Computing and usage of internet technology

Cloud computing presents and represents a large amount of opportunity to expand and improve the manner in which information systems, computing and usage of internet technology is managed. However, as recent hacks and exploits have pointed out, cloud computing is far from a panacea and presents a large amount of new problems due to hackers, thieves and opportunists using the new technology to find new ways to victimize and snoop on people. While there are risks to cloud computing, the goods and potential goods far outweigh the bad but users need to be responsible, vigilant and careful.

As made clear in the introduction, cloud computing allows for some great new things but security is a concern that, while present in regular computing as well, is amplified greatly when talking about cloud computing due to the increase level of access and ability for any random internet user with the right password of tools to gain access. Selecting a cloud computing vendor is something that should be done with great care and consideration because a company that is being cheap about security is going to get caught red-handed and even some of the giants of computing and commerce have fallen prey to this. Examples of this, while not cloud computing companies, include Chase, Home Depot, Target, Michaels and so forth. Most cloud computing giants have avoided such problems and scandals. However, it is only a matter of time and any careless user of even the most rock-solid cloud computing companies can get their account compromised due to a weak password or something else careless (Samson, 2013).

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Large companies need cloud computing as they are much more likely to have people dispersed all over the place and they are also much more likely to be handling a huge amount of data that would be extremely damaging were it to be easily accessible or spreadable. Medium- to smaller firms need cloud computing as it gives them a level of access and use that would require some high-end machinery were they wanting to do it with their own equipment. Just about anyone can slap together a computer server and make it visible to the internet. There are even free programs like TeamViewer that allow for that. However, cloud computing vendors can usually provide these services much cheaper and with a much higher level of service. Finally, we have the personal consumer applications and options for cloud computing with perhaps the most obvious examples being smartphone portals and applications like Android/Gmail and the Apple plethora of software. There are also other file and application repositories for small-budget people like tablets that use cell phone tower technology, Dropbox, cheaper NAS servers, personal server software (e.g. Windows Home Server 2011) and so on. Even regular consumers can truly use some high-end technology for free or no more than a nominal cost. It all depends what the user wants to do and how much they are wanting to spend. The scalability and customizability of even widely-used software is quite extensive in the modern cloud computing marketplace (Samson, 2013).

Security vulnerabilities do not always come from direct hacks although that is always a possibility with data that is accessible from any online terminal or workstation. Vulnerabilities and problems include denial of service (DoS) attacks, distributed denial of service attacks, password guessing (automated or manual), social engineering, lack lf encryption and/or passwords on laptops and tablets, not locking terminals when stepping away, lackadaisical hiring practices and so on. Just as the threats are multi-faceted, the protections are multi-dimensional as well. Solutions to prevent or at least limit damages from hacking and other nefarious acts include lock-out timers, encryption on a machine itself or as it communicates on the internet (e.g. VPN’s, etc.), being careful over who is hired and retained, coming down on people that do not keep their equipment secure and safe and so one. There is no “magic bullet” or single approach that will allow for complete computer security safety and allow for the proper and needed ease of use at the same time (Samson, 2013).

The concerns about cloud computing are numerous. However, they all mesh together to some degree. They include loss of data, syncing issues, keeping data segregated from customers when needed and pooled for mutual access when desired, the overall security culture and mindset of some vendors, how threats are evolving with the new technologies and trends and even attacks from other customers. While it may seem like common sense to secure networks and such, many companies (even before the cloud computing revolution) did some very obtuse things when it came to data security (Samson, 2013). For example, the TJX hack that occurred years ago was due to a combination of the fact that they were using wireless technology to transmit credit card information when they really did not need to and they were doing so with WEP encryption, a standard that was exploited long before TJX stopped using it (Zetter, 2010).

Any good security program and solution must protect the users and the company and this includes protecting them from themselves. Organizations should be as lean and as efficient as they can be to achieve revenue goals. However, playing fast and loose with company corporate security is less than wise and will only come back to bite a company in the long run. This goes double for companies that specifically provide and administer cloud services, in whole or in part, as they are supposed to be experts in their field. For example, Adobe has a new line of its products in a “cloud computing” form. If they experienced a major hack, it would inherently damage and undermine their plans and outcomes as people would expect them to be the last company to fall prey to a cloud computing hack. Any solid cloud computing security policy (or an even broader information systems policy) needs to be focused on all levels and types of threats (Samson, 2013). Not everything can be prevented or planned for but all reasonable and proper contingencies need to be laid out before things go south and not just after. Being proactive rather than reactive is key and will prevent a company from having to explain a lot of egg on its face rather than just settling people down when something minor happens but the people involved are stopped or caught (Davis, 2013).

Conclusion

It remains to be seen just how cleanly and completely the cloud computing revolution will become over the long haul. Indeed, it is the wave of the future to have everything on the internet rather than being chained to a desktop computer. Laptops and tablets are taking over the echelons and domain formerly held by desktops. However, desktops will remain more relevant if cloud computing security is not as reliabile and infallible as desktop security. Neither is perfect but it is much easier to control a local workstation or server rather than an always-online system. The brain drain that is occurring with skilled information technology and programming jobs is certainly not helping the cloud computing revolution (Gross, 2013).

References

Davis, M. (2013, January 18). 4 Steps For Proactive Cybersecurity – InformationWeek. InformationWeek. Retrieved October 19, 2014, from http://www.informationweek.com/government/cybersecurity/4-steps-for-proactive-cybersecurity/d/d-id/1108270?

Gross, G. (2013, May 3). Veteran tech workers see themselves locked out of job market [infographic]. PCWorld. Retrieved October 19, 2014, from http://www.pcworld.com/article/2037161/veteran-tech-workers-see-themselves-locked-out-of-job-market.html

Samson, T. (2013, February 25). 9 top threats to cloud computing security. InfoWorld. Retrieved October 19, 2014, from http://www.infoworld.com/article/2613560/cloud-security/9-top-threats-to-cloud-computing-security.html

Zetter, K. (1923, March 10). TJX Hacker Gets 20 Years in Prison | WIRED. Wired.com. Retrieved October 19, 2014, from http://www.wired.com/2010/03/tjx-sentencing/


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