Storing Customer Info on the Cloud: What Kind of Security Threats Exist?

When you switch from in-house, on-site software to cloud accounting software – or any cloud computing that stores sensitive information remotely – you generally save money and gain options. You also turn your – and your customers’ – most precious data over to people you’ll likely never meet on servers and databanks you’ll never see with security you’re unable to verify. One of the top reasons large companies with lots of sensitive data – such as financial and healthcare institutions – still make huge investments in hardware and IT in an effort to avoid the cloud and manage their data onsite – is security.

cloud working
The cloud comes with a wide array of benefits – and risks.

The Bigger the Target…

When asked why he robbed banks, legendary bank robber Willie Sutton famously replied, “That’s where the money’s at.” Crooks target lucrative marks. With more than 50 percent of both businesses and software developers budgeting for cloud computing in 2013, the prize is now too big for data thieves, hackers, phishers, scammers, and online vandals to ignore. As cloud computing gains ground every year on traditional, on-site computing, the most devious digital criminals in the world are setting their sights on the cloud – and all your data that it holds. And the cloud is ripe for the taking – the whole point is multiple accessibility. The host must provide access from remote locations without placing too much of a gatekeeping burden on the subscriber.

Changing Threats, Evolving Vulnerabilities

The Cloud Security Alliance reports that the security issues facing cloud computing are changing. In 2010, data breaches and account hijackings ranked fifth and sixth as far as cloud threats were concerned. Fast-forward to the current report, and they now rank first and third.

The Top Threats

In Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, it was revealed that the overwhelming majority of data breaches in 2012 – at least 75 percent – were motivated by financial gain. State-affiliated espionage campaigns made up a scary 20 percent, while intellectual property theft and theft of classified information, trade secrets, and technical resources rounded out the rest.

Rogue Clouds

Rouge clouds – sounds scary, doesn’t it? It is. According to Symantec’s Avoiding the Hidden Costs of Cloud 2013 survey, more than three quarters of all businesses have experienced the phenomenon, which puts sensitive data at risk. According to the report, regarding those who were hit with rogue clouds, “40 percent of them have in fact experienced the exposure of confidential information. Other issues include theft of goods or services, account takeover and even defacement of web properties, experienced by more than one-quarter of businesses.”

cloud security
Cloud security is always a target for ambitious, modern digital criminals

The cloud is taking over. Virtually every credible expert agrees that cloud computing has taken off in the last three years to the point that the future dominance of remote storage and data warehousing is all but inevitable – and soon. But as more and more data is taken off of local servers, the enormous databanks that serve as cloud hosts become juicier targets for unscrupulous but really smart and determined data thieves. Human error can play a role as well, as it is human beings who are essentially responsible for keeping your data safe when you turn it over to the cloud.

About the Author: Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.