Recent data system breaches at Oracle and Sage reminds us all that the continuous threat of criminal hacking of cloud security systems is not abating. Rather, it’s becoming routine. Business managers, lawmakers and computing professionals must understand the motivation behind this activity if they want to protect business interests and thwart attacks effectively. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that the hacking community is a diverse and complex universe—a large variety of skilled players and several motivators. Only by understanding the motives of criminal security hackers is it possible to profile computer crimes. With solid profiles and some basic cloud security tips in hand, security professionals can better predict future activity and install the appropriate safeguards.
Most security professionals are likely to spend much more time analyzing the technical and mechanical aspects of cybercrime than the social and psychological dimensions. Of course, it’s critically important to dissect malware, examine hacker tools and analyze their code. However, if we want to understand the nature of the cyberthreat, security professionals need to act more like criminal investigators. We no longer live in a world of mere glory-seekers and script kiddies. Some very serious thugs are now lurking in virtually every sector. So, it’s critically important to understand their motives and signatures, since these point to their targets and reveal their methods of operation.
As you consider your business context, it’s important to frequently ask yourself this question: What exactly are the means, motives and opportunities for potential criminal hackers of my business computing systems? Getting a solid answer to this question is the key to identifying your most vulnerable assets and developing a security plan.
The Sage Breach
Earlier this month, Sage Inc. announced that hackers, using an internal login, had gained access to sensitive customer information including the names, addresses and bank account information of a few hundred U.K. customers. It’s undetermined at this point whether the hackers gained access to everything needed to cash in on their attack. But the Sage attack is just the latest in a wave of high-profile hackings in recent months, with victims ranging from enterprise IT vendor Oracle to cryptocurrency Bitcoin and even The College Board, creators of the ACT exam.
According to many IT and computing system analysts, the top three hacker motives are financial, corporate espionage and political activism. In the remainder of this article, we look closely at the financial motive, and then we help you consider the best approaches to securing your cloud computing assets.
Financial System Hackers
You’re probably most familiar with this type of hacker, since they cause the most damage and are often featured in the news. The motive here is pretty obvious: make money the easy way, by stealing it. Financial system security hackers range in size from a few lone actors to large cybercrime organizations—often with the backing of conventional criminal organizations. Collectively, these thieves are responsible for extracting billions of dollars from consumers and businesses each year.
These threats go well beyond the hobbyist community to a very high level of sophistication. All criminal attackers immerse themselves in a complex underground economy: a vast black market in which participants buy and sell toolkits, zero-day exploit code and malware botnet services. Vast quantities of private data and intellectual property are up for sale—highly valuable data that has been stolen from victims. A recent market trend is the sale of web exploit kits such as Blackhole, Nuclear Pack and Phoenix—which they use to automate drive-by download attacks.
Some financial system hackers are opportunistic and focus on small businesses and consumers. Larger operations go to great lengths to analyze large enterprises and specialize in one or two industry verticals. In a recent attack on the banking and credit card industry, a very organized group was able to pull off a global heist of $45 million in total from an ATM—with an extreme degree of synchronization. These secondary attacks were feasible because of a previously undetected breach of some bank networks and a payment processor company.
The Next Wake of Hackers
Malicious hacker attacks are quite common nowadays, and often have tragic and highly disruptive outcomes. And these attacks are also inevitable, as more internet users utilize cloud computing and storage. This raises more concerns about combating the effects of hacking, and it will become increasingly critical in the future. There is ongoing debate as to whether basic cloud security tips are enough to prevent hacking threats. After years of extensive industry debate, it’s been found to be the same problem in a different location. So, if businesses can build reliable security and recovery methods, then cloud computing can be a serious consideration. Most importantly, the freedom, accessibility and collaboration that is available through cloud computing can far outweigh and mitigate the risks to your data security.
Many cloud computing users assume their data is held safe by the security measures of their cloud vendor. But, hackers use code-cracking algorithms and brute force attacks to acquire passwords, and they can also access data transmissions that lack proper encryption.
Ask yourself this question: Do you have solid infrastructure, processes and procedures to ensure reliable, high-security backups of your sensitive and business-critical data? If you can’t answer this question with confidence, then we invite you to read on a bit further as we consider various aspects of a top-tier cloud backup service.
Your cloud backup service should process all data through encryption to ensure that it’s entirely unreadable by unauthorized users. It should only be possible to decrypt your data when you decide to retrieve it. Minimally, this means that data transmission should be done only through the SSL protocol and that strong passwords are necessary for information access and decoding.
No system is hacker-proof, but the greatest benefit of cloud a backup service is the high-degree of readiness for recovery from a hacking event. Companies that specialize in cloud backup services reduce threats to your data by enabling full recovery of all business-critical data to its original state in just a matter of clicks. These backup companies replicate your cloud data and safeguard it in a separate cloud so that the likelihood of data loss from natural disasters and other threats remains infinitesimally small.
Modern Cloud Security Tips
Rock-solid facilities. Today, the best cloud application management solutions have standard built-in backups. Look for a provider that has robust, extreme-security data centers utilizing precise electronic surveillance and multifactor access control systems. The design of its environmental systems is important, also, to minimize the impact of any disruptions to operations. What’s more, multiple geographic locations and extensive redundancy add up to a high degree of resiliency against virtually all failure types, including natural disasters.
Protection from the bad guys. The best providers not only provide super-strong physical protection for your backup data, but they also lock everything down with extensive network and security monitoring systems. Their systems include essential security measures such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection and password brute-force detection on all accounts. Additional security measures can include:
- Secure access and data transfer – all data access and transfers go through secure HTTP access using SSL.
- Unique users – identity and access management features to allow you to control the level of access.
- Encrypted data storage – encrypt your backup data and objects using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256.
- Security logs – extensive, verbose logs of all activity for all users of an account.
- Native Support – Native support for multiple platforms and systems including MongoDB, MySQL and Linux/Unix/Windows files.