Security and Privacy Challenges on the Cloud

Data security and privacy issues remain significant hurdles in the mass adoption of Cloud Computing

Batoi Research Group Feb 17, 2021 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest

It is indeed exciting every time we hear the buzzword, Cloud Computing. we mean, accessing computer networks and resources was never this easy, convenient and cost-effective. Right? To our mind, the advent of cloud services gave a whole new meaning to how we use computing hardware and software without actually owning them and even without having a deep technical understanding. These days, it is so easy to buy 1 TB storage space for less than US 10 dollars per month and even more cost-effective to buy a working license of desktop processing software for less than US 5 dollars per month. You just need to have a smart device and an online subscription to these services to ultimately serve your day-to-day requirements. We still remember the times when the cost of owning a hard disk and DTP software for home and personal users was simply unaffordable. Let alone the total cost of owning a fully assembled computer system.

With cloud computing, everything got changed and for good. Not only for personal use but for business usage as well. Interestingly, the phrase ‘cloud computing’ cropped up for discussions around 1996 for the first time. The word cloud referred to the Internet and how networked endpoints like desktops and laptops would connect to share the common resources over the network. As technology progressed, high computing power became a reality. The cloud extended its coverage to the on-demand use of resources from a shared pool of servers and networking infrastructure. The service provider could rapidly allocate or deallocate to cater to the user’s requirements.

Cloud service providers innovated to rapidly deploy different models – public (meant for public use), private (meant for the use of an organisation) and hybrid (a combination of public and private). They went a step ahead to device unique cloud service models that could be used to deliver services to the end-users:

  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where computing infrastructure was provided to users like storage space, network devices, servers, operating systems, etc.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS), where application development platforms were provided to users to develop and test their applications.
  3. Software as a Service (SaaS), where software applications were provided to users based on their requirements. For example, applications like attendance, payroll, emailing, etc.

A lot of service delivery models got invented on these three main pillars of the cloud. While all these were the right part, the whole concept of cloud computing came with some not-so-good and unavoidable challenges. Yes, you heard it right. With the Internet getting riskier, cloud computing technology is no stranger to security and privacy issues. And you know what, the Cloud Service Providers (CSP) realised this far ahead in the cloud’s life cycle.

Some experts strongly express that cloud technology is nothing new but a new packaged way of using the Internet services that brings in economies of scale for the user and the CSP. They even argued, being an offshoot of the Internet, cloud computing is also marred with the same security and privacy issues that two interconnected computers have in real-time.

They highlighted broadly:

  • Security issues like intrusion detection, identity and access management, advanced persistent threats, denial of services, data loss prevention, insider threats, vulnerabilities in user interfaces, hyper-jacking, and so on.
  • Privacy issues like lack of standardisation, reading private data, governance, compliance, data ownership, loss of internal control, lack of visibility, cross-border data flows, data location, right to be forgotten, opt-in and opt-out, data storage, and so on.

As the world progresses further in the era of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we can expect more and more automation to happen. Cloud computing services will be no different. So many intelligent computing assistants are already working hand-in-hand with cloud-based services to impact millions around the world. However, most Internet users aren’t even aware of what is happening in the background. The maximum they know is that they give a simple voice command, and the task is done. The two technologies working in tandem understand you to deliver what you need or ask for. However, this is just the so-called ‘tip of the iceberg’. It is expected that as AI becomes more intelligent, it will help the Internet and cloud becoming safer. But we must remember that the attackers are using the same AI to evolve smarter attack patterns. Some of them will be like never seen or heard before. The cloud infrastructure will come under more sophisticated attacks.

It is undeniable that cloud computing has proven to be a groundbreaking invention for the world.  Despite all the success of cloud tech in recent times and great future potential, data security, privacy and data confidentiality issues remain significant hurdles in its mass adoption.

This leaves us with a question that with such rapid digitisation happening worldwide, whether the cloud technologies can defend themselves, keep user’s data safe and respect users’ privacy, or will they come crashing down. We would like to remain hopeful, though.

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