After the recent Capital One breach, some commentators have suggested that cloud security is fundamentally flawed. Like many organizations today, Capital One uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to store data, and it was this that was targeted and successfully stolen.
In the case of Capital One it was process, not technology, that failed. The company failed on three points to secure its data properly using the extended tool sets that AWS provides. It relied only on the default encryption settings in AWS, suggesting a lack of product knowledge or complacency in security teams. The Access Control policies had not been properly configured and allowed anonymous access from the web. Finally, the breach was not discovered until four months after it happened because Capital One had not turned on the real-time monitoring capabilities in AWS. This last point would put the company in a tricky position if any of the data belonged to EU citizens – in this case it looks like only US citizens were affected.
The lesson from the incident isn’t that cloud security is not up to the job. Certainly, putting data in the cloud without protection is foolish but modern cloud platforms such as AWS and Azure, for example, have advanced configuration controls to defend robustly against breach attempts. The cloud is here to stay; the digital transformation essential to modern business depends on it. To suggest we curtail its usage because of security concerns is avoiding our responsibility and ability to secure it with the tools at our disposal.
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