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You Shall Not Pass!! Data Security in the Cloud

24th February 2015 · Our Thoughts

shutterstock_244995061Data security is currently dominating the cloud forums and security in general is a hot topic. Of the many reports that reached us from this year’s Oscar ceremony the one that caught my eye was the story of Oprah Winfrey jumping the security line. Faced with a queue and a security checkpoint, Oprah obviously decided that this was not something a true VIP should have to endure and instead ducked under a velvet rope and made a run for it on the red carpet.

Why did this story grab my attention so much? Well it followed on from the much publicised reports last week that this year’s Oscars would be the most secure in history.

Millions of dollars having been spent beefing up the security which included over 1,000 police, FBI and Homeland Security agents, concrete barriers across Hollywood Boulevard to stop kamikaze drivers, snipers on rooftops and even a robot to counter chemical attacks. And for the first time ever, every guest would be body scanned and screened – well everyone except Oprah as it turned out.

And isn’t that true in every other walk of life? Can you ever create a fool proof security system?

A new report by the Federation of Small Businesses states that 40% of small businesses are reluctant to utilise the cloud due to the perceived risks around data security.

This is of course understandable as ensuring that data for your website, customers and marketing as well all the other vital information every business creates, is safe and secure must be a priority. However, the fear should not be interpreted as a cloud issue alone. The perception of the cloud is well ‘cloudy’ to say the least.

The cloud is a secure environment, especially for small and medium businesses. Security is an essential part of any IT infrastructure and is an ever evolving area. Miss one crucial update, incorrectly install an application or mistakenly change a setting and you can instantly become vulnerable.

It is no great secret that individual errors are the biggest contributor to downtime and data loss. In fact one of the best and most reliable ways to achieve peace of mind in this area is to adopt a cloud provider and/or managed service. They tend to live and breathe security – their reputations and revenues live or die by it.

Applications and infrastructure need to be continuously monitored, maintained and patched to ensure they are ahead of any looming cyber threats.

For example, as of September 2014, it was estimated that 39% of businesses were using Windows Server 2003 even though it has been well publicised that Microsoft will cease support for the software in July this year. This shift will lead to potential data breaches and a huge increase in security instability if a business stays on the 2003 platform and the issue remains unchecked.

The maintenance of your businesses IT requires expertise and will incur significant investment, which a small or medium sized business might not have the ability to find.

A reputable Cloud service provider, such as iomart, will definitely have made this investment and will have ensured that all of its processes and access protocols meet the appropriate international security standards and will publish this fact. If you dig a little you will find some very compelling evidence to dis the claim that cloud is insecure.

A recent state of the cloud report highlighted that on-premises environments actually suffer more incidents than those of service provider environments. On-premises environment users experience an average of 61.4 attacks, while service provider environment customers averaged only 27.8. On-premises environment users also suffered significantly more brute force attacks compared to their counterparts. It’s not about where your data and systems are physically held but how you manage the access to them. Most security breaches are about vulnerability a la the Windows Server 2003 issue rather than location. But until we get that message across, we will always find business erring on the side of caution when considering cloud.

As Oprah so ably demonstrated, it’s about access and finding a way around the systems in place. Perhaps at next year’s Oscar ceremony they should simply employ Sir Ian McKellan, obviously in his Gandalf form, to shout ’You Shall not Pass!” to the massed hordes of designer clad pretty people on the red carpet?

 

Andy Croghan

Digital & Social Media Coordinator

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