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On July 17, 2019, a tip came into the security hotline of America’s seventh-largest bank. “There appears to be some leaked…data of yours in someone’s github/gist,” the email said.
That data posted on the code-sharing site GitHub turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. On July 29, police arrested a hacker who had stolen personal data from the bank of 106 million people in the U.S. and Canada.
The hacker was a former employee of a large cloud computing company. She knew how to exploit the misconfiguration in the web application the bank used to send data to and from the cloud service. And she’s far from the only one with such knowledge and malicious intent.
As organizations large and small migrate to the cloud for data storage and application hosting, cybercriminals are going after that data in ever-greater numbers. They’re finding vulnerabilities wherever they can, on company computers connected to the cloud and in servers hosting cloud applications, chasing riches and corporate and state secrets.
Fortunately, defenders of cloud-connected resources are on the move too, creating a new class of advanced security measures that help protect cloud data against the growing threat now and into the future.
AI for Cybersecurity
As cyberattacks scale to more servers and larger datasets, so to must cybersecurity measures. One of the best ways to scale security is through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Rather than being saddled with inflexible rules by human programmers, AI-enabled security systems learn from previous attacks to defend against new ones. AI systems also help analysts detect attacks, automatically deploy patches across hundreds or thousands of machines, and can react to breaches with superhuman speed.
Kevin Skapinetz, director of strategy and design at IBM Security, likens AI-powered cybersecurity systems to police dogs trained to sniff out signs of criminal activity. “Those dogs are trained over years at a time to really identify, through their heightened senses, what might be a threat,” he said in a recent IBM interview. “And this is exactly what’s going on in the cyber realm.”
Artificial intelligence is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of defenders of servers and other computers with processing power to spare. But what about devices on the edge, for example, the cameras, industrial sensors, and all the other distributed elements of the Internet of Things (IoT)?
AI on the Edge
The small, low power processors in IoT devices generally lack the oomph to run AI and the machine learning (ML) algorithms needed for continuously improving capabilities such as cyber defense. That’s about to change, however, with a new “local AI” processor from Google company Coral. The Coral TPU, or Tensor Processing Unit, is just five millimeters square and thinner than a penny, yet powerful enough to run ML algorithms. Now, edge devices can pack some of the punch of their much larger cousins for any number of applications, including advanced security.
These and other emerging technologies—including “quantum-resistant” encryption from SecureRF that also runs on small, low-power devices—are already doing their part to provide advanced security for the cloud and devices connected to it.
And for data centers housing the servers that make up the cloud, the future looks bright ahead thanks to robust security. “Third-party auditing independently confirms it: our physical and network security meets or exceeds every relevant standard,” says Aaron Wangenheim, Chief Operating Officer at T5 Data Centers.
The hacker who stole information on more than 100 million people in the July 2019 bank hack apparently did so for attention rather than financial gain. She seems to have minimized the damage she could have done as she left an easy-to-follow trail of clues for the FBI to pursue. Even so, this and other recent hacks reveal that advanced security is non-negotiable for the cloud to continue to grow and thrive.
For more on how cloud technologies are changing the world, see our list.