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Is Google hack an attack on cloud computing?

Jon Brodkin | Jan. 18, 2010
Google said "this was not an assault on cloud computing."

Google's main business is delivering advertising-supported Web search results, of course, but the company has also become a custodian of enterprise data because of services such as Google Apps, a Web-hosted alternative to Microsoft Exchange.

It is thus important for Google to convince businesses that storing data in Google facilities is safe, despite the events of last month.

Sullivan, in his blog post, noted that he has been moving more and more data into Google services but is rethinking that strategy in the wake of Google's security troubles. He criticized Google's insistence that the attack was not an assault on cloud computing.

"It was very much an attack on cloud computing, as Google's main blog post made clear," Sullivan wrote. "Hackers went after Gmail accounts, not just through malware-infected computers but directly by targeting Google, that post told us. Gmail your e-mail, stored in the cloud. That's an attack on cloud computing."

Cohen disagreed in his own blog post, saying the attack doesn't reveal any deficiency in cloud security because hackers used social engineering techniques to gain access to private systems.

"What this hack really proves is that people are easier to hack then networks," Cohen writes. "The weakest links are the people who are stupid enough to open an attachment they don't recognize, even if it appeared to be from someone they trusted. That's the beauty of social engineering based hacks. The e-mail appears to be from your mother, father, friend or colleague. The lesson we must learn is one of education, don't open attachments you don't recognize."

Regardless of how the attack was executed, it did happen and consumers of cloud-based services should remember that there are risks when storing data with a third party, King says.

"Just because you're using a cloud service doesn't obviate the need for backing up data to a local hard drive," King says. "Like anything else the online data repositories are not infallible, and it's critical for consumers and businesses to protect their data and protect themselves in multiple ways."


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