Published by Yolanda Ruíz, May 12th, 2010
I have to confess that one of the things I like most is sleeping… and lying in bed. I take advantage of the weekends, not just to switch off the alarm clock, but also to have breakfast in bed, watch the TV a bit and just laze about… It was during one of these moments when, on one of the national television channels, I saw there was a report about ‘Cloud Computing’. Watching it, I tried to put myself in the position of someone who knew nothing about technology…
To start with, the cloud was depicted as, well… a cloud. They explained that now, thanks to cloud computing, our information no longer has to be stored on our computers because now it is in the cloud. And that was it, with no explanation of what the cloud really is.
But the best was yet to come; let me try and summarize what was put forward: “We don’t have to worry about carting around laptops or investing in large, expensive computers at home, because now everything is in the cloud…” :0 That’s right: just use the fridge. Why buy a computer when you can connect to Facebook with your microwave?
I was amazed… but once again, there was more to come. As part of the documentary, they talked to a well-dressed guy responsible for security at Google, who explained: “Until now, users had to be specialists in security, to know what an antivirus was and how to install it on a computer… Now, with cloud computing, users don’t have to worry about anything, because we protect their information”. Of course! If we no longer need computers, why are we going to bother with an antivirus! Over 10 minutes he explained why a lack of security would cease to be an issue, because thanks to Google, the whole concept would disappear…
And now, I think it’s time to stop joking. I fully agree that cloud computing is a major step forward and delivers many advantages: It frees up resources on computers, it minimizes the need for storage capacity, it allows information to be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and browser… But -with respect to Google and those responsible for the documentary- I’m afraid I cannot agree with the assumption that security concerns will disappear.
I could write an extensive essay on the thousands of reasons why security remains necessary and why it is still essential to have a good protection suite (and I’m sure my fellow technicians could add another thousand reasons more), but for the sake of brevity, I would offer the following points:
- Even though our information might be stored in the cloud we still have to connect to it via a computer. And from whatever computer we access, there could be keyloggers or Trojans stealing our login credentials and passwords, which could then be used to access all accounts in the “cloud”…
- Increasingly, transactions and transfers of all types take place online and these are verified with passwords, which remain vulnerable.
- We are human, and therefore curious by nature. How can Google say that we are not going to be victims of phishing –for example- sent via email, perhaps even Gmail?
- And most importantly, what happens if the databases of these ‘cloud companies’ are hacked, and our digital identities stolen and sold on the black market…?
Truly, I feel that there is common sense lacking when this type of information is transmitted through an international documentary that has no doubt been broadcast in at least several countries. Not only is it ignoring reality in favor of transmitting a false sense of security, but it would also seem to benefit cyber-mafias who are always on the lookout for new victims who either don’t worry about security or simply don’t know what the risks are.
The security of Internet users will improve when we all work together to promote greater security, not just through developing better security systems or more effective technologies. This involves improving the awareness and training of users, and helping them adopt patterns of behavior that will make them less vulnerable. Anything else just reminds me of snake oil salesmen: “A panacea to cure all ills!”.
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