Can the clouds really be secure?

Cloud computing has huge potential, especially as the Internet’s infrastructure improves and becomes more affordable. Its main attraction is the economies of scale it can provide us.

These were two of the conclusions Kaspersky, a rising security company, reached during its Executive Roundtable held last month. However, there are still lingering questions: How safe is our data in the clouds? And who can guarantee our mission-critical information placed in the clouds won’t be misappropriated?

These are some of the paramount prerequisites that will become the key to success of cloud computing.

For those wondering what cloud computing is, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has defined it as “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources [networks, servers, storage, applications, and services] that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management efforts or service provider interaction”.

In a now-conventional setting, we install an antivirus program on our PC or notebook. It may be AVG, Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton or any reliable program. We then pay to subscribe to updates, which we hope will come fast enough to shield us from the latest malware. However, with our computing activities increasingly moving to servers located in “clouds”, will this configuration still protect us from unwanted viruses?

The answer is, of course, a resounding “No”. Therefore, it is not surprising to see antivirus makers rushing into cloud computing. Some of them are collaborating with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to offer a safer and more secure universe in the clouds.

Parents with underage children would no doubt be very familiar with this problem. When their children are alone in their bedrooms, they will be tempted to surf all over the Internet, sometimes to sites not recommended for kids. Parents usually know about it, but tend to avoid direct confrontation with their children. With iControl, parents can easily restrict their children from visiting adult sites.

Or, parents worried their children are spending too much time on Facebook can limit the time they can access the site.

Of course, some of these services have been available for a while on intelligent routers. However, the flexibility offered by services such as CBN iControl makes it easier to implement in a household as well as in companies.

In the office, if companies are concerned that complete freedom to access the Internet during work hours is likely to negatively affect employees’ productivity, then IT managers can customize access rights, helping them manage bandwidth usage. IT deparments will be able to restrict the amount of pictures and videos downloaded at work, which are irrelevant to the business.

CBN iControl does not require additional hardware or software, and can be configured according to specific needs. At the moment, only the basic level of the service is available. iControl can help protect us from cyber crimes such as identity theft and credit card hacking.

Sugiharto Darmakusuma, CBN’s chief commercial officer, emphasized that the new service was also part of his company’s CSR program, which focuses on providing a clean pipe to the clouds. In addition to offering a constantly updated antivirus database, iControl has features such as URL filtering, web 2.0 control, data loss prevention, browser control and P2P protection.

CBN iControl exemplifies the type initiatives ISPs are implementing to integrate web security into their services.

The question remains: Is it possible to find a technology that will protect us from malicious threats once and for all?

The answer is unfortunately no, because as Joy Gosh, Zscaler‘s managing director for Asia Pacific said in the launch event, “The threat landscape continues to change.”

However, research continues. As reported by ScienceDaily on May 3, 2010, researchers from the North Carolina State University have come up with HyperSafe, software to safeguard virtualized computing resources in the clouds.

Virtualization is the essence of cloud computing, allowing multiple users to share the use of a pool of computing resources.

So, the future of cloud computing security is not so bleak after all.


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