by buying services directly from the cloud service providers, or by compromising them. By hiding behind the names of legitimate cloud service providers like Amazon and GoDaddy, they can effectively serve malware to millions of Internet users. Hackers can use the trusted IP addresses of these major cloud service providers to initiate malicious activities without getting blacklisted. The cloud enables them to quickly and cheaply develop malware-infected sites, and bring them online. Some of these benefits of cloud computing have made cloud one of the attractive places for these malicious actors.
Posted by Kalyani M. on Jan 20, 2014
“Knowledge may be priceless, but a higher education is clearly not”.
- Peter Thiel, Cofounder Paypal
Over the years there has been a significant hike in the tuition fees of many U.S. universities. Students are struggling under the burden of student loans to achieve their career goals. Some of them have had to make career changes or postpone their dreams just because of the expenses of higher education. Washington Post had invited some researchers, thinkers and analysts to submit their favorite graph of 2013. The graph submitted by PayPal’s Cofounder, Peter Thiel showed how over the years the student loans have increased with respect to the income level of the majority of people.
Based on the graph, it can be inferred that with the increase in tuition fees, more and more people are relying on student loans for higher education. The services providing student loans, collect so much personal data like name, address, social security numbers, bank details etc. Have we ever thought about the security of our personal data collected by these services? Sometimes data breaches are like eye-openers that remind us how valuable our information is, and why it is important to take the security of personal data seriously. Last year, a security breach at the Human Resources and Skills Development department of Canada’s federal public service (HRSD) reported that a huge amount of personally identifiable information (PII) has been missing from one of the department offices in Quebec. An unencrypted hard drive containing PII of 250 of the department’s employees and 538,000 Student Loans borrowers was stolen.
The information that was stolen from HRSD included student names, Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), contact information, date of birth, and loan balances. Social Insurance Numbers are similar to Social Security Numbers in the U.S., and extremely important to the Canadian citizens. Another interesting fact is that the stolen hard drive had student data from 2003 to 2006. That means the students who had paid these loans, and no longer customers of HRDS, were affected by the breach. Just imagine the amount of personal information that hackers had at their dispense. Information is key to hackers, and the more information they have, the more dangerous they can become. With so much sensitive data in their hands, hackers can carry out more severe attacks such as identity theft.
If the HRDS had implemented strong security controls to protect sensitive information of thousands of student loan borrowers, then the situation would have been different. Here are some of the lessons learned from this security breach:
SpiderOak Blue for Enterprises:
Finding a truly secure third party cloud service can be a challenge as many services on the market have security gaps that leave private data vulnerable to third party attacks. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart is SpiderOak Blue. This service provides enterprises with a fully private cloud service featuring all of the benefits of cloud storage along with 100% data privacy. And for the average web user, SpiderOak offers the same protections with lower costs and smaller storage space.
SpiderOak Blue protects sensitive enterprise data through two-factor password authentication and 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private as unreadable blocks of data. Two-factor authentication is just like the process used by some financial services that require a PIN as an extra precaution along with a password in order to log in. With SpiderOak, enterprises that choose to use two-factor authentication must submit a private code through text along with their unique encrypted password. Authorized accounts can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices (SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data). SpiderOak Blue’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for enterprises on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices. Sign up for SpiderOak today!
Posted by Kalyani M. on Jan 17, 2014
Don’t you wish you could browse YouTube or Facebook without encountering those annoying advertisements? They have become impossible to ignore these days. Many websites rely on online advertisements to generate revenues. They are annoying for sure, have not caused any harm to our systems. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore. Online ads can be manipulated to launch cyber attacks, called Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). An intruder can simply embed an attack ad within a Web page. The attacker tricks advertising networks to accept compromised ads and display those ads on legitimate sites. When you click on one of these malicious ads, your browser gets enlisted in a botnet, which carries out denial of service attacks.