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INFOTECH: Cloud Security – the Channel’s Opportunity


Recent Gauteng Business News

Cloud provides a huge opportunity for the channel. However, resellers are at risk of losing out on revenues unless they help to address one of the major barriers of adoption; cloud security, writes Bryan Hamman.

Security continues to be a cause of concern for customers of all sizes when it comes to the cloud – and rightly so. A series of recent cyber-attacks in Africa targeting major global and local banks are believed to have been conducted via cloud services deliberately infected with malware. It fuels concerns amongst CIOs about the security challenges caused by reliance on cloud storage and the associated data centers.

In fact Arbor Networks’ WorldWide Infrastructure Report 2016, published recently, shows that of those organisations witnessing attacks, 70 percent see between one and 10 attacks per month, but nine percent indicate they are seeing in excess of 50 attacks per month. None indicated this level of activity last year. Customers remain the most common target of DDoS attack within the data centre; this is consistent with last year. The proportion of respondents seeing outbound attacks from servers within their data centres has increased sharply over the past year, up to 34 percent from 24 percent. Last year, we highlighted that just over one-third of data centre operators had seen DDoS attacks that completely saturated their Internet connectivity. This year, that proportion has grown to 51 percent.

With security threats constantly evolving, a continuously changing threat landscape proves almost impossible to navigate. This, coupled with the trend towards hackers attacking through the cloud – an environment outside of the four walls of the company, and CIOs can feel they are losing control of their own security.

It won’t happen to me

But with many of the current high-profile attacks targeting banks, it is easy for companies to bury their heads in the sand, believing ‘It won’t happen to me, right?’ Wrong.

It’s not just high-profile, politically-connected organisations that are at risk. In fact there are many motivations for DDoS attacks, including political ideology, competitive rivalry and extortion – meaning nobody is immune. Any enterprise operating online – which applies to almost any sector and size of business operating on the African continent – can become a target, because of who they are, what business they do, who they partner with or for any other real or perceived affiliation.

In particular hackers use cloud infrastructures because they involve a small number of service providers who are responsible for delivering, distributing and hosting a large amount of content. This allows their attack to create the collateral damage effect. If they attack one of the providers or anyone who is operating on a shared infrastructure, it is possible for them to also damage any number of other neighboring occupiers using the same infrastructure. When one domain is attacked, those hundreds of thousands of domains can go offline or experience connectivity issues. The damage is not isolated or limited to a partitioned area. Attack one target and a million domains can be affected. The consequence is a staggering ripple effect.

Who am I sharing with?

The ripple effect begs the question ‘Who am I sharing with?’ With e-commerce and online gaming sites being the most common targets, according to survey results this year, sharing data centers with these organisations brings some risk. It’s attack by inadvertent association, and once again puts the CIO another step further from maintaining control over the security of his company’s intellectual property.

It means that visibility into the changing threat landscape is an absolute necessity. Arbor ATLAS data makes it very clear that the average size and frequency of very large DDoS attacks continue to grow. ATLAS data clearly demonstrates that, in 2015, peak monthly attack sizes were larger in many cases than in 2014. In fact, the number of attacks over 100 Gbps grew significantly this year. In 2013, ATLAS tracked 39 attacks over 100 Gbps. In 2014, we monitored 159. This year, we are up to 223, with 16 of those being over 200 Gbps. Attackers have turned to sophisticated, long-lived, more complicated forms of attack to create more widespread devastation, using combinations of attack vectors designed to cut through the defences an organisation has in place. These multi-vector attacks are the most difficult to defend against and require layered defences for successful mitigation. The recent attacks on financial institutions are prime examples of this.

Efficiency vs security

The demand for cloud services will continue to grow as the market becomes more educated - and adopters continue to recognise the inherent flexibility and cost-saving benefits that can be achieved through implementing a cloud solution within their business. Yet with cloud services and data centers being increasingly targeted by hackers – and attacks themselves becoming more complex – defending such infrastructure against this remains an uphill struggle. Organisations are in an ‘efficiency vs security’ conundrum. The demand is now for channel partners that can provide answers.

And this is it – a multi-layered security solution that can simultaneously protect its network infrastructure, IP-based service and data, as all of these are vulnerable to attacks or compromise. With DDoS threats changing from clumsy battering rams into sophisticated, long-lived, multi-vector attacks, a multi-layered security solution is the only way to safeguard every element that drives the business, the brand and the revenue.

By working with vendors who connect the right pieces to the right parts of the puzzle, channel partners can support end-users by enabling them to utilise the cloud and reap the efficiency benefits while implementing the highest-level of security possible, so not to fall victim to the same attacks as some in the local financial sector.

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