Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Storm in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing scares the pants off me. It is a form of communication that is subject to trouble, big trouble.

For those of you who are unaware of "the cloud," it is a concept defined by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology as "enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." Lots of words to say that digital files are stored in a central, off-site location to be accessed by anyone from anywhere who happens to have the password.  

Frankly I don't care if a photo of me is out in the cloud.  I do care if my medical records or tax returns are.  Why? Because I have seen first hand the damage done by identity theft. Some of our clients are still trying to clean up the mess as fraudulent tax returns were filed to obtain refunds or phony prescriptions were refilled.  The cloud is too much communication.

Both the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) and the ABA (the American Bar Association) have recommended that their members not use the cloud.  The reason is security.  Over the last couple of years, the news has featured numerous stories about sensitive data being hacked.  In most cases, this data was unique to the corporation that was hacked: passwords and/or account numbers for that bank or that credit card only. The cloud is holding so much more. Gain access to a cloud server and you've hit the mother lode of information.

There are other ways to communicate necessary information that is more secure. Some of them require only an additional step or two. We sacrifice security for convenience all the time. Instant access from any location is certainly expedient but is it worth it? 

I don't know the answer to the question. I do know that my jobs have always tied me to IT in some fashion and so I know the cloud is vulnerable. The more data we place in others' hands, the more likely it can be stolen.  

Do you care?  Perhaps not.  But perhaps you should. Too much communication can be as bad as too little.

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