Charting Threats in the Cloud
DHANYA THAKKAR MANAGING DIRECTOR, SOUTH EAST ASIA AND INDIA, TREND MICRO
What’s your worst personal experience with viruses?
It was a long time ago, but I was doing an experiment at home, putting a barebones machine online to see how it took for to get compromised (Less than 30 seconds). That part was fine, but then I got a call from my ISP saying that they were shutting me down, because what I didn’t realize was that the ‘ransomware’ was launching attacks from my computer and using it as a gateway to attack the network!
That just shows how easy it is for attacks to happen, and the importance for both enterprises and individuals to have some level of protection.
How can individuals protect themselves in the age of cloud computing?
When you talk about the cloud, servers are definitely the number one source of entry for hackers. Unfortunately it’s very difficult for individuals to protect their data because you might just be talking to the app, but the app could be talking to the server in the background, and that’s where intrusions can occur. You just have to ensure that you’re always doing the right thing. That the right technologies are being used, that you’re using the right encryption, and that your devices are clean so you don’t compromise the cloud. The data usage policies that would apply in a café setting, should apply to what you do in the cloud.
What’s the biggest lesson the computing community as a whole learnt from the Heartbleed bug?
That there are flaws in the software! And when there are flaws in the software, your server can become vulnerable very fast and in a very big way, and that could lead to a lot of bad things. I think people are beginning to realize that both applications and servers are vulnerable, and adequate measures need to be taken to ensure the security of those assets.
Things like Heartbleed just point out the challenges; they’ve existed for a while, and there will always be new challenges. They don’t necessarily help us grow as security vendor, but they do bring visibility to the issues we try to tackle.
How do you get people to keep their protection software updated?
Well, by going into the cloud! If your signature updates are coming from the cloud, and you keep the updates small enough, then the only other thing to work on is the timing. For example, in the virtual environment a lot of times your virtual machines are sleeping. If your software is set to run the updates every time a machine comes back up, then you have a challenge, as that will bog them down.
So you need solutions that are designed in a way that take in account the activity of these virtual machines. Even in the physical world, you need signature updates which are small and downloaded only as and when needed.
What are the main security challenges companies face?
Generally, the three security challenges we face are consumerization, cloud and virtualization, plus external cyber threats.
Consumerization essentially refers to how instead of just one operating system in the workplace, you have three or four. Employees are bringing their own devices to work now and there is simply just a lot more holes for the IT administrators to plug.
With data centers going from physical to virtual servers when they move to the cloud, there exists a transition period where the data is placed on an unsecure server before security measures are up. This too opens up the possibility of it being compromised.
Finally, external cyber threats are now more sophisticated, stealthy and social. Instead of just targeting servers, they target individuals through their social networks, and the command & control centers of servers themselves. Also, they take a longer term approach to mining data of interest so are harder to detect.