Are we reaching the end of the cloud utopia?

Cloud security is a hot topic if ever there was one, so it certainly didn't slip through the cracks at Intel's Focus 15 conference, with a talk led by Raj Samani, Chief Technology Officer for EMEA at Intel Security, raising some particularly interesting points.

Anyone with even a slight interest in the technology industry will be aware of the hype that has surrounded cloud computing for some time now, but are the security implications really being taken seriously by organisations and, more importantly perhaps, are they fully understood?

Right at the beginning of the talk, Raj made the statement that, although it has been hyped up more than anything else, “to me, cloud computing is not a remarkable technology.” Putting whether you agree with that or not to one side, what is hard to disagree with is that, so far, it has in general been used for fairly unremarkable means.

Storing and sharing photos and unimportant files, that’s probably what the majority of people have used cloud for. But, according to Raj, this changing and we are beginning to see more and more mission critical data being stored in the cloud. This means it’s time for security to take centre stage.

Intel Security carried out a study with Vanson Bourne, interviewing 1,200 IT decision makers about their views on cloud computing. In terms of spending, 91 per cent of respondents expected further investment in the cloud in the future and, in 16 months’ time, 80 per cent of IT budgets are expected to be in the cloud.

But, despite the continuing investment trend, there are concerns. One third of organisations are concerned with cloud security in general and, at 28 per cent, data breaches worry ITDM’s the most. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, what with the string of recent high-profile breaches which have led to huge fines, serious reputational damage and job losses.

However, only 23 per cent of respondents said they have actually experienced data loss or breaches and only 20 per cent have had someone achieve unauthorised access to their data, which could go some way to explaining the fact that trust in the cloud has improved significantly. 77 per cent of respondents say cloud is trusted more now than 12 months ago and 37 per cent now completely trust private cloud.

At this point Raj turned serious, for the cloud is not the only technology trend gathering serious momentum at the moment. The Internet of Things has been a buzz-phrase in the industry for some time now, with Juniper Research suggesting we'll hit 38 billion connected devices by 2020. For consumers, the ‘smart home’ is expected to become a particularly profitable market. We already have smart thermostats and smart locks but it won’t be long before smart appliances (think toasters, fridges and taps) start making serious headway.

As Raj explained, the future home environment is one where “every single part of the electric grid is fully connected,” where billions of devices are constantly collecting our personal data, all of which will be stored in – yep, you guessed it - the cloud. Companies will know what we eat, how much we eat, what time we boil the kettle in the morning, when we get home from work and what movies we watch on TV, meaning: “the cloud of tomorrow won’t just be storing pictures, it’ll be keeping your lights on and your water clean.”

Now, that in itself is a pretty scary thought, but what’s even more scary are the security implications. Raj suggested that too many companies are currently under the impression that the cloud automatically means secure, issuing the ominous warning that: “if we’re not careful, the level of security that’s going to be deployed will simply not be good enough.”

Would you be comfortable having that amount of detailed information about you floating around in the cloud without the proper security in place? I don’t think so.

So, to echo Raj’s rallying cry, it’s time to shake the industry and make sure security isn’t just an afterthought, otherwise those clouds will be looking very grey indeed.

Photo Credit: Slavoljub Pantelic / Shutterstock