It is almost “old hat” for anyone to address the fact that computer systems and digital networks have inherent breach vulnerability.
With the ever-increasing use of the “cloud,” however, there seems to be a certain misapprehension that the cloud is some safe refuge that eliminates the risk of breach.
In fact, this false sense of security seems to imply that the cloud is some newly formed intangible safe haven that cannot be touched by us humans standing on planet Earth, much like the clouds in the sky. Furthermore, even if we were able to reach the cloud, we would not really have anything to hang onto, and as such, the cloud is the safe haven or “heaven” through which we are all safe.
Now for the harsh reality. Ultimately, data is stored on servers. The cloud is merely a set or an array of servers that are accessible to people irrespective of where they are, much like the clouds in the sky that can be seen by many people from many different places. Having said that, the cloud in which digital data is stored is still a physical server.
The advantages of cloud computing are that they store and are expected to protect massive amounts of data, and therefore, offer economies of scale as well as the ability to offer advanced and sophisticated protection from breaches at a lower price.
While the advantages of cloud computing are abundantly clear, we should never forget that the very advantage of massive amounts of data and economies of scale also create very large and potentially lucrative targets for hackers. David S. Linthicum, a consultant at Cloud Technology Partners, a division of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, advises that “cloud users themselves could make key mistakes in a single-tenant environment (hosting, for example), so applications running in the public cloud are not completely immune from breaches.”
If you are still of the belief that the larger you are the less likely you are to be hacked, you might want to Google Equifax. Obviously, it is not the only company that stores mass data that has been breached.
Ultimately, the more efficient and robust our digital data storage and transfer capabilities become, the more likely we are to be vulnerable to large and potentially devastating breaches.
HIPAA and HITECH seek to protect personal health information (PHI) and electronically stored personal health information (ePHI), while at the same time our healthcare system, with the encouragement of government, seeks interoperability of various healthcare providers essentially pushing healthcare into the cloud. In essence, these are two goals that are pulling in opposite directions. It will be interesting to see which side prevails in this tug-of-war.
In summary, when thinking of the cloud it is helpful to remember that oftentimes clouds lead to rain, rain leads to floods, and floods lead to damage. The same may be said about cloud computing.
What do you think?