Google cloud services grow amidst security fears

1:59:00 AM

Google cloud services grow amidst security fears
07/05/2011 | 04:54 PM

Search giant Google is pushing for the liberation of data by making its browser, Google Chrome, the central hub for culling and syncing user information across many devices.
With the release of its cloud-based Chrome operating system, Google has jumped into the cloud, where it intends to store all user data for easier transmission to and access from other devices.
The cloud is basically a third-party web infrastructure where data can be stored, processed and accessed from anywhere in the world and using any kind of Internet-connected device.
"The web browser is especially important in the age of the cloud, because it is the primary way users will communicate and collaborate," Google said in a statement.
Early on, however, cloud-enabled services have already been made available with Google's browser, giving users a peek of what to expect with the release of its operating system.
Bookmarks, extensions and apps, for example, can be synced to a user's Google Account, making these settings, among others, available on the Google Chrome browser on any computer.
Chrome also makes it possible to send information—such as maps, links and phone numbers—to any Android device via a Chrome to Phone extension that can be installed on the browser.

Google's Cloud Print, on the other hand, gives users the power to print documents over-the-air (even if they are not physically sitting beside a printer) with the help of a simple browser extension.

"No matter what and how many gadgets you’re using, Google Chrome can ensure that you always have access to your content," the company said.

New target of cybercrime?

While these benefits can be considered a boon for users, the idea of taking data away from the device is one that is met with concerns, especially regarding security.

Russia-based IT security firm Kaspersky Lab earlier warned users about the other side of consumer-grade cloud services, in the wake of Google's assault on the cloud market and Apple's release of its own cloud service, aptly dubbed iCloud.

According to Costin Raiu, Kaspersky Lab director for global research and analysis team, cloud services could be risky if basic security measures are not practiced by users.

“Basically, we are talking about the same class of risks as (Google) Chrome OS – all your digital content might be available to anyone who knows your password. I believe it’s completely reckless nowadays to provide such a service without two factor authentication, which makes it prone to basic data theft techniques," Raiu said.

Raiu cited the recent case of the Sony PlayStation Network, where information about its 77 million users were leaked, including credit card details.

"Of course, even if security is indeed improved through multi-factor authentication methods, we are still faced with the issue that all the data is available on the cloud, in one place. Just as Sony recently learned, the cloud is not always impenetrable," he said.

Google, for its part, said that it has invested a lot on security to make sure users' data don't fall into criminals' hands.

"Google has implemented a multi-layered security process protocol designed to help keep customer data safe. [We are] able to efficiently manage security updates across our nearly homogeneous global cloud computing infrastructure, so customer aren't exposed to known vulnerabilities until they install security patches themselves," it explained.

Less data on vulnerable devices

On the contrary, Google claimed that keeping data out of "vulnerable devices" such as laptops and mobile phones actually makes data more secure.

"Unlike traditional software, when a user is finished using a web-based application, minimal data is left on the machine that could be compromised," it stressed.

"In a world where one out of ten laptops go missing in the first year and 66% of workers report having lost a thumb drive, making data securely available from the browser and minimizing the amount of sensitive data stored on devices is an effective security strategy," it added.

Kaspersky's Raui, however, argued that while cloud services today are highly protected by providers, the real vulnerability lies in the network layer, or the connection between devices.

“From this point of view we may face a new growth of attacks when user information can be intercepted, faked, denied and distorted. Therefore, we might see new and more sophisticated attacks on the network layer side," Raiu said. — Source: TJD, GMA News

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