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Number-munching clouds are godsend for cybercrooks - experts

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Cloud computing providers came under fire today from security experts who blamed them for giving cyber-criminals the tools to launch attacks more easily, efficiently and anonymously than ever before.

Speaking at the fourth InfoSecurity Summit in Hong Kong on Tuesday, SC Leung - a senior consultant at the city-state's Computer Emergency Response Team - argued that crooks are making the most of the sudden rise of distributed number-crunching services.

“They are using it more efficiently for web hosting and they can subscribe to cloud services to get bandwidth on demand,” Leung told attendees.

“They can hack computers thanks to the computing power of Amazon and it’s very hard to trace them. We need to solve this problem with the cloud service providers.”

This isn’t the first time market leader Amazon has been blamed for helping out the bad guys. Its EC2 service was reportedly used by the hackers who broke into Sony’s Playstation Network last year and accessed data on over 77 million users. They were said to have supplied fake information to the cloud computing giant.

Infosecurity practitioners at the event also warned that they are losing the battle against zero-day threats (security vulnerabilities that are disclosed to world+dog before updates can be tested and deployed), adding that the cyber-criminals are better resourced, faster and more agile than themselves.

“It’s a question of how fast organisations can patch versus how fast malware writers can write malware,” argued SH Lim, head of information security at upmarket bookies the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

“How do we test our apps in just five days? Do we do a self denial-of-service by causing an app to fail because we don’t test a patch before applying it?”

However, not all of the panellists gathered at the event – no relation to the similarly titled London-based show taking place this week – were so glum.

Siu Fai Leung, SVP of security services in Asia at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, argued that IT teams actually need exposure to plenty of malware to hone their defences.

“Like humans we can’t survive without any viruses. If you don’t have an incident how can you make sure you’re protected?” he said. “A drill is a drill but when it comes to real life situations you need to put your systems to the test.” ®

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