Cloud Computing Risks

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Are you familiar with how cloud computing works and the risks associated with it?  If you’re planning to take the Security+ exam, it’s something you might like to review. For example, can you answer this sample practice test question?

Q. Of the following choices, which one is a cloud computing option that allows customers to apply patches to the operating system?

A. Hybrid cloud

B. Software as a Service

C. Infrastructure as a Service

D. Private

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

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  • 75 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Identity and Access Management (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Network Technologies and Tools (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Comparing Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Common Attacks (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Protecting Against Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
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  • Understanding Cryptography and PKI (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Policies to Mitigate Risks (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
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Understanding Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is one of those catchy terms that has captured our imagination. It just sounds cool. “To the cloud….” You can use cloud-computing technologies to host hardware, such as servers, and to host data.

Even though the phrase cloud computing is relatively new, the concept isn’t. In short, cloud computing simply refers to accessing computing resources via a different location than your local computer. In most situations today, you’re accessing these resources through the Internet.

As an example, if you use web-based email such as Gmail, you’re using cloud computing. More specifically, the web-based mail is a Software as a Service cloud computing service. You know that you’re accessing your email via the Internet, but you really don’t know where the physical server hosting your account is located. It could be in a data center in the middle of Virginia, tucked away in Utah, or just about anywhere else in the world.

Cloud Computing Risks & Drawbacks

Cloud computing is very useful for heavily utilized systems and networks. As an example, consider the biggest shopping day in the United States—Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers go into the black. Several years ago, Amazon.com had so much traffic during the Thanksgiving weekend that its servers could barely handle it. The company learned its lesson, though. The next year, it used cloud computing to rent access to servers specifically for the Thanksgiving weekend, and, despite increased sales, it didn’t have any problems.

As many great innovators do, Amazon didn’t look on this situation as a problem, but rather an opportunity. If it needed cloud computing for its heavily utilized system, other companies probably had the same need. Amazon now hosts cloud services to other organizations via its Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service. Amazon EC2 combines virtualization with cloud computing and they currently provide a wide variety of services via Amazon EC2.

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Cloud Computing Risks

Many cloud-computing solutions are blended. They combine data and operating systems, located in the cloud. Although this can provide benefits because you reduce your own data center’s footprint, it also presents risks.

One of the primary drawbacks to cloud computing is that you lose physical control of your data. You often won’t even know where the data is stored. Employees at the cloud data center can easily steal your data, and you may not know it until the thief has exploited the data. It’s also possible for employees to make mistakes that suddenly grant access to your data to anyone.

As an example, consider a glitch that occurred at Dropbox in June 2011. Dropbox is a cloud storage site used by about 25 million customers to store files such as documents, videos, and photos. After an update to their site, visitors could use any password to access accounts. Obviously, that wasn’t the intent of the update. The company’s official statement was that the glitch impacted only 1 percent of its customers, but 1 percent of 25 million people is still a lot of people.

Many security professionals say that the only data you should put in the cloud is data you’re willing to give away. After all, that’s exactly what you may be doing.


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Q. Of the following choices, which one is a cloud computing option that allows customers to apply patches to the operating system?

A. Hybrid cloud

B. Software as a Service

C. Infrastructure as a Service

D. Private

Answer is C. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a cloud computing option where the vendor provides access to a computer, but customers must manage the system, including keeping it up to date with current patches.

A hybrid cloud is a combination of a public cloud and a private cloud.

Software as a Service (SaaS) provides access to applications, such as email.

An IaaS solution can be public, private, or a hybrid solution.

See Chapter 5 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on securing hosts and data.

Do you know the different cloud service models? You might like to view the Understanding Cloud Service Models blog post here.

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