Security Bytes

Mar 28 2012   3:16PM GMT

Verizon DBIR sheds some light on cloud computing breaches

Marcia Savage Marcia Savage Profile: Marcia Savage

Cloud computing breaches often are a topic that comes up in conversations at conferences. Organizations need to prepare for the complications that will come if their cloud provider is breached, legal experts warn. However, there’s little data on breaches involving cloud providers, at least that’s public.

The 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) (.pdf) tries to offer some insight on cloud computing breaches. The company – which expanded its cloud services by acquiring Terremark last year — notes there are many definitions for what constitutes cloud, making it difficult to figure out how cloud computing factors into data breaches. But in an interview, Christopher Porter, a principal with Verizon’s RISK team, told me the DBIR defines the cloud as something that’s externally located, externally managed and externally owned.

“In the past year, there were several breaches of externally hosted environments that weren’t managed by the victim,” he said. “We didn’t see any attacks against hypervisors. It’s really more about giving up control of your assets as opposed to any technology specific to the cloud.”

For cloud proponents, the DBIR’s observation was proof that cloud computing services are secure. However, cloud computing risks involve more than the hypervisor. Giving up control of your assets – and not controlling the associated risks, as Verizon notes – is what makes organizations queasy about cloud services.

According to the Verizon DBIR, 26% of breaches involved externally hosted assets, while 80% involved internally hosted assets. Forty-six percent of breaches involved externally managed assets (compared to 51% internally managed assets). The report notes this is the third year the company has seen an increase in the proportion of externally hosted and managed assets involved in data breaches. Porter said the increase is mostly due to economic issues; more organizations are moving to the cloud for the cost savings.

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