Cloud Computing: Security's Friend And Enemy

Even President Barack Obama knows it. “The very technologies that empower us to create and to build also empower those who would disrupt and destroy,” the president has been quoted as saying.

But Senior Vice President and General Manager of McAfee SaaS Marc Olesen took a different approach. At the All About The Cloud conference in San Francisco this week Olesen likened cloud security to “The Force,” more specifically the battle between good and evil portrayed in George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise and the epic battle that ensued between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.

“The cloud is our friend and our enemy,” he said.

According to Olesen, roughly $1 trillion was lost last year due to cyber crime and spam and phishing attacks still rain down on us and are getting more sophisticated. Meanwhile, companies are still expected to do more with less -- and that means they’re eying the cloud.

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By attacking cloud security in three ways: security from the cloud, security in the cloud and security for the cloud, there’s a better chance at thwarting threats before they cause trouble.

Security from the cloud comprises security-as-a-service offerings; security in the cloud is threat data that is stored in the cloud to combat incoming threats, like McAfee’s cloud-based Global Threat Index; and security for the cloud includes standards and certifications like ISO 27001 and SAS 70 along with other cloud security certifications performed more frequently.

And the industry is already seeing results. Olesen cited an Aberdeen Group study that examined on-premise e-mail security versus cloud-based e-mail security and found 47 percent fewer incidents of spam and malware in the cloud; 34 percent less data loss; and 50 percent less security-related downtime.

Highlighting another recent study, this one by the Tolly Group, Olesen pointed out that the cost of security from, in, and for the cloud can also be cheaper. He said the study that found the total cost of ownership (TCO) over a three-year period was dramatically cheaper for a cloud or SaaS based solution versus an on premise solution. In that instance, on-premise ran around $903,870 for three years, while SaaS costs $438,500, just 51 percent.

Still, Olesen said, “security is the primary inhibitory to cloud adoption,” adding that IDC found 87.5 percent of customers highlighted security concerns as their main cloud hindrance.

Olesen said McAfee, along with cloud providers, have put measures and solutions in place to secure the cloud. And the cloud is ready for prime time and can be protected.

“We’re at a unique place right now in the adoption of the cloud because it’s not ubiquitous yet,” he said, adding that building security into the cloud on the ground floor gives enterprises the opportunity to put the cart before the horse and be proactive.